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20th December 1998

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Promise from Ranil: Depoliticise military

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The United National Party will depoliticise the military by removing all elements of political interference - and the first step in this direction was security for NWP polls, said Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday.

Addressing a mammoth crowd of over 10,000 at the 44th annual convention of the UNP, the Oppposition Leader accused the PA leadership of destroying a country - and her achievement in this area was no less than Kalinga Magha or the Portugese invaders, who plundered this country,"he said.

"At the end of this century, we must oust the PA administration which was swept into power through false pledges. A paper doll created by Lankadeepa had denied justice , scuttled progress and destroyed the economy," he said.

The UNP, when he succeeded to the party leadership, was left only with a name. It was an arduous task to revamp a party which had no grassroot level organisations, a presidential candidate killed, along with many party stalwarts. The party was in total disarray, and after four years, it had the best organisational structure like a once defeated - yet regrouped army," he said.

He noted that no other party boasted of such an organisation and structure, and by the year 2000, the UNP membership would further increase to two million. It was the only party which could bring youths from the North, South West and East, Central hills to one platform - to share and nurture their heritage through their new party vision," he added

Death threats at death fast

By Shelani de Silva

The July strikers on the second week of a fast-unto-death are determined to continue, even through the Christmas and New Year season despite death threats from unknown quarters, a spokesman said.

The fast began on Human Rights Day, December 8, by six volunteers but the number has now doubled.

P Amaradivakara, secretary of a July strikers union, told The Sunday Times that on several days they had been threatened in the early hours of the morning.

"We are determined to carry on the fast until the Government gives us the assurance of compensation. Two of the fasting strikers felt sick. But we will go on with many more wanting to join us till justice is done," he said.

Mr. Amaradivakara said they had not yet got any specific assurance from the government but they were keeping President Kumaratunga informed about developments through faxes. "We will not give up the fast. We are prepared to spend Christmas and the New Year on the streets fighting for our cause."

Labour Minister John Seneviratne said the problems would be solved in terms of assurance given to him by the President last Wednesday, but the strikers are going ahead with plans for a protest rally on Tuesday with the co-operation of several trade unions.

All parties pledge no violence

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

The two main parties in the North Western Province elections have finally decided to sign a no-violence agreement, renewing hopes that the provincial poll which has assumed national significance would be relatively peaceful.

Polls monitoring group PAFFREL's Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo said the PA chief minister candidate leader S. B. Nawinna and his UNP counterpart Gamini Jayawickrema Perera had signed the agreement.

The joint appeal by the People's Action for a Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has been circulated among all parties at the upcoming elections.

Mr. Navinna had earlier said he was not interested in signing the appeal as he felt it would not help reduce any violence while Mr. Perera had said he would decide only after the PA signed it.

Mr. Rodrigo said the contestants' decision to support PAFFREL's appeal gave a comforting note of hope for a violence free election.

Meanwhile, party leaders are planning to join the campaign after Christmas and throw everything into the poll which is seen as a test of strength for both main parties.

UNP sources said party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would personally lead the campaign in the Kurunegala district while party secretary Gamini Atukorale would concentrate on the Puttalam district.

President Kumaratunga will personally join the PA campaign while each electorate in the province is being handled by a cabinet minister.

Judges pulled up, say sorry to fellow judges

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

A no-confidence motion by judges against outgoing President of the Judicial Services Association (JSA) and District Judge Eric Basnayake and JSA committee member, District Judge Upali Abeyratne was abandoned after the two judges apologised.

The reason for the no-confidence motion was the two judges' conduct in selecting an unwarranted delegation to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga in August this year, including a non-member of the JSA Executive Committee (ExCo), Nirupa Sannasgala.

The two judges had sought an appointment for seven judges of the minor judiciary, comprising District, Magistrate and Primary Court judges to meet President Kumaratunga, without the knowledge of the members of the JSA, an ExCo member said.

The meeting with the President had been to discuss the issues of allowances, cars, scholarships and other incentives for judges, the member said.

After Mr. Basnayake and Mr. Abeyratne apologised to the JSA, the no-confidence motion was abandoned.

Before this president elect of the JSA, Rohini Perera had proposed a resolution criticising Judge Basnayake for a speech he had made in the presence of President Kumaratunga, Justice Minister G.L. Peiris, Minister of Housing Indika Gunawardane and the Attorney General Sarath Silva, criticising judges, alleging that they contributed to laws dealys.

Mr. Basnayake again tendered an open apology to the judges over this issue.

Guidelines to army on dealing with the public

The Operations Command Colombo (OCC), has issued a set of guidelines to army ground troops reminding them of their responsibilities towards the public, and the importance of maintaining the good image of the service.

The guidelines, issued by Major General S.T.T. Jayasundera of the OCC, stress that in a period of conflict, good relations with the public are essential, and ask the ground troops to be tactful, polite and understanding in their dealings with the public.

It asks them to be particularly cautious when dealing with the elderly and the sick, and to take care not to cause them any pain of mind or discomfort.

If a person is ill, checking should be attended to as quickly as possible, or if the patient's condition is serious, he should be allowed to be taken for treatment, after finding out his name and where he is being taken.

Women have to be treated with special respect in society taking into consideration the cultural differences.

Questioning or dealing with young unmarried women of the Muslim community and with women with a rural background and conservative environment, should be carried out by female members of the force. Those being checked should not be embarrassed or humiliated in anyway.

Physical searches on young women and children should be conducted by women personnel and in privacy. When dealing with young children below the age of 14, the fact that they are young and could be timid and shy in a conflict situation should be remembered.

When entering a house for investigations or a search, they are asked to knock at the door or ring the bell and announce themselves. They must ensure that an adult is present and prove their identity to the chief occupant or a senior member of the family. They should conduct such visits in groups and not alone.

Visits should be conducted in a responsible manner, and as far as possible at a respectable time, and if any inconvenience is caused, apologies should be made before leaving.

Regarding road checkpoints, if a person is in a hurry to attend a funeral, wedding, exam, interview or appointment, or on their way to catch a train or long distance bus, and the situation is explained, minimum delay and inconvenience should be caused.

While conducting checks, they should be polite and tactful and understanding, confine themselves to essential and principal duties, not ask unnecessary questions or be discourteous.

Passengers should not be asked to get down from their vehicles unless necessary, and vehicles should be checked only when absolutely necessary. Security personnel should not gossip among themselves while checking the vehicles

People should be checked irrespective of their status, community, language or religion and treated equally. If they are quite sure that a person need not be delayed, they are to let the others know why he was allowed to go early.

They should not delay passengers at checkpoints until their buses pass and thereby cause financial loss and delay to them.

The guidelines ask the security personnel to remember that bad handling of the public can lose friends and create enemies.

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