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14th February 1999

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20,000 people expected for peace march in Colombo

More than a hundred groups working for the achievement of a lasting peace through a consensual political solution of the ethnic conflict will participate in a massive peace march and rally in Colombo on February 26.

The Peace Day is being organised by the National Alliance for Peace which comprises prelates from all religions, eminent national personalities and more than 100 social justice groups and trade unions.

NAP convener Professor Tissa Vithana in a statement said: "The General Council of the alliance met recently to review the present situation and decide on what action needs to be taken to avoid the disaster that threatens Sri Lanka and its people. Following the breakdown of the Government-LTTE dialogue, the Select Committee process in Parliament enabled the dialogue among the PA, the UNP and the minority parties in Parliament to continue and result in a set of devolution proposals from the Government. Though a complete consensus was not reached there were considerable areas of agreement. Unfortunately the political will to reach a final consensus was lacking. This was aggravated by a shift towards a purely military option under the influence of the powerful war lobby and also by a sharpening of PA-UNP acrimony with the return of elections to the political agenda".

"Now that Prabhakaran and the LTTE have indicated some readiness for a dialogue, however limited and conditional this may be, which is also supported by all the parties in the democratic stream representing the Tamils and the Muslims, a positive response from the Government supported by the UNP is necessary. This would open the door to the resumption of the dialogue and set the peace process in motion with the necessary safeguards as happened successfully in the recent past in many similar situations in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Northern Ireland. "Despite the economic power of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce their efforts to broker a consensual approach among the leaderships of the PA and the UNP appear to be stalled. At this juncture it is vitally important that there should be a maximal public mobilization of civil society to generate a pressure that would compel the political parties to give priority to the peaceful settlement of the ethnic conflict.".

Organisers said they expected more than 20,000 people to take part in the peace march which will begin from Campbell Park at 2 pm and conclude with a rally at Hyde Park at 4 pm. The National Council of the Alliance includes five Nayaka Theras, two Bishops, Hindu and Muslim leaders and prominent national personalities such as Dr. A.T. Ariayaratna, Iranganie Serasinghe, and W.D. Amaradeva.

Top bank officers on work to-rule

By M. Ismeth

State bank officers will begin a work-to-rule campaign from Tuesday demanding salary restructuring and the implementation of the collective agreement of the officer grades.

An official of the Federation of Bank Officers' of Sri Lanka said they would as part of their trade union action adopt procedures followed in government departments when with regard to their work and not follow work ethics of a commercial enterprise.

He said they would only attend to basic customer needs and not participate in lectures, seminars, other programmes or ceremonies.

The federation is likely to take up the matter with the President, he said.

SLMC will not play second fiddle to PA

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress will present proposals to the President at Friday's PA executive committee meeting before agreeing to support the ruling alliance at the upcoming provincial elections.

"If our leader's proposals are not accepted then the party's alternative action is to avoid the campaign," a party spokesman said.

He said if the president wished the SLMC to contest and campaign with the ruling PA a mutual agreement has to be struck based on SLMC proposals.

SLMC leader M.H.M. Ashraff told The Sunday Times that although the party had submitted nominations under the PA there was nothing that would keep them from not contesting the polls.

SLMC candidates who submitted nominations under PA lists would be notified about the party's decision.

The party hierarchy has been disappointed by the conduct of the PA and the second class treatment that they claim to be receiving of late, political observers say.

Ex-militants fight for dominance

By S. S. Selvanayagam

Tension continues to run high in Vavuniya town with little signs of a ceasefire between the PLOTE and the TELO which have been lauching attacks on each other since Monday reportedly over business rivalry and a struggle for dominance.

Three TELO cadres along with a passer-by were killed on Monday when their vehicle was fired upon allegedly by PLOTE cadres.

In what is seen as a retaliatory attack, a PLOTE member was killed on Tuesday allegedly by TELO cadres. Eight suspects have been reportedly taken into custody over the incidents. Reports said mediatory efforts by the army had met with little success.

Reports said soon after the funeral of the TELO members on Thursday evening, TELO supporters ransacked a PLOTE office in Veppankulam.

Journalists shooed off by minister

By Shane Seneviratne

Journalists say they were not allowed to cover a meeting of the Unemployed Graduates Association in Peradeniya by Minister D. M. Jayaratne who claimed the mediamen had created an unnecessary fuss about the violence in Wayamba..

The Minister was to address the Association, now in their 104th day of a satyagraha campaign, in an effort to persuade them to call it off.

He came down hard on the journalists, saying they had made a mountain out of a molehill in the reporting of the elections and insisted it was not necessary for them to be present at the meeting.

He had ordered them out of the tourists' restroom where he was to address the meeting. Among the journalists turned away were those from the state-run Lake House. PA member Mahinda Abeykoon of the Central Provincial Council had invited the journalists to the meeting, lending his official vehicle for their transport.

But his requests to the minister to let them stay went unheeded.

The case of wounded Vedda

A human rights and nature group has appealed for clemency on behalf of a Vedda who tresspassed into a wild life sanctuary and was shot at by a warden.

The Vedda from Dambana has been paralysed from the waist downwards as a result of being shot in a case of mistaken identity, by the Wild Life Department warden who thought he was an LTTE, Arun Tampoe, an official of Protection of Environment and Children Everywhere (PEACE) said.

Mr. Tampoe said the warden had mistaken the Vedda who was hunting in the area for an LTTE rebel probably because he was wearing 'jeans'.

The Veddah identified as Punchi Banda, is undergoing treatment at the National Hospital in Colombo.

He is facing charges of tresspass at the Magistrate's Court of Dehiyatakanda in Dambana.

Mr. Tampoe appealed to the Attorney General's Department that Punchi Banda's case be handled differently as he is a vedda.

He said the PEACE had asked the AG's department to delay proceedings until the case has been more thoroughly reviewed.

Mr. Tampoe said the Minister of Cultural Affairs will also be approached to obtain relief and assistance to Punchi Banda's family as he is no longer able to support his family of five by hunting.

14th Print Lanka Exhibition

The Sri Lanka Association of Printers will hold its annual print exhibition and competitions for the 14th time this year from February 19-21 at the Ingrin Institute of Printing & Graphics at 290, D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10.

The exhibition which is open to public will be opened at 9.30 a.m. on February 20 by chief guest Hein. C.P.M. Princen, Ambassador for the Netherlands.

The guest of honour will be J.D. Cyril, Managing Director of J.D.C. Trading Company (Pvt) Limited, sponsors of Print '99 Exhibition & Competition

Exhibits submitted under 16 different categories produced during 1998, including calendars and diaries produced for 1999, will be judged by a panel on February 19. Awards will be presented under several categories at the Awards Night at the Colombo Hilton on September 25.

"These two events being the most important items in a Year to all Sri Lankan Printers are organised by the Association to recognise and honour the contributions made by printers in achieving high level of print quality raising the standards of the industry to meet international levels," a member of the organising committee said.

A significant factor in this year's Print 99 Exhibition & Competition is that it is been held at a newly opened Printing & Graphics Educational Institute at the Ingrin Institute of Printing & Graphics.

Sleepy driver takes six pilgrims to death

A driver who had slept for only two hours, drove a pilgrim van at high speed till it smashed into a lorry and killed five people in a horrible tragedy at Ambalangoda.

The 27-year old driver identified as Dharmasena from Peliyagoda told Police he had returned home at midnight, slept until 2 am. and then drove off with 14 passengers on a pilgrimage to Katagarama.

The van crashed into a parked lorry killing five occupants including the owner of the vehicle.

The dead passengers were identified as belonging to a family circle which included the owner, his six-year old daughter and mother.

Police investigations revealed that the ill-fated van was travelling at high speed and the vehicle was a total wreck after the accident.

Research centre under threat

An independent agricultural research and training institute which had over the years earned repute for its advanced studies, is in turmoil over recent moves to politicise it.

The Hector Kobbekaduwa Agricultural Research and Training Institute, earlier known as ARTI was recently brought under the Ministry of Agriculture. To make matters worse, officials say the media unit of the ministry was moved to the HKARTI premises, posing both a political and security problem.

Angry researchers and other employees of the HKARTI recently boycotted a pirith ceremony held to mark the setting up of the ministry's media unit there.

Officials say their boycott was misinterpreted as a political or security threat to the ministry and the Cinnamon Gardens police were called in to grill them.

The officials point out Agricultural Minster D. M. Jayaratne is also the general secretary of the PA and the shifting of the media unit to the HKARTI building would mean that a lot of political propaganda work would be done from there, undermining the independence of one of the Asia-Pacific's best known research organisations.

Ban on LTTE lifted Jayalath

UNP member has alleged that by allowing a peace delegation to visit the Wanni to hold discussions with the LTTE, the government in effect has implied that the ban on the LTTE has been lifted.

UNP Parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardana has alleged that according to news reports in the state media a peace delegation comprising eminent personnel and members of the clergy had visited the Wanni on February 9 with the 'consent and knowledge' of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

New secretary general

Judicial Services Commission Secretary Dhammika Kulatunga will assume duties as the new secretary general of parliament tomorrow.

He replaces Bertram Tittawela who retired on Friday.

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