28th March 1999
As the strike disease spreads in the health service,
the minor staff joined doctors and nurses in launching
regular strike action. Last week as minor staff struck work
nurses were called upon to do the work normally done
by attendants and others. Pic. by Gemunu Wellage
By Frederica Jansz
With more than 12, 000 cases of disappearance still not cleared Sri Lanka rank second highest in the world and next only to Iraq in relation to such cases, a UN body has reported.
The UN Commission on Human Rights has said that Sri Lanka has 12, 108 outstanding cases of involuntary disappearances while Iraq tops the list with 16,384.
The UN Working Group said its members had met representatives of Sri Lanka including the associations of relatives of missing persons, families and witnesses directly concerned with reports of enforced disappearances, and members of non governmental organizations.
In a letter the Government of Sri Lanka had informed the Working Group that it had agreed, in principle, to a proposed visit to the country by the UN group this year.
Foreign Ministry sources told The Sunday Times that a cabinet paper approved last Wednesday, sought the means to probe the number of disappearances mentioned in the UN report. An inter-ministerial committee will act on this cabinet decision.
This committee has functioned until now mainly granting compensation to family members who are unaware of the whereabouts of close relatives.
During the period under review at the UN fifty fifth session, the Working Group transmitted 13 newly reported cases of disappearances to the Government of Sri Lanka, four of which occurred in 1998 and were sent under the urgent action procedure.
During the same period, the Working Group clarified 32 cases on the basis of information previously received from the Government.
Since the establishment of the Working Group in 1980, 12,221 cases of disappearances alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka have been reported.
The Working Group says that in the northeast the persons most often reported detained and missing were young Tamil men accused or suspected of belonging to, collaborating with, aiding or sympathizing with the LTTE.
The UN report maintains that the most frequently utilized method of detention in the north-east was the cordon and search operation in which the army, often in conjunction with the police, and particularly the Special Task Force, went into a village or rural area and detained scores of persons.
Many were released within 24 to 48 hours, but a percentage of the persons remained in custody for questioning.
The Working Group says that the majority of the newly reported cases occurred in the north between 1990 and 1997 and concerned fishermen who had either disappeared or were taken into custody following the alleged shelling of their boats by the Sri Lankan Navy.
It is alleged, that despite progress made by the current Government to provide redress and to prevent disappearances from occurring, disappearances continue to occur at high levels, particularly since the resumption of the armed conflict between security forces and the LTTE in April 1995.
Concern has been expressed that, todate, the Government has not made any amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
The suspects in the Joel Pera shooting case which hit local and international headlines in 1997 have been released by a Colombo court due to insufficient evidence, lack of eye witnesses and shortcomings in the complaint.
Papua New Guinea ruggerite Joel Pera- a star of the local Havelocks team-was shot dead on May 1, 1997 outside the Carlton Club in Kollupitiya, sparking off a near diplomatic crisis between Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.
The case had been filed against them by the CID on the charges of having together with persons unknown to the complainant, on May 1, 1997, assembling unlawfully with the objective of murdering Joel Pera and inflicting minor injuries.
The four suspects in this case in this case were Handunetti Bobby Anoka de Silva of Colombo, K. Manilal Perera of Battaramulla, Pitakotuwegedera Kelum Priyantha from Pilimatalawa, and Fredrick Neil Avet alias Neil.
The CID had filed charges against them relating to unlawful assembly with the intention of killing Joel Pera.
The drama produced political dinamite mainly because of the reported presence of Lohan Ratwatte son of Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte during the incident
The acquital order was given by the Colombo Fort Magistrate and Additional District Judge, Mervyn Gamini Wijetunga.
President's Counsel Daya Perera, Attorney Lakshman Ranasinghe and several other lawyers appeared on behalf of the suspects.
Forty Tamil civilians staying at a private lodge in Bambalapitiya have been arrested after Police detectives found a bag containing a revolver, ammunition and explosives.
Detectives said that at about 8.40 pm on Friday March 26, thay saw a bag being thrown out of an upstair window of this lodge.
The bag landed in a drain and a Police investigation revealed that it contained one .22m revolver two rounds of 303 live ammunition, two rounds of 84s live ammunition, 200g low explosives 50g gun powder, two batteries, two pieces of wire, and one round of blank T-56 ammunition.
Police said that the suspects were being held on dtention orders till investigations were completed.
Some of those arrested said thay came to Colombo for medical treatement while some said they came to go abroad.
Some of them had obtained help from ICRC members to come to Colombo.
AN ICRC official said they did recommend this lodge to visitors from the north and east.
He said that in some cases the ICRC had paid the expenses of certain paersons.
By Chris Kamalandern
The Catholic Bishop of Mannar has expressed concern over reports that the security forces are putting up bunkers close to the hallowed Madhu shrine following the military take over of the area last Monday
Bishop Rayappu Joseph told The Sunday Times he had taken up the matter with the Catholic Bishops Conference and he hoped the security forces would move out of the areas around the shrine.
He said President Chandrika Kumaratunga had personally got in touch with him about the plight of the displaced persons and also about the other shortcomings in the area and had assured urgent action to improve transport facilities and electricity while providing other needs. As troops moved into the area after a three day operation over the last weekend, reports said at least 20, 000 civilians had been displaced and taken alternative shelter with many of them facing a cholera outbreak mainly due to a lack of water.
Two died of cholera while 42 more cholera cases were reported among the refugees. Reports said they were not getting enough food and medicine.
LONDON, Saturday (AFP) - Serb forces appear to have launched a massive offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, British Defence Secretary George Robertson said Saturday. "There are clear signs now that an all-out Serbian offensive against the Kosovar Albanian people has started and violence is widespread," he said.
"The Serbs are bombarding villages to the point of obliteration." Robertson was speaking to reporters after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies carried out a third night of air and missile strikes against Yugoslav military targets.
The strikes are aimed at forcing Belgrade to end the repression and sign-up to a peace agreement for Kosovo, a Serbian province where the ethnic Albanian majority is seeking self-rule. Robertson dubbed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "a serious ethnic cleanser".
"There are reports that the villages of Godeni and Prush have been destroyed. Serb police and masked paramilitary forces swept through the town of Djakovica in western Kosovo, killing and burning indiscriminately," he said.
Robertson said there were 30,000 refugees without shelter in the regions of Podujevo, Kosovska Mitrovica and Shale, in northern Kosovo. "We are meticulously collecting evidence on what is going on in Kosovo," he said, adding the information would be passed to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. "It was not NATO air strikes which started the assault on the Albanian population but only NATO air strikes will stop it," he said. Robertson said:
"The NATO campaign is making good progress. These attacks are extremely damaging to Milosevic's war machine."
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