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20th June 1999

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The issues behind Chemmani graves

Anthony David reporting from Jaffna

The former LTTE police station in Jaffna, now turned into a temporary courthouse, was ringed with policemen as corporal Somaratna Rajapakse was brought in on Wednesday under the heavy guard of prison officials to begin proceedings on the Chemmani grave excavation.

Presiding was Magistrate M. Illancheliyan who was brought in from Mannar to hear the case after Imagethree other magistrates abruptly ended their links with it.

Outside the courts, nearly 500 metres at the turn off to the courts more than 100 parents and relatives of persons believed to have 'disappeared' during the recapture of Jaffna peninsula had gathered as Police prevented them coming closer to courts.

More than 50 local and foreign journalists, flown in from Colombo along with representatives of two international organisations and Foreign Ministry officials, were there to witness the proceedings with legal and forensic medicine experts to assist the investigations.

Inside the courts, the convicted prisoner, Rajapakse made some startling claims. He alleged that some of his senior officers were responsible for carrying out murders of civilians and burying them in the Chemmani area, a part of which was saltern.

Corporal Rajapakse claimed that he could show upto 10 more grave sites in the Chemmani and adjoining Ariyalai areas an area situated beside the Kandy-Jaffna main road about two to three Imagekilometres away from Jaffna town.

Under a heavy police and prison guard again, the corporal was this time driven in a Prison ambulance to the grave site in Chemmani to point out the mass graves which he claimed contained the bodies of persons killed by the security forces during the recapture of the area between 1995 and mid 1996.

The ex-soldier flanked by prison and police guards began marching his way along the Chemmani-Nallur road to point out what he claimed was one of the grave sites where persons allegedly killed by the army had been buried. The ex-soldier who was obviously familiar with the surroundings stopped close to the board opposite the turn off to the Chemmani saltern and pointed out one of the graves.

The team of forensic and soil specialists immediately demarcated the area and began their process of excavation with the aim of exhuming any of the bodies they recover.

At the end of the first day the first indication of the presence of skeletal remains emerged.

By Friday two skeletons were recovered and positively identified as those of two persons who had 'disappeared' during the recapture of Jaffna. They were two employees of a garage.

More than 300 people lined up at the Jaffna police station to view the skeletons, but within the first 15 minutes, the two skeletons were identified. The presence of the large number of people was seen by observers as an indication that the number who had disappeared was high and all of them were seeking justice.

The residents in Jaffna whose kith and kin had gone missing after the recapture of Jaffna welcome the probe, but raise the question about the Government's delay in conducting the investigations as the disclosure of the mass grave was first made in July last year.

"Why did the government take so long to start the investigations? We wanted the excavation process to begin before the monsoon and also wanted it done earlier to reduce the chances of someone tampering with the grave," Rev. Fr. A.I. Bernard, Rector of St Patrick's College Jaffna said.

Fr. Bernard was present there as a member of the Consortium of Human Rights Agencies in Jaffna.

"The people of Jaffna believe the excavation process should have been handed over to foreign experts. They feel that the locals could be influenced," he said.

Fr. Bernard believes that the excavation of the suspected mass graves began mainly due to demands from the pressure groups operating in and out of Jaffna as well as the exposure given to the case.

Some Jaffna residents also say they cannot expect much results from the excavations as they are aware of several cases where their kith and kin had disappeared, but fear that the cases will not be investigated.

"I am personally aware of a number of cases where people have disappeared, but the family members fear they will not be investigated," one of the parents who lost his son said.

"It is like the situation which existed during the JVP problem in the south when youth were killed and thrown or burnt on the road. We know many of these cases were not investigated and most of the security personnel involved in those went free. Even in this case it is a similar situation," he said.

Ex-soldier Rajapskse claims that more than 400 persons had been killed while an international human rights group has estimated that 600 persons had 'disappeared' during the 1995-1996 period when the army recaptured the Jaffna peninsula.

But, state counsel Yasantha Kodagoda believes that it is not a matter whether it was 400 or 600 bodies, but it is a matter of investigating the crimes which had taken place.

Mr. Kodagoda attributed the delay of the investigations to the refusal of three judges who took up the case for hearing earlier to continue the investigations.

"I think they have withdrawn from the case due to some 'external pressure'," he said.

But, many civilians are baffled about the 'external pressure' which is leading to their withdrawal from the case and as a result delaying the probe. They are not sure whether the LTTE itself does not want the investigations or there could be other parties threatening the judges not to continue with the investigations.

The Investigations have also raised the issue whether beginning the probe in the middle of the conflict could affect the morale of the soldiers.

But, the Security Forces Commander for Jaffna Major General Lohan Gunawardana believes the investigations will not have an impact on the soldier.

"I do not think it will affect the morale. The sooner we know it, the better. Let's face it and see," he told reporters at the Palaly base.

On the other hand he is quick to point out that these are only allegations made by a convicted prisoner and should be fully investigated.

The Amnesty International representative, Ingrid Massage, welcomes the move of the Government to carry out the investigation while the conflict is on and says that "it is exceptional by a government to take the bold step" to investigate these allegations at this stage.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ravinath Ariyasinha said the government's decision to go ahead with the investigations was a reflection of the 'continuing policy of transparency and accountability in all human rights related issues.

The representatives of the two international organisations - AI and Dr. William Hagland, representative of Physicians for Human Rights will not be getting involved in the investigation process, but only be taking part as observers to the exhumation process.

"This is one question which worries us as to why they cannot have the support of foreign experts to assist us in the investigations," said Fr. Bernard.

For the families whose kith and kin had disappeared, it would be a matter of building up their confidence again that the government is willing to investigate its own security force personnel.

"On the long run it is important for the government to carry out this investigation properly and build up the confidence among the people in Jaffna," says V. Selvaraja, a resident.

The outcome of the investigations and the action taken depending on the results are all likely to have a strong impact on government's aims of restoring normalcy in the north and building up the confidence of the people whose confidence has been shattered by consecutive governments.


After virus, beware of worms

By Frederica Jansz

Worm.Explore.Zip was anything but slow. Fast, sneaky and malicious Worm.Explore.Zip followed her predecessors, Melissa and Chernobyl CIH 1.4.

This computer worm is the latest in a series of viruses to hit corporate and personal computers.

At a first glance Worm Explore.Zip looks anything but malignant. A bug that disguises itself as a friendly e-mail, this new menace is sweeping the internet destroying tens of thousands of computers. Originally discovered in Israel on June 6 this year, the worm moved fast across the world carrying its deadly message via file attachments on the e-mail.

Anyone who has the bad luck to open an infected file attachment will soon know the results as 'worm' hunts through a computer hard drive and wipes out the contents of documents, files, graphic presentations and spreadsheets.

In Sri Lanka the number of computers affected is difficult to assess but the worm has chosen its victims, and Lanka Internet says over 50 customers were affected. This countered the claim by the Computer Information Technology Council of Sri Lanka that there has been no reported cases in Sri Lanka and that the virus is nothing to get excited about.

The deadly scourge spreads itself through the e-mail accompanied by an innocent message. In your e-mail box you would probably get an e-mail from a friend "Hi, Recipient Name! I received your e-mail and shall send you a reply ASAP. Till then, take a look at the attached zipped docs. Bye or Sincerely Recipient Name."

Once the recipient opens this inviting message or rather the attached file 'Worm' will unleash a two pronged attack, sending a copy of itself to the address of any arriving e-mail and destroying files, and other documents stored on a computer. The Worm can then move onto other networked computers.

According to the Symantic AntiVirus Research Centre, USA, Worm Explore.Zip is a worm that contains a malicious payload. The worm utilizes Microsoft Outlook, Outlook express, and Exchange to mail itself out by replying to unread messages in you Inbox.

The worm will also search the mapped drives and network machines for Windows installations, and copy itself to the Windows directory and modify WIN.INI accordingly.

The payload of the worm will destroy any file with the extension .h, .c, .cpp, .asm, .doc, .ppt, or .xls on your hard drives, any mapped drives, and any network machines that are accessible each time it is executed. This continues to occur until the worm is removed. Thus any newly created files matching the extensions list will be destroyed as well.

Symantic maintains that you may receive the worm as an attachment called zipped files.exe. When run, this executable will copy itself to your Windows System directory with the filename setup.exe.

Browsing the internet The Sunday Times found loads of advice, comments, and criticism on this subject.

One web page dedicated itself to warning users of the internet and e-mail that if you get a message, or see a posting that seems like it should be shared with lots of people "Don't Send It."

Unless you know the message is true, can authenticate their identity, know the sender personally, and are certain they have written the message. The more urgent it sounds the more sceptical you should be. Even if you think it might be true "Don't Spread The Message."

If you really want to send it, always check the originator before forwarding it. This is the best way to tell a hoax or a prank. Just reply to the sender, and ask them if it is true. Most pranks and hoaxes have forged headers and signatures, and when trying to verify the validity of this message, usually the address is not valid.

Meanwhile the good news is that there is no such thing as an e-mail text virus. Yet another web page on the internet argued that the truth of the matter is your computer cannot get a virus or any system damaging software by reading an e-mail. Viruses must be attached to an executable program.

Viruses and other system destroying bugs can only exist in files and since e-mail is not a system file, viruses cannot exist there. However if your computer downloads a file attached to an e-mail or Usenet posting and run it, there is a chance that file could contain a virus.

More than a dozen countries are reported to have been hit by the Worm. Explore.Zip virus. Network Associates a leading computer security firm in the US have estimated that more than 60 percent of its 300 corporate clients have been hit by the 'Worm.' Prof. V K Samaranayake, Chairman, Computer & Information Technology Council of Sri Lanka, dismissed claims that this virus had any effect on computers in Sri Lanka. "I do not think we should get excited about this and alarm people in this country," he said.

E-mail viruses are more common and in the case of Worm. Explore. Zip is sent to your Inbox by someone, he said, adding that this virus is not as harmful as the Chernobyl CIH 1.4 virus which lies dormant in your computer and activates on the 26th of each month.


Winds of tragedy turn joy ride to grief

When a group of employees from the five-star resort hotel Culture Club at Kandalama decided to take a boat ride across the lake to an island, the possibility of a tragedy would have been the last thing Imageon their mind.

Two women and 11 men, set out in their rowing boat, amidst strong winds that blew across the lake. The tragedy struck when they were approaching the island, some three kilometres from the bank, known for its bird life.

The boat ride was smooth despite the strong winds, but suddenly due to a sudden burst of wind, a wave struck the boat, overturning it within seconds and killing six of the employees.

Assistant Barkeeper Arun Kumar was one of the survivors, who is still recovering from the shock and horror.

"As the boat was sinking some of them jumped into the water. I also jumped. I felt I was drowning but I managed to gain control and come up. When I surfaced I saw a female employee struggling in the water with a life jacket in her hands. I grabbed her and managed to swim to the island. It took me 45 minutes," he said.

Arun Kumar did not know the fate that had befallen his other colleagues.

The two boatmen of the ill-fated boat had meanwhile swum to the island and alerted the staff at the Imageadjoining Kandalama Hotel. Immediately a rescue operation was launched.

Meanwhile five more had managed to swim to the island and were rushed to hospital.

At the scene of the tragedy hotel employees helped by villagers searched the area until late into the night without any success. The search was continued the following day and by Friday all six bodies were found.

The tragedy plunged the hotel employees into mourning while the bodies of their six colleagues were taken to their respective homes.

Eureka Kulatunga, 23 a guest relations officer at the hotel hailing from Gampola was one of the victims.

Eureka's brother, Sanjeewa Kulatunga,told 'The Sunday Times' his sister had come home two weeks before and had returned to work.

She had studied at Hillwood College, Kandy and worked at two hotels in Kandy and Beruwala before joining the Culture Club about one and a half years ago.

Her only other brother is serving in the Army in Vavuniya while her father is attached to a leading hotel in Kandy and her mother is a retired teacher.Her funeral takes place today in Gampola.

The hotel astrologer,Somapala Samarakoon was another victim of the tragedy. He had gone home in Madapatha, Piliyandala over the weekend.

For Mr. Samarakoon, life was complete. His children were grown up and he had a secure job.

He had just completed one year at the Culture Club a week before, and was looking forward to another year. However, he had told his wife recently there was a bad period in store for him, family members said.

Mr. Samarakoon had also been an astrologer for the ' Irahanda' publication.

When the family received the news of his death, they were distraught, for once they had hoped his predictions would not materialise.

His eldest daughter Indumala, a teacher, said that her father had predicted his own death.

Not far away from Madapatha, in Boralesgamuwa, another family was grieving. Sajith Rajasekera, the Front Office Manager of Culture Club was also among the victims.

A career hotelier, he had only returned from Bahrain a year ago and started working at the Culture Club. An old boy of Welimada Central College, he was full of enthusiasm and had a bright future in the hospitality industry. His wife Chandima, son Daham and daughter Ruwanthi were devastated by his death.

Executive Chef, Prasanna Ekanayaka, (26), from Kurunegala, I.G.Karunatillaka, (30) a father of one from Mawilmada, Kandy and Dineshan Perera, (18) from Madampe, a trainee in the Housekeeping section were the other victims.

Resident Manager Shammi Wickremesinghe told The Sunday Times "I feel physically and mentally demoralised."

Reports from Chris Kamalendran, Duleep Samarasinghe and Vimarshini Jayaweera


Pervert father remanded

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

A man alleged to have sexually abused his three daughters and fathered his youngest daughter's child has been remanded until investigations are completed for the Attorney General to serve indictment on him, an official of the Women and Child Abuse Desk said.

The suspect is alleged to have both physically and sexually abused his three daughters, two of whom are now married, for a period of over 10 years. The youngest daughter who is now 20 years old, giving evidence said that her father had been abusing her since she was eight years old. She alleged that he is the father of her two-and-a-half-year old son and the child she is now pregnant with.

Director of the Women and Child Abuse Desk Nihal. Karunaratne said the father who resides in Bandarawela had been apprehended two weeks ago on information received by sources, and remanded by the Fort Magistrate.


Eelam could be like Hong Kong

By Roshan Peiris

The 87-year-old Ceylon Workers' Congress leader Saumymoorthy Thondaman looks as spry as ever before when he says that the National Movement Against Terrorism and the Sinhala Veera Vidhahana Imageare nothing but chauvinistic groups.

In an interview with The Sunday Times he also refuses to admit that the LTTE was a terrorist organisation. "To brand the LTTE as terrorists is nonsense," he says. He also says Eelam to Sri Lanka could be like what Hong Kong to China.

Mr. Thondaman, as forthright as he has always been, says that his first commitment and concern was the estate people of Indian origin and all the other things are secondary, be it cabinet responsibility or any other principles.

Excerpts:

Q: Why are you so agitated about issues that are stirred by groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism and the Sinhala Veera Vidhahana.

A: I am the target of these groups. They set the CWC flag on fire after trespassing into the party headquarters. If I as a member of the minority community cannot fly the CWC flag, one cannot expect me to take it all lying down nor expect my people, the estate workers of Indian origin, to take it all lightly.

These two groups did not allow our 60-year-old trade union to hold a May Day meeting peacefully. When the CWC May Day rally was being planned in Nuwara Eliya with police permission, a police officer had allowed these groups to hold a meeting just in the same vicinity with ultra large banners which implied that all Tamils are terrorists. What good did it do to these two movements and what was the urgency for them to come under the patronage of the police and hold a meeting in the vicinity and disrupt the meeting of the estate workers of Indian origin. Is it why that for the past 40 years or so, I have fought for their democratic rights. They should not be allowed to be treated shoddily by these two chauvinistic groups.

Q: Some say you were the kingmaker in Sri Lankan politics. But it is evident there is an erosion in the CWC power base.

A: There are minor fluctuations in the political popularity of any party be it the UNP or the SLFP. But there is no noticeable erosion of CWC's powers and standing in the estate areas dominated by people of the Indian origin. Still the CWC is the largest trade union in the whole country. It is also the largest representative of the estate people of Indian origin and we are very proud of this fact. Can't critics see that after the provincial councils results in the Uva, Central Province and Sabaragamuwa were announced, what recognition and respect the CWC received.

Q: Some say your legs are in Sri Lanka and your heart in India. Your comments.

A: I don't care how people interpret my motives and actions. They are welcome to give their stupid interpretations. Take all the Buddhists in this country, aren't their hearts at Buddhagaya. Then why can't I have my heart in India. It is to create mischief, they say my heart is in India. I have all rights to do so if I want to. Haven't the Catholics got their hearts in Rome for that matter?

Q: Some allege that as a political partner, you are unreliable because you waver in support. Your comments.

A: I have never been wavering. But I have my priorities. I am first and foremost concerned with the needs of the CWC and people of Indian origin. All other commitments are secondary. Take the case that when the UNP brought a motion of no confidence on the then TULF and opposition leader A. Amirthalingam, though I was with the government I did not support this motion. I will support the PA government as long as it helps me to help my people. This is my first commitment.

Q: As a seasoned politician, how do you see the political future of the PA now that the cost of living is skyrocketing and the economy on the down turn..

A: Cost of living is high all over the world and so is unemployment in general. The PA has a good and bright future. Take the recent provincial elections. It has won in all five provinces.

Q: But it failed to secure a clear majority in four of the councils.

A: So what? that does not matter. The PA will definitely win the next general election.

Q: It is also alleged that you don't adhere by the principle of cabinet responsibility?

A: I have a mission. I have committed myself to this mission of helping the estate people of Indian origin some 60 years ago. So, Cabinet responsibility or whatever is of secondary importance.

I have been accommodated by governments with that understanding made clear. My support is first not to the Cabinet but to my people on the estates. I don't want the media to tell me whether I am sticking to Cabinet responsibility or not. It is not their business.

Q: Who will take up the leadership of the CWC after you? Is it your grandson Arumugam?

A: The CWC is committed to democratic principles. Time and the membership will decide on my successor. The early post-independent governments had denied us our rights and we did not have even citizenship until I fought a hard and persevering battle till in 1988.

Q: Do you still insist that there must be a dialogue with the LTTE despite its terrorist activities.

A: If you want peace, yes. The government must hold a dialogue with the LTTE. No other means can bring peace. If one is sincerely committed to peace, the two sides must come together and work out a suitable plan. The LTTE cannot refuse to recognise the Government; nor can the Government refuse to recognise the LTTE.

Q: What is your opinion about third party mediation?

A: What can a mediator do, it won't help at all. See how flat was the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact and the Indo Lanka Agreement with mediators it won't help at all. What is imperative is not mediation but implementation. That is the crux of the matter.

Q: Don't you agree that the LTTE is a terrorist organisation in the face of reports of an alleged plot hatched in Durban to kill Sonia Gandhi.

A: I don't know about Sonia Gandhi, that has no relevance. All I say is that the LTTE is not a terrorist party or organisation. The LTTE is fighting for a cause, the foundation of which was laid by a democratic party, the TULF at Vadddukoddai. The LTTE is not working for a terrorist cause, for Eelam too was decided by the TULF and not the LTTE as many think.

The LTTE is fighting for democratic rights begun by a democratic party, the TULF. To brand them as terrorists is nonsense.

Q: Don't you agree that Eelam will divide this little country altogether.

A: Not at all. We must find and work towards a formula and formulate a compromise which will satisfy both communities. Take big China, how well it has formulated a plan which has helped Hong Kong. Why can't we in the same manner as China and Hong Kong accommodate the Tamil people here. Have one country and two systems so where is the division of the country? The Ethnic problem must be settled as it has been done in China with Hong Kong.

Q: What about cultural integration of the two communities. This can be a first concrete step. Your observations?

A: Cultural integration is good but it must come naturally. It cannot be forced on a community.

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