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11th July 1999

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pic 01
Often the test of courage is not to die but to live even with
a serious disability. These soldiers who have lost their eyesight
in the war are being given a lesson along the Ragama flyover
on the use of the white cane by Lance Corporal Saman Jayarajah
who himself has lost a leg in the war.
Pic by Lakshman Gunathileka
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PA in need: PA in deed

LRC rushes through 50,000 land titles amidst reports of elections

By Vimarshini Jayaweera

With mounting speculation of an impending Presidential or Parliamentary election, the PA government has initiated moves to expedite the issue of land title deeds to some 50,000 families, The Sunday Times learns.

Massive overtime payments are being made to employees of the LRC and more staff called in to accelerate the process in the next few weeks and the high speed operation is expected to be completed by December 20.

Already some 32,000 title deeds have been given to families that earn less than Rs. 5000 a month.

LRC Chairman A.L.M. Fernando said they had identified two classes to whom the land would be distributed families already in occupation of the land and others who were homeless."

He said that the homeless families would be given 20 - 30 perches and others who were already occupying the lands would be given the option of buying land at Rs. 75 a perch.

However, the purchases will be subject to conditions.

The occupants will be allowed to use the land only for cultivation.

Plantations Industries Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake told The Sunday Times that if the lands were used for any other purpose the deeds would be cancelled.

In response UNP spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku said the project would serve a worthy cause though the PA was obviously trying to get political mileage from it.

UN probe team coming here

By Feizal Samath

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is expected to visit Sri Lanka from October 18 to 28, their first trip to Colombo since 1992 - to review the situation regarding disappearances, Human Rights activists said.

They told The Sunday Times that group chairman Professor Ivan Tosevski is leading the delegation, and its five-member team includes two other members of the group and two UN officials. The group's previous visits were in 1992 and 1991. The team is scheduled to meet the Defence Secretary, Attorney General, Secretary to the President, the government's Human Rights Commission and private human rights groups. Meetings with President Kumaratunga and Justice Minister G.L. Peiris are also likely though not on the current schedule.

Though the PA's record of human rights is a vast improvement over that of the UNP regime, the govt. has been slow in taking action against persons identified by the three presidential commissions of inquiry as those responsible for killings, abduction and torture during the 1988-1990 situation in the south. So far, compensation has only been paid to only half of the families of victims identified in the reports by the inquiry commissions due to inadequate funds, rights activists said.

Probe on escape mess

By Chris Kamalendran

A bungled Police operation in the eastern province has cost the Air Force a tidy sum of money and caused a stir in the higher echelons of the Defence Ministry.

A top level Police team has been appointed to probe the disastrous police operation which finally involved intervention by the Air Force at a cost of millions besides the high risk factor.

The team headed by Amapara Senior Superintendent D.P.L . Dissanayake is probing as to whether the operation in the eastern province was carried out without proper planning and without informing other security forces in the area.

More than 200 policemen including 15 women constables were involved in the combing out operation in the Namal Oya area of the Ampara district the day after four civilians were shot and burnt to death on Monday night.

The Air Force operation to rescue the stranded Policemen and women began on Wednesday evening and lasted a whole day.

Military sources said the rescue operation cost millions and involved a high risk for pilots who flew at low altitude to look for the missing personnel.

The Policemen had divided themselves into 18 groups and fanned out into the thick jungle which is infested with LTTE cadres. The majority of the search groups had lost their way. Their communication equipment failed with the batteries running down.

An Air Force spokesman told 'The Sunday Times' they were first alerted on Wednesday evening and a Bell 212 was rushed to Ampara to air drop food for the stranded policemen. But the first rescue flight returned without success.

On Thursday morning two helicopters were sent and four police teams were located and air lifted to the Ampara base while the others were guided to safety.

A Senior Police Officer described the operation as a 'miraculous escape', noting that none of the Policemen had fallen into the hands of the LTTE though large number of LTTE cadres were known to be in the area.

FTC chief to be fired

Fair Trading Commission Chairman D.J. Pathirana is to be fired for allegedly disobeying orders from President Kumaratunga, officials said.

They said the President had told Trade Minister Kingsley Wickremaratne to dismiss Mr. Pathirana for waht she saw as gross insubordination.

The charges are linked to two instances where the FTC chief went abroad without getting prior approval as directed by the Presidential Secretariat. On one occasion he had gone abroad even after being informed that approval had not been granted, it is alleged.

He is to be told to pay the cost of those trips.

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