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29th August 1999

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flock of birds

The 50th annivesary of the Senanayaka Samudra at Inginiagala built under the Gal-oya Development scheme was commemorated over the weekend. the multi-purpose tank has contributed to a great extent to the development of the eastern Province. Pic. shows a flock of birds in the vicinity of the picturesque tank.
Pic by Saman dissanayake

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West unable to take action against LTTE

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Following an expose by the London-based Amnesty International of the LTTE and pro-LTTE offices in western countries, their diplomatic missions here say they cannot take action against either the LTTE or any Tamil organisation operating in their countries unless there is proof that they are engaging in terrorist or criminal activities.

The Amnesty International had published the LTTE or allegedly LTTE linked addresses in nine Western countries in its Urgent-Action appeal, requesting Tamil residents in these countries to write to the LTTE and ask it to stop killing politicians in the North and East.

Of the nine addresses revealed those in the United Kingdom and Denmark were of LTTE offices while those in Australia, France, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands were of other Tamil organisations reportedly linked to the rebel group.

A British High Commission spokesperson told The Sunday Times that they have 'made clear to the Government of Sri Lanka on many occasions that the UK is determined not to be used as a base for supporting terrorism overseas'.

'Where there is evidence that individuals are involved in terrorism of any kind in the UK or are conspiring to commit a terrorist act abroad, the Government does not hesitate to take action against them, either under criminal law, supported as necessary by the prevention of terrorism legislation, or under the Immigration Act powers', she said.

While a Canadian Embassy spokesman, G. Hoggins, said that there was no proof that these addresses were linked to the LTTE, he said the Canadian Government was aware that there are Tamils in Canada who are sympathetic towards the LTTE and also that this support sometimes turns into active support for the movement. 'In the past, people discovered to be high ranking LTTE officials have had their refugee status removed', he said.

Other embassy spokespersons maintained the position that the LTTE or possibly LTTE linked organisations in their countries were closely monitored by the police and other security organisations, only they were found guilty of a breach under the country's laws there was no legal action they could take.

Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Director Publicity Ravinatha Ariyasinghe said while statements have been issued to countries thought to have LTTE presence in the past, these addresses were well known and nothing spectacular. He said there was nothing the Government of Sri Lanka could do about a foreign government's policies.

Lalith Front begins membership drive

The United Lalith Front has launched a membership drive to gear the party for the national elections.

At a meeting with Colombo District organisers last week, party leader Srimani Athulathmudali presented a plan for the membership drive.

"We have already started it through each branch. We have not decided whom we will support at the elections. We are optimistic that this strategy will draw a large number of people," she said.

5000 people vow to stop Eppawela project

By Shelani de Silva

More than 5000 people who held a mass demonstration in Eppawela on Friday against the phosphate project have vowed to continue their protest campaign until the government cancels it.

The crowd also took a pledge that they would not allow the project to be carried out even if the contract was signed.

The Committee for the Preservation of the Eppawela Phosphate which incorporates village groups, trade unions and environmental groups urged the Government to cancel the project for which a formal agreement is expected to be signed in December.

Ven. Mahamankada Piyaratana Thera, the head of the committee told The Sunday Times: "We were informed that the Government would be pressurised to sign the contract by December. So our protest too will continue for the next few months. We believe that the people should come forward and voice their opinion and that is what the villagers are doing."

He said the committee had also decided not to meet the President or any of her officials as it felt that the government had no interest in cancelling the project.

Addressing the Friday's protest rally, Ceylon Mercantile Union leader Bala Tampoe said his union would stage a general strike if the project was carried out.

Flow of containers checked by security checks

By Faraza Farook

The Association of Container Transporters (ACT) is calling the Ports Authority to take urgent measures to minimise delays faced by the container transporters if the country is to attract more foreign exchange.

Movement of containers has slowed down with increased security checks and the close down of entry points to the terminals . Demounting container delays have been prevalent for the past few years, the ACT said.

ACT Organising Secretary Sunil Fernando said that due to heavy congestion , the port is unable to cater to the main liners. Most of the main liners have left Sri Lanka during the past few months and have invested in other ports.

Transhipment cargo, mainly from India amounts to 75 to 80 % while the rest is local imports and exports, Mr. Fernando said. "But it won't be like this much longer if we continue like this," he said.

"The prime mover with the laden container has to crawl in a queue for 10 to 12 hours," Mr. Fernando said. The queue extends from the Port gate to the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Transporters face obstacles from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Police in their movement. "We are not against security checks as it involves national security, but increase in the security cadre will expedite the process and minimise delays," Mr. Fernando said.

With 300 to 400 containers coming in everyday and just one gate kept open, the whole process is delayed with the demounting taking place overnight. Having passed the entrance gate, a container is further delayed at the terminal where the computers don't operate. The containers start coming in after 4 p.m but the computers are shut down during the night with only one computer operator working.

Mr. Fernando said instead of making three trips a day , the container makes just one trip under the present conditions.

All activity is stopped if any state function is taking place or during visits by foreign delegates, Mr. Fernando said. He said discussions with the Ports Authority have failed and if a solution is not reached soon, the ACT will take whatever action possible until they see the smooth flow of containers again.

The ACT along with the Sri Lanka Shippers Council had made suggestions to the Ports Authority and Ports Minister Ashraff to ease the present congestion, but nothing has been done.

"We suggested work during the night and releasing all import containers without any cost to the consigner which would avoid congestion on the highway," Mr. Fernando said. Container movement on Baseline Road is difficult with the ongoing road construction and heavy traffic.

A port user told The Sunday Times that drivers have begun to complain about the delay and refuse to work. "Drivers come in the morning with swollen legs after the long drive. They are leaving us," he said.

Sri Lanka Shippers Council (SLSC) Chairman Rohan Masakorala said, the whole issue began after the Central Bank blast followed by the bomb attack at the Galadari. "The security system was brought about without consulting those in the trade," he said.

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