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5th September 1999

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Tens of thousands of people from all parts of Sri Lanka flocked
to Akurana yesterday to pay their last respects to UNP stalwart
and former foreign minister A. C. S. Hameed who died on
Friday night. Picture shows Muslims coming out of the
Akurana mosque after offering funeral prayers. May Allah grant
him Jannathul Firdhouse!
Pic by Shane Seneviratne.
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Presidency to stay with changes

By Shelani de Silva

People's Alliance General Secretary and Minister D. M. Jayaratne says the government is dropping the idea of abolishing the executive presidency and instead would make changes in the system but other constituent parties are insisting on the abolition as promised in the manifesto.

Mr. Jayaratne told The Sunday Times, Government leaders would meet leaders of the constituent parties to get their support for the new move, but the initial response from those party leaders indicated the alliance was running into a crisis over the issue.

While Mr. Jayaratne expressed confidence the new move would hold, two of the key constituent parties are insisting they want nothing short of the abolition of the executive presidency.

CP Leader Raja Collure told The Sunday Times that the party would not settle for any other proposal.

"The PA pledged to abolish the executive presidency and this promise has to be fulfilled," he said.

LSSP Secretary Wimalasiri de Mel said the party would insist that the Government abolish the executive presidency.

"The LSSP has always stood for this. We requested that it be presented to parliament in the form of a bill. However the party has not been informed of this," he said.

The LSSP and the CP will have the second protest calling the government to abolish the executive presidency on Thursday in Galle. Last week a similar protest was held in Matara which drew a large crowd.

United Lalith Front Leader Srimani Athulathmudali said the curtailment of presidential powers could be looked into but the party had not taken a firm decision.

"There have been various views within the party on the matter, but we have to look into all aspects. What kind of powers will be curtailed and so forth. However, the ULF has requested the Government that it should abolish the executive presidency and this was also put forward at the Select Committee. Whatever the decision, the Government has to be answerable to parliament," she said.

US experts coming to Chemmani

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

With the second phase of the Chemmani exhumation set to begin tomorrow, the United States Government is now showing interest in the proceedings and will participate as an observer, an official said.

State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda, who is representing the Attorney General, said two human rights experts representing the US Government would be in Chemmani on Tuesday.

US Information Centre Chief Peter Claussen said there would be several observers representing the US government and they would take turns in watching the excavation process.

The second phase of the excavation will be conducted under magisterial presence and representatives of the Jaffna community, Mr. Kodagoda said.

He said representatives of the Missing Persons Parents Association in Jaffna would be invited to be present at the excavation tomorrow and that two foreign forensic experts of Amnesty International would also be in Chemmani on Tuesday.

Normal process in complaint against AG

Supreme Court judges have decided that Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan's complaint to the Chief Justice asking that the Attorney General be disenrolled on grounds of alleged moral turpitude should be treated as a normal complaint, and that no special procedure need be followed.

Legal sources said the majority of judges are of the view that the complaint should be treated as a normal one and referred to just one judge to deal with as is the practice, instead of taking any special procedure.The Chief Justice had referred the complaint to all the judges of the Supreme Court to obtain their views on what procedure to take as this was an unprecedented move against an Attorney General.

Sources said the file containing Mr. Ivan's complaint had been given for consideration to Justice Ameer Ismail whileW. B. Jayasekera's complaint against the AG on similar grounds had been referred to Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. Meanwhile LSSP Parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that in response to his request for a Parliamentary debate on the issue, Chief Government Whip Richard Pathirana had said he would have to consult the Leader of the House Ratnasiri Wickramanayake before giving an answer. Mr. Ivan has charged that AG Sarath Silva is unworthy of holding his high office as he is allegedly guilty of subverting the course of justice by trying to suppress evidence in a case. The AG had allegedly written a letter to Justice Minister G.L. Peiris on the latter's request in such a way as to suppress evidence in a case where Magistrate Lenin Ratnayake who is reportedly related to the AG, was facing allegations of rape and embezzlement of funds when he was a clerk at the National Insurance Corporation.

Loss of colossus at crucial time

President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday led the nation in paying glowing tributes to Sri Lanka's first fully fledged and long serving foreign Minister A.C.S. Hameed who died suddenly on Friday night at a time when he was playing a key role in bringing about bipartisanship between the two major parties.

"The country lost Mr. Hameed at a very crucial and decisive time when his services were most needed," the President said in a message as top political figures from all parties, diplomats, journalists and thousands of people gathered at Mr. Hameed's home town of Akurana for his funeral last evening.

Akurana and several other places in the country district were decked with white flags as the people said their last farewell to the man who had faithfully served the areas for upto four decades.

The President expressing shock and grief said: "Mr. Hameed counts over forty years of experience in the legislature and won the affection and respect of all the parliamentarians and the people of this country. He distinguished himself as a member who always tried his best to uphold the highest standards of conduct in Parliament. He also earned plaudits of a wide spectrum of the international community.

"We are all aware that he stood for peace and he tried his best to bring an end to the ethnic crisis. In recent years, he has been a strong supporter of the need for political consensus for meaningful devolution of power as a measure of achieving peace.

Just a few days before his sad demise he led a delegation of his party in a new round of talks between the PA and the UNP under the auspices of the business community."

Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, attending a party's national executive meeting at Polgahawela hailed Mr. Hameed as a political colossus. In a special tribute, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: "Mr. Hameed was an inspirational politician who put the country and his political party before personal gain. He was also the only living politician to have met Velupillai Prabhakaran personally.

"He spearheaded many a cause while in government and in opposition and showed the way for many. I am deeply saddened by his death for the UNP has lost a political colossus. In this age of petty squabbling and political opportunism, Mr. Hameed would be remembered for sticking his neck out and doing things while many elected to play it safe."

Mr. Wickremesinghe noted that Hameed's strategies were so advanced that many failed to understand his strategies which in the long run proved true. It was the timeless quality in his political career which illuminated Sri Lankan politics. His death has caused irreparable loss to the UNP which has lost its best mediator on any issue.

The main Tamil party, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in its message hailed Mr. Hameed as a leader who was sincerely committed to finding a negotiated solution to the national conflict. In a message the party said:

"The sudden death of Mr. Hameed, has come as a sad surprise. Mr. Hameed was a sober, experienced and mature parliamentarian whose views were well considered and clearly articulated. He was frequently the chief negotiator on behalf of the UNP on knotty issues, including the peaceful resolution of the national question.

"Mr. Hameed played an important role in the negotiations between the government of President J.R. Jayewardene and the TULF which led to the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the establishment of provincial councils with a measure of devolved power.

"Mr. Hameed was sincerely committed to finding a negotiated solution to the national conflict which should bring peace to Sri Lanka and also be acceptable to the Tamil and Muslim people."

In a response from the Socialist front, the Communist Party praised Mr. Hameed for the vital role he played in trying to bring about bipartisanship to solve the ethnic conflict. The CP said:

"The late Mr. Hameed was an amiable politician who had won the respect of even his adversaries for his positive approach to issues relating to democracy and the ethnic problem. He took a keen interest to bring about political consensus on questions of national concern. This was most evident in his efforts to develop a bipartisan agreement and the resolution of the ethnic problem.

"The appointment of Mr. Hameed to lead the UNP delegation to the business community sponsored negotiations between the UNP and the PA for a bipartisan solution to the ethnic problem, generated some hope for a positive outcome. His sudden demise at this juncture, therefore, is a great loss to the country.

"The late Mr. Hameed was known to the Communist Party since his youth when he was a live wire of the Marxist Study Circle in Matale fifty years ago. He was a friend of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the Socialist countries."

Lanka makes new case against LTTE

By Our Diplomatic Editor

The Sri Lankan Government has consulted British solicitors to explore avenues to prosecute LTTE sympathisers who breached the peace and the law in London this week while collecting funds for the separatist war here.

The Sunday Times learns that the government would ask the British Foreign Office to consult the Home Ministry on the possibility of taking action against the LTTE front groups in the wake of the clashes.

The Government has cited the recent case where the British Home Office charged a 28-year-old Pakistani moulavi of a mosque near Manchester with raising funds for the Lashkar-e-Toiba, an Islamic group fighting India in Kashmir.

The Moulavi, Shaliq ur Rehman, has been raising the 'jehad' cry in mosques around Britain and recruiting British Muslims in its support for Kashmiri militants against India.

The Queen's Counsel appearing for the British Government had argued that it was in Britain's national interest to cooperate against international terrorism.

The MI6, the British Secret Service that deals with internal security told the three-man tribunal headed by High Court Judge Sir Humphrey Potts that terrorism was a global phenomena and tackling it was a collective responsibility of the international community.

The Sri Lankan Government move came in the wake of in-fighting this week among Sri Lankan Tamils now living in Britain.

A Tamil sports festival in Britain which the organizers promised would end with a fireworks display culminated as promised as renewed fighting among rival Sri Lankan Tamil groups erupted in London with shooting and petrol bombs flying at each other.

The fighting took place during the Tamil sports festival in West London on Monday (a Bank holiday in Britain) with a 20-year-old man shot in the leg, by a handgun.

The number arrested in connection with the shooting at Warren Farm School Southhall rose from two to thirty by the end of the week.

Renewed fighting erupted between United Tamil Organisation (UTO), an LTTE front organisation and a rival group.

LTTE's London Chief A.C. Shanthan was among those questioned for public disorder offences.

The festival classified as a sports festival in the official flyer provided was to include 30 "Eelam Schools" and "Tamil Eelam Food Stalls" also urged people to bring their "Non-Eelam friends" along.

The organizers of the sports festival the United Tamil Organization claimed it was a charity festival, but the British media called it a festival in aid of the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

The festival had a separate LTTE stall and pictures of LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran hanging but the clash was reportedly between two 'kappan' groups operating under the cover of collecting funds for the LTTE's war against security forces in Sri Lanka.

Latest reports said that Velauthan Biganathan (27) was arrested in possession of a firearm for causing grievous bodily harm and theft of two credit cards in connection with the shooting at a Sports Festival in London. He was produced before the Baling magistrates court on September 1 and was further remanded till the 9th of this month.

Police are also investigating into possible connections of Biganathan in a firebombing incident in the Manor Park area, said to be his home town.

Doubts are also raised about more firearms being in circulation though only one has been recovered so far.

The Southall police recovered swords, machetes and baseball bats when a search was carried out at the LTTE Sports festival held on August 30.

Police also reported that a large number of girls and boys between the ages 16 and 30 from France, Germany and Canada participated at the event. The event advertised on Tamil radio stations which are broadcast on the sky satellite which covers most of Europe would have attracted the young Tamils.

The two pounds paid by each of them is said to have been funds going to the LTTE bank account.

However, the LTTE and Tamil pro-LTTE lawyers are denying responsibility and blame on 'Tamil elements' causing the problem.

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