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5th September 1999

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Railway dwellers won't move

Government has issued a fresh directive to prevent encroachment into railway lands, but workers have declined to implement the order fearing physical attacks from people who are occupying the railway land.

The government order came after findings that thousands of persons have put up temporary huts beside the railtrack and the number is increasing day by day.

Railway workers have decided not to carry out the order until full security is provided.

The Sri Lanka Railway Technical officers Union which comprises engineers, supervisors, technical staff and foremen at a meeting with Transport Minister A. H. M. Fowzie conveyed their decision that they were unable to implement the order.

Their decision came as a sequel to an attack by a group of encroachers whom the railway employees were trying to evict, in keeping with a government directive.

Two employees including the President of the Technical Officers Union, L.D. Senaratna, were injured in the attack last Tuesday. They were trying to demolish two huts which had been put up overnight by a group which allegedly had the backing of PA parliamentarian Neil Rupasinghe.

Earlier Mr. Rupasinghe had sent a letter to the Railway General Manager, asking him to stop the demolition of the huts, but railway authorities were compelled to ignore the request since it went against the order issued by the government.

Accordingly about 20 employees proceeded, backed by railway security and two police constables, but the workers were beaten up and threatened at the point of a sword by a local politician.

"We are asking the government to conduct an impartial inquiry into the incident and also provide security to the employees' quarters as we are under threat," Vice President of the Union Ranjith Dissanayake told The Sunday Times. On Thursday the union representatives met Western Province DIG N. K. Illangakoon and complained that they were not satisfied with the manner the local police carried out the investigation and wanted an impartial inquiry into the incident.

The union members pointed out that encroachment on railway land, particularly around the rail tracks was causing a severe problem and also posing a major threat to the commuters. 'There are instances where we cannot remove a sleeper as there are houses adjoining the rail track. This delays repairs to the track," Mr. Dissanayake said.

Who said 'dead'men don't tell stories?

By Faraza Farook

A veteran journalist ran into his deadliest story when he visited his sister's Bambalapitiya home where he has stayed and found that they had bought a coffin, invited monks for the final rites and were preparing for his funeral.

The 63-year-old journalist, Lawrence Jayesekera, who has worked in newspapers and broadcasting for more than four decades rushed to the Coroner's Court on Thursday to testify that the body identified as his by his brother and being prepared for cremation at Kanatta was someone else's body and it was all a case of mistaken identity.

The stranger than fiction story goes like this. On Wednesday journalist Jayasekera's sister, with whom he had lived for several years before temporarily moving to Dehiwela recently, had got a telephone call to say that her brother had drowned in the sea off Bambalapitiya and that his body was in the mortuary.

Knowing that her brother often took walks along the Bambalapitiya beach, the sister believed the story and desperately telephoned her other brother Piyatissa Jayesekera, who lives in Moratuwa.

He rushed to the Bambalapitiya Police and they took him to the mortuary where he identified the bloated body as that of his brother Lawrence.

Piyatissa had not met Lawrence for about four years and that may have been one of the reasons for the deadly mistake. Lawrence Jayesekera's sister then made arrangements for the funeral after the acting City Coroner officially recorded that Lawrence Jayesekera had died in a tragedy in the sea off Bambalapitiya.

The sister sent her nephew to the undertaker.

He paid Rs. 15, 000 for the coffin, then went to Kanatta and arranged for the cremation. Monks from a nearby temple were also asked to come for the final rites.

Blissfully unaware of all this the old-school tie-clad chubby journalist, casually walked into his sister's residence while the sorrowful family were making arrangements for the funeral.

Horrified at first and wondering whether she was seeing a ghost the sister's tears turned to joy when she realised that Lawrence was very much alive.

She blurted out the story to him. The journalist then rushed to the coroner's court with a witness and officially testified that Lawrence Jayasekera was not dead but very much alive.

The acting coroner moved quickly to cancel the death certificate, the JMO's reports on the cause of death and other documents about the death of Lawrence Jayesekera.

The real identity of the body at the morgue has still not been established. So the veteran journalist remains to tell the incredible story of his own death- correction, his encounter with death.

Probe on faux pas over French paper

By Faraza Farook

The Department of Examinations and the Ministry of Education have assured they will inquire into the confusion in the Advanced Level French paper.

Parents and school authorities have written to the Education Ministry and also complained to the Examinations Department about the predicament faced by the students.

Advanced Level students were faced with a crisis on August 19 when the French paper they received was based on a syllabus different to what they followed.

Education Ministry Secretary Andrew Silva told The Sunday Times that the Ministry in consultation with the Department of Examinations would look into the problem and see how they could prevent any injustice being done to the students.

Examinations Commissioner A.M.R.B. Amarakoon said an inquiry was being held and action would be taken against anyone found to be responsible for the blunder.

Meanwhile parents who spoke to The Sunday Times said their children were highly worried about the whole issue. They urged that action be taken against the supervisors who had failed to instruct the students on the option they had to select between the old and new syllabus.

One parent said, "the supervisors are to be blamed for being ignorant and failing to tell the students that they have a choice". Another parent in his letter said, "the candidates are totally depressed and the supervisor has virtually ruined the future of these students".

UNP PC member shot dead

UNP Provincial Council member for the Sabaragamuwa, Ranjith Nandasena and his associate were shot dead in Nikogoda, Kalawana on Friday night, Police said.

Their bodies were found in the provincial councilor's vehicle beside the road yesterday morning.

He and the associate had been heading to his tea factory in Horakendahena when the incident occurred. Sabaragamuwa DIG M. Sivaratnam told the investigations had been handed over to the CID.

The motive for the killing was not known. Nandasena was a former Minister of Health, Women's and Cultural Affairs in the previous UNP provincial council. He was the Pelmadulla organiser at the time of death.

Sports to cut across all barriers

By Nilika de Silva

As a part of its effort to win the hearts and minds of the people in the north and east the Sri Lankan military invited basketball teams from Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee for the Army Golden Jubilee Friendship Basketball Carnival this week.

On the eve of the finals The Sunday Times met these teams at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium to see how sports and sportspeople were faring in the Northern and Eastern provinces and contributing to improve relations between the north and south.

G.D. Mathiyalagan, a physical education instructor at Jaffna University said a 13-member squad from Jaffna arrived last Friday.

A Commerce graduate, the 29-year-old Mathiyalagan said he had been the vice captain of the university cricket team and a coloursman in cricket, hockey and basketball.

"In Jaffna cricket is a popular sport," he said, demonstrating that sport recognizes no borders. He added that back in Jaffna there were many cricket clubs and associations and tournaments are held.

The captain of the Trinco YMCA Club, M.B. Irfan (23) an agriculture student at Batticaloa campus, and his teammate Manoharan Fernando (20) said they had come to Colombo for football and cricket tournaments about five years ago. We participated in the Lifeboy tournament, Union Assurance and Premadasa tournaments in Colombo, they said. They said they practise at the Ehambaram Stadium. "No LTTE problems, but we don't have coaches or equipment. Courts and other facilities are poor," one member said.

Three teams from Batticaloa had come to Colombo to participate at the Basketball Carnival St. Michael's Under 17, Under 19 and Michaelmen, the old boys of St Michael's.

Viren Saravanamuttu, coach of the Under 17 and Under 19 teams from St Michael's National School, Batticaloa, said "We don't face any problems because practices start at 4 and end by 6.30, and the town is always secure. Our college is in the town.

Mannar GA held for questioning

Mannar's Government Agent M. Crooz has been detained by the Police for questioning in connection with the detection of a stock of explosives at his residence in Mannar.

Police said they had recorded a statement of the GA on Friday and wanted him to call over yesterday to record a further statement.

He was detained thereafter. Police questioned the GA after one of his drivers was arrested for allegedly transporting explosives to Colombo in the GA's vehicle.

A squad attached to the Special Branch of the Mt. Lavinia Police travelled to Mannar and recovered a stock of powerful explosives, electronic timers and detonators. Three more persons were arrested in Mannar.

Police are investigating whether the GA's driver was linked with the assassination of moderate TULF leader Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam.

Ranil's crusade to fight corruption

Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wick-remesinghe called upon the entire PA membership who are critical of the corruption within the PA administration to join forces with the UNP in a bid to save the country.

Addressing the UNP's National Executive Committee sessions in Polgahawela yesterday, Mr. Wickremesinghe noted that the Channel 9 issue has become a sour point not only to the Opposition UNP and left parties who have called for an independent inquiry, but to the country as well.

"Even ministers like Mahinda Rajapakse and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle have called for probes.

"At least to preserve the dignity of the country and the presidency, President Kumaratunge should inquire into the scandal," he said.

But the president obviously had different priorities she has sacrificed the interest of her government and the entire PA which was elected into power by people with implicit faith to protect a few friends of hers, he charged.

If any PA member wanted a clean slate and an opportunity to correct the past mistakes, the UNP doors were open for all forces to join in an effort to build the nation destroyed by the Kumaratunge administration, he said.

SLFP gearing for the millennium

The SLFP, the main constituent party of the ruling Peoples' Alliance has undertaken a mammoth restructuring process with a view to introducing a 'new leadership for the new millennium', PA sources said.

With the SLFP conducting its own assessment and popularity analysis of key members including ministers, deputies and parliamentarians, it is learned that several seniors might be denied nomination at the next general election while many youngsters would be elevated in position.

However, the source maintained that while being disappointed with the performance of some, President Kumaratunga who herself was expected to accept the SLFP mantle soon was sceptical of a party without seniors to carry out vigorous election campaigning.

The analysis was done to assess the PA's ability to muster support at the next national election.

It has been recommended that about 100 enterprising youngsters be brought into the party fold, while some could be absorbed into the PA Central Committee and various other bodies of the SLFP.

Sources maintained that the removal of at least five Cabinet rankers have been recommended while three enterprising young PA members have been recommended for promotion.

The survey has also highlighted the reasons for the PA's alleged loss of public appeal and cited the cost of living, broken promises and the continuing war as the main causes.

Manikkadasan did not live to tell

By Chris Kamalendran and S. S. Selvanayagam

An LTTE infiltrator into the PLOTE group is believed to have master-minded the claymore mine explosion which claimed the life of the PLOTE military wing leader, N. Manikkadasan.

Despite strong threats to Mr. Manikkadasan's life from various groups including members of his own group it was believed to be the LTTE that carried out the explosion by remote control.

The 40-year-old Manikkadasan who had been heading the PLOTE militant wing since 1992 was meeting his senior members at the 'Lucky House' office along the Rambaikulam road. The office is also used for PLOTE's public relations matters.

Shortly after 1 p.m last Thursday, Mr. Manikkadasan carrying his 9mm pistol stepped out from his room and was beginning to head towards the stair-case when the powerful explosion went off killing him and two others.

Initially it was thought to be an LTTE suicide bomber who carried out the explosion as one of those killed was minus his leg and police thought that it was the body of the suicide bomber.

Later it was found that the body was that of a former PLOTE Pradeshiya Sabha member, who had lost a limb in a previous attack in Batticaloa. The member identified as Vinodh who had arrived from Batticaloa was climbing the stair-case with the aid of a crutch when the blast ripped the building.

Preliminary investigations revealed the claymore mine had been placed in the outer area of the ceiling which could be accessed from outside by a member who had joined the PLOTE recently.

Mr. Manikkadasan had made many enemies in the recent months. Among them were the TELO group which was involved in fighting with PLOTE cadres recently.

Mr. Manikkadasan reacting to a story in 'The Sunday Times' last week called the reporter concerned and wanted to know whether he could speak to the newspaper about the stand of his party.

"I will speak to you on Friday to express our own views about the situation in Vavuniya," he told the reporter. But he did not live to tell his story.

Mr. Manikkadasan was reacting to a report about the TELO-PLOTE clashes in Vavuniya.

In the blast Mr. Manikkadasan's 'lieutenant,' K.Thevarajah alias Ilango, the deputy leader of the military wing in Vavuniya, too was killed and his bodyguard S. Thavam suffered injuries.

Mr. Manikkadasan hailed from Martin Road, Jaffna. His real name is Thasan but he was named Manikkdasan, adding his father's name Manickam.

He was married to Shyamala from Vavuniya and had three children one boy and two girls.

Manikkadasan got involved in social activities and militant politics in the 1970s. In the early stages he associated with the TULF. In 1977, he joined a Gandhian movement and helped victims of cyclone ravaged Batticaloa in 1978.

Disgruntled with his mentor TULF on policy, he joined a militant group called the ENDLF led by Paranthan Rajan in 1978. When he was scrawling anti-TULF graffiti on the walls in Jaffna, among them the slogan "Asked for Tamil Eelam but received Japanese jeep", he was arrested and jailed for four months.

After his release from prison in 1980, he joined hands with PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran and took part in many militant operations.

On the eve of the Jaffna District Development Council election in 1981, he along with Mr. Maheswaran took part in an attack on policemen at Nachchimar Kovilady in the suburb of Jaffna and captured a number of weapons, preceding the arson attack on the Jaffna Public Library.

He took part in the first attack on police stations by militants, in the annals of Tamil militancy, along with Mr. Maheswaran. The Anaikoddai Police station was attacked and destroyed under the leadership of Mr. Maheswaran in 1982.

Later he took part in the Kilinochchi bank robbery along with Uma Maheswaran but was arrested following the robbery and ended up in jail.

In July 1983, when the Welikade Prison was targeted by the mob, he fought the assailants.

Following the attack at the Welikada Prison, Tamil inmates were transferred to Batticaloa Prison from where he escaped during the jail break in September 1983 and fled to India.

He proceeded to Lebanon in the same year for guerrilla training for one and a half years and returned to the field. When the LTTE launched attacks to eliminate other militant groups, PLOTE cadres went back to India but Mr. Manikkadasan returned to the North even before the induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into the North-East.

He pitched camp in Vavuniya and took up the challenge from the LTTE as his group's military wing leader. After the departure of the IPKF, the LTTE along with the Sri Lankan Army unleashed an onslaught on the PLOTE camps at Mullikulam in Mannar and Musalkuthu at Chettikulam in 1989.

Though Mr. Manikkadasan reportedly took part in repulsing this attack, he later fled to India.

With the advent of the strained relations between the UNP regime and India, he returned to Sri Lanka and engaged in political activities under the leadership of Uma Maheshwaran and its vice president D. Siddhartham.

In the Second Eelam War between the LTTE and the Army in June 1990, Mr. Manikkadasan was said to be greatly responsible for bringing Vavuniya to normalcy. Since 1992, he has been closely associated with the efforts of security forces to control Vavuniya.

Though he had been elected to the Jaffna Municipal Council in January last year, he did not take office.

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