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5th December 1999
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The Police chief deadlines in the headlines but the cut-outs are not yet - President Kumaratunga and UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe are still standing hard and tall as seen in this picture. On November 27, the IGP ordered the removal of all cutouts with a two-day deadline. Again last Friday, the IGP issued another warning with a two-day deadline ordering his men to knock out all cut-outs. Pic by Lakshman Gunatilleke

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Deputy Minister, TELO, EPRLF for UNP; EPDP for; TULF neutral

Tamil parties split over candidates

By Chris Kamalendran
In another decisive move ahead of the presidential elections, Deputy Minister and Up-country People' s Front leader Periyasamy Chandrasekaran has decided to quit the PA government and back the UNP, significantly changing the balance of the estate vote base.

But the main Tamil party, the TULF, has decided to remain neutral while the EPDP is giving full backing to president Kumaratunga and two other parties, the EPRLF and TELO, are to support UNP presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Mr. Chandrasekaran told The Sunday Times he had decided to support the UNP because he felt the government has failed to fulfill the needs of the plantation people despite various assurances.

On Friday, Mr. Chandrasekaran met UNP leader Ranil Wickremesighe and other senior members of the party to discuss the campaign strategy.

He said he would be supporting the UNP on three conditions - improvement of estate education and infrastructure facilities along with a wage increase for the plantation workers.

The Sunday Times learns that Mr. Chandrasekaran has entered in to an agreement with the UNP before pledging support to the party and will be handing over his resignation as a deputy minister within days.

The UPF will also seek an extra seat in the Parliament on the UNP nations list.

Mr. Chandrasekaran's move to switch camps from the PA to the UNP comes amidst increasing reports of a rift in the main plantations union, the Ceylon Workers Congress, following the death of veteran S. Thondaman and the appointment of his grandson Arumugam Thondaman as the leader.

At least two senior members of the CWC are reported to be holding talks with the UNP to work out a crossover.

Former CWC General Secretary M. S. Sellasamy who now leads a rival group that openly support the UNP, also said he was confident they could break the CWC vote in Plantation areas.

TULF General Secretary R. Sampanthan told Sunday Times that after six hours of deliberations yesterday the party had unanimously decided not to support either of the two main candidates. However, he gave no reasons for it.

EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandra said yesterday his party would extend support to the UNP. But there is a division in the party with former chief minister and EPRLF member. Varatharaja Perumal openly supporting President Kumaranatunga amidst speculation he might even get a portfolio if she is reelected.

A spokesman for PLOTE said yesterday their main concern was to provide food and security for the Tamil people and they were not particular interest in either of the main candidates.

Meanwhile, another party, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) , also yesterday unanimously decided to support the UNP at a time when UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is unveiling new plans to solve the ethic conflicts.

TELO leader N. Srikantha told The Sunday Times they saw Mr. Wickremesinghe as a man of peace and their support for the UNP would be allout and unconditional.

While other Tamil parties are wavering, the EPDP is giving full support for President Kumaratunga and is reported to be putting up posters for her all over the North East. 

Indian anti- terrorist group wants Prabha.

An anti-terrorist group in India has called on Sri Lanka to extradite LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran to face the penalty for the assassination of former premier Rajiv Gandhi.

The All-India Anti Terrorist Front (AIATF) has handed over a memorandum to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Mangala Moonesinghe at New Delhi mission in Chanakyapuri, urging the support of Sri Lanka for the fight against terrorism.

AIATF Chairman Maninder Jeet Singh Bitta, a former president of the Youth Congress and former Cabinet Minister from Punjab, described Prabhakaran as a common enemy of both countries and urged Sri Lanka to cooperate fully in curbing LTTE activities in India also.

Mr. Moonesinghe has assured Sri Lanka's support for the group and said both countries should take action separately and / or jointly to fight LTTE terrorism.

The group staged a demonstration outside the Sri Lankan mission calling for the hand over the LTTE leader. The AIATF is a movement fighting against terrorism in various parts of the world, especially those that have a bearing on India.

Starving Wanni cries out

The food situation in the Wanni area was still in crisis yesterday as the Tamil parties and the Catholic church called the government to take urgent steps to rush food and medical supplies to the area where some 350,000 civilians are undergoing severe hardships.

North East Governor Asoka Jayawardana held urgent talks with the government agents of Mannar, Vavuniya and Anuradhapura on Friday, but reports from the Wanni said the situation had not improved.

The moderate TULF has written to the north eastern Governor, calling for essential supplies to be sent immediately while Mannar's Vicar General Rev.Fr. Anthony Xavier Croos said thousands in Wanni were starving specially in a horrible crisis.

The Sunday Times learns after Friday's meeting the Governor has come to Colombo for urgent talks with government leaders amidst charge that food supplies had not been sent for almost a month.

Ashraff, Fowzie bust-up again

A long standing rift between Ministers A.H.M. Ashraff and M.H.M Fowzie has erupted again over the demolition of the main bus stand in Kalmunai town to accommodate crowds for the recent SLMC annual convention.

The bus terminal was reportedly bulldozed the day before the convention despite a complaint to the police and an angry Transport Minister Fowzie said that the demolition had resulted in a loss of some Rs. 170,000 in public money. Eastern Bus Company chairman N.M. Kariapper, who is also the Kalmunai's SLFP organizer, said he had been tipped off before the convention that the bus terminal building was to be demolished.

He said he called minister Fowzie who told him to inform the police and he did so.

Despite that, the bus terminal building was demolished, sources said.

Kalmunai residents have complained that the demolition of the bus terminal is causing them severe inconvenience and they are forced to wait in the hot sun or heavy rain for buses.

No Cover for ghost voters

By Shelani de Silva
With widespread fears of vote rigging, a deadlier factor is also emerging - will dead people vote at the presidential elections?

For the recent provincial elections, the Elections Department had obtain lists of dead people from the Registrar General's Department in a bid to ensure there were no ghost voters or votes from the grave yard.

But for some mysterious reason, no such list has been obtained for the upcoming presidential election and Registrar General Mihindu Ratnayake says it is now too late to get that same system into operation. An official of the Election Department claimed they had a revised list from last year and that would be sufficient to prevent any ghost voters - impersonators voting in the name of a dead person.


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