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12th December 1999

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In this LTTE-controlled area of Kockaddicholai,
students sitting the ongoing G. C. E. O/L examination
had the option of taking English or Sinhala significantly,
most of them have chosen Sinhala.
Pic. by Lakshman Gunathilake.

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LTTE attacks Elephant Pass

LTTE guerrillas made a major bid to over-run defences in the Elephant Pass sector in a pre-dawn attack yesterday, but were effectively repulsed by troops.

After two abortive attempts, just nine days before the Presidential polls, they made a third bid last evening. Heavy fighting was raging at sea, the Jaffna Lagoon and on land.

The attacks on several fronts began at 4.20 am yesterday. On the land, the main thrust was at the defences between the coastal village of Kadnikadu and Kevil which is located inland. Two groups each estimated to be around 75, breached the defences and heavy fighting broke out. Simultaneously boat- loads of Tiger cadres were attempting to make landings from the Kilali Lagoon and the North Eastern seas. Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters strafed the boats causing large number of casualties. Army officials claimed more than 100 guerrillas were killed. Three soldiers were dead and over 35 were wounded.

Our Defence Correspondent reports that yesterday's attack by the LTTE were similar to the Wanni waves last month. But if they expected military positions to fall, one after another, that was not to be. If the military reversals in the Wanni came as a major setback to the PA political campaign, the repulsing of yesterday's attack on the Elephant Pass defences will come as good news.

(see Situation Report)

Govt. blocks funds for election monitors

By Shelani de Silva

With more than 100 foreign observers due here by Thursday to monitor the December 21 presidential elections, the government has moved to prevent foreign funds coming in for a monitoring group which the government accuses of being biased.

An estimated six million rupees for the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) from the US-based Asia Foundation has been blocked following a protest made by the government that the NGO is biased.

A CMEV spokesman said the Asia Foundation which had funded the group in previous elections had agreed to provide funds for monitoring of the presidential elections but the Government had intervened to stop the funding.

When Asia Foundation made a fresh application to provide funding for CMEV, it was notified of the Government allegations, CMEV Co-ordinating Director P. Saravanamuttu told The Sunday Times.

He said the CMEV would be appealing against the move on the basis that the Elections Commissioner had approved the group as a monitoring body.

But he vowed the CMEV would go ahead with its work with or without funds from the Asia Foundation and with or without the blessings of the government.

Meanwhile the Jathika Sanga Sabha is stepping in with full force and will field more than 1000 monks for election monitoring work and to ensure free and fair elections, an official said.

He said the monitoring would be coordinated by temples and other religious institutions throughout the country.

Voting without booths

By Leon Berenger and Chris Kamalendran

Poll cards are being distributed in uncleared areas of the eastern province though no polling booths are to be set up there and voters will have to go long distances to so-called cluster booths in cleared areas, residents said.

Of the 290,000 registered voters in the Batticaloa district, more than half of them live in areas under the control of the LTTE. Civilians in uncleared areas said that if the G.C.E. O/L examination could be conducted in these areas, they could not understand why polling booths were not set up. But it is known that the LTTE does not disrupt education and examinations while it has warned people not to take part in elections.

Meanwhile the leader of the LTTE political wing in the Amparai and Batticaloa districts is reported to have summoned a meeting of local leaders to work out a strategy to deal with the elections, sources in the area told The Sunday Times.

SL Airlines Catering Services closed down

The national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines began ordering food from Bangkok yesterday after the closure of the SriLankan Catering Services, following a work-to-rule dispute over bonus payments.

The SriLankan Catering Services which was supplying food to the SriLankan Airline and other airlines was closed down on Friday after its employees joined the go-slow campaign by some 3,000 ground staff of the national carrier.

Though the catering crisis escalated, the four-day work-to-rule by the ground staff was called off on Friday night following a court order, a spokesman for the airline said. The spokesman said the court order made the strike illegal and employees belonging to the SLFP-controlled Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya (SLNSS) were now carrying out normal duties. He said the dispute had only caused some delays in passenger flights and they hoped to clear the backlog of cargo soon.

The dispute arose over a bonus matter, with the employees claiming one month's bonus plus Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000 but the management offering the equivalent of two months' bonus.

Near miss at BIA

A Thai Airways plane carrying more than 230 passengers narrowly averted a collision with a Russian-built cargo plane on the runway of Colombo Airport yesterday morning, airport sources said.

The Antonov cargo plane that came from Karachi had crossed the safety line and was in the path of the Thai airways plane which was about to land. The pilot had aborted his plans to land and taken off, preventing a disaster.

The air controllers had spotted the Antonov entering the landing path of the Colombo-bound Thai airway plane from Bangkok and alerted the pilot helping him to take evasive action.

Passengers said that they were about to land when they suddenly noticed a sharp climb in the plane and the pilot had announced that he was taking the action to avert a possible collision.

The pilot of the Antonov, belonging to a private company, has apologised for his mistake.


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