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Archive for September 30th, 2004

The government is in a dilemma over the outright rejection of its proposal to establish a National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation to facilitate the stalled peace process.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga planned to inaugurate the Council on Monday (4) with the participation of all political parties represented in parliament. Political sources said the decision of the UNP and the TNA to boycott the Council had placed the government in an uncomfortable position. “Without their presence, the whole exercise is worthless. In fact it would not be possible to set up the Council without their participation,” government sources acknowledged.

The President recently requested the UNP to name six persons to the proposed Council. The sources said the government expected the UNP to nominate senior partymen, preferably members of its negotiating team that held six rounds of talks with the LTTE. The sources said the SLMC and the Up-country Peoples Front are also under pressure to shun the council.

The UNP and the TNA accused the government of wasting time by engaging in a worthless exercise. UNP Deputy General Secretary (Kandy District MP) Tissa Attanayake claimed the President was ‘playing for time.’ Outspoken TNA MP Nadarajah Raviraj (Jaffna District) endorsed Attanayake’s view. Raviraj said the UNP and the TNA had expressly endorsed the LTTE’s stand that talks should begin on the basis of the LTTE’s ISGA proposals.

Replying to questions, Raviraj said, “Our parliamentary group unanimously decided to boycott this. We will not change our stand.”

Political sources said the proposal to set up a National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation was nothing new. The President inaugurated what was termed the National Consultation on Ethnic Reconciliation on July 26 two years ago

The UNP boycotted the July function. But the TNA leader R. Sampanthan attended it.

Raviraj said that they would not be deceived by the President’s move. “We don’t need another committee to lead the peace process. Negotiations can resume immediately after the government responds positively to the LTTE’s proposals,” he said. He stressed that there would not be a change in the status quo as long as the government did not accept the ISGA proposals as the basis for negotiations. The talks broke down in April 2003.

Raviraj expressed the belief the government would call off what he termed an idiotic exercise that wouldn’t have any impact on the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process. He emphasised that the LTTE wouldn’t accept anything short of an interim self governing authority.

The Deshahitheshi Jathika Viyaparaya (Patriotic National Front) on Monday warned President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government that it would be toppled if it heeded the LTTE’s demand to set up an LTTE-run interim administration in the North-East region

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The National Joint Committee wants President Chandrika Kumaratunga fast to save Trincomalee from the LTTE. Its secretary Dr. Piyasena Dissanayake said:

“President Chandrika Kumaratunga who appeared to be extraordinarily concerned with national security during the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, and even went to the extent of dismissing the then Minister of Defence over the latter’s lackadaisical approach to the subject, is now painfully slow in taking steps to prevent the LTTE from laying siege to our strategically vital Trincomalee habour. It is no secret that armed forces chiefs have warned the President about the dangerous situation developing in and around the harbour and that the Tigers, had already opened a string of new camps besides re-opening the old ones in the area.”

“Since these developments are taking place strictly in Government controlled territory, they amount to a blatant violation of the Cease Fire Agreement. We know from past experience that complaining to the SLMM is of no use. In these circumstances, the President is under obligation to act expeditiously to save the Port.”

“Instead, the President has appointed a Committee, comprising mostly of bureaucrats and none from the Services to “look into the matter”. Such a step, apart from being unequal to the urgent and important task in hand, sounds irresponsible to say the least. Obviously, what is called for is an urgent professional approach to the problem by the Services Chiefs with clear cut orders from the President.”

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The Island and the Daily Mirror of Thursday, 23rd September carried the same report of President Kumaratunga’s press conference at UN HQs – not surprising, because they draw on the same referral source of a Presidential Secretariat press release. The report attributes some extraordinary statements to her, which I set down below in some meaningful sequence.

Calling terrorism “The most dehumanizing and most horrendous phenomenon of our times”, she nonetheless says that in the world’s fight against terrorism, the use of force and violence by a state should be the last resort.

Answering a journalist’s question, she had said her Government believes that the way to resolve conflict is through negotiation and dialogue. “Even if the expression of the conflict may take the most horrendous terrorists form, we believe that there are justified reasons for it”. She had then argued that legitimate grievances must be considered apart from the acts of violence.

There have been two constant and distinctive features of her public rhetoric ever since that fateful autumn of 1994. On one hand, a mixture in varying degree and proportion of inaccuracies/falsehoods/misrepresentations adding up to incoherence, and on the other, begging many more questions than the points made by her. So again, let me sort this out for you as succinctly as possible.

The LTTE have been widely labelled and prescribed abroad, as a terrorists organization. The President has herself often publicly called them the most ruthless of their kind. The LTTE’s record of massacres of innocent Sinhalese and Muslim civilians (men, women, children and infants), their murders of political rivals and dissenters from Prabhakaran’s fascist rule, the unconscionable killing of Sinhalese and Muslims worshipping at their respective shrines/temples/mosques, and the assassinations of Sinhalese as well as Tamil politicians of the democratic mainstream in the country have been documented in full and gruesome detail, both in our print media and in books – notably SL Gunasekara’s trilogy about Tiger terrorism.

Yet, the President would have the world believe that the LTTE have been forced against their better nature and impliedly perhaps due to state violence and armed force, into engaging in these brutalities because of legitimate grievances which constitute justifiable reason. (I don’t suppose that even she would expect any politically literate and seriously engaged voter-citizen here to swallow this portion of witches’ brew?) So, now for the question/s which these statements beg, and on intellectual bended knee to boot.

i) If the situation is as her statements suggest, namely, that she stands ready willing and able to enter upon dialogue and negotiation with an organization which is moved by the justifiable cause of legitimate grievances, what was the point of that Kadirgamar world tour at tremendous expense to the exchequer, undertaken around 1995-99, canvassing the view that the LTTE was such a terrorist organization as should be proscribed by all those countries visited, much of it at a time when even his own leader had not seen fit to proscribe them here? (now ‘All Countries Seen’ Hameed must have envied Kadirgamar’s luck, watching all that First Class jetting around the globe from his present abode.)

ii) Then again, if the situation is indeed as described by her, are we witnessing tne launching of a second Kadirgamar world tour, this time to ask the USA, UK et al. all who have proscribed the LTTE kindly to lift that proscription, because she (the President) is keenly waiting to commence dialogue and negotiation with the said LTTE on the basis of their legitimate and justifiable grievances?

iii) To expand that thought, is there a hint here of a possible horse-deal, deal, whereby the President will canvass the lifting of present prescriptions of the LTTE abroad, for the quid pro quo of an immediate commencement of talks, not just about the LTTE’s ISGA but also about the Peace Secretariat’s IA as well?

Let me shift the focus now, to another implication of the “residents press conference remarks, and the question/s which that one begs.

She is reported to have said that in the world’s fight against terrorism, the use of force and violence by a state should be the last resort. We here have for long now faced a terrorist-military challenge to the writ of the sovereign and united Sri Lankan state from the LTTE, seeking to carve out a separate fascist-terroristic Tamil state in our North and East. We are not in some esoteric ‘War on Terror’; we are engaged in protecting the sovereign unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, against intended and self- proclaimed Tamil Eelam. So, to hold out the begging-bowl again:

i) Does the President mean, by her use of the phrase “the use of force and violence by a state should be the last resort”, that she wishes to see (and remember, she is the Commander-in-chief of our Armed Forces, many of whose senior officers were only too happy during the period 1995-2000 to ‘toe the line’. Whilst Rhinestone General Ratwatte, acting in the name of that C-in-C, led us to huge military defeat our Armed forces metaphorically at least confined to barracks, until the LTTE actually attack us?

ii) Pursuing that line of thought, are we then having here, a hint of the commencement of the dismantling of High Security Zone, and other processes of ‘dropping one’s guard’, designed to instil confidence in the LTTE, during re-commenced talks about ISGA and IA, or whatever else the Peace Secretariat may come up with?

The import of all of this suits Ranil Wickremasinghe very nicely. So, when his Spin-doctor GL Peiris does his little song and dance about the ‘double-talk’ of the two texts of the President’s UNGA Address, he is seeking to divert attention – a.k.a. floating red herrings. The real double-talk has to be looked for in the President’s unscripted remark at that UN/HQ press conference. If she played true to form, we should be having a correction/clarification quite soon, from her Secretariat, denying both contents and import of those news reports mentioned.

Moral: let’s watch the play of the game: hang the cheer-squads.

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The defence in the Pallethalawinne mass murder case yesterday charged that SP Premadasa Udugampola and his police team who acted maliciously against the Army was responsible for the murder of the entire Special Army Intelligence unit.

Inspector R.A.P. Dharmaratne who conducted the investigation into Pallethalawinne incident under SP Udugampola was cross examined by the defence before Colombo High Court-at-bar comprising High Court judges Eric Basnayake (president), Deepali Wijesundara and Sunil Rajapakse.

Defence Counsel Anil Silva cross-examining the witness submitted that the investigation conducted at Athurugiriya simultaneously wih the Pallethalwinne murder incident was done maliciously against the Army.

Questioned by the defence the witness denied the allegation that he along with SP Udugampola worked to get publicity and acted against the Sri Lanka Army. Defence Counsel: Since the fourth to nine accused in Pallethalawinne case were from Army you acted maliciously against Army?

Witness: I have no malice towards the Army.

During the cross examination Inspector Dharmaratne said that while the investigation into Pallethalawinne incident was being conducted another investigation relating to Army Special Intelligent Unit was also conducted.

He said for the investigation into the Athurugiriya incident, findings of the Pallethalawinne investigation were used. He said some arrests were made by the Athurugiriya police in the Athurugiriya incident and the suspects were produced before the Kandy police.

The police Inspector said the investigation into Athurugiriya incident was later stopped on the instructions of the Attorney General.

DC: Do you say that that investigations could be done without the instruction of the AG? Witness: yes

DC: Can you work against AG’s instructions? -No

He said there was an order to withdraw the investigation by the AG and subsequently the investigations were stopped. The witness said he was aware that the Athurugiriya case could not be filed before the courts in Kandy.

Inspector Dharmaratne said there was a special commission to investigate into the Athurugiriya incident and he gave evidence before it.

He said he was promoted to the Inspectorate in August 2003 and at this time he was a respondent in a fundamental rights violation case. He said he was cited along with SP Udugampola and Katugastota Inspector Mohottigedara as respondents and they were charged with inhuman torture and illegal arrests of persons.

He said the Supreme Court gave an order against them and ordered SP Udugampola who was then in charge of the Special Investigation Unit at Kandy Police Kennel to pay Rs 300,000.

DC: You applied for promotion to IP while a case was pending against you? Yes.

DC: Did you mention it in your application? Yes.

Continuing under cross examination the witness said that he worked with SP Udugampola and conducted the investigation into the Pallethalawinne mass murder. He refuted the allegation made by the defence that the Pallethalawinne case was made up against the Army.

Cross examined by the defence counsel Tirantha Walaliyadda PC the witness denied the allegation that the arrest of the two suspects at Lunugamvehera on December 31, 2001 was false and the records he maintained about this was wrong.

The witness said on the orders of SP Udugampola he along with a police team went to Lunugamvehera police station but the suspects were not there but later they were arrested at the bus halt in front of the police station. He said there were four bags with the two suspects and there were police identity cards, a bus pass and a passbook from National Saving bank.

DC: Did you inform Lunugamvehera police before you went there?- I don’t know whether SP Udugampola had informed. We thought that the two suspects would be kept until we went there.

DC: Do you say the police had released the suspects who were in possession of a police ID card which did not belong to them?-Yes.

IP Dharmaratne denied the allegation that he was giving false evidence and that the two suspects arrested at Lunugamvehera were illegally detained from December 7 to 29 by SP Udugampola in Kandy and the suspects were sent there on December 29. He denied the arrest was a plan made by SP Udugampola.

In this case former Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, his two sons Lohan Ratwatte and Chanuka Ratwatte, and thirteen others were indicted on 72 counts including threatening valid voters to prevent them from casting their votes during the General Election held on December 5, 2001 at Mahaiyawa and Kandy.

Further trial was postponed for October 4.

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Two men were shot dead on Tuesday night at Mollikulam in Palamunai in the Akkaraipattu area, Damana police said.

The victims have been identified as K.B. Lal Wijetillake (27) and K.B. Kularatne (28), of Deegavapiya Buddhist colony. The police said that two men, believed to be LTTEers, who had come on a bicycle to the Mollikulam junction had shot at them and fled leaving their bicycle at the place of the incident.

A Akkaraipattu police officer said a special team from Akkaraipattu had proceeded to Mollikulam yesterday to initiate inquiries.

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At least five cadres were killed along with one female civilian when LTTE Wanni faction and renegade Tiger leader Karuna’s party clashed at Panichchankerni, Vakarai last morning.

The clash occurred around 11 am and had lasted for about one hour in the LTTE controlled areas off Valaichchenai.

Two female civilians in Panichchankerni were reportedly struck by a mortar attack and rushed to the Batticaloa hospital where one succumbed to her injuries shortly after admission.

The victim had been identified as 45-year-old Kanthi Seri Kali Pillai. The other casualty is being treated at Batticaloa hospital in a critical condition.

According to unconfirmed security intelligence reports five cadres of Wanni group were killed during the clash and many from both sides have been injured.

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A person injured in a shooting incident on Tuesday night about 8.30 p.m. at Wambiadi in Akkaraipattu has been admitted to Ampara hospital.

Police have received information that the victim has been shot while he was pasting posters regarding a visit of a powerful politician of the area who is also a minister at present.

The victim is Mohamed Aslam alias Banda. A hospital spokesman said that a T-56 has been used in the shooting and one of his legs is seriously injured. No arrests were made yet.

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