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Terror downed


The Sri Lanka Air Force on Friday (20) shot down two LTTE aircraft that entered the Colombo city on a suicide mission. One aircraft crashed in to the Inland Revenue Department while the other crashed in to a marshy land in Katunayake. Photo shows two SLAF personnel looking at the fallen LTTE aircraft

 

 

No breakthrough without
GA report say police

 

Mihin to get fresh lease of life

 

Holmes calls on Govt. and LTTE
to avoid bloodbath

 

Unions see good and bad in
proposed Electricity Draft Bill

 

Partially burnt aircraft found
in Puthukudiyiruppu

 

60% voter turnout at
Nayakkachchenai repolling


More News

 

Tiger Air Force destroyed says military

The military yesterday claimed to have destroyed the LTTE’s air power by brining down the two remaining aircraft on Friday (20) night.

Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the LTTE possessed three aircraft and all of them were now destroyed.

The military claimed that the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) destroyed the first aircraft on September 9 when the LTTE carried out an air and ground attack on the air force base in Vavuniya.

Nanayakkara at a press conference yesterday at the Government Information Department said that all aircraft belonging to the Tigers were destroyed when two of them were shot down last Friday night.

One of the aircraft crashed on to the Inland Revenue Department building while the other crashed close to the Katunayake air force camp. He said that each plane carried 215 kilograms of C4 explosives.

"We suspect that they targeted the Air Force headquarters, but they had failed in their mission. The aircraft had taken off from Puthukudiyiruppu," he said. Nanayakkara added it was a suicide mission.

The explosion at the Inland Revenue Department building was initially attributed to a bomb that was dropped by one of the LTTE aircraft. However, it was later confirmed that the explosion was due to the crashing of an LTTE aircraft on to the building between the third and 12th floors.

Two persons were killed and more than 40 injured due to the attack last Friday.

The air defence system in Colombo was activated around 9.20 p.m. on Friday when reports of two aircraft flying over Vavuniya was reported to Colombo.

The power supply to many parts of Colombo was turned off as a precautionary measure as soon as the air defence system was activated.

The aircraft had been hit by the air defence system that was activated at the time. This was the seventh LTTE air attack since March 2007 in its tiny aircraft, which are believed to be Czech-built Zlin Z-143.

The Sunday Leader learns it was the Indian built radars installed in Vavuniya that had first noticed that LTTE planes had taken off on their radar monitors. The security forces had acted promptly to follow the aircraft and were on trail from Mannar.

It is also learnt the possible targets could have been the SLAF facility at Slave Island and the Kelanitissa Power station and with the anti aircraft fire thwarting the original plan makeshift targets were attacked. One aircraft in a 9/11 style effort crashed into the Inland Revenue Department building located opposite the SLAF headquarters. The Trans Asia Hotel, which is adjacent, was also damaged though slightly. The other aircraft veered off in the direction of the Bandaranaike Airport, but was shot down. It was inevitable that these planes would be shot down sooner than later.

According to military sources, the LTTE’s Friday night attack showed the Tigers were desperate and weak at this juncture to have thrown in two aircraft in a kamikaze style.

Meanwhile, pro-Tiger website Tamilnet said the LTTE had on Friday claimed two aircraft of Black Air Tiger mission diving into SLAF headquarters in Colombo and into the SLAF base at Katunayake, carrying out successful air raids.

The Tigers had also released a photograph of the two Black Air Tigers, Col. Roopan and Lt. Col. Siriththiran with LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan before embarking on their mission.

It has also been reported that both the Black Air Tiger pilots have earlier been decorated with Blue Tiger award for having carried out successful air raids on enemy targets.

 


No breakthrough without GA report say police

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Government Analyst (GA) has sought more time to release the report on the assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor-in-Chief, Lasantha Wickrematunge citing there were further tests to be done to ascertain more details on the murder, The Sunday Leader learns.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara told The Sunday Leader that the GA report is vital for a breakthrough and to find out the type of gun that was used to kill Wickrematunge. However, he said that since more time has been sought for a complete appraisal, the GA report would be further delayed.

The Mt. Lavinia Magistrate Harsha Setunaga on Thursday (19) postponed Wickrematunge’s murder trial by a month till March 19.

When queried as to what progress the four police investigating teams have made to date, Gunasekara said that all telephone calls received by Wickrematunge on the day of the assassination have been traced and further investigations are to be based on that.

"The police requested the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate to grant a court order to refer the telephone numbers to the Data Processing Department of the Moratuwa University and since the request has been granted details of the calls could now be traced easily," Gunasekara said.

Gunasekara further said the two suspects alleged to have had a link to the murder are to be further interrogated for more details.

Meanwhile, the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate on Thursday (19) instructed the Mt. Lavinia police to release Wickrematunge’s car and other belongings that were removed from the scene to his brother and The Sunday Leader Managing Editor, Lal Wickrematunge.

 


Mihin to get fresh lease of life

By Frederica Jansz

SriLankan Airlines has been coerced by the government into providing a bailout package, which will give Mihin Lanka another fresh lease of life, despite the budget carrier having recorded a Rs. 3.2 billion loss.

SriLankan Airlines confirmed to The Sunday Leader that it will be procuring a narrow bodied aircraft to be wet leased to Mihin Lanka.

The airline in an official statement released to The Sunday Leader said, "SriLankan Airlines is presently in discussions to wet-lease a twin-engined Airbus A320 aircraft to Mihin Lanka from April 2009.

"The agreement is to be on commercial terms, with payment to be made to SriLankan on an up-front basis. Subject to this, Mihin Lanka will obtain an Airbus aircraft and crew suited to its current operations at a cost effective, financially viable way. The wet-leasing of aircraft includes the services of pilots."

Acting Chairman, Mihin Lanka, Kapila Chandrasena however claimed he knew nothing of the deal. Chandrasena, is not only Acting Chairman, Mihin Lanka but also on the Board of Directors of SriLankan Airlines. Chandrasena however said he could not speak for the government.

At a high level meeting Chaired by Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapakse, held on Wednesday, February 18, SriLankan Airlines agreed to procure an aircraft to be wet leased to Mihin Lanka.

Meanwhile The Sunday Leader has reliably learnt that Chandrasena was lying when he denied any knowledge of the deal to this newspaper as unimpeachable sources confirmed that the Acting Chairman was indeed present at the crucial meeting where the modalities of the agreement were discussed.

The deal with SriLankan is not without conditions. Mihin Lanka has to pay US$ 8 million (approx. SLR 896 million) up front as a condition precedent.

The government is to also pay the existing debt obligations of Mihin Lanka to SriLankan Airlines amounting to US$ 1.35 million (approx. SLR 151.2 million)

Mihin Lanka is to carry out its own commercial operations. The budget carrier has also been told to submit a Business Plan as a condition precedent to enable SriLankan Airlines to calculate wet lease charges.

SriLankan Airlines will hold the right to nominate up to two Directors including the Managing Director/CEO to the Board of Mihin Lanka. This condition is to ensure payments to SriLankan are protected.

The wet lease charge is for one year and will include aircraft lease rental as well as crew, maintenance, and insurance.

Flight routes and schedules of Mihin Lanka and SriLankan are to be coordinated to ensure that no cannibalization of traffic occurs.

Mihin Lanka will remain as a separate company as a merger into SriLankan Airlines cannot be considered yet, due to opposition from shareholders.

Emirates Airlines, which continues to hold a 43.6%, share in UL and thus have two Directors on the Board have not been consulted.

The two Directors, Tim Clark and Gary Chapman have not attended a single Board meeting at SriLankan since Emirates decided not to renew its Shareholder’s Agreement last March.

Manoj Gunawardena Chief Executive Officer for SriLankan was overseas when contacted by The Sunday Leader. Gunawardena confirmed that the deal was indeed sealed on Wednesday, February 18. He said SriLankan would lease the aircraft to Mihin at regular commercial rates.

 


Holmes calls on Govt. and LTTE to avoid bloodbath

By Arthur Wamanan

UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes has called upon both the government and the LTTE to avoid bloodbath as clashes in the north intensify.

Holmes made this call at a press briefing yesterday at the Government Information Department.

Holmes called upon both parties to ensure the safety of the civilians in the LTTE controlled areas and that there is a significant number of civilian casualties reported.

He called upon both parties to do ‘everything possible’ to avoid civilian casualties during the ongoing military operations.

"I fear that there are a significant number of civilians killed or injured. It is hard to say who is responsible for these," Holmes said.

Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who was also at the press briefing stated that the government had assured Holmes that civilian lives will not be compromised during the military operations carried out in the Wanni.

While welcoming the government’s efforts to send essential goods to LTTE controlled areas by sea, Holmes said the government should step up arrangements for more supplies to be transported to the region.

He also said the state should take steps to improve the screening techniques used at the crossover points in order to increase confidence of the people who flee the LTTE areas.

Minister Samarasinghe said the ICRC and the UN monitors were already present in the Omanthai crossover point, monitoring the screening processes.

Holmes also noted that there was a certain amount of fear among the people in IDP camps and added that the government should take immediate measures to provide them with temporary ID cards. Holmes also said the government should also take immediate steps to unite the IDPs with their families.

Samarasinghe said that there were practical problems in registering persons, as there were LTTE cadres who had infiltrated into IDP camps.

"There are 250 persons who had identified themselves as LTTE cadres. They are now at rehabilitation centres and are being carefully watched. There may be some others as well," Samarasinghe said.

Holmes met with President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday and discussed the current issues in the country. Rajapakse had also assured that the civilian lives will be protected during military operations.

The UN also granted US$ 10 million for the emergency needs of the population. The UN had earlier said that it needed US$ 155 million to carry out 103 projects in the north and east for this year.

 


Unions see good and bad in proposed Electricity Draft Bill

By Nirmala Kannangara

The proposed new Sri Lanka Electricity Draft Bill will enhance the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) services if implemented properly, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) told The Sunday Leader.

According to the CEBEU sources the proposed draft bill would bring benefits to the board and the consumers if it is implemented without government interference and added that it was a better bill when compared to the 2002 draft bill the then UNP regime wanted to introduce.

"Under the new proposed Bill regulatory powers would be given to an Independent Regulator where decisions to benefit the CEB and improve its services could be taken," added the sources.

However the sources further said that in the event the government interferes with the regulatory work it could prove disastrous, as the new Electricity Draft Bill would bring severe repercussions in the future. When asked whether the CEB would be privatised under the new Act, the sources said the board would not be privatised but would be streamlined.

Meanwhile JVP affiliated Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya (LVSS) told The Sunday Leader that the CEB would be privatised if the proposed bill is implemented.

"There is no surety that the CEB would not be privatised. According to the proposals regulatory powers to uplift the CEB services would be vested with an independent regulator. How could one say that the government would appoint an independent regulator where the government would not interfere with their work? The government would never appoint an independent person as the CEB regulator, as this could bring bad consequences in the future," Convener LVSS Ranjan Jayalal said.

According to Jayalal in the event the draft bill is presented in parliament strong trade union action would be taken by the CEB employees until it is withdrawn.

Power and Energy Ministry Secretary was not available for comment.   

 


Partially burnt aircraft found in Puthukudiyiruppu

The Defence Ministry yesterday said that troops had recovered two partially burnt LTTE aircraft in Puthukudiyiruppu. The Ministry said the two aircraft were under construction.

"According to ground sources, one craft found was a light fixed wing craft while the other was an unmanned aircraft (UAV)," the Ministry said.

"These craft were found North of Puthukudiyiruppu, where troops are now consolidating in light of a decisive final thrust into the remaining LTTE garrison town. Several other materials were strewn in the vicinity but were burnt beyond recognition."

It said that the aircraft construction site was well fortified.

"According to ground sources, troops also uncovered several arms and stocks of ammunition, claymore bombs and anti-personnel mines from the site."

Meanwhile, the Ministry added that the LTTE suffered severe damages due to clashes in Puthukudiyiruppu last week. The Ministry said 17 LTTE cadres had been killed due to heavy fighting in the area last Friday. "Troops of the 58 Division operating in North and West of Puthukudiyiruppu have engaged decisive blows to remaining LTTE resistances in the area, reportedly killing 17 terrorists and injuring 10 others on Friday."

The military also recovered 10 bodies and several weapons including seven T-56 assault riffles, one multi-purpose machine gun and four I-com sets.

Meanwhile, two civilians were killed and several others injured due to LTTE attacks in Ampara yesterday.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said that the LTTE had attacked a village in Parametiyagama.

 


60% voter turnout at Nayakkachchenai repolling

More than 60% had cast their vote during the repolling held at the Nayakkachchenai polling booth in the Puttalam District yesterday, monitors said.

The Campaign for Free and Fair election (CAFFE) spokesperson Keerthi Tennekoon said that there were no serious incidents yesterday and the security was beefed up at the polling stations.

However, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said there were a few incidents where party members had provided transport to voters.

Tennekoon added that the candidates belonging to both parties had tried their maximum to win the elections. He said that the parties had bribed the voters, which was against the election laws.

The polling in Nayakkachchenai was annulled due to complaints on irregularities. The final results of the Puttalam District and the North Western Province will be released tonight.

Polling for the Central and North Western Provinces were held on February 14.

 


Three consignments of goods sent to Mullaithivu

By Arthur Wamanan and Raisa Wickrematunge

Another consignment of goods containing food and medicine was sent to Puthumathalan in Mullaithivu on Friday (20). The ICRC facilitated the transportation.

This was the third consignment sent to the region in three days. The transportation of the three consignments were assisted by the ICRC.

The first consignment containing 30 tonnes of goods provided by the government was sent on Wednesday (18) while the second was sent the following day. The second consignment containing 10 tonnes of flour was provided by the WFP.

Meanwhile, ICRC Spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne told The Sunday Leader that the ferry, which transported the second consignment, reached Trincomalee Friday night with patients and accompanying relatives from Puthumathalan. The ferry left Puthumathalan last Friday. The ferry brought 398 patients and accompanying relatives during its fourth sea evacuation operation last Friday.

The ICRC began the sea evacuation of patients on February 10 and has carried out four operations till now.

Wijeratne said that 1,583 patients and accompanying family members had been evacuated from Puthumathalan by sea so far.

Meanwhile, Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday said that around 36,000 civilians had so far crossed over to Government held areas. The government said that 35,000 persons had crossed over the previous week.

Samarasinghe said the reduction in the number of persons arriving to Government areas was due to the people moving to the newly declared safe zone on the eastern coast. He also said the LTTE was still holding civilians as human shields.

Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara earlier said Army doctors had provided medical care to the people, following which hospitals in Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna assisted in tending to the injured or sick civilians. He continued that the Government and government agencies were working together to provide foodstuff for the people in need.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week said that civilian casualties has skyrocketed during the past month and called upon the government and the LTTE to ensure safety of civilians in the north.

The HRW in its report, War On The Displaced: Sri Lankan Army And Ltte Abuses Against Civilians In The Wanni released last Thursday called upon the government to stop indiscriminate attacks on civilians and urged the Tigers to release all civilians in areas under their control.

"Since early January 2009, civilian casualties have skyrocketed in the fighting between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)," the report said.

"This ‘war’ against civilians must stop," HRW legal and policy director, James Ross said. "Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there."

The HRW held the military and the LTTE responsible for the ‘dramatic’ increase in civilian casualties during the past month and said, "approximately 2,000 killed and another 5,000 wounded, according to independent monitors on the ground."

"With each battlefield defeat, the Tamil Tigers appear to be treating Tamil civilians with increased brutality," said Ross. "They’ve shot at those trying to flee and stepped up forced recruitment and forced labour."

The 45-page report by HRW was based on a two-week fact-finding mission to northern Sri Lanka in February. "The government has prohibited journalists and human rights monitors from going to the battle zone in the Wanni, making access to information difficult."

The organisation also alleged that the government sanctioned unlawful attacks on civilians stating that the civilians trapped in the war zone "can be presumed to be siding with the LTTE and treated as combatants." It alleged that the military had carried out indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas including on safe zones declared by the government.

"The plight of the region’s civilians has been made worse by the government’s decision in September 2008 to order most humanitarian agencies out of the Wanni. Government efforts to bring in food, medical supplies, and other relief — with a minimal role for the United Nations — have been insufficient."

 


Lanka ex-PM: Army faces major casualties

By Sanjay Basak

New Delhi: The three-decade-long Sri Lankan conflict has not only bled the country’s economy but also failed to heal the divisions among its communities, former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe, now visiting New Delhi, said in an interview to this newspaper.

Colombo’s triumph in "conventional warfare" over the Tigers has, however, caused its armed forces heavy casualties. When asked about casualties in the Army, a closely-guarded secret in that country, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: "It is very high... The government does not want to announce it (death toll and injuries) thinking that this will demoralise the Army, but I don’t think so... The armed forces know what the casualties are."

It is learnt that "The bodybags are on the rise. The government does not want to reveal the figures... but I think it is an indication of the enormous sacrifices being made by soldiers in this operation."

He went on to add that the "sacrifices made by the armed forces should come out into the open... only then will people realise their contribution," and added: "This information is not coming out as the government is interested only in safeguarding its own interest."

The former Prime Minister said despite the military establishing its superiority in conventional warfare, its battle with the LTTE in the Mullaittivu jungles could drag on for long. The LTTE, he added, had "opted out of conventional warfare, realising that they cannot win".

Mr. Wickremesinghe said the Tigers had retreated deep into the Mullaittivu jungles and felt it could continue with its guerrilla campaign "as long as it has the support of the local population". He added: "The government has to take a political decision to win over the people, and eliminate the LTTE’s support base."

He, however, maintained that the ongoing military offensive to consolidate government control over one territory "is not opposed by us. We stand for it." He said that in the 2005 presidential elections, the United National Party (UNP) had put forward a proposal that a "political solution was necessary to end the conflict". He recalled, "But the LTTE asked the Tamils not to vote in the elections and therefore the solution we put on the table was rejected and we lost." Virtually indicating that the LTTE has brought the war on itself, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: "Thereafter, dealing with the LTTE was the responsibility of the new President."

Meanwhile, despite the sustained offensive, LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is alive and hiding in the dense, impregnable Mullaittivu jungles. "Prabhakaran is alive and hiding in the Mullaittivu jungles. Reports and information indicate that he is not leaving the country," the former PM revealed. He also maintained that most of the LTTE equipment has not been discovered yet.

"Some military officers feel that they are concealed and there could be some difficulty to locate them, though they have found a submarine and other light arms." He said the Army was "considering how it could fight inside the Mullaittivu jungles", adding, "There is, however, always an element of luck."

He admitted that there "was some kind of support to the LTTE by the people and till the government took any positive step to usher in confidence, people, albeit, "reluctantly, will provide support to the LTTE".

Asked whether a dead Prabhakaran could be a major cause of concern for the country, he replied: "If the social and economic issues are not settled, even if the whole of the LTTE disappears, there is room for another organisation to spring up." He pointed out that a "lot of support to the LTTE is coming from outside and that kind of infrastructure is still available". He described Prabhakaran as a "child of a problem and as long as the problem stays, there will be someone else to take up the issue".

As the battle rages with censored information, Mr. Wickremesinghe maintained that the "priority was to evacuate the 200,000 civilians trapped in the LTTE-controlled area of the battle zone". He said this was a "humanitarian issue". Though he felt that with the "kind of military operation going on, this might sound difficult, but is not impossible".

He asserted that Sri Lanka has to rescue the trapped civilians to "fulfil obligations under international humanitarian law". He claimed that the LTTE has refused to allow people to cross over to the government-controlled areas and was being condemned for that. "But we cannot be judged by similar criteria. If the government does not take any step, it could lead to another major crisis," he said.

(Asian Age)

 


CPA denies LTTE link story

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) last week denied reports by a Sinhala newspaper that its publications were being printed in an LTTE printing press.

On February 20, Dinamina newspaper carried an article, stating that the security forces had found a large number of Sama Vimarshi magazines at the Sugandarampuram printing press in the Wanni. The article had said that they suspected that this magazine has been printed in a LTTE printing press till now.

Executive Director, CPA, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that Sama Vimarshi, the Sinhala version of the tri lingual publication Peace Monitor was printed in Colombo and not in presses owned by the LTTE.

He said that the CPA was considering legal action against the Dinamina newspaper for its defamatory and baseless accusations.

"The Dinamina article also made reference to "powerful links" between non-governmental organisations and media associations with the LTTE. The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Chairman, Hudson Samarasinghe, made specific references to these charges made by Dinamina on the show Rata Yana Atha on City FM," Dr. Saravanamuttu said in a statement.

"The magazine in question was a special human rights issue published in November 2007. In addition to the authors named in the Dinamina news paper, this issue also carried a wide cross section of articles including the speech made by President Mahinda Rajapakse at the 62nd Anniversary of the United Nations at New York, as well as statements by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, and a tribute to the late Kethesh Loganathan Deputy Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, who previously worked as Director at CPA."

He also alleged that there was no effort made by the Dinamina to contact CPA and verify the story.

 


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