31th October, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 16

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. This picture shows JHU General Secretary, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero, JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa and T. Rajaratnam of the Tamileelam United Liberation Front, the recently formed political party headed by former LTTE Eastern Commander Karuna, joining hands to protest  against LTTE killings during the meeting of political parties to launch a campaign against the killings by the LTTE at the BMICH on Friday (29)

Photo by Ashoka Fernando

  Rift with SLFP widens

JVP to contest Presidency

The JVP has decided to field a candidate from the party at the next presidential election.

This decision was taken at the politburo meeting on......


More News

> Karuna group links up with JVP

> Mangala's 2006 election claim under fire

> TNA to move for CA in the North-East

> Foreign Ministry seeks more details

> Summa footage for JVP courtesy Rupavahini

> Akashi meets JVP Leader

> Trinco hospital gets eye surgeon after 20 years

> Canadian embassy reopens this week

> Palmyrah and coconut industry to be revived

> IDPs wounded

> 'ISGA only'- Srikantha

> Indian Army Chief to visit this week

> Zoo officials up in arms against Director

> Right of reply

> Gem mining poses threat

> TNA MPs express opposition to Indo-Lanka defence pact

> SLMC team at advisory  council meeting

> CWC satisfied with worker pay hike

> No support from Treasury - HRCSL

> Residents plagued by Marine Drive construction

> UNICEF hails child recruitment decrease but says reasons unclear

> Ranked 109 in World Press Freedom Index

> Leader contempt case on Nov. 8

 Rift with SLFP widens

JVP to contest Presidency

The JVP has decided to field a candidate from the party at the next presidential election.

This decision was taken at the politburo meeting on Monday, October 25 in the backdrop of a growing rift with the SLFP.

The JVP has accused the President of violating the memorandum of understanding signed between the SLFP and the JVP and called for the immediate implementation of the MoU.

The MoU provides for all decisions in government including the submission of cabinet papers to be taken jointly between the two parties.

At a heated discussion in the JVP's politburo last week, Kalutara District MP, Nandana Gunatilleke, who is also chairman of the UPFA charged, President Chandrika Kumaratunga's resignation from the leadership of the UPFA was with the specific intention of not honouring the MoU between the two parties.

The JVP also decided at the meeting to issue an ultimatum to the President to honour the MoU, failing which the party would withdraw it support in the provincial councils.

The JVP, party sources said, had also decided in the second phase to resign their cabinet portfolios and sit in the opposition.

Meanwhile, JVP's Agriculture Minister Anura Dissanayake has ignored a one week deadline given him by the President to forward allegations of corruption levelled against Minister Maithripala Sirisena for purposes of initiating an inquiry.

The JVP, which was harshly critical of the previous UNF regime's violation of financial regulations in state affairs was recently accused by President Kumaratunga of violating financial regulations in the implementation of the 10,000 tank rehabilitation project.

The President also charged, the project implementation lacked transparency and called on Minister Dissanayake to submit a report to cabinet within two weeks.

Minister Dissanayake had not complied with the President's directive despite the deadline having passed two weeks back.

Karuna group links up with JVP

The recently formed political party by LTTE renegade commander Karuna last week joined hands with the JVP and the Jathika Hela Urumaya to protest against political killings by the LTTE.

The meeting of several political parties and civil society organisations calling for an end to killings by the LTTE was held at the BMICH on Friday, October 29.

Attending the meeting were the JVP, JHU, EPDP, EPRLF, National Unity Alliance, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and Karuna's Tamileelam Ikkiya Viduthalai Munnani (Tamileelam United Liberation Front) and several other religious and civil society groups. Co-ordinator, T. Rajaratnam attended the meeting on behalf of Karuna.

Making a statement at the meeting, Rajaratnam accused the government of continuing to provide helicopter rides to those who his party, the people of the country and the international community had recognised as 'cold-blooded' killers. He also went on to condemn what he called was a killing "rampage" by the LTTE at the meeting.

Issuing a written  statement at the meeting, V. Muralitharan (Karuna) called for joint action to stop the killings by the LTTE.

Karuna's statement, which also detailed the names of media organisations that were biased towards the LTTE went on to say that since the ceasefire agreement was signed in 2002, 30 people had been killed by the Tigers in Colombo.

Karuna was in the early 1990s accused by the then government of mowing down the policemen who surrendered following the breakdown of talks between the government and the LTTE.

Mangala's 2006 election claim under fire

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) has decided to challenge the government's move to extend the term of President Chandrika Kumaratunga by postponing the presidential election scheduled for 2005.

The UNP is to mobilise support from the masses to protest against the government's move to extend the term of office of President Kumaratunga to 2006.

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera Thursday announced government plans to hold the presidential election in 2006, a year after the scheduled date for the polls. He said the termination of President Kumaratunga's term of office would end only in November 2006 as she took the second oath in 2000.

Reacting to the government's move, the Tamil parties said the move is 'unconstitutional' and therefore they cannot support the UPFA candidate in the event an election was held in 2006.

Meanwhile, the UNP has also planned to vote against the vote of the President's budget in parliament. This move according to UNP members of parliament is aimed at preventing the President from enjoying state benefits in view of the latest announcement.

Kalutara District MP Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told The Sunday Leader the UNP is planning to mobilise the support of all the trade unions, political parties, civil society and other interest groups to join the mass campaign against the government's decision to hold the election one year after the scheduled date.

He said the people do not have faith in the justice system even if this issue is placed before the Supreme Court as Chief Justice, Sarath Silva who had reportedly conducted a secret oath taking ceremony would be the ultimate decision maker.

Meanwhile, UNP Organiser Tilak Karunaratne also said that the biggest power that could bring pressure on the government is the 'peoples' power.

"This time we will not let the President drag her period. Her period is over by 2005 and after this she must go home. This is the only President whose foreign travels are swept under the carpet. In foreign countries even the breakdown of the President's trips are highlighted in the interest of the public," he said.

Meanwhile, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Senior Vice President, Joseph Pararajasingham said the manner in which the presidential election is being postponed is 'illegal' and a 'violation of the constitution.'

He said the second oath claimed to have been taken by the President is not valid as the nation had not witnessed it. "An oath of this nature is a public event and cannot be done behind the screen," he said.

Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) Leader, N. Srikantha questioned the validity of President Kumaratunga's second oath. He said no citizen can justify her action that was claimed to have been done secretly.

"Why should the President take oath for the second time? There is definitely a conspiracy in it. Some people say there is a vacuum in the constitution. But I say that there is no vacuum in the constitution. The constitution is clear, therefore the government should abide by the existing constitution," he said.

"This shows to what extent the politics in the south can bend over backward to circumvent the constitution just to hang on to power and to what extent the Sinhala politicians can throw in the wind what they claim to cherish - democracy," he said.

People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) Leader, D. Sidharthan said democracy is no longer prevailing in the country and added nobody should be 'too greedy' for power.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) General Secretary, Hasan Ali said the move of the government is a total violation of the constitution and added President Kumaratunga should not think that there is no other leader to lead Sri Lanka.

"To satisfy one individual all norms and regulations are broken. This is a sorry state of affairs," he said.

 If government forms in the South

TNA to move for CA in the North-East

A Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution for the North East will be formed if the government decides to form one in the South bypassing the existing constitutional provisions to adopt a new constitution.

The constitution provides for parliamentary approval with a two thirds majority and approval by the people at a referendum to amend entrenched provisions of the constitution or introduce a new one.

TNA parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham told The Sunday Leader there is nothing to stop the north east parliamentarians from forming a constituent assembly to adopt their own constitution if the government resorts to extra constitutional means to change the present constitution.

He said the people of the north east by electing 22 members to parliament from TNA have given it an overwhelming mandate and they would use this mandate to form a constituent assembly if the government resorts to such a practice in the South before a solution is found to the north east problem.

He said; "in our manifesto we called for a mandate from the people to establish an interim self governing authority for the north east, to recognize the merger of north east and recognize the LTTE as the sole representatives of Tamils".

"Therefore if the government is of the opinion that it can form a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution without getting a clear mandate from the people at the general election then we who got a clear mandate will be legally entitled to form a constituent assembly in the north east and give effect to our peoples' mandate," he said.

 Sri Lankan abducted in Iraq

Foreign Ministry seeks more details

The Foreign Ministry has sought more details about the Sri Lankan national who has been taken hostage by Iraqi militants.

Last week, the Arabic Al Jazeera TV channel claimed that two truck drivers, one Sri Lankan and one Bangladeshi, had been seized by Iraqi militants.

The Foreign Ministry has already informed the Sri Lankan foreign missions in Lebanon and Kuwait that more details about the Sri Lankan must be sent immediately.

The Al Jazeera channel broadcasted video footage of the two men, who they claimed were being held hostage by the Islamic militants in Iraq. They were reportedly kidnapped as they were driving their truck into a US base.

The Acting Deputy Director, Publicity Division, Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Ministry had received information that two drivers had been abducted in Iraq but no further details had been received.

"According to the reports we received, one of those abducted is a Sri Lankan. We have contacted our embassies in Lebanon and Kuwait and are awaiting information," the official said.

Neither Sri Lanka nor Bangladesh has an embassy in Iraq and both have asked diplomatic missions in neighbouring countries to investigate.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Omar Farooq, an official from the Bangladesh Home Ministry had told AFP that he knows nothing of this reported abduction but was checking for details with the foreign mission in Doha.

Abrar Chowdhury, a professor at the Dhaka University said that the abduction, if confirmed, would be unfortunate as Bangladesh had resisted great pressure, AFP reported.

 In September, three Indian truck drivers, who were held along with an Egyptian and three Kenyan hostages, were freed by their Iraqi captors after spending 42 days in captivity. The release of the men came a day after another militant group in Iraq killed 12 Nepalese hostages.

Summa footage for JVP courtesy Rupavahini

The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation has decided to grant a request by the JVP to release footage of the Marxist party's early activities free of charge for a documentary being produced by the JVP's propaganda wing.

The documentary is to be produced to coincide with the JVP's November Hero's day ceremonies.

JVP Propaganda Secretary, Wimal Weerawansa in a letter to Director General, SLRC, Nishantha Ranatunga has requested that footage of the JVP's May Day rallies of 1982 and1983, on the assassination of JVP Founder, Rohana Wijeweera and general footage of the party's activities during the 1980s in DVCAM format.

Weerawansa in his letter states that he would be grateful if due consideration could be given by SLRC authorities to his requests and adds that the tapes to record the footage will be provided by the JVP.

The letter was duly forwarded to SLRC Chairman, M.M. Zuhair for approval and has been approved by the Chairman free of charge.

When The Sunday Leader contacted Ranatunga to find out if he had any knowledge of such a request, the Director General responded that he could not remember offhand whether such a letter had been received. Ranatunga said that he received hundreds of requests every day and could not specifically recall any letter in particular . However, the Director General maintained that SLRC generally did not grant material free of charge.

Akashi meets JVP Leader

Japanese special peace envoy,Yasushi Akashi who arrived in Sri Lanka last week is scheduled to meet the LTTE leadership in Killinochchi this week.

Akashi met the political leadership of the Sinhala nationalist-Marxist, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the major constituent of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, last Friday. JVP leader Somanwansa Amarasinghe it is learnt, told Akashi, his party opposed commencement of talks based on the ISGA.

He had said, the JVP will insist on the talks commencing with a view to finding a final solution and that it should include representatives of other Tamil parties as well.

This is the first time the JVP leadership sought a meeting with the Japanese special peace envoy.

Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentary group also met Akashi in Colombo  discussing about the delay in the peace process.

Akashi, who arrived on October 27 also met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Rauf Hakeem. He is scheduled to meet political leaders to discuss the peace process.

Trinco hospital gets eye surgeon after 20 years

After a period of 20 years, the Health Ministry has appointed a permanent eye surgeon to the Trincomalee general hospital.

The Trincomalee hospital that was constructed around 100 years ago during the colonial days functioned without a permanent eye surgeon.

According to hospital sources, prior to the appointment of the eye surgeon, eye patients in the Trincomalee District have had to travel to Kandy, Kurunegala and Colombo for eye treatment.

"Poor eye patients were taken to Kandy by the Trincomalee District branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross with the assistance of Eastern Human Economic Development (EHED) organisation," hospital sources said.

Meanwhile, Medical Superintendent, Dr. Gowshi Gnanagunalan with the assistance of health department authorities has created a separate ward for eye patients.

"The Trincomalee Hospital Committee led by President, Dr. K.Hemachchandra helped to furnish the newly carved out eye ward. Several businessmen and philanthropists donated steel cabinets, tables and chairs on the request of the hospital committee," explained medical sources.

Canadian embassy reopens this week

The Canadian High Commission that was temporarily closed following the anthrax scare that sparked a diplomatic crisis is to be reopened this week, diplomatic sources said.

The High Commission sources said visa applications could be lodged from Monday.

Canadian High Commission officials were accused of stripping three monks and forcing them to bathe at the diplomatic compound after they were suspected of being in possession of anthrax.

Palmyrah and coconut industry to be revived

The palmyrah and coconut industry in Jaffna that has been neglected by the government and other related agencies is to be revived soon.

The Sunday Leader learns that Jaffna District, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian, Suresh Premachandran, has written to Chairman, Coconut and Palmyrah Development Societies Federation, Provincial Commissioner of Co-operative Development and the Government Agent to look into the possibility of reviving this industry soon.

In a letter addressed to the chairman, Premachchandran states that there are around 12,000 members in the federation who are paid a regular salary.

According to Premachchandran, there are 19 palmyrah and coconut development co-operative societies in the federation. "These societies earlier engaged in the production of several by-products from toddy. All machinery had been destroyed in the two decade-old war," said Premachchandran in his letter.

IDPs wounded

Three internally displaced persons including two women were wounded when one of the two old buildings constructed during colonial days in Jamaliya area in the suburbs of Trincomalee town collapsed.

According to sources from Trincomalee, about 28 IDP Muslim families numbering about 200 members are given shelter in two old buildings located in Uppuveli division.

'ISGA only'- Srikantha

The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) Leader, N.Srikantha says the governemnt is trying to hoodwink the Sinhala masses by procrastinating on the peace talks.

He said whether one likes it or not, the talks should be based on the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA).

He said the government was playing a political game to hoodwink the Sinhala masses by saying that they can't recognise the ISGA as basis for talks. "Whether one likes it or not the fact is, any future talks should be based on the ISGA," he said.

Indian Army Chief to visit this week

Inidian army Chief, N.C. Vij will undertake a visit to Sri Lanka from Monday during which he is expected to meet the  nation's political leaders and visit its military facilities, the Defence Ministry in Colombo said on Friday.

Vij will be accorded a guard of honour during his visit.

He is also likely to visit the Sri Lankan military facilities on Tuesday, the Ministry said.


Zoo officials up in arms against Director

By Risidra Mendis

The misuse of privileges offered to zoo employees - to invite their kith and kin free of charge to the zoo - has compelled the zoo director to restrict  issuing free tickets for family members of employees at the zoo.

The decision taken by the zoo director led to a protest by three employees at the zoo.

The three zoo officials backed by the Dehiwela Municipal Council members and a western provincial councillor held a protest asking for the removal of the zoo director from his post outside the zoo gate recently.

The Sunday Leader learns that the Jathika Seva Sangamaya and the JVP union in the zoo did not participate in this protest.  

However, speaking to The Sunday Leader, Brigadier H.A.N.T Perera denied any protest taking place outside the zoo recently. The Brigadier also confirmed that the two trade unions did not take part in a strike.

Prior to the restriction imposed by the Zoo Director, employees were allowed to bring in 10 family members after obtaining permission. "It was the zoo employees who told me they cannot find an official in an emergency to get written approval. The employees asked me if they could bring in family members without written approval. I agreed to this suggestion," explained Brigadier Perera.

But according to the Brigadier, when he recently checked the number of free tickets issued at the gate, he found that zoo employees were bringing in around 20 people per day. "Zoo employees were bringing their family members, friends and even villagers from their areas, free of charge to the zoo, with the help of gate officials. The zoo does not personally belong to the zoo employees or me. It is a national treasure that belongs to the people of Sri Lanka," explained Brigadier Perera. 

According to him, he has restricted the number of family members of employees that can visit per day.

Meanwhile, PA Western Provincial Council Member, Keerthi Udawatte said a protest was held outside the zoo due to the decision taken by the Zoo Director to stop zoo employees from bringing family member free of charge to the zoo.

"Zoo employees are entitled to bring in family members and friends free of charge to the zoo. The Zoo Director cannot stop this," Udawatte said.

Right of reply

The Secretary to the Ministry of Finance in response to last week's news item regarding the purchase of a vehicle has said the vehicle referred to in the news item was purchased by the Ministry of Finance and Planning in early September for his official use as the Secretary to the Ministry, who is entitled to a vehicle.

"Since I assumed office in late April, temporary vehicles were assigned until a proper arrangement was made. The administration division of the Ministry supervised by the deputy secretary to the Treasury did this purchase in the course of its normal procurement and I have no personal involvement in the transaction," he said.

"I am sure that the Ministry has followed the proper procedure by calling required quotations from reputed suppliers before finalising ultimate purchase," he added.

"I am not aware that Associated Motorways Company Ltd, who was selected to supply this vehicle had cancelled a prior reservation in order to provide this vehicle to the Ministry. This vehicle is a property of the Ministry of Finance and Planning," he stated in his statement.

Gem mining poses threat

gem mining close to the Keselgamuwa Oya has caused concern among environmentalists who say this could cause silted water to seep into the Castlereigh reservoir.

According to environmentalists, the Gem and Jewellery Authority (GJA) has issued gem mining permits without permission from the Nuwara Eliya GA or the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).

According to Environmental Lawyer, Jagath Gunawardene, the Keselgamuwa Oya is one of the main feeder streams to the Castlereigh reservoir. "The CEA has the authority to stop this illegal mining under the 24B National Environment Act. However, the relevant authorities are not taking any action," Gunawardene said.

According to Gunawardene, no Environment Impact Study (EIS) has been done prior to the permits being issued by the GJA.

Environmentalists say the GJA had made a statement claiming that permits were issued since illegal gem mining was taking place in this area.

"Just because illegal gem mining is taking place in this area, it doesn't mean the GJA should issue permits and make this procedure legal. The GJA should have obtained permission from the Nuwara Eliya GA since gem mining is taking place on government land," Gunawardene said.


TNA MPs express opposition to Indo-Lanka defence pact

By Shehan Moses

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians have expressed displeasure over the proposed defence pact  between the Sri Lanka and India.

Both the governments of Sri Lanka and India finalised a draft agreement at a meeting in Colombo last Tuesday. The draft is to be considered by the political leadership of the two countries and an agreement signed "within weeks" reports said.

TNA MP, Joseph Pararajasingham told The Sunday Leader that the move by the government to sign the agreement would upset the peace process. "How could the government do such a thing? Already the peace process is stalled due to misunderstandings. This agreement would lead to further misunderstandings between the two parties - the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)," he said.

According to Pararajasingham, the signing of the defence pact would create imbalances between the two sides. "The defence agreement would favour the government immensely and the government may use this as a tool for future peace talks which could disturb the negotiations instead of bringing a permanent solution for the long standing ethnic conflict," he emphasised.

However, Pararajasingham pointed out that the TNA would not take action regarding this agreement merely because this is between two countries. "The TNA does not want to get involved in any such issues," Pararajasingham said.

TNA, MP, M.K. Sivajilingam told The Sunday Leader that the Indo-Lanka defence pact would certainly lead to war. "Before the agreement was finalised, there was a balance between the government and the LTTE at the negotiating table. However, upon signing this agreement, the balance would completely shift to the government, which is unfair for the LTTE and therefore unfair for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka because the LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamils," he pointed out.

According to Sivajilingam, if the war begins it would be disastrous for the country, and he says the government should take full responsibility for any such consequences. "To prevent such a disaster the government should avoid signing the Indo-Lanka defence agreement, and concentrate on the stalled peace process," emphasised Sivajilingam.

Last week, LTTE Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham was quoted on the Voice of Tigers radio as saying the proposed defence pact would tilt the military balance between the government forces and the LTTE and would further strain the stalled peace process.

SLMC team at advisory  council meeting

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has nominated a non-parliamentarian team to participate at the sub committee meeting of the National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation to be held tomorrow at BMICH.

M.H.M.Salman and Nizam Kariyappar will be participating in the meeting.

SLMC Deputy Leader N.M.Saheed participated at the inaugural meeting of the advisory council without the party's approval and was asked to show cause before the SLMC high command.

Saheed according to informed sources had sent his reply on October 14, but the officials said Saheed had distorted facts in his letter of explanation.

The SLMC high command is expected to take action against Saheed during the course of this week.

CWC satisfied with worker pay hike

Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) has expressed satisfaction over the Employers' Federation (EF) decision to increase the wages of plantation workers, with effect from July 1, next year.

The CWC and the EF have been holding lengthy discussions over the past few weeks after fuel prices were increased that also led to prices of essential items sky-rocketing.

Plantation unions demanded that the wages of the workers be also increased in keeping with the increasing cost of living.

However the EF agreed to pay the workers a minimum of Rs. 135 per day in addition to Rs. 20 as fixed prices fair supplement, Rs.25 for 75 percent work attendance and Rs. 18 as a price share supplement.

According to Administrative Secretary, CWC, V.Puthrasigamany , the party is satisfied with the present agreement and he was optimistic that the private companies would respect the agreement reached between the CWC and the federation.

He also said that the workers would not be able to receive the full amount every day as the price share supplement was subject to fluctuation.

"So therefore we cannot come to the conclusion that this is a 'big increase' considering the escalating cost of living," he said.

Meanwhile, Chairman, Planters Association, Rohan Fernando told the media that with the wage increase all the private companies managing estates would be compelled to budget for an additional Rs. 100 million to meet the increased wage bills which he said would result in a majority of them making losses for the financial year 2005/2006.

No support from Treasury - HRCSL

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has attributed the failure to carry out proper fundamental right investigations, to the lack of financial assistance from the Treasury.

The Asian Human Rights Commission, last week, urged the HRCSL which is in charge of human rights protection in Sri Lanka, to take action against the perpetrators particularly in cases of police torture and political victimisation.

However, contrary to these reports, a spokesperson from the HRCSL told The Sunday Leader that all the necessary steps were carried out by the HRCSL once a complaint was lodged although there have been some allegations by the AHRC. He said inquiries were being conducted into these allegations.

"What the AHRC has to understand is that the HRCSL is currently managing with financial assistance from donor agencies since the Treasury has failed to release adequate funds. We are also understaffed and lack the basic facilities," the spokesperson said.

He added that once a complaint was made, only 70% of the recommendations which were advised by the HRCSL were carried out by the respective authorities, while the remaining 30% of the recommendations were ignored. "When our recommendations are not carried out, we have to follow a lengthy procedure including submitting reports to parliament via the Presidential Secretariat. In order to expedite matters, the law has to be changed," the spokeperson added.

Residents plagued by Marine Drive construction 

By Jamila Najmuddin

The construction of the Marine Drive along the coast in Colombo has come under fire by residents who claim that they have not been adequately compensated by the government and that their houses are being damaged because of improper construction methods being employed.

Part of the construction which commenced from Melbourne Avenue to Glen Aber Place, Bambalapitiya in August this year, has left many residents claiming that they are unable to live in their houses due to severe damage to property, noise pollution and many health hazards.

With the Road Development Authority (RDA) yet to pay  compensation to these residents for the loss of land and property, residents are also up in arms against the damage caused to the sewage and drainage systems due to improper construction methods which have left houses flooding from sewage waters on rainy days.

"Before the RDA started the construction of the Marine Drive, residents were not officially informed and soil tests were not conducted. In 1999, when officials from the RDA visited the houses down Ashoka Gardens, Colombo 4, they put a yellow arrow on my wall stating that this much of my property would be used in the construction of the new highway. They informed me that I would have to construct a wall from that point," a resident residing down Ashoka Gardens claimed.

Residents also claim that construction plans were carried out by the Marine Drive project officials not taking into account drainage and sewage systems, traffic arrangements, telephone and electricity lines.

"The houses down Ashoka Gardens were built in 1946 and earlier we had a good drainage and sewage system from Galle Road to the railway lines down the road. However, now our houses are always flooded with sewage water," a resident claimed.

"Even before the construction commenced on the road, there was no dialogue between the residents and the officials. However, since opposite my house is a French diplomatic mission, RDA officials have informed only them about the construction methods being employed. There are officials visiting the mission everyday but however, when we question them and complain to them about the damage to our property, they turn a deaf ear," a concerned resident down Ashoka Gardens claimed.

The resident added that this was sheer discrimination as no where else in the world were the complaints of the locals ignored while the foreigners were given royal treatment.

According to residents, a gazette notification was issued to residents on March 6, 2000 and residents were requested to put forward their claims at the Land Acquisition Division of the RDA.

"To construct my wall alone I had to spend Rs. 200,000 and the compensation I received was only Rs.42,000 although I had requested for Rs.400,000 as there was severe damage to my property. I appealed before three judges and the project land valuer for the additional compensation, but their only response was that compensation would be paid on the land cost alone. The damage to property would not be compensated," a resident claimed.

However, she added that due to the appeal, she was promised an additional Rs.8,000 along with interest. "Although I was told that I would be paid immediately, to date I have not received my compensation or interest. My house is completely destroyed and I have no place else to reside," the resident said.

To facilitate the Marine Drive Highway, the resident added that house no.45 was demolished in the year 2000. However, the flooring of the house remained which made it an 'ideal' place for a few to dump garbage. "The CMC did not seem to mind and nobody ever thought to clean the place although it posed a severe health hazard," she said.

The resident added that the pipes and the sewage system were all left intact underneath the flooring and in August once the RDA officials started work, they brought truck loads of gravel which they poured over the garbage and the empty flooring. "Without clearing the garbage, they poured the gravel which sank through the floor into the pipe lines. Today, the surface of the floor remains  hard whereas underneath the floor it remains damp and the entire area is like a cake," she claimed.

Residents further claimed that since the time of construction, without any warning power rollers are being used which has caused walls to crack, leaving dark patches on ceilings. "The first day they used these heavy vibrating machines, the entire neighbourhood shook. I rushed to the site office to complain as my walls were tearing apart. However, a senior official at the office only stated that these were their orders. Seeing my plight, a junior official however, visited my house to inspect the damage and witnessing the damage, he ordered the power rollers to stop," she said.

Residents claim that if proper construction methods are used, a lot of damage to property would be avoided. However, due to the carelessness and the incompetence of the RDA officials, residents have now been compelled to voice their opinion in order to save their properties and continue living in areas they have resided in all their lives.

Meanwhile when The Sunday Leader contacted Project Director, RDA, (who wished to remain unnamed), he said that compensation had been paid to all residents residing from Melbourne Avenue to Glen Aber Place, except for one or two residents who had a claim to interest payments as well.

"The construction of the Marine Drive Highway is being carried out by the Maga Neguma Construction Company and if there are  persons affected due to improper construction then it is the construction company that is responsible," he said.

The project director further explained that the RDA maintained a dialogue between the residents and that residents had in fact been informed about the construction methods before contruction began. "The RDA visits the damaged houses from time to time, but it is the responsibility of the construction company and not the RDA," he added.

Meanwhile residents residing in Melbourne Avenue have informed the authorities that the sewage system in their houses have been completely destroyed. "Our pipe lines are always blocked and although the RDA claims that they are doing everything possible to help residents, it is a pity that they have not done anything to date," residents complained.

UNICEF hails child recruitment decrease 
but says reasons unclear

By Dharisha Bastians 

The UN body looking out for the welfare of minors, UNICEF said last week that they could not pinpoint a specific reason for the decrease in child recruitment into LTTE ranks in the last few months, but believed that efforts of both the international community and the people of Sri Lanka themselves had played some part towards the decline in numbers recruited.

"The international community is behind efforts to end child recruitment and the people of this country want the same thing. This kind of pressure does make an impact, but the exact reason for the decline in numbers is unclear," UNICEF Spokesman in Colombo, Geoffery Keele told The Sunday Leader.

According to UNICEF, recruitment figures in March showed a significant decrease to 34 cases as against 79 a month earlier, but the numbers spiked to 64 once again in April, when LTTE Eastern Commander, Karuna defected to government controlled areas and the LTTE began to consolidate its position in the east in earnest soon after. Shortly before he defected, Karuna released between 1400 and 1600 underage cadres who were allowed to return home to their families. While UNICEF has managed to secure official release letters for some of these released children, there were still many the LTTE had not officially released, Keele said.

Informed sources in the north east, including several non-governmental organisations affirmed that the defection had resulted in an intensified recruitment drive taking place especially in the Eastern Province between the months of April-July, resulting in an increase in minor recruitment during that time.

In July, UNHCR and UNICEF both confirmed that the Karuna debacle had resulted in increased abductions and cases of forcible recruitment, both of minors and adults, most of these too in the Eastern Province, where Karuna's defection took its biggest toll. "There is definitely a recruitment drive on in Batticaloa," Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Head of Mission (Batticaloa) Susanne Ringaard Pederson told The Sunday Leader in July this year.

Since then however, UNICEF figures indicate that the recruitment of children into the LTTE was decreasing in comparison with 2003, with only 50 cases reported in September 2004 as against 179 in September 2003. The release of child soldiers serving in the LTTE has seen an increase in the last few months, according to UNICEF statistics.(See box for details)

But, as Keele pointed out, while they hoped that the downward trend the last few months has seen would continue, the issue of recruitment has had a tendency to be cyclical, often showing sharp decreases before spiking again a few months later.

While expressing UNICEF's satisfaction at the decrease in child recruitment figures in the latter half of 2004 in comparison with the previous year, Keele said they continued to be concerned that the recruitment of minors to the LTTE was taking place at all. "One child recruited is still one child too many," Keele said, adding that such recruitments were by no means acceptable and should not be happening under any circumstances.

UNICEF found that it was necessary to have a positive environment to rehabilitate and educate youngsters who had just been released by the LTTE, Keele said, adding that when these recently released underage cadres see their friends being taken away by force, it was often a blow to their morale. "We need to have a complete impact when we enroll these kids in rehabilitation programmes. They need vocational training, education and proper reintegration. An atmosphere where they see their peers being taken away and recruited into the very organisation they just left, that is not conducive for their mental wellbeing," he said. Continuing recruitment of minors, Keele said hampered  UNICEF's rehabilitation programmes.

With human rights organisations around the world mounting pressure on the Tigers to cease the recruitment of children into the movement, there is still hope that the use of children in armed combat would cease completely and permanently in Sri Lanka in the near future.

But with the situation in the east smouldering once more and the fragile ceasefire and peace process tipped precariously in the balance the way it is, one can only hope that the current decrease in numbers is not merely the calm before the storm.

UNICEF and other non-governmental bodies maintain that apart from calling for the release of child soldiers and lobbying the LTTE to stop recruiting children into the movement, their mandate extends no further. "Only the LTTE can stop it; only they have the power to do it and they have a responsibility to stop recruiting children," Keele asserted.

Ranked 109 in World Press Freedom Index

By Jamila Najmuddin

The assassination of two prominent journalists and harassment of several others during the past 10 months has resulted in Sri Lanka plummetting to No. 109 in the World Press Freedom Index, the Free Media Movement (FMM) says.

Sri Lanka was ranked 89 in last year's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index prepared by Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).

FMM member and Editor, Ravaya, Victor Ivan speaking to The Sunday Leader said that due to the lack of freedom and independence granted to journalists in this country, the country was headed for a serious crisis.

Ivan blamed the country's weak judicial system, saying that today, the media was so dominated by politicians in this country that many private newspapers had at least five contempt cases against them.

According to Ivan, Sri Lanka was also blacklisted from 2000 to 2002 in the ITI list due to the lack of press freedom. "Prior to ranking Sri Lanka 109 this year, the RSF had also taken into consideration the situation in the north and east as well as the dominance of the government in the state media," Ivan said.

Ivan compared the lack of freedom of the local state media journalists to those of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the UK, which was also state owned, but where journalists enjoyed the freedom to express their views independently.

"We have to blame the journalists mostly and not the politicians, because there is no agitation against state domination. In South Korea when journalists were dominated by the politicians, they fought for their independence, which is something that journalists in our country won't do," Ivan said.

Ivan added that although we had a 'Working Journalists Union Organisation', it did not have a proper organisational structure.

"In regard to official matters, the journalists do not seem to be bothered anymore," Ivan said.

Leader contempt case on Nov. 8

When the contempt of court case against the editor, journalist and publisher of The Sunday Leader Newspaper instituted by Thilanga Sumathipala was taken up in the Court of Appeal last week, Romesh De Silva, President's Counsel who appeared for the respondents moved that the charge sheet served on his clients be rejected without going into the merits of the contempt proceedings.

President's Counsel, Gamini Marapana who appeared for Thilanga Sumathipala, the petitioner, objected to Romesh De Silva making submissions against the charge sheet without tendering a plea to the charges levelled against the respondents.

However the Bench comprising President, Court of Appeal, Justice Saleem Marsoof P. C. and Justice Sri Skandaraja ruled that the preliminary objection taken by Romesh De Silva will be taken up first as the Court of Appeal had previously made an order to that effect.

De Silva submitted to court that he is moving to reject the charge sheet against his clients on the grounds that the charges are vague, the purported charges exfacie cannot form charges of contempt of court and Sumathipala abused the process of court by bringing contempt charges against the respondents to take out a personal vendetta against his clients.

De Silva pointed out that in the charge sheet a large number of allegations in respect of several publications of The Sunday Leader newspaper were lumped into one charge and his clients are unable to tender a plea for such loaded charges.

He further argued that The Sunday Leader newspaper had published several articles based on investigations and on information received and it is a duty of a newspaper to be involved in such investigative journalism and the public has a right to know the material discovered by the newspaper from such an investigation without any distortion.

De Silva argued that the officials of the Attorney-General's Department and trained judicial officers could not have been misdirected by the publication based on such investigations.

De Silva brought to the notice of the court that this was not a matter instituted by a public spirited citizen but a person who has been charged in the magistrate court with intention to silence the newspaper,  preventing any further publication on the investigation conducted by the newspaper.

Marapana argued that the respondents have published articles in the newpaper to the effect that the judge who heard the case had taken a bribe.

Counsel for the respondents mentioned to court that the judge concerned had been interdicted and that disciplinary proceedings were pending against him at the time.

The court decided to refix the matter for a further date to enable the bench to go through the articles referred to in the charge sheet.

Accordingly, the case was refixed for further hearing on November 8, 2004.

Gamini Marapana, PC with Attorneys-at-Law, S.Srikantha, Dr. Harsha Cabral and Naveen Marapana, instructed by D.N.Thurairaja & Co. appeared for Thilanga Sumathipala

Romesh De Silva PC with Attorneys-at-Law, Palitha Kumarasinghe and Sugath Caldera instructed by G.G. Arulpragasam appeared for the respondents.

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