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                                    

Editorial

April 8, 2007  Volume 13, Issue 42


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Arts

Letters

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Review

Fashion

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As many celebrate the rise of the Prince of Peace from the dead, this Easter Sunday will also see myriad prayers for peace. The Sunday Leader wishes its readers a Happy Easter. 

Basil promises UNP defectors Rs. 850 
million to keep them in govt.

Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse last week promised to give each of the 17 remaining UNP defectors a project worth Rs. 50 million to keep them within the government fold........

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Contempt of court papers filed against Harry J

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Eight killed in claymore attack

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Military gets access to A5 highway

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Nandana points finger at Wimal for betraying JVP Leader

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No fresh moves for talks

Basil promises UNP defectors Rs. 850 million to keep them in govt.

Panic after Edward's resignation and crossover

Rs. 50m for each of the 17 MPs for a project

Funds to be allocated through Nation Building Ministry

Decision taken after top level meeting at TT

Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse last week promised to give each of the 17 remaining UNP defectors a project worth Rs. 50 million to keep them within the government fold.

This pledge was met when Rajapakse met the government's alliance partners in the evening of Tuesday, April 3 following the resignation and cross over of Deputy Railways Minister Edward Gunasekera to the opposition in Parliament earlier that day.

The Rs. 50 million payment is to be made exclusively to the 17 remaining UNP defectors and not any other government or opposition MP. The members who would receive Rs. 50 million each from the government are Karu Jayasuriya, Navin Dissanayake, M.H. Mohomed, Dharmadasa Banda, G.L. Pieris, Milinda Moragoda, Bandula Gunawardene, Rajitha Senaratne, Hemakumara Nanayakkara, Myown Mustapha, P. Dayaratne, Gamini Lokuge, Neomal Perera, S. Sooriyarachchi, Mano Wijeratne, Mahinda Wikesekera and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene.

The total allocation of funds for the 17 UNP defectors will be a staggering Rs. 850 million.

Rajapakse had told the UNP defectors the monies would be allocated through the Nation Building Ministry to the 17 MPs to enable them to launch a project and service their supporters. Present at the meeting presided by Basil Rajapakse were Ministers Jeyraj Fernandopulle, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Maithripala Sirisena, Tissa Vitharana, D.E.W. Gunasekera, Karu Jayasuriya, Milinda Moragoda, Rauf Hakeem, Hasan Ali, Muthu Sivalingam and R. Yogarajan.

Minister Jayasuriya had argued at the meeting they would not be able to hold on to their members if the promises made at the time of the cross over including the allocation of monies were not honoured.

Rajapakse it is learned had explained the difficulties faced at the outset in honouring the promises made and pledged to do so within the next few days. A top source at the meeting told The Sunday Leader Rajapakse looked visibly shaken at the meeting following the Gunasekera cross over.

It is learned Minister Fernandopulle had argued strongly in support of the UNP defectors, stating the promises made before the cross over must be honoured and that the failure to do so would result in more cross overs leading to the government's collapse.

Following Rajapakse's promise to deliver on the Rs. 50 million pledge to each defector, the Jayasuriya group on Thursday issued a statement supporting the Rajapakse brothers performance in government and accused the UNP of being a proxy of the LTTE.


Contempt of court papers filed against Harry J

Chairman, Stassen Exports Ltd. Dr. V. P. Vittachi filed contempt of Court charges in the Court of Appeal against Harry Jayawardena complaining that the Company Managing Director has defied, disobeyed and violated the interim order issued by the court.

The contempt of Court application filed through Attorney-at-Law G. G. Arulpragasam, stated that the Court of Appeal issued an interim order on February 21, 2007 restraining Harry Jayawardena from intervening, interfering and obstructing Vittachi functioning as a director of Stassen Exports Ltd and also issued a restraining order restraining him depriving Dr. Vittachi the salary, allowances and other emoluments and vehicle facilities provided by the company.

In his petition Vittachi alleged that he visited the office on March 7 and was entering the company premises in his vehicle bearing No. WP HL 3249, when he was stopped at the gate of the premises and informed by the security guards that they need to seek permission from Jayawardena to allow him to enter the premises. In proof of same Vittachi submitted two photographs to court showing his vehicle being stopped at the gate.

In the petition it is further alleged that after sometime the gates were opened and when he went to his office room, to his surprise and disbelief, Harry Jayawardena was seated on his chair and was using his desk. When Vittachi requested Harry Jayawardena to leave his office room and to allow him to occupy the said room, Harry Jayawardena refused to leave Dr. Vittachi's office room and ordered him not to come his office room again.

In the petition it is also alleged that Vittachi was threatened by Jayawardena not to enter or use the office room again and that he (Vittachi ) was placed in a helpless and embarrassing situation and that he left his office room and lodged a complaint at the Grandpass Police Station.

Vittachi alleged that by the aforementioned wrongful, illegal and unlawful acts, Harry Jayawardena has willfully defied, disobeyed and violated the interim order issued by the Court of Appeal on February 21 and thereby challenged and ridiculed the authority of court in a contemptuous and derogatory manner and accordingly requested to court to punish Harry Jayawardena for contempt of court.

When the above application came up before the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Sripavan and Justice Rohini Perera on Thursday, court informed counsel for Vittachi that the leave to appeal application will be proceeded separately in Court No. 110  and the contempt of court matter will be taken up in Court No. 303 and therefore requested the counsel for Vittachi to file fresh papers to take up the contempt matter in Court No. 303 before the President of the Court of Appeal.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakse P. C. with Kuvera De Zoysa Attorney-at-Law and Kapila Liyanagamage Attorney-at-Law instructed by G. G. Arulpragasam Attorney-at-Law appeared for Vittachi.


Eight killed in claymore attack

Eight people traveling in a CTB bus from Mannar to Vavuniya were killed and 25 injured when a claymore mine was triggered near the 28th Mile Post on the Mannar-Vavuniya Road yesterday morning.

The claymore attack also left 26 injured, some of them critically. The dead were all civilians except one soldier who was in civvies travelling home on duty leave. Four other soldiers in civvies who were also travelling in the bus were injured. The six civilians killed in the attack and the 22 others injured were Tamil and Muslim civilians.

Military spokesperson, Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe told The Sunday Leader the claymore attack took place at 7.30 Saturday morning. He said the claymore mine was not in the bus but on the roadside. The government has accused the LTTE of targeting civilians in the face of military defeats in the East.

Meanwhile, the LTTE yesterday accused the government of responsibility for the attack and said civilians are being targeted to pin the blame on the LTTE in view of the growing international pressure on the government's human rights record.


Military gets access to A5 highway

By Amantha Perera

Government troops have gained access to the strategic A5 highway linking Chenkalady and Maha Oya running through Tiger held areas south of Thoppigala, both the Tigers and the military said last week.

The Tigers said that troops were operating in areas just outside the line of control.

"The military has entered the A5, they are in an area called Koppalaveli, that is about 3 to 4 km east of Pillumalai (the last Tiger held village)," LTTE military spokesperson Rasiah Illanthirayan said.

However, the military said that its gains were far greater and that troops now controlled a large stretch of the southern part of the highway.

 "We now control the whole stretch of the road from Pillumalai to Rukam," Military Spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said. The stretch is about 17 km and the Tigers still hold a section of about 35 km from Rukam to Black Bridge running through Karadiyanaru.

Samarasinghe said that troops had in fact crossed the highway and were operating in the Rukam tank area. The Tigers denied the claim

The highway is the only major access road in the area and losing control would severely disrupt supplies to the Tigers. The Tigers are massed in the Thoppigala area, that lies north west of Rukam and thus far have retreated further interior without taking on the advancing government troops.

However, fleeing civilians said that at least 3000 cadres are suspected to be near Thoppigala waiting for the government assault. The Karuna group also told The Sunday Leader that the Tigers were believed to have stationed artillery guns and rudimentary anti-aircraft weapons in the Thoppigala area.


Nandana points finger at Wimal for betraying JVP Leader

JVP Parliamentarian and former politburo member Nandana Gunathileka has denied charges that he tipped off the state intelligence units of the real JVP Leader, K. Gunarathnam alias Kumara Mahattaya.

Denying any involvement in revealing Kumara Mahattaya's true identity in the party, Gunathileka has stated that the question as to who divulged his identity should be posed to the party's Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa.

Gunathileka had further stated that although Kumara Mahattaya and he were at loggerheads over certain issues, he was well respected by him as the party's leader.

According to the former politburo member, he never did anything to harm the party even though he did not agree with Kumara Mahattaya's ideas. He had also said that it was one of the main reasons for him to withdraw from active politics without damaging the party's image.

Gunathileka has charged that it was Weerawansa who betrayed Kumara Mahattaya to the intelligence units. He had further stated that since he withdrew from the party, he never accepted any of the invitations extended to him from Temple Trees.

Denying any plans of accepting  positions in the government, Gunathileka accused Weerawansa of being behind the false propaganda carried out to tarnish his image.


No fresh moves for talks

By Amantha Perera

There are no fresh efforts to initiate any dialogue between the Tigers and the government, the Tigers and the SLMM said as international watchdogs repeated warnings of a precarious situation, especially for the civilians in the coming days.

"Only normal meetings are taking place, there is nothing new," Tiger military spokesperson Rasiah Ilanthirayan said.

The SLMM also said that there were no fresh moves either by them or the Norwegians. "The message we get from both sides is that they are interested in talks, the Tigers say the CFA is the basis, while the Government Peace Secretariat also maintains that it is ready for a dialogue, but action on the ground is very different," SLMM Spokesperson Thofinnur Omarsson said.

The lack of a fresh initiative comes as warnings persisted of more civilian suffering especially in the east.

The World Food Programme in its latest report said that it feared more fighting in the north would cause the food situation to deteriorate.

"Clashes in Sri Lanka have been increasing during the past month and there are strong indications that heavy fighting will shift to the north from the east," it said.

Amnesty International was at the receiving end here due its advocacy campaign being timed to coincide with the Cricket World Cup blaming all three parties, the government, LTTE and the Karuna group for rights violations.

It said that the government and the Tigers had hampered supplies and access to civilians as the military situation became bleaker.

"The government as well as the LTTE severely restricted access to Batticaloa District and other conflict areas under their control, leaving tens of thousands of new IDPs, and large numbers of other affected populations, without adequate international protection and access to humanitarian assistance," it said last week.

It said the Karuna faction was moving in IDP camps in Batticaloa armed and that there were reports of harassment and abductions.

"Newly displaced persons living in camps in government-controlled areas of Batticaloa District report that armed men, reportedly wearing the uniforms of the Karuna faction, are infiltrating the camps, roaming in them and even taking over the distribution of relief goods."


Number of IDPs increases to 300,000

By Shezna Shums

The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) around the island has now increased to over 300,000 persons.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) records show that there are 308,612 displaced persons, which includes 82,456 families.

The records show that there has been a significant increase in the number of displaced persons originating from the Muttur Divisional Secretariat in Trincomalee.

Under this category, the UNHCR records shows a 43.7 percent increase in the number of IDPs which consists of 2,286 families that includes 8,752 persons who have moved to the Ampara Division.

There has been an overall increase of 0.87 percent in the total number of IDPs.

In other areas - including Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mannar, some areas of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Anuradhapura - the number of IDPs recorded remain the same.

Since March 28, the UNHCR has not recorded any decline in the number of IDPs.

Meanwhile, The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which consists of findings from various NGOs noted in their latest situation report that the NGO's moves to provide temporary shelter for the displaced persons was being hampered due to the non availability of building materials for the construction of wells, overhead tanks and toilets. Cement is also a rare commodity where a limited number of bags are sold at Rs. 4,000 each.

With regard to the Trincomalee district, the IASC report states that some IDPs who returned from Batticaloa to sites in Kiliveddy and then to their places of origin, are attempting to go back to the IDP camps either at Kiliveddy or Batticaloa district.

In the Batticaloa district, the latest UNHCR IDP records indicate that the number of registered IDP population in the district was 41,942 families consisting of 155, 872 individuals living in 90 IDP camps situated around many schools.

The UNHCR reports that the number of IDPs in Ampara has increased from 5,815 individuals in March to 8,921 individuals by April 4.


Bogollagama seeks cooperation of SAARC to counter terrorism

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that peace and security are essential to have meaningful economic and social progress in the SAARC region. Addressing the SAARC Council of Ministers at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi last week (2), Bogollagama said that the association within the last two decades had enabled to charter various projects and programmes to achieve its objectives.  

"Sri Lanka strongly feels that it is time that we focus on strengthening practical measures of cooperation in terms of the existing instruments on suppression of terrorism in SAARC and other multilateral fora, while reaffirming our commitment to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in order to ensure a region free of violence and terrorism. It is indeed happy to note that SAARC is moving from declaratory statements to implementation process. Towards this end we support the proposal to rationalise and prioritise the activities on the broad principles of progress made in the sectors and the requirement of high level interaction and regional priority and needs," Bogollagama further said.

He also noted that after four years of intense negotiations among the SAARC countries, an agreement was reached as a first step towards creating a free trade area in South Asia, which would develop 'trade in services' and finally reach the lofty goal of creating a SAARC economic union. According to Bogollagama this is a move that has made the international community respond confidently in the regional association.

Bogollagama further said that, "To keep the momentum going and also to prepare us as a region to face the challenges posed by  globalisation in the 21st century, we should ensure that  SAFTA  is fully implemented. We should also address all related issues to create a conducive environment for all member countries to freely conduct trade in the region. Implementation of SAFTA will inject a new sense of dynamism and take the association to a greater level of economic prosperity."

Foreign Ministers of all seven SAARC countries with the latest addition to  SAARC, Afghanistan participated at the meeting chaired by the India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Regional Connectivity, SAARC Visa Scheme, SAARC Development Fund and SAARC Food Bank were other issues discussed and presented to the heads of government at the 14th SAARC summit.


Govt. calls AI for dialogue

By Jamila Najmuddin

The government last week invited Amnesty International (AI) for a dialogue on the human rights situation in the country even as the organisation criticised the government's reaction to its international campaign arguing that it was more interested in playing cricket than addressing human rights violations.

AI said although the government had raised a healthy debate on the organisation's international campaign it had not in any way intended to affect the Sri Lanka cricket team but purely to focus attention on the human rights crisis in the country.  AI said it was prepared to participate in an open discussion with the government if it received an official invitation.

The international watchdog had also intensified its campaign by adding a new website, The Sunday Leader learns.

The government meanwhile said that while it deplored the AI campaign targeting the Cricket World Cup it would still want to open a dialogue with the watchdog. "The campaign is going very well and we are not going to give up," Regional Campaign Coordinator, Asia Pacific Programme, Amnesty International, Rob Godden told The Sunday Leader. He said following the launch of its campaign last week and ensuing media coverage, the government had written to it through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London.

He however said that the government's focus appeared to be on the wrong issues.

"We are all grown up, matured adults. We all know what Sri Lanka's problem is. And right now the problem is not cricket," Godden said.

Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the government felt that the timing of the campaign was not appropriate but added that the government had invited AI to the country.

"It is a pity that AI has launched such a campaign which will have a bad effect on the Sri Lankan players. We strongly believe that this campaign should have been reviewed. That is why we have invited AI for an open dialogue," he said.


Call for politicians to unite

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Child Development and Women's Empowerment Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena last week said that a solution to the ethnic problem could be reached if all political parties work together, leaving aside their differences.

"It is not the politicians who suffer due to party politics, but the innocent villagers who frequently get into undesirable situations due to being affiliated to various political parties. Should it be blue, green, red or any other colour, it is irrelevant in bringing solutions to the problems in the country, especially the ethnic issue,"  reiterated Jayasena. She further stressed that after participating at the Janatha Sathkaraka Sewawa programme held in the Moneragala District  from March 31 to April 1, she observed that most of the issues that people faced in this district were as a result of poverty.

"Many issues also arose due to land conflicts. Many people were facing difficulties due to matters such as being unable to get their own identity cards, which should not be a matter of difficulty," she said.


Top post for Lankan professor in UK

Sri Lankan born Professor S. Arulkumaran has been elected President of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK. He is the first President to get elected from outside the UK

He is the Professor and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the St. Georges Hospital Medical School in the University of London.

 Professor Arulkumaran who was born in 1948, is the son of the late  K. Sabaratnam and Gnambikai and had his education at Jaffna Central College and Mahajana College, Telippalai.

He entered the University of Ceylon in 1972 and passed his MBBS with Hons. He has  obtained additional qualifications as  DCH (Cey), FRCOG Edin ,FRCS Edin, MD Edin, and PhD  Sing.

He will assume office in October 2007.


Many schools in Batti closed

According to the zonal director of education for Batticaloa,  86 schools in the Batticaloa District remain temporarily closed.  This number includes the  14 schools occupied by the IDPs.

Seventeen temporary schools with 2110 new IDP students are functioning in the Batticaloa zone, but  attendance is very poor.

In Ampara the school in Saraswathi now has 28 families occupying it. The week before there were only nine families.

The school is currently closed for  New Year holidays but will be used by the IDPs until alternative shelter is found for these families.

The government authorities in this area are assessing the needs of the IDPs living in temporary shelters as well as with friends and family.

The District Secretariat has also allocated land opposite this office to build 100 transitional shelters for  displaced families.

The District Secretariat has also identified two community buildings near the Ranamadu School to be used to house the displaced should their number increase.

However, these sites lack proper sanitary facilities whilst the floor is not cemented.


Top monk accuses govt. of betraying intelligence officer to LTTE

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

A leading Buddhist monk has accused the government of compromising the life and identity of a top naval intelligence officer by arresting him under the pretext of being an LTTE informant in order to politically victimise former Minister Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi.

Head of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya (JSS), Ven. Galabadatte Gnanasara Thero charged that Navy Intelligence Officer Rohana Gamage was arrested by the CID on March 13 as part of a political victimisation campaign unleashed against Sooriyaarachchi and in the process exposed his identity to the LTTE.

The leading monk said Gamage's family informed him that they would now be forced to go into hiding overseas to avoid being killed by the LTTE.

Gamage was released on Thursday, April 5 by the Colombo Chief Magistrate. The police who arrested him for alleged links with the LTTE did not elicit any evidence to substantiate the allegations of Gamage being an informant of the LTTE.

Gamage was arrested alleging links with the LTTE while serving as a navy intelligence officer. His wife Rasika Priyadarshani addressing the media a few days after his arrest said Gamage never had any such links with the LTTE, but was asked to help President Mahinda Rajapakse's campaign during the presidential elections in 2005 by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse.

Gamage was serving in Vavuniya when Gotabhaya had asked for his help to carry out campaign work in Vavuniya during the election.

"They wanted his help. Then Gotabhaya appointed him as the deputy director of the Yovun Senankaya in 2005," she said.

Ven. Gnanasara Thero told The Sunday Leader that Gamage's arrest was a great betrayal of the country's intelligence units and is similar to Millennium City issue.

According to the thero, Gamage's family members have revealed to him the threat on his life following his exposure by the Government. Gamage was closely associated with Sooriyaarachchi and was arrested days before the former minister's arrest.

"Gamage has now been released. Where is the state media now to tell that he was innocent? They gave wide publicity to his arrest, but what about now? The damage is done because he has been exposed to the LTTE as a top naval intelligence officer. The government is responsible for Gamage's life from now on," Ven. Gnanasara Thero said.

Ven. Gnansara Thero also came down hard on the so called patriotic forces like the JVP and the JHU that have aligned themselves with the government for keeping silent when the government has betrayed the intelligence units and compromised national security for petty political gain.

"When the Millennium City intelligence units were betrayed during the Ranil Wickremesinghe government, there was a huge outcry by the so called patriotic forces claiming that national security has been compromised. Now Rohana Gamage was arrested alleging links with the LTTE and his identity exposed, which too is a great betrayal, but so far everyone has been silent. Those like the JVP and the JHU who shouted at Wickrem- esinghe for betraying the nation are today silent. Is this not betrayal of national security as well?" the thero charged.

According to Ven. Gnansara Thero, Gamage never had any links with the LTTE as he worked for the country with conviction and also to bring President Mahinda Rajapakse into power.

"Gamage never had links with the LTTE, that is why we stood by him. He worked for the country with conviction and also worked to bring the President into power. It was Gotabhaya Rajapakse who got Gamage to work under Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi in the Yovun Senankaya. Why is there a conspiracy now?" the thero charged.

He further observed that the government instead of denying or responding to the accusations leveled against it by Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi was arresting important intelligence officers instead.

Following his visit to see Gamage after his arrest, Ven. Gnanasara Thero said he started to receive death threats.

"We always worked against the LTTE. We went to see Rohana Gamage after he was arrested and was punished for it. I started to receive death threats within 48 hours and was also asked to make statements against Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi and Mangala Samaraweera. This is not what we expected from the government," the thero said.

The thero said as a party to bringing into power the present government, he was now embarrassed of its present position.

"It is Jim Garrisson's words that come to my mind now - The responsibility of a true patriot is to protect his people from the state and false patriots," Ven. Gnanasara Thero said.

Gamage's wife Rasika told The Sunday Leader that the family was now united once again, but was living in great fear. "He was released without being charged proving his innocence, but his life and that of the family is now under great threat as he was exposed," she said.

Rasika also observed that they were unable to return to their home due to security reasons, adding that so far no protection has been provided for them.

"There is no protection for us and I don't think there will be any either," she said. According to Rasika, Gamage is now in a depressed state.  "We are all psychologically down, we can't even walk on the roads. We have to be very careful now," she said.


Differences in opinion on Katunayake radar

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti in New Delhi

The aerial strike by the LTTE on the SLAF base in Katunayake had led to differences in opinion between New Delhi and Colombo on the effectiveness of the radar system gifted by India with New Delhi insisting that the system is functional and without defect.

The issue however did not undermine bilateral relations though Sri Lanka's concerns over her air security loomed large when the matter was raised by journalists in pre SAARC briefings.

Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranabh Mukherjee during an informal gathering at Ashok Hotel, New Delhi last Monday said that there could not be a question of technical failure, given the fact that India herself was currently using a similar system to safeguard the Indian skies.

Suggestions from Sri Lanka about defects in the air defence system inadvertently assisted the Liberation Tigers to attack the air base in Katunayake are being refuted by New Delhi.

"To the best of our knowledge, there was no question of system failure," Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said on Tuesday.

It has been suggested that the lightweight Tiger aircraft managed to travel 400 km undetected due to existing radar deficiencies.

Sri Lanka formally raised the issue with New Delhi prior to the 14th SAARC Summit.

According to Indian diplomatic sources, the Sri Lanka Defence Ministry raised the issue of shortcomings in the system and earned the response that it was "an operational problem and could not have been a system failure."

The current radar system was installed by India during President Chandrika  Kumaratunga's regime.

It is now being alleged that India intervened to make a gift of the system at a time when Colombo was studying the possibility of purchasing a three-dimensional radar system from China.

 Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama responding to reporters in New Delhi in a pre-SAARC summit briefing sounded cautious. Responding to queries, he said the failure to detect the LTTE aircraft was being studied by a committee at present "I await the committee findings and shall say no more," he said.


Expect thunder and lightning  - Met Dept.

By Nirmala Kannangara

The country is experiencing  seasonal thunderstorms of the first inter monsoon season which will continue till the second week of May according to the Meteorological (Met) Department.

The Met. Department forecasts gloomy conditions during forenoon or afternoon in most parts of the island during this period. The usual disturbance in the weather pattern with possible strong winds could be experience mainly in the afternoons or evenings according to the Department.

 "Cloudy weather with thundershowers and storms are likely to hit the interior of the country and also the western slopes of hills in the central province,"  Met. Department sources added.

 " The monsoon rains now experienced in most parts of the country will spread to other parts of the island in the days to come and people should be vigilant as occasional thunder and lightning that accompany the heavy showers can be  destructive if precautionary measures are not taken," said the  sources. The sources said tornadoes, waterspouts and hailstorms are more likely during the first inter monsoon season and requested the general public to be vigilant of lightning that could lead to loss of lives as well.

"People should avoid being under lone, tall trees, bathing near wells and also close to any metal equipment as they are more prone to be affected during lightning. Even if you are inside a building always try to be seated on a wooden chair which is very safe during lightning," the sources said.

"Tornadoes have a short lifespan of 10 minutes, but strong gusty winds which are capable of causing considerable damage in a small area within a very short duration," the sources further said.

When asked whether the rains could lead to flood conditions the sources told The Sunday Leader that most probably, the first inter monsoon season generally would not create any flood situation but the water level in the sea could rise marginally.


Abductions on the decline

The Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) which looks into the disappearances and abductions of civilians in Colombo and suburbs, will convene a meeting of the family members of those abducted tomorrow (9).

CMC member and Western People's Front (WPF) Leader, Mano Ganesan told The Sunday Leader the meeting would be held with the participation of Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He added that representatives and human rights observers of diplomatic missions will also be invited to attend the meeting.

"Local and foreign Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are also welcome to take part in the event," he added.

The CMC recently stated that the number of abductions had declined after the issue was taken up at the UN Human Rights Commission conference in Geneva last month.

However, the CMC added that the fate of most of the abducted persons were unknown, while a few of them had been released.


Children paying the price in the east

By Sarasi Wijeratne

There are between 45,000 to 55,000 internally displaced children under the age of 18 living in camps for the displaced and with host families in the Batticaloa District.

22,000 children who were displaced following the fresh wave of violence between the government and LTTE have had no access to education while some 116 schools in the district have had to close for safety reasons due to shelling and bombing.

"We are working to get about 15,000 of the newly displaced children in to catch up on education and are providing them with stationery and other necessary materials," said a spokesperson for international child rights and protection organisation Save the Children, which is working with the zonal education departments on the issue.

"We are also aiming to get 5,000 newly displaced children into pre school education."

Save The Children is creating free spaces for children in the camps with toys and other equipment so children can engage in both indoor and outdoor activities with their peers to play and express themselves, considered therapeutic for those exposed to trauma.

"Through mediums such as jokes, story telling and children's clubs for the older ones, we are encouraging these children to occupy and express themselves," said the spokesperson according to whom the organisation is working hard to create these spaces in all the camps.

Meanwhile, among the newly displaced figure of 22,000 children, 1,104 children have been left with only a single parent while 467 children have been separated from both parents although on a happier note 110 children from the latter group have been reunited with their parents.

The Department of Probation and Child Care Services is collecting information pertaining to unaccompanied minors.

According to latest figures, close to 158,000 internally displaced people are living in 91 camps in the district, a huge increase from the 22 camps which existed in the district not long ago in the third week of February.

The additional camps were required to accommodate the swelling numbers fleeing the fighting. Twenty-five schools in the district are being used as camps to house the displaced. Those IDPs living with host families are reportedly having difficulty accessing food rations due to lapses in registration. 

Among those displaced are 300 school teachers who have to be relocated and more vitally, found work to ease the difficulties with education in the district.

In a further development last week, following a call from a group of local Tamil MPs, Tamil school children in Batticaloa, Kalkudah and Kalawanchikudi stayed away from school to show solidarity with their counterparts who were returning to Vaharai where schools are not said to be operational yet as well as because of the shelling in parts of the Batticaloa District. 

An education official from the Sittandi area, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, said there was concern about children being killed and going deaf due to the shelling.

According to this official, two children in Grades 9 and 2 of a local school were killed when at home at about 7.15 pm and 12 children are suffering from hearing difficulties. Some schools in the district were unable to conduct their first term exams due to children staying away because of the shelling. 


Maga Neguma to look after IDPs

By Sunalie Ratnayake

The Gama Neguma programme launched by the Nation Building Ministry apart from building villages is also addressing the issues of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the respective areas.    

Nation Building Minister Jagath Pushpakumara told The Sunday Leader that as the Minister coordinating the Gama Neguma programme in the Batticaloa District, the issues of IDPs were also being addressed in line with other projects launched to uplift the living standards of the people in these areas.

"We never separate the IDPs and other villagers when conducting projects for the betterment of everyone residing in these villages. The Ministry of Resettlement also significantly gets involved in these projects and provides all possible assistance," Pushpakumara said.

He added that there were no conflicts between the IDPs and villagers when it came to putting up new villages, as everyone was being given equal priority when providing assistance.

 

 


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