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Kiriella recalled from Cuba
Actg. minister’s talks with Tamils in Canada cancelled
Kiriella recalled from Cuba
Actg. minister’s talks with Tamils in Canada cancelled

By Dushe Ranetunge
The Sri Lankan government has recalled Mr. Lakshman Kiriella, the acting Foreign Minister from Cuba, cutting short his tour of North America and the UK, resulting in the cancellation of talks with Tamils in Canada and leaving the LTTE in Canada jubilant and the anti LTTE and "hearts and minds" efforts in tatters.

Sri Lankan Canadians are an angry lot. They feel badly let down by the Sri Lankan government, whose irresponsible actions have resulted in the empowering of the LTTE in Canada, and egg on the faces of Sri Lankans who have been working hard to build bridges and pursue a "hearts and minds" policy.

The "hearts and minds" policy was one of the most important policies undertaken by the present government in its quest to build bridges with the Tamil community which had for decades felt isolated and abandoned by the irresponsible actions of consecutive Sri Lankan governments. This policy had far reaching consequences, from improving the behaviour of members of the armed forces in Jaffna towards Tamil civilians resulting in advancements in human rights, to enhancing military intelligence, greater participation of Tamils in the democratic process and even isolation of the LTTE, by driving a wedge between the Tamils and the LTTE.

Mr. Lakshman Kiriella, the acting Foreign Minister, who is at present in Cuba, after participating in the 13th NAM ministerial meeting which took place from the 7th to the 9th of April in Cartagena in Colombia, was due to visit Canada and participate in a seminar arranged by the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa.

The seminar was arranged for Sunday 16th April, in the Toronto Tamil neighbourhood of Scarborough. It was titled "The Devolution Package and the Search for peace in Sri Lanka". The Ramada Crown Plaza had been booked and invitations sent out to 200 Sri Lankans, including a very large number of Tamils, several of whom supporters of the LTTE and leaders of the Tamil community in Canada. Kiriella had been keen to talk to Tamils in Toronto, a hot bed of LTTE activity, and was prepared to speak candidly, even at the risk of being insulted. The invities had been carefully selected so as to maximise impact on the Tamil community. Out of the 200 invitations sent out, 90% had accepted, including over 50 Tamils.

On Wednesday 12th April, the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa was fanatically trying to inform Sri Lankans that the seminar which the Minister Kiriella was supposed to attend has been cancelled. It seems that Minister Kiriella has been requested to return to Colombo directly from Havana (via London), cancelling his planned visits and appointments in Canada and the UK. Lionel Fernando, Secretary Foreign Ministry, when contacted from London and questioned, was economical with the truth, while confirming that Minister Mr. Kiriella is expected back from Havana. He offered no credible explanation as to why Mr. Kiriella was required to be in Colombo urgently, cancelling a seminar with the Sri Lankan community in Toronto, a meeting with Canadian business leaders, interview with the BBC etc. He is expected in London this weekend (15th & 16th) and is expected to leave for Sri Lanka early next week.

Others speculated that with the President away in Europe, Foreign Minister Kadirgamar abroad recuperating, Lakshman Jayakody not being in the best of health, Kiriella was required to be in Colombo urgently in case of an emergency. But surely there are others Prof. G. L Peiris, who could have been assigned as acting foreign minister. It has been pointed out.

Already the LTTE in Canada are boasting to the Tamils that the cancellation of the seminar is as a result of their actions and a sign of their power and influence. A power and influence handed over to the LTTE on a plate by the irresponsible and insensitive actions of the Sri Lankan government.

The present Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar also took several important initiatives to reach out to the Tamil diaspora, such as the discussion that took place at Chatham House in London several years back. These efforts were an acknowledgement of the importance of the Tamil expatriate community, in the big picture of the Tamil struggle and the Sri Lankan conflict, and the need for reconciliation, with the dawning of enlightened ideals of a new era of western style multicultural-sensitive governance.

The LTTE in Canada, in the form of the WTM (World Tamil Movement, classified by the US State Department as a LTTE front organisation) was furious, and alarmed at the Sri Lankan embassy holding the seminar and attempted to sabotage it by issuing a "notice" to stay away from the event. These notices are interpreted by Tamils as a warning by the LTTE to stay away.

Sri Lankan High Commissions and Embassies all over the world have been trying very hard to bring together the many Sri Lankan racial, cultural and religious groups, by organising discussions, seminars etc. in an effort to reconcile and to build bridges. Several of these efforts have succeeded to the great annoyance of the LTTE, whose strategy is one of trying to isolate Tamils in order to keep them within an "Eelamist" constituency for fund raising and political reasons.

An English translation of the Tamil notice on WTM headed paper is as follows:

LET US AWAKEN TO THE FOLLOWING

Dear people of Tamil Eelam living in Canada,

Amidst the many economic difficulties created by the Sinhalese government, our people and our liberation forces are continuously sacrificing their lives for our independence. In the northern part of Tamil Eelam the Sri Lanka armed forces are engaging in unlawful activities and the area is devastated by them.

The southern part (east) of Tamil Eelam is under our control except for the cities and few other places. The people are living in these areas freely and are independent. In the Vanni a large area has taken over by "Ojatha Allaikal 3". Presently our forces are in the process of winning back the gateway of Jaffna, Elephant Pass.

The racist Sri Lankan Government is directing its forces, who have lost their fight, in a different direction and is seeking assistance from Canada and other countries. The Government is trying to show these other countries and the displaced Tamil people in Canada that intentions are different.

The Sri Lankan community living in Canada has to understand the following facts. They are organizing functions such as the independence day, a discussion on "The devolution package and the search for peace in Sri Lanka", dinner dances and other functions which are mediocre so that the Sri Lankan Tamil community do not want to participate in such activities. However they have decided some of the Sri Lankan Tamil people and the Canadian news media who seem to support them. Consequently, the Canadian news papers are publishing news items and articles which are false and damaging to our community. These facts should be weighed and taken into consideration.

The above activities organized by a government that is engaged in planned destruction of the Tamil people, should not be attended at any cost. The peace package that was proposed six years ago does not address the needs and rights of the Tamil people. Therefore the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rejected the peace package. To offer it to the Tamil community again is an insult to them. In fact if the government is sincere in negotiating for peace it could have considered the proposal for peace talks mediated by third party, proposed by the LTTE Leader on National Hero’s day in 1998.

It is evident to all that the displaced Tamil people living in many countries around the world today are fighting for their liberation. The largest contribution for this struggle is given by Tamil people living in Canada and we applaud it. We should remember it. Further they are also helping to sustain this struggle.

The Sri Lankan Government by organizing the activities mentioned above, is trying to show the Tamil community and other communities that they strive for peace and harmony with the Tamil community and that they intend to continue such activities in the future.

It is however important for the Sri Lankan Tamil people living in Canada to know the truth behind these activities.

Dear Tamil People living in Canada,

We must oppose such activities of the Sinhala government. At the same time we must intimate to the people of Canada the true nature of our struggle. Consider this your duty and act accordingly.

-World Tamil Eelam Society

"Ulagathamilar" a Tamil pro-LTTE news paper in Canada has also made the same request. This notice was one of panic and alarm at the "hearts and mind" initiative and the impact it was having as part of a much larger anti-LTTE offensive.

The LTTE in Canada had been badly bruised in the last month. During the last week of March, the Canadian newspaper, the "National Post" had carried a series of damaging articles exposing criminal activity by the LTTE in producing illegal Canadian passports in the far east. This was a part of a sophisticated human smuggling racket, being used as a major fund raising effort. It alleged that the LTTE was raising a significant portion of its annual US$ 150 million war chest by smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants to the west every year. This was compounded by anti-LTTE reports by Macleans and an unclassified security report issued by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

Reeling from an anti-LTTE publicity barrage, Tamils in Canada are increasingly concerned of being identified with an organisation which is being regarded as being on the wrong side of the law. Other Tamils were angered by the LTTE "notice" which had been faxed around Tamil homes in Canada. They complained that they were living in a free country and that the LTTE cannot tell them which meetings they can or cannot attend. What was most noticeable was that despite LTTE efforts to intimidate and sabotage the meeting, more than 90% of the Tamils invited had accepted.

In light of all the above, which has taken place in the last 30 days, the timing of the "The Devolution Package and the Search for peace in Sri Lanka" seminar, organised by the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa, with multi-cultural participation was a gift from heaven. But then, there are those who would argue, that the Sri Lankan government would have difficulty in recognising a gift from heaven.


Saturday Commentary
Can PA-UNP talks end by May?

By Prasad Gunewardene
While the PA government has not included its controversial electoral reforms in the May 5 agenda for talks with the United National Party, the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged the government to give priority to that subject, adding that more time should be allocated for that subject as several minority political parties have made representations to him that the proposed reforms would affect them badly. The government has forwarded subjects such as the judicial reforms and human rights for the agenda on May 5.

When the two sides met last time, President Chandrika Kumaratunga was keen to end the talks by May 15, but the UNP leader pointed out that it could not be done as there were more important areas to be discussed. After hearing the Opposition Leader’s views, President Kumaratunga extended her deadline upto May 29 to conclude the talks saying, ‘Even if the talks are not finalised, I will close the chapter as I have to bring the Tamil parties to the table by June’. She also said that she would see that a new constitution is brought before parliament in July as the life of the present parliament ends by August 16.

The electoral reforms proposed by the Kumaratunga government is not to the liking of many minority and small political parties. The PA’s proposal would increase the number of parliamentarians from 225 to 260. Of this number 160 would be elected on the first past the post, 80 on the district PR system and the balance on the national list basis. The PA feels that under the proposed system it would be able to get two thirds majority in parliament in the future to change the present constitution. PA partners, the SLMC and the CWC have already expressed their dissatisfaction over the proposed reforms to the PA leadership. The two sides have already had secret discussions with the UNP on this issue. The other two PA coalition partners, the LSSP and the CP too are up in arms over the issue.

The UNP which claimed that all previous elections under the PA were rigged with initimidation, thuggery and violence expressed fears that such acts would increase if elections are held under the first past the post system as sitting PA members of Parliament in electorates may try to use force to win back the seats. On the other hand they say that even if parliament was dissolved the PA would be at strength with nearly one hundred ministers and deputies functioning under the provisions of the present constitution. At the 1994 general election, the UNP was badly defeated at electoral level being reduced to a solitary seat and that was Mahiyangana. At the inaugural sittings of Parliament in that year, Minister Richard Pathirana in a lighter vein quipped, ’Only the elephants have voted for you and not the people in the country’.

The PA and the UNP have made arrangements to sit six times in May to discuss the constitutional reforms. While the UNP claims the time frame work is inadequate the government is adamant to end the talks by the end of May. Both sides have not put forward the most important aspect of the reforms, the unit of devolution in their proposals. The PA proposals sent to the UNP leader did not contain that vital aspect. Mr. Wickremesinghe in his counter proposals did not include this issue saying that it was upto the government in power to propose it. The UNP stressed on the establishment of the four Independent Commissions on Police, Elections, Judicial Service and Public Service.

Though the UNP is bent heavily on these four commissions which it feels would be the base for their victory at the next elections, the government is soft peddling on this issue. Six rounds of talks have already gone through and these subjects were not discussed. If the government takes up the issue of electoral reforms, the UNP demand for these commissions will play a lead role in the discussions. According to PA sources the government is likely to come before parliament in May with the electoral reforms to seek an amendment to the constitution. Such a move needs only a simple majority in the House and a three member ministerial team is now canvassing to get that majority from the UNP side. If the PA forges ahead with the electoral reforms in Parliament, it will be interesting to see how its minority allies would help it in the House at the time of voting.


India to extend ban of LTTE for two more years, says L. K. Advani

From S. Venkat Narayan Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, April 12:
India will extend the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist guerrilla outfit, for two more years after the present ban period expires next month, Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani has said.

Advani disclosed this to opposition Janata Party President Dr. Subramaniam Swamy when the latter called on him here yesterday. Dr. Swamy demanded that the ban be further extended on the group responsible for the brutal assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi nine years ago.

In a statement issued here today, Dr. Swamy said the growing connection between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the narcotics trade, and the Indian Supreme Court’s judgment against the LTTE in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case demands a continuation of the ban.

The Janata Party leader said he also raised the question of executing the death sentence on four of the LTTE cadres convicted for murdering Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai (Madras) in May 1991.

Advani apparently pointed out that the central government is still awaiting the Tamil Nadu cabinet’s resolution confirming that state governor’s rejection of the convicts’ mercy petition.

Dr. Swamy said he has requested Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi to send his cabinet’s resolution on the subject to the centre immediately.

It may be recalled that the LTTE was banned in India for two years for the first time in May 1992, one year after it was implicated in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. The ban has since been extended in 1994, 1996 and in 1998 for an additional two-year period on each occasion.


Chandrika goes abroad

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has gone abroad for medical treatment, official sources said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was admitted to Sri Jayawardanapura Hospital on Wednesday for a medical check up, the Prime Minister’s office said.

She is expected to be in hospital for a few days.

The Prime Minister’s 84th birthday falls tomorrow.


'Plot to suppress student activists'

By Saman Indrajith
University student activists yesterday warned that a government backed movement is planing to mount a countrywide programme to suppress the student activists in the universities.

"This planned student suppression will be more subtle and a result-oriented one than the student annihilation that took place in 1989-90 era," a student activist said.

The Convenor of the Inter University Student Federation, Kalawelgala Chandraloka thero said that the Nidahas Sarasavi Sishya

Peramuna (NSSP), the university student wing of the PA which was involved in recent clashes at universities of Ruhuna and Kelaniya, is collecting details of university student activists.

He said that the NSSP has already told the authorities that they are collecting the details of university students including their family background for its future plans.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Education, Prof. Wishwa Warnapala, through a letter has directed the Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to release the details of university students to the NSSP, Chandraloka thero said.

"This is totally illegal. No student organization is entitled to collect information of other university students without their consent. An officially elected university student council can only obtain addresses and names of students of that university."

In his letter Prof. Warnapala said that the decision to support the NSSP to get information of university students was taken in a meeting of the Cabinet ministers, he said.

This time the government is using university students as a tool to suppress student activists, he added.

The President of the students council of University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sarath Chandrasiri, said that the Deputy Minister has helped the NSSP misusing his ministerial powers.

"The recent history shows us that the paramilitary groups had gathered information of the university students in 1989-90 era for the purpose of suppression," he said.

Chandrasiri said that the recent attacks at the Universities of Ruhuna and Kelaniya were just the outcome of the PA backed NSSPers’ over-enthusiasm.

President of Student Council of the University of Kelaniya, Nakiyadeniye Uditha thero said the NSSPers can encounter student activists individually once they have relevant information.

The last week’s clash between two student groups at the university was initiated by the NSSP members who were backed by a powerful PA member and their deliberation was to assault the student activists.

"PA thugs supported the NSSP members to assault student activist out side the university premises," he said.

A student activist of Ruhuna University declined to be identified for legal reasons also said that a PA minister had hands in the clash between the NSSP and student activists at Ruhuna university on February 17.

"The NSSPers, armed murderers, relations of the PA minister had assaulted our student leaders, demolished public properties, and threatened us that we would be ended up in tyre pyres," he said.


Seven killed, 60 injured in grenade attack musical show

Seven persons were killed and sixty injured when a hand grenade was hurled during largely attended concert organised by a private television station at Trincomalee on Wednesday night as part of Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations.

The injured persons have been admitted to the Colombo and Trincomalee hospitals.

Trincomalee police sources said they suspected that the LTTE was responsible for the attack.


Eight dead, 601 injured during New Year

By Kalinga Weerakkody
Eight persons died after admission to the Colombo National Hospital and 601 others were treated for injuries sustained in brawls and road accidents during the New Year period on April 12 and 13, Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, Director of the hospital said yesterday.

Of the 601 persons injured, 236 were admitted and others were given out door treatment.

Some 143 patients admitted to the National Hospital had been transferred from hospitals in Kalutara, Panadura, Horana, Avissawella, Negombo, Chilaw, Puttalam and Karapitiya.

Most of the victims had been under the influence of liquor and had sustained fractures, and head and abdominal injuries the Director said.

Nearly 120 had sustained assault injuries while about 205 persons had sought treatment following road accidents.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that 10 persons are being treated at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

However, the number treated for burn injuries by fire crackers had been only one. Dr. Weerasinghe said that this was a good trend and was a result of educational programs launched by some companies on safety measures relating to fire crackers.

The Colombo National Hospital is at present reported to be overcrowded due to the large number of transfers from out station hospitals. Hospital sources said that this situation had arisen mainly due to the unnecessary transfers of patients who had sustained minor injuries.

Meanwhile IP Walter Pinidiya of Traffic Headquarters said that in a special traffic operation conducted in Nuwara Eliya area during the festival season police had taken action against 200 persons for traffic offences and another 500 persons had been warned and educated about the road rules.