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Massive attack on Elephant Pass

Fierce clashes were taking place in the general area Elephant Pass, armed forces spokesman Brigadier Palitha Fernando said last night.

Security forces yesterday afternoon abandoned some of their positions north east and north of Elephant Pass.

"In the early hours of Saturday, terrorists launched a major offensive against the troops defending forward defence lines in general areas Iyakachchi and Elephant Pass," Brigadier Fernando said around 10.40 last night.

Troops readjusted their defence lines north of Elephant Pass, he said adding that during the day’s confrontations 49 officers and men were killed in action and 243 wounded. Approximately 150 officers and men had suffered minor injuries.

He placed the number of terrorists killed in and around Elephant Pass as around 150.

"The fighting is continuing in the area," he said.

LTTE’s statement disallowed

The LTTE yesterday evening issued a special statement making certain claims. The statement was disallowed by the Competent Authority.

The following story was submitted to Competent Authority before fighting broke out in Elephant Pass.

A day after the newly appointed Overall Operations Commander [OOC] Major General Janaka Perera arrived in Palaly, Jaffna troops went on the offensive, trying to block a major infiltration route to the peninsula.

Armour led troops moved in against strong enemy groups operating at Ariyalai situated just across the terrorist held Pooneryn as the field guns engaged targets in the general area.

Major General Perera flew to Palaly late Thursday [20] to re-organise the government war effort in the peninsula after President Chandrika Kumaratunga demanded an all out effort amidst a crisis situation triggered off by terrorist attacks mounted two days before.

The presidential directive has been given from abroad after authorities in Colombo got in touch with her after (CENSORED) terrorist offensive threatened more government held areas in Jaffna.

The sources said that the government has told the top brass that they should regain control of the areas lost to terrorists during the current bout of fighting since March 27.

The military said that action is being taken to do whatever possible to prevent easy access to the LTTE from the Wanni mainland to the Jaffna peninsula.

The LTTE regained a foothold in the general area Ariyalai and Thanankilappu in December last year and has been using these points to send in men and material to mount operations in support of their main push that came in late March in the Vadamarachchy east and Thennamarachchi areas.

At least six terrorists were killed and dozens wounded during initial stages of the ongoing operation, the military said adding that later in day troops fired at boats coming from Pooneryn on the Wanni mainland in the direction of Ariyalai. "They were probably coming to evacuate the casualties," a senior officer said pointing out heavy security forces fire forced the boats to turn back.

He said that a lot would depend on the army’s ability to block infiltration points and go on the offensive at the same time.

The Ariyalai operation came as the military on Thursday [20] repulsed a series of fierce terrorist attacks on their defences in Soranpattu area, an area targeted by terrorists since last Tuesday.

During the initial stages of battles in this area and neighbouring villagers last Tuesday, troops were forced (CENSORED) take up new defences. Thursday’s attacks were aimed at forcing the army to abandon their new positions.

However, during Thursday’s battles, troops repulsed three heavy attacks on their Soranpattu defences. The military said that terrorists withdrew from some of their positions from where they mounted assaults after their third attempt failed to dislodge the army.

At least 30 terrorists were killed in Soranpattu battles.

However, strong enemy groups operate in the area and monitored enemy transmissions indicate that large groups had been withdrawn from their positions for re-deployment in the Jaffna theatre.

Meanwhile, troops on Friday [21] afternoon repulsed an LTTE boat landing south west of Muhavil. The LTTE regained the Vadamarachchy east in the last week of March and has been sending groups across the narrow lagoon to support cadres attacking the Main Supply Route [MSR] particularly between Pallai and Mirusuvil.

The military said that the LTTE suffered heavy losses when troops and Mi-24 helicopter gunships engaged the boats moving to a location south west of Muhavil.

About 30 minutes after the Muhavil boat landings failed, terrorists mounted the first of their three major attacks on the army’s Iyakachchi defences for the day. At least two soldiers were killed and 31 including four officers wounded, some of them seriously during these confrontations. Troops believe that over 20 terrorists were killed during Iyakachchi confrontations.

The government while placing Major General Janaka Perera incharge of the entire war effort in the North and the East provinces, replaced Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Chula Seneviratne with Major General Sarath Fonseka, a veteran in ground battles.

Fonseka, wounded in action a number of times had been also considered for the post of the OOC previously.

Post set up, scrapped and restored

In an unprecedent move, President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday (21) reactivated the all powerful post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH), a post she herself scrapped on June 9, last year.

General Rohan De. S. Daluwatte who held that post for less than a week in early June last year has been reappointed to the CDS of the JOH.

The post was created by issuing an extraordinary gazette on May 27 last year under Section 5 of the Public Security Ordinance. The three service commanders and the IGP were also placed under the Chief of the Defence Staff of the JOH while making him a member of the National Security Council (NSC) headed by the President.

According to the May 27 gazette, the NSC comprises the President, the deputy defence minister, secretary to the President, Secretary to the Defence Ministry, the CDS, the service commanders, the IGP and the director general of Internal Intelligence.

Seven days after the creation of the post, General Daluwatte was appointed the CDS of the JOH by issuing another extraordinary gazette notification. The gazette dated June 3 said that "it is hearby notified that in terms of Regulation 5 of the Emergency (National Security Council) Regulations No 01 of 1999 General R. De. S. Daluwatte, WWV, RWP, RSP, VSV, USP has been appointed by the President to be the Chief of Defence Staff of the Joint Operations Headquarters with effect from May 31, 1999.

However, the government issued another extraordinary gazette notification six days later, scrapping the post of the CDS of the JOH. Informed government sources said that the President ordered the scrapping of the post saying that she had not been aware of the crucial and far reaching changes in the command and control structure of the armed forces.(SF)

Hope and pray for peace - Archbishop

‘We in Sri Lanka who are living in the shadow of death because of the hatred that prevails in our land would be glad to hear His Easter greeting ‘Peace be with you’. What we hear however is the sound of war and call to arms. Let us Christians still hope and pray for peace in justice in a human way, we have been created in God’s image and likeness’, Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Nicholas Marcus Fernando said in an Easter message. The message further said:

"We have passed through the holy season of Lent in this Jubilee Year 2000. During these forty days, we joined Our Lord in prayer and meditation, fasting and good works. We have done our best to take part in his sufferings and death. Our attention has been drawn mostly towards our sinfulness, our human weaknesses and failures, seeking God’s love, compassion and forgiveness which we have received in abundance from One who is rich in mercy.

The winter of Lent is gone now and we are in the spring time of Easter. On the original Easter morn, Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary, the mother of James went to the tomb of Jesus with their thoughts fixed on the dead body of Christ which they wanted to anoint properly now that the Sabbath was over. Their minds were still heavy with the thoughts of Good Friday. It was then that the unexpected happened. The stone had been rolled away and instead of a dead body, they found two men like angels who appeared to them and directed their thoughts towards the living Christ. "Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here with the dead; he is risen and is among the living". LK. 24:5.

That is the Easter message for us today living in the Jubilee Year. We thereafter should shake off our slumber, our thought of death and sorrow and walk away from Calvary in search of Christ among the living. The living Christ is in our churches where the Eucharist is celebrated; he is in our homes when we gather for our family prayers; he is in our neighbourhood among the poor waiting to be recognized. Let us then have the living Saviour with us all through life.

Christ is risen, alleluia. He is truly risen alleluia. "Happy Easter to you all".

Parliament to be dissolved in August?

Parliament is expected to be dissolved during the first week of August this year to pave the way for Parliamentary elections in October, a senior government spokesman said.

The government has decided to conduct the forthcoming poll under the existing preferential voting system, informed sources said.

Though several Ministers had indicated that the next general election will be conducted under the earlier electoral system, the government has decided not to go ahead with it as the PA’s coalition partners, the CP, LSSP, SLMC and Tamil political parties were not in favour of abolishing the PR system, the sources said.

If the PR system is to be done away with, the government must adopt an electoral set-up on line with the existing German system, these parties have proposed. Otherwise, it will not only be unfair by the small political parties, but will also negate the concept of devolution if elections are held under the earlier electoral system, they have said.

The UNP, it’s learnt, is also not in favour of the re-introduction of the electoral system which existed earlier.

Kiriella meets Sinhala activists

From Sujeewa Nivunhella in London
Acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella last week told a group of Sinhala activists he met at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London that what was being attempted at present was to find a permanent solution to the Tamil problem.

The minister said that Tamils only asked for language rights in 1956. But much more had to be conceded today. "It is like a present given to a child," Kiriella said. "When the child grows up, he would say that the present is inadequate and something better must be given."

The minister who stopped over in London en-route to Colombo from Cuba, met with the Sinhala groups on Monday. This meeting was originally scheduled for April 26 but was advanced as Kiriella dropped Canada from his travel itinerary and arrived in Britain earlier than intended.

He told the six representatives of Sinhala organisations that whenever he travels abroad, he makes it a point to have discussions with both Sinhala and Tamil groups as he believed that the exchange of ideas was essential.

He explained the government’s attempt to get the UNP to agree to a peace package to be offered to the LTTE and asked those present to state their objections to the package.

Responding to a question about the terrorist campaign, Kiriella said that the military would defeat the LTTE and the package would only then be implemented. Some of those present asked why a unitary state should be fragmented after a military victory. Kiriella pointed out that a permanent solution to the Tamil problem must be found.

He said that it was the British who united the country in the colonial era. Before the advent of the Portuguese and the Dutch, Sri Lanka had several kingdoms. Many of those present took strong objection to that statement.

Questions were also raised about the BBC Sandesaya program and it was alleged that this program adopted an anti-Sinhala stance and was unbalanced. Kiriella expressed the view that this program was not properly monitored in Colombo and promised to take up the matter with the media minister.

Mr. A. M. J. Sadiq of the Political Affairs Division of the Foreign Ministry who was also present said that the BBC Tamil program was also virulently anti-government. Kiriella agreed that urgent remedial steps should be taken.

Deputy High Commissioner J. Palipana was also present at this meeting.

Japanese surge in Sri Lanka’s private power projects

by Amal Jayasinghe
A Japanese company has become the biggest private power generator in Sri Lanka as the island is set to seek 2.5 billion dollars in foreign and local investments to meet surging demand for electricity.

The Japanese-owned Colombo Power (Private) Limited (CPPL) is due to moor a 60-megawatt barge-mounted power generator that will be connected to Sri Lanka’s national grid within two months, the company said.

Energy officials said CPPL, which is jointly owned by the Kawasho Corporation and the Mitsui Engineering and Ship Building company of Japan, will be the biggest single private power generator in the island.

Already two private firms, Asia Power and Lakdanavi, have set up plants to meet the rising demand that the state- run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is unable to meet.

Asia Power with its 51-megawatt plant and Lakdanavi’s 22.5-megawatt unit — both with substantial local funding — are working at full capacity.

Energy ministry secretary Jaliya Medagama said Sri Lanka needs 2.5 billion dollars in foreign and local investments to generate and distribute electricity in the next seven years.

Medagama said the government was encouraging the private sector to invest in electricity generation and pointed to the latest project of Japan’s CPPL as a model of foreign investment in the growing sector.

CPPL’s generator moored at Colombo’s main sea port was brought here six months ahead of schedule, CPPL chairman Akitsu Odagaki said.

"A similar 60-megawatt plant was commissioned at Sandakan in Malaysia last year and is operating successfully," Odagaki said.

Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI), which regulates investments, said the power purchase agreement with CPPL provided for the lowest rate at which a private power generator sold electricity.

CPPL is contracted to sell electricity at 5.38 US cents per unit in the next 10 years and the rate is expected to go down further.

The early commissioning of the plant is a boost for the CEB which has a near monopoly on power distribution.

CEB says water levels at hydro reservoirs have dropped drastically and a crippling drought had forced the company to increase its dependency on expensive thermal power.

The company also says it is currently subsidising consumers.

"Our cost of production at the moment is higher than the rate at which we sell electricity," CEB Chairman Arjuna Deraniyagala said.

He declined to say how much the CEB was currently losing as a result of working the expensive thermal generators or disclose the exact cost of production, saying it varied from time to time.

Officials said a rate increase was inevitable for the CEB to maintain its viability.

However, officials say it may be possible to lower tariffs with the induction of a 300-megawatt coal-fired plant by 2004.

Sri Lanka has been keen to reduce its dependence on hydro electricity by adding more thermal stations. In 1996, it faced power shortages because of a severe drought.

More than two thirds of Sri Lanka’s installed capacity is from hydro-electricity.

Only about half of the 18.3 million population in Sri Lanka has access to electricity, underscoring the potential for investors in the power sector, officials said.

Sri Lanka’s electricity consumption was growing at annual eight percent and 1.5 billion dollars was needed for power generation and the balance one billion for the distribution network, Medagama said.

State Dept. pressure over international telephony dispute?

The dispute between Lanka Internet Services Ltd. (LISL) and the telecommunication authorities here has been taken up in Washington by senior State Department officials with Minister G. L. Pieris at the recently concluded IMF meetings, the company said.

The international telecom industry is bound to take a very grim view of these developments," the company said in a statement which among other things alleged that the U.S. - Sri Lanka Investment Protection Treaty had been "flouted openly." LISL’s principal investor is a U.S. corporation.

According to the company statement, this dispute has been raised with Prof. Peiris by Assistant Secretary of State (South Asia), Carl. F. Inderfurth and Alan Larsen, Under Secretary of State for Economics and Business.

LISL described itself as a licenced telecommunications operator providing among others enhanced voice services within the terms and confines of its licence. But the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka appeared to be taking the position that these operations "infringe on a non-existent monopoly of Sri lanka Telecom."

"Enhanced voice" has been defined by the regulatory authority here as "voice transmitted in the form of packetised data in a compressed form at a lower bit rate." In effect, the dispute centers round LISL allegedly undercutting SLT on international phone calls for which SLT claims a monopoly until August 2002.

Lanka Internet which has rejected the allegations levelled against it as unsubstantiated and without a shred of proof says that if they are in any way violating the conditions of their licence, there is a procedure to be followed and they must be given an opportunity of presenting their case.

The company which claims that three operators including itself are authorised by their licence terms to provide "enhanced voice services" accused various state authorities’’ of resorting to roundabout measures to pressure them to cease their enhanced voice operations.

It further states that the CID has to date not filed objections in the fundamental rights action they have filed over this dispute end "appears to be dragging its feet" in a case filed in the Fort Magistrate’s Court.

Island Capers
On the cheap in gay Paree

Paris is a city with some of the finest restaurants in the world and when it was mentioned that our ambassador was inviting a delegation of visiting parliamentarians and some French officials to dinner, there were expectation all round of a good restaurant, maybe an exclusive club or at least His Excellency’s residence.

The delegates, all 22 of them, after all were deputy ministers and parliamentarians in town on a World Bank sponsored trip.

Any hopes of dining off fine bone china with silver cutlery was, alas, not to be. The dinner was at the Chancery and a not-so-good meal had to be eaten with plastic knives and forks off paper plates. And there was no wine in the land of the finest wines. Not even Perrier.

The French officials excused themselves and went home sparing the delegation embarrassment. At the end of the dinner around midnight, the guests had to take the Metro back to their hotel.

"Maybe banana leaves next time," quipped a disgruntled guest.

Main suspect in Dematagoda double murder arrested

By Shamindra Ferdinando
Dematagoda police investigating last week’s brutal murder of a 70-year old woman and her 40-year old daughter, in the early hours of yesterday arrested the main suspect during a raid at China Bay, a senior police spokesman said.

He said that a team of officers sent from Dematagoda with the help of the China Bay police took into custody the main suspect identified as Podiyar Velu Murugan. Police recovered Rs 144,000 and some gold robbed from the victims during the search of the main suspect’s China Bay house.

Earlier, Dematagoda police arrested another suspect identified as Thangadasan Kiridaran, a native of Valvettiturai. On information provided by Dematagoda police, a team of officers from Modera police station too had arrested two suspects who were allegedly involved in the brutal killings and recovered some gold and money.

Police said that all four suspects had been working as masons and doing various other odd jobs in Colombo and suburbs.

Dematagoda police last Sunday [16] found the bodies of a 70-year old woman and her 40-year old daughter buried in a toilet pit in their house.

"They had been strangled to death," a police spokesman said adding that the bodies were unearthed after their relatives informed Dematagoda police of their disappearance. Initial inquiries have revealed that the victims had hired a mason described as a man from Jaffna to do some work.

Police suspect that the mason had killed the women, dumped their bodies in the toilet pit and looted the house.

Investigators said that killers appeared to have taken jewellery and cash. Quoting a sister of the victim, police said that the killer had taken at least 30 gold sovereigns and approximately Rs 1.7 million.

The victims were identified as rich Muslims. The daughter had been separated from her husband and she had been living with her mother for some time.

Asked whether the daughter had been raped, police said "no".

Police said in the past few years there had been several cases of lone women being robbed, raped and killed by workmen hired to do some work.

Police said that they are looking for the suspect who worked at the Dematagoda residence of the latest victims.

Investigations are conducted by OIC Crimes Inspector Wilet Bandara, SI Anjula Ediriweera and Sergeants 9389, 20391 and PCs 31055, 30036 and 31633.

Duty concession on vehicles extended to local bodies

The government has extended the facility of importing vehicles with a 60% duty reduction to all mayors, deputy mayors of municipal and urban councils and chairmen and deputy chairmen of pradeshiya sabhas, official sources said.

The issuing of these permits which commenced on April 10, allows a holder to import a vehicle, not exceeding US $26,500.

About 600 persons holding office in these local bodies will be entitled to import vehicles under this facility, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister, Alavi Maulana said.

Meanwhile, all councillors are also to be provided with a loan of Rs. 50,000/- each from the People’s Bank to buy motor cycles, sources said.

Though the rate of interest is 17% they will have to pay only 10% as the Treasury has agreed to make an allocation to meet the balance, they said.

Stiff bond plan ditched

From Sujeewa Nivunhella in London
The British government will not enforce a plan requiring visitors to the UK from the Indian subcontinent (including Sri Lanka) to pay a 10,000 pound bond.

Cabinet Minister Margaret Beckett has said that the plan was intended to control illicit immigrants entering Britain. If enforced it would have affected visitors from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But mounting pressure from anti-racism groups had caused it to be abandoned.

Meanwhile Amnesty Inter-national has asked the British government not to use the word "bogus" to describe asylum seekers saying it would fuel racism and place refugees at the risk of racist attacks.

Cellphone towers pose health hazards - Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena

by Chittaranjan de Silva
Despite denials by cellular companies, cellular telecommunication transmitting towers situated at close proximity to homes and residential areas, could cause a serious health hazard to residents exposed to high frequency radio waves and microwave radiation which are emitted by them, UNP parliamentarian, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena said yesterday.

Spokesmen for cellular telephone companies in Sri Lanka yesterday strongly denied that cellular towers are emitting harmful radiation.

They said that cellular towers are being used everywhere in the world, and there has not been any proof that cancer is caused through radiation emitted from the towers as yet.

Dr. Jayawardena has urged the government to appoint a state authority to monitor the effects from harmful radiation, the public is exposed to, as a result of the new advanced equipment used today.

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has yet to formulate guidelines with regard to the erection of cellular towers in Sri Lanka, he said. He said the Atomic Energy Authority had also told him that the matter was not within their purview.

However, the Director-General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), is aware of the increasing public protests. The TRCSL is planning to study the situation, he said.

According to Dr. Jayawardena, the public opposition to cellular towers are widespread in the United States and around the world.

"There is a strong opposition to cellular towers around the world that have resulted in bans and moratoriums on them," he said.

Dr. Jayawardena while stating that it is too early to know the harmful effects of exposure to microwave radiation through these towers, said that New York’s School of Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health has shown ample evidence that the exposure to microwave radiation is associated with cancer in humans.

Studies in the US have revealed that cancers caused as a result of radiation exposure are mostly leukemia and brain cancer, Dr. Jayawardena said.

New Zealand has banned cellular towers on school property as well as in San Francisco, California in the United States. Scotland has decided that there are too many unanswered questions to risk exposing the public, needlessly, to levels of microwave radiation, which could prove to harmful in future, he said.

A spokesman for the Dialog Cellular Company in Sri Lanka, however, said that microwave beams are being used to link one tower to another.

But, he denied that this radiation is harmful to humans as claimed by Dr. Jayawardena.

"These towers are about 150 feet above ground level, and the microwaves will not affect the public," the spokesman assured.

‘The frequencies which we operate in, which are in the range of 2 Mega Hertz (MHz) - 15MHz are very small and cannot harm human beings’, he pointed out.

The spokesmen completely downplayed the possibility of cellular towers emitting microwave radiation which is harmful, even during instances of mechanical failure in these towers.

But, however, they admitted that a controversy has erupted, and said that they are aware that questions are being raised about the safety of these cellular towers.

According to Dr. Jayawardena, the hazards from cellular towers are neither acknowledged nor addressed.

Dr. Jayawardena said: "When unspecified technical and health hazards are cited to prevent such towers from being built, people are labelled paranoid and ridiculed."

It is the duty of the responsible authorities to establish standards to protect the people, before the public are affected, he added.

Proposed Mineral Investment Agreement
Benefits to country on present data: mind boggling - Counsel

by V. Varathasuntharam
President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva has told Supreme Court that the proposed Mineral Investment Agreement relating to Eppawala rock phosphate deposit earns foreign exchange, income tax, higher royalty, and increased defence levy. In fact, the benefits to the country on the present data are mind boggling. It is pure conjecture to say that the government investment is more.

This is stated by Mr. Silva appearing with Harsha Amerasekera in his written submissions before the Supreme Court on behalf of Sarabhumi Resources Ltd., and Geo-Resources Lanka Ltd., both respondents in suit filed by land owners in Eppawala area who are in danger of losing their lands and their means of livelihood if the mining project is implemented.

The two respondents forwarded the written submissions through their counsel Julius & Creasy.

The petitioners, through their counsel Lilantha de Silva have sought an interim direction staying the implementation of any Mineral Investment Agreement.

Mr. Silva submitted that there would be a foreign exchange earning of rupees twenty thousand million per annum. This would then be approximately 12 % of the national budget. The revenue available to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority would be approximately Rs. 15 thousand million for the first twelve years.

The income tax earnings over a period of 12 years or more would be approximately five thousand four hundred million rupees. The royalty would be Rs. 1606 million for the first 12 years and Rs. 1095 million for the next 8 years. The defence levy would be approximately Rs. 94,000,000.

Mr. Silva argued that there is no material adduced to reveal that there is an imminent infringement of the fundamental rights of the petitioner.

In any event on the material presently available to Court the fears of the petitioners are unfounded. The government is the trustee of the national resources of the country and not the court. The government has taken all steps to duly administer its functions as trustee. There is no claim that the agreement be not signed. The agreement and the mining of phosphate in the manner proposed is in fact beneficial to the country, Mr. Romesh de Silva concluded.

R. K. W. Goonesekera with L.R. Rajapakse instructed by Lilanthi de Silva appeared for the petitioners.

Romesh de Silva PC with Harsha Amerasekera instructed by Julius & Creasy appeared for 5th & 7th respondents.

Senior State Counsel B. J. Tillekeratne appeared for the Attorney General.

Eppawela phospate mining agreement deplored

The Sri Lanka Association for Theology said in a statement that it is deeply concerned for the people of Eppawela, most of them farmers, who are in danger of losing their ancestral properties and being settled elsewhere, due to the government’s apparent decision or intention to enter an agreement for Phosphate mining at Eppawela with the Freeport McMoran / IMC Agrico and Tomen Corporation of Japan. Such an agreement if implemented would be a colossal human and environmental tragedy with the displacement of about 12,000 people residing in several villages, the destruction of their lands, forests and way of life: and the pollution of their environment, especially the waters of the historic Jaya Ganga. Furthermore, ancient Buddhist Temples, priceless archeological sites and rich cultural heritage will be despoiled. It is reported that the area needed for the total phosphate mining operations could ultimately spread over 800 square kilometres, although the "exploration area" is meant to cover 56 square kilometres. In addition, 450 acres of land is required for a processing plant at Trincomalee. We have reason to be alarmed that according to the terms of this agreement and in the context of limited phosphate deposits throughout the world, our entire phosphate deposit at Eppawela could be exhausted in about 30 years! We wonder whatever happened to our commitment by sustainable development?"

It is most unfortunate that an alternative environment friendly plan for sustainable phosphate mining acceptable to the people of the area and presented by eminent scientists of the National Science Foundation has been set aside by the government. This plan would make these phosphate resources available for the manufacture of fertiliser for the nations use over a much longer period of two to three hundred years, and still not disturb the human and environmental balance of the area. In spite of this a valuable national resource is being sold for short term profit despite the protests of the people of Eppawela over the past few years, supported by a coalition of peasants’ groups, women’s groups, trade unions, religious organisations and environmental groups; the statement said.

As Christians we mourn, repent and apologise, for sins of the past centuries against Mother earth and all living beings. Much of these sins resulted from misguided and violent missionary enterprises undertaken by the church," it claimed.

ICRC urges govt. to lift restrictions on medicine supplies to Wanni

The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] yesterday expressed the hope that the government would re-consider its controversial decision to drastically cut medical supplies to the LTTE held part of the Wanni.

The ICRC has requested authorities to reconsider their decision to curtail movement of urgently needed medical supplies to the Wanni.

"The ICRC could not maintain its mobile health clinics and other programmes without regular supplies of urgently needed medicine and other medical items," the ICRC’s Information Officer, Harsha Gunawardene said. Health programmes have been seriously affected due to lack of medical supplies, he said, and the authorities have so far failed to indicate why they drastically cut the supplies.

He said that health situation continues to deteriorate as families fleeing the ongoing Elephant Pass battle reach the LTTE held area. He placed the number of families that arrived in that part of that Wanni at around 400 families.

"We have to look after them," he said pointing out that the ICRC is seeking to take medicine only to treat the civilians.

However, the security forces said that they have been forced to impose certain restrictions in view of the ongoing bout of fighting in the northern theatre.

Gunawardene said that they obtained Defence Ministry approval to take 45 medical items across the army’s forward defence lines to the LTTE held region. Although the entire quota was approved, the ministry, he said reduced the quantities of every item. When the medical stocks were moved to Vavuniya and approval sought to cross the frontlines, the Security Forces Headquarters, Wanni removed 31 items from the quota and asked the ICRC to take the remaining 14 items only after the quantities were further reduced.

The ICRC conducts 40 mobile health clinics in addition to primary health centres.

Earlier, the Medicine Sans Frontiers [MSF] urged the government to permit adequate medical supplies to the region saying that hospitals have been closed due to lack of supplies.

Military sources said that they have permitted a large number of seriously sick patients to cross the frontlines to enter government hospitals in the south. — [SF]

Dewapura renders more valuable service than a politician– Sajith Premadasa

The services rendered by Kumar Dewapura for the development of the local garment manufacturing industry ,which today earns a bulk of foreign exchange to the country, by pioneering the setting up of garment factories in the villages, training youths in skills and providing employment to several thousands of youths during the past two decades is enormous. In that context one could safely say that- he renders a more valuable service to the people and the nation than a politician, said Mr. Sajith Premadasa when he spoke at the special celebrations held at Dambadeniya Garment Factory of Tri Star Apparel Exports recently.

He was speaking as the Chief Guest at the special celebration organised to pay tribute to employees of the Dambadeniya Factory in view of the selection of the Dambadeniya Factory as the best out of the 34 factories of the Tri Star Group for year 1999 The Dambadeniya factory with of over 900 employees was set up in 1993 and was dedicated in 1995 to honour Late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. In view of this factory being selected as the best factory for 1999 Chairman of Tri Star Group invited Late President’s son Mr. Sajith Premadasa and daughter Mrs. Dulanjalee Jayakody to be the chief guests at the celebrations.

Before the celebrations began Mr. Premadasa and Mrs. Jayakody toured the factory and garlanded a bust statue of Late President Premadasa set up at the factory premises.

Speaking further on the occasion Mr. Premadasa thanked Mr. Dewapura for inviting them for the occasion and said that they knew it was a gesture of paying tribute to their late father for initiating the programme of setting up factories in rural areas providing employment to a large number of rural youth.

He said he was happy to note that Tri Star’s Dambadeniya Factory had been chosen as the best factory and congratulated its workers for the achievement. The employees would receive the nation’s tribute for having acquired the skills to manufacture garments for a reuputed firm like Marks and Spencer of U.K.

Mr. Premadasa said: "It was something like a revolution when my father mooted the 200 Garment Factories Programme to open factories in the villages. Mr. Dewapura became a partner of this revolution when he lent his support to my father and rendered a yeoman service. Though many entrepreneurs initially showed some reluctance it was Mr. Dewapura, who with his considerable experience in the garment sector came forward to open factories . There was no political bias in selection of employees. Poverty was the main consideration and thousands of youths who had not even seen a sewing machine earlier were not only trained and provided jobs, it led to revival of the economic and social life in the villages where the factories were located. Mr. Dewapura lent a big helping hand towards this revolution and that was the reason he has earned commendations all round including politicians from all political parties including ministers.

Mr. Premadasa further said that when factories were being set up in the rural areas many of late president’s political opponents and even some within his own party forecast a gloomy future and even ridiculed the idea. Some even spoke of jobs in garment factories in a demeaning manner. But his father pursued the programme without let off. However it is heartening to note that those who opposed the programme today had realised its value and speaking highly of the industry and the need to develop further. It is due to the expansion of the industry initiated by the late president that the garment industry progressed to the status of earning sixty per cent of foreign exchange earnings to the country. The nation’s gratitude and honour is due to all employees in the garment sector in view of this achievement.

The Tri Star Group which alone employee nearly 25,000 workers should receive the support of the government and other institutions at all times. He was happy to note that Tri Star which faced certain difficulties in the recent past is getting over its problems. He had no doubt the employees would continue to give their support to Mr. Dewapura to continue his good work, added Mr. Premadasa.

Deshabandu Kumar Dewapura speaking on the occasion said that the Dambadeniya factory was dedicated in memory of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa several years ago with his statue being placed in the premises, to show their gratitude for the yeomen service he rendered from 1990 in opening garment factories in the villages and helping thousands of youths in lowest depths of poverty to improve their standards of living. After the Dambadeniya factory was chosen as the best factory for 1999 he thought it appropriate to invite Mr. Sajith Premadasa and Mrs. Dulanjalee Jayakody to be the chief guests as they would be the happiest persons to see the fruition of their father’s concept.

He said that as an entrepreneur the satisfaction he derived in seeing those in the lowest depths of poverty leading comfortable lives as a result of this concept cannot be valued in money. Despite the company having to face certain difficulties at different times the company had always looked after the welfare of the workforce which was the reason why the workers had stood by the company in good and bad times.

He said Tri Star Group is committed to serve the country and the people under any Government. Since 1995 it has opened nine factories. People of all political pursuasions, races and religions serve the company and work together in unity.

Mr. Dewapura said that he was glad to inform the workers that the Tri Star Group is now getting over the difficulties it faced in recent times due to loss of quota for some of its factories as well as certain non-quota orders due to the East Asian crisis. However though they have not got back the original quota enjoyed by the factories yet they were able to regain and develop the non-quota markets . As a result they had been able with the co-operation extended by the Banks to reschedule it liabilities and carry the business forward. As a result he was glad to announce that Tri Star Group would not be selling any of its 34 factories though originally planned.

Mr. Dewapura said that he was deeply grateful to the Chairman of Ceylinco Group Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala for his magnanimous gesture in coming forward to assist the Tri Star Group when it was facing difficulties.

He said that the Tri Star Group, which for many years upto now had been the highest foreign exchange earning concern in the garment sector appreciated the commendations it received from people of many walks of life and from all political parties. However the company needs the support of the state and financial institutions in the future as well to get over the more daunting challenges the garment industry faces in the future. What is more he would need the continued commitment of its workforce to ensure the excellence of the product which is of paramount importance, said Mr. Dewapura.

Medical supplies sent to govt. hospitals in North

The military yesterday said that one UNHCR vehicle on Friday crossed the frontlines and entered the LTTE held part of the Wanni carrying medical supplies to several government hospitals. "These supplies have been ordered by the Deputy Director Provincial Health Services," a senior military spokesman said.

Meanwhile, troops engaged in a routine operation at Dehiwatta in the Serunuwara police area on Friday shot dead a terrorist and recovered body along with one T-56 weapon, one magazine with ten rounds of ammunition, one pistol, two magazines with 13 rounds of ammunition.

However, another armed terrorist who had been spotted with the dead cadre managed to escape, he said.