Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Kantalai checkpoint shooting: Army officer, civilian arrested by Norman Palihawadana and W. M. Wickramasinghe - Kantale Corr.

An army officer of the Kantalai army camp and a civilian were arrested by the police on Tuesday (14) after investigations into the case of the death of a Second Lieutenant when a Home Luard opened fire on a group of persons including the Second Lieutenant who attempted to seize weapons of a police checkpoint in Kantalai.

The group who had come to the police checkpoint in a stolen van are alleged to have been involved in number of robberies. The van believed to have been robbed in Colombo was found abandoned after the Second Lieutenant was killed, Kantalai police said.

Police have also found a T 56 assault rifle with the van.

The Second Lieutenant and the civilian arrested by the police were produced before the Kantalai Magistrate Ajith Masinghe who remanded the suspects till September 27, police said.

No action police post

Pinwatte police post is unable to maintain law and order and hard core criminals in the area have become a threat to peace loving people in this ward of the Panadura Municipal Council.

On one recent night, a gang leader well known to the police had thrown a hand grenade at a leader of another rival gang near the Pinwatte junction.

Fortunately the grenade did not explode. The police summoned the army bomb disposal unit at about 10.00 p.m. on Wednesday September 01 and the foreign made grenade defused.

The law abiding citizens cower in fear as armed members of the two rival gangs freely move about on public roads. They are seen carrying pistols. However, Panadura police acting Headquarters Inspector Chief Inspector Illangakoon has arrested a gangster from the area called Thola alias Kumara who is alleged to have attacked a club at Morontuduwa Road, Wadduwa and robbed cash Rs.16,500/-.

The Buddhist shrine room constructed by the Road Development Authority near the Pinwatte public cemetery was burnt down and destroyed by an unidentified gang two weeks ago. Pinwatte police had not taken action to arrest the suspects. The Pinwatte police post is manned by 15 policemen and an OIC.


Tigers hunt for soldier

The LTTE had threatened a Tamil woman with death after failing to track down her husband K. T. Raheem who is a soldier and her younger brother described as a staunch EPRLF activist. Military sources said a group of armed LTTE cadres visited C. Saraswathie’s home at Thimilattivu, Batticaloa on Sunday night. They had threatened to set fire to her house if the men wanted by them weren’t found the next time.

According to a complaint lodged with Batticaloa police, three grenade-carrying LTTE men identified as Ranjan, Wanikaran and Eyinkaran had searched her house.


Army disputes SLMM plan by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Defence Ministry has rejected a controversial SLMM proposal to resolve a growing dispute between the army and the LTTE over the shrinking Nagarkovil no man’s land.

The Scandinavian truce monitors have requested both parties to pull back their positions as the gap between their frontlines in certain places had narrowed to less than 40 metres.

"We’ll not agree with their proposal. We wouldn’t re-adjust our positions as we haven’t moved them. Our line was in place when the Cease-Fire Agreement became operative in February 2002," an authoritative military spokesman said.

"Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to ask both parties to pull back when only the LTTE encroached the no man’s land. But they did it in stages," he said.

The SLMM last evening said they were awaiting formal response by both parties.

The military has disputed the SLMM proposal as it favoured the LTTE.

Peace Secretariat Chief Jayantha Dhanapala recently visited Nagarkovil where he urged the officers and men to be patient and help the government to go ahead with the peace process. He also assured them that the government would stand with the security forces.

The military said the LTTE advanced about 30 metres and set up an observation post about five months after the CFA. Later they connected this post with their front-line. Despite a strong protest to the SLMM and a ruling favourable to the army, the LTTE held on to the new position.

The sources said the LTTE now advanced further into the no man’s zone and the distance between the frontlines, in some places, had narrowed to less than 40 meters.

... Tigers in no man’s land

Troops deployed at Nagarkovil on Monday morning observed about thirty armed LTTE cadres in no-man’s land, about 350 metres, ahead of the army’s frontline.

Military sources said four women cadres were among the group. "They used binoculars to check our positions."

A smaller armed group dressed in olive green had moved closer to army positions.

Gang kills two policemen in Kalawana by Norman Palihawadena

A three-member gang yesterday gunned down two policemen who tried to search the vehicle they were travelling in. The victims are PCs Wimalaweera (27591) and Jayathilake (33920)

The policemen had stopped a three wheeler, SSP Ratnapura Sarath Perera said, and started conducting a check when they came under fire.

The gang had used a T-56 assault rifle, he said.

The trishaw driver who fled the scene later surrendered to the police. According to his statement to the police, the incident had occurred around 10.30 P.M. on Tuesday. Three persons had hired his three wheeler claiming that they wanted to go to Veddagala. On their way the suspects had told him that they were transporting ganja and threatened him not to stop if challenged by the police.

When they reached Manana, the two policemen had signalled for him to stop. He had obeyed the order despite the threat. When the search began, the gang had open fire killing the policemen instantaneously.

Fearing for his life, the driver had run away. The suspects taken the vehicle and abandoned it on the Kalawana-Matugama road.

EPDP condemns SLMM partiality

The Eelam Peoples Democratic Party has registered its strong protest against the Scandinavian truce monitors (SLMM) ‘being partial towards the Wanni Tigers’.

The party has decided to complain to the diplomatic community of the SLMM’s ‘biased attitude’, political party sources said yesterday.

"Since the day the Cease Fire Agreement was signed, the Wanni Tigers have killed more than 100 members of the EPDP, 70 intelligence officers of the army and a large number of Tamil people opposed to the Tigers’ terrorist conduct," a EPDP spokesman said.

"We regret the silence of the SLMM on all these assassinations," he said. The EPDP says it will expose to the world the SLMM’s partiality which has prevented them from condemning LTTE atrocities and adopting preventive measures in the true spirit of the CFA.


TULF leader takes on Tigers

Toronto, 15 September — V. Anandasangaree, leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front has brought to the notice of the Canadian authorities, atrocities inflicted by the members and supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Canada against the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora living in Canada, and also of the proposed Pongu Thamil rally - Awakening Tamil Consciousness, alleged to be organized to drum up support for a new military campaign against the Government of Sri Lanka and also to collect funds for the purchase of military hardware.

Already this contentious issue has been brought to the notice of the Mayor Of Toronto, Premier of Ontario, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and to the Commissioner of Police of Toronto through a memorandum by a group of Tamils living in Toronto, Canada.

Memorandum pointed out: "We, a group of concerned Canadian Tamils are distressed that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) actively advocating their cause among the Tamil Diaspora in Canada despite their banned status as a terrorist organization are now planning to hold a major rally under the guise of awakening Tamil consciousness. In essence, this amount to inciting the feelings of the people to such an extent that it is bound to militate against any efforts at a Peaceful resolution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic problems."

The Tamils in Canada who submitted the memorandum pointed out: "In essence, this amount to inciting the feelings of the people to such an extent that it is bound to militate against any efforts at a Peaceful resolution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic problems."

Leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front -V. Anandasangaree has brought to the notice by a letter to the Canadian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka and also he has already brought up this matter to the notice of the Canadian authorities for necessary action.

The full text of the letter written by V.Anandasangaree to the High Commissioner of Canada in Colombo is given below :

"I am currently on a private visit to Canada and have been met by a group of concerned people from my community who shared with me a great deal of worry at the activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They are however, unwilling to reveal their identity to any one else for fear of repercussions. I am the leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front and our activities as you would no doubt be aware are being deeply affected by armed LTTE campaign against us.

I am quite appreciative of the fears expressed by the group that met me. I note there are terror-implied coercion against people who do not support the LTTE and subscribe to its demands and even more, the veiled threats to their families here and relatives in Sri Lanka. I have been told LTTE activists here continue to raise funds for their cause and this is often done with a great deal of coaxing and persuasion.

In order that I may take this up with you, I have asked them to submit a document on whatever they stated to me. This is attached herewith. I will appreciate very much if this is treated with some kind of action appropriate to the concerns expressed in it."


‘Saviour of Ceylon’ dead at 89 - Kingston Whig Standard

Fighter pilot Leonard Birchall OBE, known as the saviour of Ceylon, has died at the age of 89, the Associated Press, reported on Tuesday.

The AP report said: The aircraft was shot down by the Japanese, but not before the eight-member crew successfully alerted Allied Forces about an impending attack on Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka.

Churchill called it ``the most dangerous moment’’ of the Second World War the moment when the Japanese fleet was steaming towards Ceylon for a surprise attack on the British fleet.

The advance warning gave the British and Ceylon time to prepare. As a result, the losses were limited and the Japanese were stopped in their tracks.

It wasn’t until the war was over that Birchall learned the hastily dispatched warning had reached Allied Command.

He and his men spent the next three-and-a-half years in a succession of Japanese prison camps, where they were starved, beaten and tortured.

``I believe honestly that we will not see his like again,’’ retired Maj.-Gen. Frank Norman said Monday.

``Here was an individual who was condemned to death on three separate occasions by the Japanese. Obviously, they didn’t carry out the sentence, but the last time this happened, he turned to the individual and said, `You have just made a terrible mistake. We will win this war and I will live to see you hanged.’’’

Following the war, Birchall made good on his promise. He returned to Japan to testify at a war crimes tribunal and witness the execution of his captor.

He received numerous awards and honours during his lifetime, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Order of Canada and Order of the British Empire. He was also inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame and the United States Legion of Merit.

Birchall, who was born in St. Catharines, Ont., also served as Commandant of Kingston’s Royal Military College.

Predeceased by two wives, Birchall is survived by his third wife Kathleen, a large extended family that includes two daughters and a son, a stepdaughter, stepson, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral for Birchall was held in Kingston’s Chalmers United Church on Monday. His coffin was covered by the Air Force flag, on top of which lay his cap, his medals laid out on the Air Force tartan and a sword.

The church was packed and the speakers included Air Force veterans and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada, Geetha De Silva, who said Birchall’s contribution to her country would not be forgotten.

A private family burial was to take place later in the week.



Country belongs to all

It is with regret, we note that the LTTE are pressing for a self rule, forgetting the fact that this country belongs to all communities, in particular the Sinhalese.

When Northern Tamils demand a separate State, it is fair for the plantation Tamils too to ask for a similar regime. The latter is a deserving one as they continue to contribute to the economic welfare of the country, unlike the Northerners who occupy highly paid posts in Government and private sectors including the media. Are you aware that Jaffna Tamils are the enemies of the plantation Tamils? The latter has a good rapport with the Sinhalese and not the former, as they are linguistic minded.

An Indian Tamil told me recently, how an Executive Tamil (Jaffna) officer (who is no more in the land of living) insulted him when the former tried to get his approval as teacher in a estate school. He (Indian Tamil) was branded as a slave imported to this country to serve the Northern Tamils, the executive had said. The latter had also said the Indian Tamil that professions like teaching, engineers, architects, doctors are the sole reserve of Jaffna Tamils and not for the Sinhalese or Indian Tamils. When the situation is such how would the Northern Tamils react when they are given self rule. I would ask you whether a Sinhalese, Indian Tamil of Muslim could walk the streets of Jaffna when self-rule is implemented?

Neither the Sinhalese, nor the Muslims nor the Tamils of Indian origin are prepared to subscribe to the ulterior motives of the LTTE. Therefore, whether the country is ruled by the UPFA or UNP they should not bow down to the pressure of the LTTE.

Therefore, the only solution is to crush the LTTE militarily and hand over Prabakaran to India, who is wanted for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. This would also avoid the killing of innocent Tamils who are opposed to the views of the LTTE. Free movement of LTTE cadres in Colombo and outstations has been encouraged by the former regime. Now it is the duty of the present Government to curb it.

D. W. Gunawardena,



Tamils oppose Bhanu’s elevation as Eastern Tiger chief by Norman Palihawadana

The appointment of Bhanu, to replace Ramesh as the LTTE Ampara-Baticaloa leader, has met with strong opposition from the Tamil population of the province, defence sources said.

Ramesh was replaced by Bhanu as he had failed to win the co-operation of the people in the east. The main reason for his failure was that he was not from the east but from Jaffna, sources said.

Bhanu a resident of Ariyalai, in the north, was the head of the heavy weapons division of the LTTE before he was posted to the east.

The sources said that Bhanu was not popular amongst the LTTE cadres of the east. Last April the breakaway LTTE eastern leader Karuna Amman had charged the LTTE leadership of ignoring their eastern cadres and appointing only northerners as area leaders.

The friction between the LTTE cadres of the North and the East resulted in the failure of the last hartal organised by the Wanni command in the Eastern Province.

Arrest of former Identity Chief further stayed By Susitha R. Fernando

Court of Appeal yesterday further extended the stay order till October 21 issued to the CID preventing it from arresting former Commissioner of Department of Registration of Persons, Vijaya Ranasinghe .

The bench comprised Justices Chandradasa Nanayakkara and Gamini A. L. Abeyratne.

In this case former NIC Commissioner K. J. Vijaya Ranasinghe had filed an application challenging the order issued by Colombo Chief Magistrate who refused his application for anticipatory bail.

Filing a revision application Mr. Ranasinghe had asked court to grant him anticipatory bail and prevent the CID from arresting him on the charge of issuing forged NICs.

The petitioner had cited Officer-In-Charge of Gang Robbery Branch, Criminal Investigation Department and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioner, Mr. Ranasinghe had stated that on July 7, 2004, a suicide bomber exploded a bomb inside Kollupitiya police station and the identity card believed to have been used to the alleged bomber was found and a woman who accompanied her also was taken into custody.

Following this incident two persons from Department of Registration of Persons were arrested and later he came to know that he was also suspected of issuing forged ID cards and was to be arrested.

Mr. Ranasinghe had filed an application for anticipatory bail before Colombo Magistrate on August 2 and when it was taken for inquiry on August 9, the CID objected to his submissions and the Magistrate refused his application.

Mr. Ranasinghe had asked court to set aside the order issued by Colombo Magistrate refusing his anticipatory bail application and restrain the CID from arresting him until his anticipatory bail application was heard.

New Defence Chief takes tough stand - Navy sole authority over territorial waters by Sunil Jayasiri

The new Chief of Defence Staff and Navy Commander Daya Sandagiri said yesterday the SLN was the country's only Navy that could use the territorial waters and no other force could claim that it shared this authority.

He also said the Trincomalee harbour continued to be under heavy threat from the surrounding LTTE camps.

Speaking to reporters after assuming duties as the CDS at Army Headquarters, the Navy Commander said, "We cannot say that the Trincomalee harbour is not under threat. We have to remember that it came under attack in the 1990s".

He said, however, the forces were ready to face any eventuality. The eastern harbour is a strategic point in the overall defence of the country. "We are well prepared to meet any enemy attack", the Commander reiterated.

He also said the Ceasefire Monitors in their report to the Norwegian facilitators had also stated that several LTTE bunkers had been set up around the Trincomalee harbour since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement.

"We informed the SLMM that the LTTE had built several bunkers surrounding the harbour and asked it to take immediate action. After examining the area the SLMM had reported to the Norwegian facilitators confirming the setting up of new bunkers in violation of the Ceasefire Agreement," Commander Sandagiri said.

He also said the country's defence officials would discuss the matter with the Norwegian officials.

Meanwhile, referring to the disputes between the Navy and the LTTE over the Sea Tigers activities the Commander said: As the government navy, it has the full authority to use Sri Lankan territorial waters.

Commenting on his recent meeting with the visiting Indian Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, Commander Sandagiri said, his visit to Sri Lanka was a source of inspiration".

The Navy Chief also said the visiting Indian Commander agreed to provide military support including training.

Acting Army Commander Chula Seneviratne, Air Force Commander Donald Perera, Inspector General of Police Indra de Silva and Commandant of the Special Task Force Deputy Inspector General Nimal Lewke were also present at the ceremony.

PC, RPC shot dead by gangsters By Senaka de Silva

A police constable and a reserve police constable were shot dead with T 56 rifles by three armed gangsters when the three-wheeler in which the gangsters were travelling was stopped by tpolicemen at Manana junction, Kalawana on Tuesday night.

SSP Sarath Perera said, according to the three-wheeler driver, the gangsters were carrying ganja and had asked him not to stop if halted by the police.

He had however pulled up at the road block and cautioned the policemen that the gangsters were armed. The policemen had wanted to check the bag in the vehicle, when the gangsters had opened fire.

The gangsters had also got away with the policemen's guns and had abandoned the three-wheeler at Matugama. Police suspect the gangsters are ganja dealers in the area. Special police teams comprising about 200 men are engaged in a cordon and search operation in the jungle nearby to catch the gangsters.

The two constables who had been in service for 6 and 5 years respectively have been identified as R. Sarathwimalaweera (33) from Godakawela, father of one child and Lalchandra Premalal (35) from Ayagama, father of three children.

Ignore JVP and resume peace talks, says CWC by Munza Mushtaq

Senior CWC members yesterday called upon all parties committed to the peace process to snub the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and resume peace talks based on the LTTE's Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA).

"There are 225 members in Parliament, and even the main Opposition UNF and other parties have vowed to support the Government's peace initiatives. So what if some 39 MPs are not supporting the Government, even though they are part of the Alliance. The Government will have the majority when it comes to the peace process," CWC member and Community Development Minister Muthu Sivalingam told a news conference yesterday.

He reiterated that the CWC joined the Government on the assurance that the UPFA would resume peace talks based on the ISGA.

"During the discussions between the CWC and the Government, we emphasized that we would support it only if talks were based on the ISGA," he said.

He also said it was not their concern that the JVP was against the ISGA. "We believe President Chandrika Kumaratunga has the ability to lure the JVP into agreeing to talks based on the ISGA," he said. However he said it was a matter that should be settled between the President and the JVP.

CWC Vice President R. Yogarajan said in the event the JVP continued to object to talks based on the ISGA, one would have to wait and see how the JVPers would react if the Government shrugged the JVP protests and began talks on the ISGA.

The CWC member also emphasized that this was the first time the country's two main political parties had come together in support of the peace process. Deputy Minister S. Sellasamy was also present at the news conference.


‘Indian Navy Chief concerned about LTTE build up in East’ - Trinco base under Tiger threat - Sandagiri by Harischandra Gunaratna

Newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri yesterday admitted that ‘the Trincomalee naval base was under threats from the LTTE. However, he said the security forces were prepared to face any eventuality.

He said the Indian naval Chief of staff Admiral Arum Prakash after visiting the Tricomalee Naval Base had also expressed concern about the build of the LTTE camps in the East.

He said that the LTTE presence was very much there and confirmed the reports that LTTE camps were mushrooming in the area. The Security Forces had reported the matter to the Norwegian-led SLMM, which confirmed that the LTTE was building camps. The SLMM, he said, had promised to look into the matter.

If the Sri Lanka Navy had been properly equipped and provided with the required manpower, it would have countered the LTTE threat much more effectively and nipped the problem of war in the bud without letting it drag on for two decades, said Vice Admiral Sandagiri

He was addressing the media after assuming duties as CDS at the Joint Operations Command head quarters.

He said, "The Navy is not in a position to establish its own air wing. We have been exploring the possibility for the last three and a half years but it is too costly a financial burden for a country saddled with a protracted war. However, we will continue to do joint surveillance with the assistance of the Air force".

Asked if the LTTE activities posed a serious threat to the navy, he said although there had been violations of the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) by the LTTE, they posed no major threat as such.

In response to a query as to what steps the CDS would take to halt the illegal activities committed by the LTTE in the eastern seas, he said "We have always taken the necessary steps to curb such activities and we will continue to do so."

Sandagiri said he did not advocate a total military solution to the problem, which, he said, had to have a political settlement in the end.

He said the Indian naval Chief of staff Admiral Arum Prakash, who was on a official visit here, had stressed that there should be more co-operation between the two countries and interaction between their two Navies, and promised to provide every assistance needed to strengthen the Sri Lanka Navy.


Tigers film army front line by Norman Palihawadane

An LTTE group had videoed the Nagar Kovil front line army bunkers on Tuesday (14), security sources said yesterday.

During the past few weeks, LTTE cadres were observed re-erecting and rebuilding their front line bunkers, a source in the Joint Operations Command told The Island.

Jaffna Commander Major General Sunil Tennakoon confirming the reinforcement movements of the Tigers said that the security forces were vigilant and alert on the Tiger movements in Jaffna.

He added that the security forces had complained of the cease fire agreement violations committed by the LTTE, to the Scandinavian truce monitors.


Wanted serial killer escapes police raid Wanted serial killer escapes police raid

A serial killer who was a member of one time Islamic extremist group which operated in the East and who is wanted for 30 murders escaped when police raided his house at Sammanthurai on Tuesday night.

Kalmunai police raided the house on a tip-off and recovered a T-56, a magazine and 15 ammunition along with a locally made revolver (galkatas).

The suspect who was at a nearby boutique during the police raid had immediately fled the scene. The police arrested the suspect's wife along with the weapons.

HQI Kalmunai, W. C. Wijethilake told the Daily Mirror that investigations led to believe that the suspect was allegedly wanted for over 30 murders committed since 1990 in the Eastern range.

It was believed that the suspect was a member of an Islamic extremist group that had killed a number of people in the face of punishing them for ill behaviour for the sake of religion.

However, this group had reportedly turned to be a typical criminal gang lately, and had carried out a number of robberies and other severe law-breaking incidents.

Meanwhile, Kalmunai police raided another house in Sainthamaruthu, believed to be of a friend of the suspect and recovered a large portion of ganja in the possession of the second suspect's father.

However, the second suspect was also not at home at the time of the raid, the police said. Police recovered 43 kg of ganja worth over Rs. 300,000.

The first suspect's wife and second suspect's father will be produced before the Ampara Magistrate today. Kalmunai police are continuing further investigations.


Two Tigers remanded

Two alleged LTTE cadres who were arrested by the Kollupitiya police for videoing the World Trade Centre and star class hotels in Colombo Fort have been remanded by the Fort Magistrate.

They had given no valid reason for filming the buildings. Last week four LTTE cadres were arrested by Army personnel for filming the Sri Lanka Telecom building, Army Headquarters and the Colombo harbour.


Tigers dishonest and insincere, says former EPDP, MP By Munza Mushtaq

The Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) which has been at the receiving end of attacks from the LTTE, yesterday claimed that the LTTE will continue its delaying tactics as it does not believe in 'an honest or sincere commitment' to a political settlement to the country's two decade long ethnic conflict.

"The LTTE never had an honest or sincere commitment to the peace process. It does not want a political solution, but merely wants a legitimate hold on what is under its control now," EPDP member and former MP K. Vigneswaran told the Daily Mirror yesterday after meeting Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim and Ambassador Hans Brattskar along with EPDP members led by Minister Douglas Devananda on Tuesday.

Mr. Devananda had requested the Norwegian facilitators to try to put an end to the killings allegedly carried out by the LTTE. Up to date more than 114 EPDP frontliners have been gunned down since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002.

However, the EPDP which is the main Tamil ally of the UPFA Government claimed that the Government was ready to resume talks with the LTTE even immediately based on the LTTE-proposed Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA), but it was the LTTE which was putting off the resumption of the talks.

"Their first excuse for not agreeing to resume talks was the Karuna factor, but now that Karuna is out of the picture they are making statements to the effect that they are having problems due to Karuna's associates," Mr. Vigneswaran said.

The EPDP is also reported to have told the Norwegian delegation that there was no point in the international community meeting LTTE political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan as it was only LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who knows the Tiger organisation's real stand on the peace process.


SLA continue to abandon checkpoints in Jaffna [TamilNet, October 22, 1997 23:59 GMT]

The large number of Palmyrah logs piled up as bunkers in many parts of Vadamaradchi are being removed by people for firewood as the Sri Lankan army continues to move out of some of its positions in the Jaffna peninsula.

The army has abandoned several checkpoints and defence positions which it set up in early 1996 in the Vallai Veli between Acthuveli and the Vallai junction.

Parts of the six foot high defence walls (bunds) which were made by bulldozing sand and debris from bombed out houses, and which wound through Karaveddi, Karanavai and Navindil are being removed since last week.

In Aavarangaal, Puththur, Neerveli and Siruppiddi farmers have begun cultivation by the SLA's bunkers which are not regularly manned now.

Travellers say that there used to be sixteen SLA checkpoints between Pt.Pedro and Jaffna town. They had to get down at each, to walk between points before boarding their vehicles again or to be subject to checks.

They say that since early this month it has become possible to travel all the way from Irupalai to Vallai junction without having to get down at any military point.

This appears to be the case due to shortage of troops currently faces by the SLA to man all the checkpoints, though a minimal number is being maintained in all the camps along this route.

The situation has changed on the Jaffna - Chavakachcheri road as well. Vehicles can now travel freely between Navatkuly and Chavakachcheri.

Meanwhile the defence walls of sand and debris which cut through the lands of local farmers of Annangai from Urumpirai to Kondavil are also being removed since last week.

Farming in areas through which the wall was built was banned after the SLA moved in during Operation Riviresa in late 1995. farmers in the area are hopeful of resuming cultivation soon.

The garrisoned rice bowl [TamilNet, August 29, 2003 13:22 GMT]

Thenmaradchi was Jaffna's rice bowl until three years ago. Today most of the region's fertile rice fields are enclosed by the Sri Lanka army's concertina and mine laden defence perimeter. Thenmaradchi’s main farming villages lie derelict inside this vast garrisoned area hemmed in by the A9 and the Jaffna lagoon. Local farmers have been waging, collectively and individually, what increasingly appears to be a hopeless struggle to gain access to their homes and fields since the Liberation Tigers and Colombo signed a ceasefire agreement in February last year.

Five thousand acres of rice fields and three thousand acres of coconut and Palmyra plantations in this region are also occupied by the SLA.

Arable land is scarce in Jaffna. It is so scarce in terms of the peninsula’s farming population, that land is not measured by the acre as in the other parts of the island but by a small traditional unit called ‘Parappu’ which is 1/16 of an acre.

Eight thousand acres means a lot of valuable land in Jaffna. We have been struggling hard for more than a year to at least to gain access to our lands and homes. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. The secretary to the ministry of defence, Mr. Austin Fernando, visited Chavakachcheri on 21 July last year and promised to let us cultivate at least 2/3 of our lands which lie inside the SLA’s high security zone in Thenmaradchi during a meeting with govt. officials and local civil society representatives at the Chavakachcheri Hindu College. But we are yet to set foot on our homes and fields,” says Mr. Manikkam Leelavinothan, 53, President of the Maravanpulo, Chavakachcheri, Farmers’ Association.

Two months ago the Sri Lankan military’s civil affairs officer in Chavakachcheri took two local farmers’ society officials into a section of the high security zone to show some of the fields and plantations lying within the army’s defence perimeter.

During the visit, the officer promised to allow about 600 farming families to resettle in their villages and lands, which now lie derelict and fallow inside the SLA’s Thenmaradchi HSZ.

Foreign governments and media seem keen to focus their attention only on certain specific drawbacks of the peace process that patently affect the political/strategic interests of the Sinhala polity; but not our tragic predicament. Their attitude is hypocritical." laments Mr. Leelavinothan.

After prolonged agitations and persistent representations by individuals land owners and local farmers’ societies, the SLA eventually agreed earlier this month to permit cultivation in one thousand acres of rice fields inside the high security zone from 8 August, 2003.

But the elation over extracting the army’s consent waned quickly when the army laid down conditions for entering the zone and cultivating the fields.

The thousand acres in the Chavakachcheri HSZ where the military says it will allow farmers to till their lands lie within a triangle defined by the Chavakachcheri-Thanangkilappu Road, the Kerathivu – Navatkuly Road and the old railway track between Chavakachcheri and Navatkuly.

Even within this zone, farmers have to keep hundred metres away from the railway track and the roads.

If one takes into account the land covered by the hundred meter zone, only about 800 acres would really be available for cultivation. But the fact is glossed over in the publicity for the thousand acres," points out the Agrarian Services officer for Kaithady Mr. S. Thavarajah.

Farmers say that there are mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the fields as the region was heavily fortified by the Sri Lanka army for almost two years. The military has told the farmers they need not fear land mines in the fields.

But it has not guaranteed the area as completely free of mines and UXOs.

The Agrarian Services Department here cannot take any responsibility for the safety of the cultivators unless the SLA gives an assurance that the paddy fields are free of mines”, Mr. Thavarajah said.

Mines and UXOs are not the only problem here. More than 5000 head of cattle, from herds that were abandoned by farmers when they fled their homes to escape heavy bombing and shelling three years ago, now roam wild in the high security zone.

We had herds of goats too. None seem to be left now. The army slaughtered all the goats for meat," a farmer told TamilNet.

The Sri Lanka army soldiers are mainly Sinhala Buddhists and hence shun beef and oppose the slaughter of cattle.

Farmers say that the wild cattle have to be rounded up and corralled to safeguard the crops. The Thenmaradchi Divisional Secretary, Mr. S. Sreenivasan has sought the SLA’s permission to round up the cattle and return the identifiable ones to the owners.

There is only one checkpoint to enter the lands. Many farmers from villages such as Kalvayal and Kaithady who own land in this triangle have to take a detour of more than 10 kilometres to reach the SLA entry point at Kollankiari in Nunavil, a large village on the western outskirts of the Chavakachcheri town.

“The Kollankirai path to the fields cannot be used during the monsoon," says Mr. Leelavinothan.

And the SLA has stipulated that farmers can work in their fields only between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“Ploughing and harvesting would be well nigh impossible because a lot of work is usually done at night. These lands have to be ploughed before the soil loses its moisture from the seasonal first showers. Hence given the number of tractors available here, ploughing has to be round the clock," explained Mr. Kanagasabhai Nadarajah, President of the Thanangkilappu Farmers’ Association.

“Also until the cattle roaming wild in the HSZ are caught no paddy field would be safe at night," he added.

Farmers who have got approval from the army to cultivate their fields inside the high security zone should obtain security clearance passes to enter permitted area.

This poses a big practical and financial problem when farmers have to hire wage labour for their fields on a daily basis.

“The demand for agricultural labour has gone up since the ceasefire agreement was signed. This is so because workers are finding profitable employment in other sectors of Jaffna’s economy, such as construction and transport. Therefore a farmer cannot ensure that the same group of workers would come to work on his field every day. This means he has to spend about 150 rupees (1.54 USD) to get a fresh army permit for every new worker in the group. This costs money and effort," Mr. Kanagasabhai Nadarajah, 61, said.

A person’s photos, Xerox copies of his/her identity papers and endorsement by a village official have to be submitted to the army to get a permit to enter the rice fields inside the Chavakachcheri HSZ. The cost of obtaining photos and the stipulated documents is almost equal an agricultural labourer’s daily wage, say farmers.

The farmers’ associations of Mr. Nadarajah and Mr. Leelavinothan were in the forefront of the prolonged negotiations and agitations to have the thousand acres released for cultivation.

“Yet none of our lands - the rice fields of the people of Maravanpulo and Thanangkilappu - are in the area where the army has allowed farming now”, deplores Mr. Nadarajah.

“The paddy fields in the rectangle largely belong to people in Chavakachcheri, Nunavil, Kalvayal and Meesalai”, he said.

Only 324 farmers have registered so far to cultivate 612 acres of paddy in the permitted area. The farmers associations of Maravanpulo and Thanangkilappu are urging the Thenmaradchi Divisional Secretary, Mr. Sreenivasan to allocate the unclaimed fields to needy farmers among their members.

They have had no success so far.

Returnees find Thanankilapu farmland in ruins [TamilNet, July 01, 2003 02:00 GMT]

Residents of Thanankilapu and Maravanpulo in Thenmaradchy district, Jaffna, who returned to inspect their properties and agricultural lands expressed shock at the devastation left behind by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), local reports said.

Thousands of acres of fertile fields are replete with several feet deep bunkers running miles in length, visiting villagers said. Ridges at the perimeter of fields constructed to hold water have been largely destroyed and gravel heaps dotted the landscape, residents complained.

Bunds built with the assistance of UNHCR and CARE at a cost of more than Rs 1.5 million in 1998/1999 to prevent incursion of salt water inland have been bulldozed endangering fields turning saline, residents added.

Large areas of Coconut and Palmyrah estates have been destroyed to harvest timber for building SLA fortifications. Houses have been erased to the ground with no visible signs that they ever existed.

Large scale concertina fences were seen in several areas with herds of cows wandering in fields overgrown with shrubs, returning residents said.

Several buildings of hindu temples in Thanankilapu and Maravanpula have sustained severe damages from artillery, residents added.

SLA has not given permission to returning residents to resettle in these areas according to security sources.

Jaffna high security zones to continue - SLA [TamilNet, December 11, 2002 13:46 GMT]

The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Wednesday said the High Security Zones (HSZ) in Jaffna peninsula would not be removed. Major General Sarath Fonseka, Jaffna area commander, told a delegation of the Movement for Goodwill, Peace and Justice (MGPJ) at a discussion held at the Jaffna Bishop’s House Wednesday that the army has taken steps to re-open the Clock Tower Road, Power House Road in Jaffna town for the public and also will vacate Gnanams Hotel.

“However the SLA camp in the Subash Hotel will not be shifted and the Victoria Road will not be re-opened for public. The high security zones in the peninsula will continue without any change,” said Major General Sarath Fonseka.

Mr.D.R.Armuainayagam led the delegation of the MGPJ. Jaffna Bishop Rt Rev Thomas Soundaranayagam, Rev.Fr.Bernanrd, Rev Fr Nesakumar, Rev.Fr Selvarasa, President of the Jaffna Humanitarian Agencies Consortium Mr.K.Paramanathan and representatives of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce and Jaffna District Traders Association also participated in the discussion.

Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara, northern commander of the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), Senior Superintendent of Police. Edward Withanage, Jaffna Superintendent of Police Ananda Seneviratne and army officials of the 51st Brigade participated in the discussion with Major General Sarath Fonseka.

The SLN northern commander Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara rejected a request made by MGPJ delegation that the Gurunagar beach road should be re-opened to facilitate easy access to the fishermen of the area to go to sea. Rear Admiral Weerasekara said they would not effect any changes in the restrictions and conditions now in force regarding fishing.

Major General Sarath Fonseka said although the SLA has removed landmines and booby traps from Thanankilappu village in Thenamaradchchi area displaced people have not showed any interest in resettling in that area.

Farmers await SLA's permission to clear mines [TamilNet, August 24, 2003 12:02 GMT]

Residents of Thanankilapu and Maravanpulo in Thenmaradchy district, Jaffna, who returned to inspect their properties and agricultural lands expressed shock at the devastation left behind by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), local reports said.

Thousands of acres of fertile fields are replete with several feet deep bunkers running miles in length, visiting villagers said. Ridges at the perimeter of fields constructed to hold water have been largely destroyed and gravel heaps dotted the landscape, residents complained.

Jaffna Ariyalai

Bunds built with the assistance of UNHCR and CARE at a cost of more than Rs 1.5 million in 1998/1999 to prevent incursion of salt water inland have been bulldozed endangering fields turning saline, residents added.

Large areas of Coconut and Palmyrah estates have been destroyed to harvest timber for building SLA fortifications. Houses have been erased to the ground with no visible signs that they ever existed.

Large scale concertina fences were seen in several areas with herds of cows wandering in fields overgrown with shrubs, returning residents said.

Several buildings of hindu temples in Thanankilapu and Maravanpula have sustained severe damages from artillery, residents added.

SLA has not given permission to returning residents to resettle in these areas according to security sources.

Farmers await SLA's permission to clear mines [TamilNet, August 24, 2003 12:02 GMT]

The Jaffna Government Mr.S.Pathmanathan Saturday requested the Sri Lanka Army's (SLA's) Jaffna area commander located at Palaly main base to grant permission to remove landmines and other unexploded ordnance from the paddy fields released from the Thenmaradchchi High Security Zone (HSZ) for rain fed cultivation this year, district secretariat sources said.

Although the SLA has released one thousand acres out of five thousand acres under its occupation in Thenmaradchchi it has not allowed the farmers to prepare the fields for sowing saying that landmines and other explosives are not removed from the released paddy fields, sources said.

The Government Agent has sought permission as the "Halo Trust " has come forward to de-mine the released paddy fields, sources said.

Meanwhile, the SLA has agreed to open two other roads for the farmers to enter the released paddy fields- one through Maravanpulo-Aaladi junction and the other by Chavakachcheri. The only road opened earlier has been found to be unfit for travelling or taking agricultural implements to the paddy fields during rainy season, farmers complained.

Compensation sought for plantations destroyed by SLA [TamilNet, August 08, 2003 20:54 GMT]

The Sri Lanka Army Friday said they would permit displaced persons to enter their lands in a section of Nagarkovil and Eluthumadduval forward defence position for the explicit purpose of inspecting the damage caused to their Palmyra and coconut plantations by the Sri Lankan security forces, but placed stringent conditions on their entry, sources said.

The displaced people plan to assess their losses in a bid to seek compensation from the Plantations Department of Sri Lanka, which has called for such assessments before the department could provide compensation.

Civil groups say that hundreds of thousands of coconut and Palmyra trees in Thenmaradchi division and other areas had been cut down by the Sri Lankan security forces and used for constructing checkpoints and bunkers, including, sources say, those on a road from the Point Pedro-Maruthankerni road up to a place where an LTTE military camp called "Gajan" was located in Kilali.

The displaced people who sought compensation for their losses have been informed by the Plantations Department to send in their assessment reports regarding their losses, and the required forms have been sent to them through respective village level officials (Grama Sevaka), sources said.

However, the SLA has informed the owners of the plantations that they could visit to inspect and assess the damage to their lands within the period from August 12 to August 18, and only in the areas of Kilali, Muhamalai, Eluthumadduval North and South, Mirusuvil and a section of Nagarkovil.

In addition, the SLA has said that they should be accompanied by Coconut Development Authority Officials and they should produce a letter of authorization from the Chavakachcheri assistant government agent to the Mirusuvil SLA officer-in-charge, civil sources said.

Sporadic Vanni fighting - SLA [TamilNet, September 16, 1998 23:12 GMT]

Sri Lankan Army (SLA) conducted search operations in the Ambakamam and Kunchikkulam Forwards Defence Localities (FDL) and recovered 127 anti-personnel mines set by the Liberation Tigers, claimed Brigadier Tennekoon at the weekly cabinet press briefing held today.

Five Tigers were killed in these sectors by army snipers, he added.

Speaking further, he said that government troops killed 4 Tigers in another operation in this area.

Two soldiers were killed and five were wounded in this fighting.

During the week, the SLA, according to the spokesman, conducted limited operations in Paranthan east and Kilinochchi, killing five Tigers. Three soldiers were wounded and troops recovered 2 T56 rifles, 6 magazines, 5 grenades and 5 canteens, he said.

The military spokesman said that the Lanka Muditha, the passenger ship ferrying displaced Tamil civilians from Trincomalee to Jaffna, has transported 3686 displaced persons back to Jaffna on Sept. 3, Sept.6 and today.

He said the ship would take another 1130 persons belonging to 371 families tomorrow from Trincomalee to Kankesanthurai in Jaffna.

Brigadier Tennekoon said that the bomb that killed the Jaffna Mayor and others on Sept.11 was a 10 kilogram explosive device, 18 by 20 inches in dimension and had been set in place the day before the blast. The high explosives had consisted of five slabs he said.

Islanders complain navy harassment [TamilNet, September 16, 2002 22:16 GMT]

The Island Peoples’ Welfare Society (IPWS) Monday complained to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and Human Right Commission in Jaffna district that people living in islets are once again subjected to severe checking and harassment at the hands naval personnel stationed at Allaipitty and Ponnalai SLN camps. The SLN camps at Allaipitty and Ponnalai have re-introduced stringent checking earlier withdrawn with the signing of a cease-fire agreement between the United National Front government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, society sources said.

People who travel to islets through Allaipitty SLN checkpoint complain that they are subjected to body checks. They have been asked to get down from buses and other vehicles and to go through checkpoints showing their national identity cards. The same treatment is meted out to travellers through Ponnalai SLN camp from Jaffna, society sources said.

An activist of the IPWS said that, “if the security establishment concerned fails to relax the current stringent checking now reintroduced before the end of this week , there is no other alternative other than to launch mass agitation demanding its withdrawal.”

A delegation comprising fisheries representatives and leading citizens of Vadamarachchi area in Jaffna district Sunday requested the Point Pedro Police to stop indiscriminate arrests of civilians falsely implicating them with the September 2 incidents that took place following students' agitation. Jaffna district Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Mr.M.K.Sivajilingam, Mr.Ilamparuthi, political head of the Jaffna district LTTE, Mr.Thaya, political head of the Vadamarachchi LTTE and Mr.Barathi of Sea Tigers accompanied the delegation.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police who is in charge of the Point Pedro area told the delegation that arrests are being made according to a list submitted the Sri Lanka Army stationed there. "The list contains twenty five names. Of them three had been arrested and remanded by the magistrate. The rest will be arrested in due course," the ASP replied, according to delegation sources.

The delegation pointed out to the ASP that people in areas such as Thumpalai and other villages close by live in fear because police conduct searches even in night to arrest some of the persons named in the list by the SLA. This should be stopped forthwith if the present peaceful environment to prevail in the area, the ASP was told at the discussion.

However, the ASP had said that he would suspend police action for a week and review the situation later, according to the delegation sources.

Meanwhile TNA parliamentarian Mr.M.K.Sivajilingam Monday around noon met top SLA officials stationed in Point Pedro regarding the indiscriminate arrests of innocent civilians, sources said.

In the meantime "fisheries co-operative societies in Vadamarachchi find difficult to run their business due to arrest of their members. The societies are now not in a position to meet the needs of their members," lamented Mr.K.Suriyakumar, official of the Federation of Fishing Co-operatives.

Buried mines prevent rehabilitation of Mulliaitivu hospital [TamilNet, September 16, 2003 11:50 GMT]

Uncleared landmines surrounding the Mullaitivu district hospital are preventing rehabilitation work on the destroyed buildings from proceeding, said health officials in Mullaitivu.

Mullaitivu town was occupied by the Sri Lanka Army after their offensive 'Operation Sea Breeze' in 1990. The hospital buildings were completely destroyed during this offensive.

In 1996, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) recaptured Mullaitivu when they launched operation 'Unceasing Waves I.' Following the recapture, former residents resettled and government offices began to function. The hospital then began to treat patients in makeshift buildings.

During the current ceasefire, some funds for reconstructing the hospital have been allocated, said the hospital's director, Dr. A. Ahilan.

Booby traps were found when the shrub jungles surrounding the hospital were cleared in a volunteer effort directed by Dr. A. Ahilan, and subsequently, clearing work has been stopped. Only after the area is completely cleared of mines and booby traps can the hospital start its reconstruction, said Dr. Ahilan.

He said however that the de-mining is likely to cost a large sum of money.

Paramilitaries said behind threat to poison supply wells [TamilNet, September 15, 2004 17:13 GMT]

The chief water works engineer for Batticaloa said Wednesday that squatters on land reserved for tapping underground springs were threatening to poison wells from which water is pumped the eastern town to stop authorities from evicting them. The squatters who are threatening to poison supply wells are backed by paramilitaries that illegally sold them the reserved state land during the war between 1990 and 94, officials said.

The chief engineer urged the Batticaloa government agent to provide Police security for the supply wells.

GA instructed officials to start legal proceedings on Friday to evict two hundred and sixteen families that are illegally squatting on land reserved for digging new wells to supply water to the Batticaloa town.

The decision to evict squatters was taken at a meeting in the Batticaloa District Secretariat Wednesday afternoon chaired by GA Mr. V. Shanmugam.

The state lands reserved for tapping underground water sources to supply Batticaloa lie Velore, Kallady, on the southern outskirts of the town. Paramilitaries working with the Sri Lanka army divided and sold the reservation land for high prices, as demand for land here is on the rise.

Some of the land was occupied by relatives and cronies of the paramilitaries. Officials said 136 acres of reserved land are now occupied illegally. Water to the town, mostly to Batticaloa hospital and its neighbourhood, are pumped from three wells.

"More wells have to be dug meet the heavy demand", said Mr. R. D Prakash, District Water Supply Engineer.

He said twenty two million rupees allocated last year to build new supply wells had to be sent back unutilised because of the squatters.

Tiger ambush kills 12 [TamilNet, September 16, 1999 04:45 GMT]

Ten Sri Lankan Army(SLA) soldiers were killed and twenty wounded in an attack by the Liberation Tigers in Thatchanaamaruthamadu in Mannar this morning around 7.30 a.m. The soldiers were from the SLA's Sinha Regiment, sources said.

The Tigers had ambushed the soldiers near Thatchanaamaruthamadu which is north east of Mannar in the forest covered interior.

The area was captured earlier this year by the SLA.

Heavy fighting erupted between the army and the Liberation Tigers about 20 kilometers west of Thatchanaamaruthamadu on Sunday in which the government forces suffered heavy casualties.

Meanwhile two policemen were killed when the Liberation Tigers fired at a jeep at Kinniya, 15 km. south west of Trincomalee, around 12.30 a.m. this morning.

The police men were travelling from Kuttikarachchi to Thoona police post in the Kinniya area.

Sources said five police personnel were travelling in the jeep.

The other three policemen escaped, leaving behind the jeep and the dead policemen, close to the Mancholaichchenai junction.

The police cordoned off the area and conducted a search operation.

Elsewhere in Trincomalee, an electric transformer was blasted around 12.30 a.m. at Maharoof Nagar residents said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Army fired RPG shells at LTTE's sentries at 3rd mile post in the Vavunathivu area, west of Batticaloa. A SLA soldier was wounded when the Tigers retaliated.

The SLA fired mortars from 23-3 Brigade Head Quarters towards areas held by the Liberation Tigers.

SLA bars Halo Trust from de-mining HSZ paddy fields [TamilNet, September 16, 2003 15:35 GMT]

The Sri Lanka Army said Tuesday that it would not allow demining groups to de-mine the released paddy fields for cultivation in the high security zones in Thenmaradchi south division in Jaffna district, and instead would use its own soldiers for the de-mining, security sources said.

The SLA earlier released about one fifth of the 5000 acres of paddy fields that come under the high security zones in Thenmaradchi south division for paddy cultivation by the internally displaced persons.

It was also decided at a conference the SLA held earlier with civil authorities to allow the Halo Trust demining group to demine the released paddy fields, sources said.

Hence the Government Agent of Jaffna district sought the permission from the SLA northern commander to deploy the HALO TRUST group to demine the paddy fields enabling the farmers to sow in time.

However, the SLA has now disallowed the request and has now deployed its soldiers to do the de-mining, district secretariat sources said.

Meanwhile, agricultural organizations in the area have complained to the civil authorities that SLA officials located in Thenmaradchi division are not allowing farmers to enter the paddy fields that have been released for cultivation, thus causing delay in sowing their paddy fields with the coming of northeast monsoon which is expected at any time, sources said.

Senior Sri Lankan Minister killed in helicopter crash [TamilNet, September 16, 2000 07:12 GMT]

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader (SLMC) and Sri Lanka's Ports minister M.H.M.Ashraff and at least 10 others were killed in a helicopter crash at Aranayake in the Kegalle district, about 60 km. east of Colombo, Saturday morning, police said.

ashraff_m_h_m_3-p.jpgThe Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) helicopter was carrying the Minister and his colleges to Kalmunai, in Ampara where the Ashraff was scheduled to address an election rally this evening. Minister's body guards and Air Force crew were among the killed.

SLAF sources said that the Mi-17 helicopter left Colombo at 9 a.m. and had lost contacts with the control tower in the capital around 9.50 a.m. while it was flying over Aranayake region in the Sabragamuwa Province.

They said helicopter might have crashed due to bad weather.

Police sources in Kegalle said rescue operations were hampered because the helicopter crashed in a mountainous region. They said 9 bodies have been recovered at the site.

Senior SLMC members including its General Secretary Mr.Rauf Hakeem have rushed to Aranayake.

Mohammed Hussain Moahammed Ashraff was the most powerful Muslim political leader in Sri Lanka in recent times. Born in Sammanthurai in the Ampara district on 23 October 1948, Ashraff was the coalition partner of the Sri Lankan government with the greatest political clout from 1994 to 2000.

He was educated at the Wesleyan Mission School in Kalmunai. While he was a law student in Colombo, Ashraff worked as part time journalist with the Tamil daily Thinapathy. He was a short story writer and poet during this period and published a Tamil magazine called 'Samathuvam' (Equality, a monthly journal with a Marxist leaning).

Ashraff entered politics as an active member of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 1976 and campaigned for mandate from the Tamils and Muslims of the northern and eastern provinces of the island for a separate Tamil state at the general elections in 1977.

He formed the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) as a social and literary organisation on 21 September 1981. The Muslim Congress strived to draw attention to specific problems faced by the Muslims farmers in the Ampara district whose lands had been taken over by state for irrigation schemes and by state backed Sinhala colonists.

The SLMC grew in popularity among the Muslim middle classes in the east that arose in the early seventies following the decline of absentee Tamil landlordism in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts. It shot into national prominence when Muslims in the east widely rioted against the establishment of the Israeli interests section in the US embassy in Colombo in 1984.

The SLMC was registered as a political party on 29 November 1986.

In 1987, the Muslim Congress was one of the few parties in Sri Lanka to accept the provincial council system established under the provisions of the Indo-Lanka treaty in July that year. The party contested the elections to the provincial councils in 1988 and took part in the program by the Indian army to raise a militia under its (the Indian army's) wings called the Tamil National Army.

Ashraff became a close ally of President Premadasa after his election to Parliament on 22 August 1989.

His main demand since the early nineties was a separate Muslim majority autonomous region in the southeastern part of the island.

In 1994, he won seven seats and became the most powerful coalition partner of the People's Alliance government and was made the Minister for Ports, shipping, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

Posters warn SLA collaborators [TamilNet, September 16, 1998 20:01 GMT]

Posters warning persons with purported connections with the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) have appeared in several parts of Jaffna since last Friday Sept. 11 said sources in the northern town today.

They said that this is the first time that posters have come up with the specific names of people who have connections with the army.

The hand written sheets of paper with lists of persons came up in Nallur, Irupalai, Kopay and Kalviankaadu.

Small crowds gathered to inspect the names that were on the posters.

A resident of Kalviankaadu said this afternoon that the names of several people in his neighbourhood had been mentioned in a poster that was pasted in his area a few days ago.

Analysts in Colombo say that the Liberation Tigers have stepped up their level of infiltration into Jaffna in recent weeks despite successful efforts by the SLA since June to clear several large pockets of LTTE activity in the peninsula.

LTTE says ISGA proposals not final, open to discussion [TamilNet, September 16, 2004 00:28 GMT]

The LTTE said its interim administration proposals were not rigid or final and it was ready to negotiate the issue but it saw the lack of clarity on the part of the government as the main stumbling block, for the resumption of peace talks, the Daily Mirror reported Wednesday, quoting LTTE political wing leader, Mr S. P. Thamilchelvan.

ThamilChelvan (Photo: BBC)The Daily Mirror spoke to Mr. Thamilchelvan at his office in Kilinochchi on Tuesday.

Asked by the Daily Mirror whether the LTTE’s Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals were rigid and non-negotiable, Mr. Thamilchelvan said the proposals were not rigid or final and should be discussed at the negotiating table.

However, he said that the government should not put forward counter proposals before resuming the negotiations and insisted that the ISGA proposals should be the basis for the talks to begin.

Mr. Thamilchelvan said the government should speak in one voice and have a clear stance on how the peace process should move forward.

He was referring to the strident campaign amongst the public by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) against the ISGA which was taking place even as President Chandrika Kumaratunga told Norwegian facilitators she was prepared to discuss the proposals.

President Kumaratunga’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which along with the JVP, leads the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition, issued a lengthy critique and rejection of the ISGA proposals late last year, shortly after she seized key ministers from the then United National Front (UNF) government.

"The President says one thing in the morning, another by day and a completely different thing in the night. Apart from that, the JVP is saying things completely contrary. The government and the south should speak in one voice. Otherwise, we cannot take forward the peace process," he said.

"We want an interim structure that would enable the benefits of the ceasefire to go to the people and to provide humanitarian assistance. We felt the proposals given by the former government on an interim structure to address these issues did not have sufficient powers. Then the government and the international community requested us to put forward our proposals. We consulted a lot of people and put forward these ISGA proposals as a basis on which the peace talks could resume. The former government accepted the proposals as a basis for negotiations," Mr. Thamilchelvan said.

He said it was at this stage that President Kumaratunga took over three key ministries and various consequences followed.

"Now the situation is complicated. If we look throughout history, this has happened. When a government wants to solve the problem, some others upset it," he said.

Mr. Thamilchelvan said the Tamil people who had been fighting for a separate state had now come to the discussion table and put forward their alternate proposals for an interim structure.

When asked about the LTTE's response to the stance of the JVP, Mr. Thamilchelvan said his movement’s view was that the JVP was against peace talks even before the ISGA proposals were put forward.

He said the LTTE hoped it could come to the South and take its message to the people there from some platform but could not do so due the present circumstances.

"We want to come to the South and from a platform directly take our message to the people. We are different from the JVP," he said.

Mr. Thamilchelvan said the LTTE was ready to have discussions with any group about the conflict and would welcome anyone who wished to have a dialogue with it.

April 8, 2003
Marines help a fellow soldier injured in a friendly fire incident near Baghdad.
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April 8, 2003
Marines under fire scream for infantry soldiers to rush across the damaged Baghdad Highway Bridge.
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A Marine carries a fellow soldier on his back after he was injured in a friendly fire incident.

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Marines take cover behind a tree
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Marines fire their M16 rifles while making a forward movement against Iraqi soldiers.
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Marines move forward against Iraqi soldiers in Southeast Baghdad.
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A Marine pushes forward with his company against Iraqi militants in Southeast Baghdad.
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Marines take cover behind rocks as U.S. artillary hits the ground nearby, immobilizing Iraqi soldiers.
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Marines carry the body of a fellow soldier killed in a friendly fire incident.
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A Marine runs into the street while making a forward movement against Iraqi militants in Southeast Baghdad.
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April 9, 2003
3rd Batallion 4th Marine Colonel Bryan McCoy brings an injured Iraqi girl to a secure area.
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April 9, 2003
A Marine of India Co. 3rd Batallion 4th Marine takes a defensive position as his company patrols a town near Southeast Baghdad that was formerly controlled by Iraqi militants.
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