Sunday, November 07, 2004

Missions look for Dinesh, but no clue

Sri Lanka was still clueless yesterday as to the whereabouts of the abducted Lankan truck driver though at least three diplomatic missions continued intensive efforts to locate him or get in touch with his abductors.

Deputy Foreign Minister Vishwa Warnapala said last night the hostage takers had not contacted the Sri Lankan government and made any demands. Prof. Warnapala said the embassies in Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon had been active in trying to gain information on the whereabouts of Lankan truck driver Dinesh Rajaratnam.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka's Qatar Ambassador A.L.M. Yoosuf appeared on the Doha based Al Jazeera television to appeal for the immediate release of the Lankan hostage.

M.I.M. Muhseen, Ambassador in Lebanon, met religious leaders and A.R. Munsoor, Ambassador in Kuwait, have also appealed to the alleged abductors -- the Ansarul Sunnah militant group -- via Arab TV stations in Kuwait.

"We don't even know where he is being held hostage, and this is one of the main problems in securing his release," an official of the Foreign Ministry said. He assured that the Foreign Ministry was doing everything possible to free the captive.

LTTE wants ISGA response through Norway

The LTTE is ready to resume peace talks if it gets a positive response from the government through the Norwegian peace negotiators to its Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal, Political Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan said yesterday.

He said the LTTE’s position was also conveyed to Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi when he said Colombo had shown flexibility in discussing the ISGA proposal.

Meanwhile, LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham will arrive in Sri Lanka on Tuesday to assist his leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen who will be here on Wednesday. Mr. Peterson will also talks with President Kumaratunga. Norwegian deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen and special envoy Erik Solheim are scheduled to arrive a day in advance for talks with political party leaders.

Tigers armed with aircraft, claims London-based think tank From Neville de Silva

The LTTE has acquired two aircraft and a helicopter, says a prestigious international think tank based here. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says in its latest publication that the Tigers are equipped with a light helicopter, the Robinson R44 Astro, and two light aircraft whose make has not been identified.

In its annual publication "Military Balance 2004-2005", IISS states that the LTTE has "1 Robinson R44 Astro lt (light) helicopter plus 2 lt ac (aircraft) for recce and liaison".

The IISS also states that the Tigers are reported to have some anti-tank guided weapons and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) besides being equipped with 122mm, 152mm artillery and 120mm mortars.

Asked for more details on the capabilities of LTTE aircraft and whether they could be armed and, if so, with what weapons, Colonel Christopher Langton, Editor of Military Balance and Head of the Defence Analysis Department, told The Sunday Times that he could not "supply this information at the moment."

However, Col Langton did explain the linking of the World Tamil Movement and the World Tamil Association with the LTTE, as shown under the head "Selected Non-State Armed Groups".

"The World Tamil Association and the World Tamil Movement are identified as 'front' organisations for the LTTE. The LTTE may operate abroad under those names sometimes, but this is considered to be fairly rare." The two names do not designate other armed groups linked to the LTTE., Col Langton said.

"Perhaps the point is that the LTTE is sophisticated enough to operate under other names and in a foreign context, rather than to necessarily identify a strict parallel or 'alias' between the LTTE, the WTA and the WTM."

It has been suspected for some time that the LTTE was trying to obtain some air power and the discovery of an airstrip somewhere in the Wanni earlier this year appeared to clinch the suspicion.

However, no outside agency, particularly a think-tank also dedicated to accessing and logging the military capabilities of states and non-state armed groups, had so categorically stated the presence of aircraft in the hands of the LTTE.

It now appears that the 2003/2004 edition of Military Balance had also mentioned the LTTE's air 'power'. So it would seem that the LTTE acquired its aircraft in the last year or so. Some observers now wonder whether the large number of packages brought to the country by LTTE delegations returning to Sri Lanka after so-called peace negotiations and which were allowed to pass unopened by the Customs could have contained parts of the light aircraft.

Others believe they were smuggled in along with arms by the LTTE and still others suspect certain diplomatic missions might have used their immunity to slip them to the LTTE.

While the make of the two light aircraft is not in the public domain, some information is available about the R44 Astro helicopter. It is believed that this was developed by an American aeronautical manufacturer Robinson from its early version, the R22.

The R44, which was first produced and delivered in 1993, is believed to have a more capable engine and a higher capacity. It is a fast, high performance 4-place helicopter and is said to have a rugged reliability and is easy to maintain at a low cost.

The Astro is understood to have a cruising speed of 209 km/hour and a service ceiling of 4265 metres.

For whom the poppies bloom

As Poppy Day draws near, Esther Williams meets some Second World War veterans at the Ex-Servicemen’s Home in Katana

Come November, and we often see artificial poppies and poppy wreaths being sold by the roadside. Most of us are aware that the money raised goes to ex-servicemen. But do we understand the real significance of the poppy and its relevance today?

Poppies became a symbol of resurrection and remembrance ever since the Napoleonic wars when poppies were the first plants to grow in the churned up soil of soldiers' graves. Over a century later, during World War I, the connection between the red poppy and the war dead was renewed when poppies blossomed on the battleground of the field of Flanders. The poppy thus became a symbol of the high ideals for which soldiers gave their lives.

Initially war widows were engaged in making the artificial flowers that we buy in November. Soon a double significance became attached to the poppy as disabled veterans learned to make them while recuperating.

It is worth noting that troops from Ceylon joined the British Armed Forces and served in various capacities both within the country and in the warfront in the Middle East, Egypt, Africa and Italy. Some of these veterans are presently housed at the Ex-Servicemen's Veterans' Home (SLESA) in Bolagala, Katana near Negombo.

Situated in a peaceful locality, the home - the ancestral property of Mr.Bharata Wickremesinghe was donated to SLESA in 1987.The property which is a large house and two acres of land now has a dormitory and 12 chalets for the use of World War II veterans and pensioners of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Having started with two residents the home today has 13 World War II veterans and seven ex-servicemen, funded mainly by the Poppy Programme. Resident Manager Lieutenant Pemsiri Seneviratne says that it was started with the intention of providing destitute ex-servicemen who had no place to stay or had no one to look after them, a home.

"We are never lonely here - we have our comrades and we keep chatting about the old days," says Joel Daniel,79 who was in the Ceylon Garrison Artillery. He had served in the Search Light Battery in 1941, first as a soldier and then a typist."I was one of the youngest to reach the rank of Sergeant," he smiles recalling with pride his service that ended in 1947.

Mr. Daniel currently suffers from throat cancer and having been operated on both eyes has poor vision. He speaks of his wife who is still living but suffers from a heart problem. "I walk to church each Sunday. I need the exercise," says he.

Retired Chief Petty Officer N.A.P. Rodrigo, 75 joined the Royal Navy in 1958 and served for 22 years."I served on board the Royal Navy minesweepers," he recalls. It was during his time that Sri Lanka received from China the fast gunboats (FGBs) that were named after the then Prime Minister's initials Suriya, Weeraya, Ranakami, Dhakshya and Balawatha (SWRDB).

"Our chief duty was to patrol the island. We did not do much fighting but we had to look after the interests of the country," Mr. Rodrigo comments modestly. Asked how he spends his time, he says, "I cannot read much because of my poor vision but we relate stories and experiences to each other.” An ardent cricket fan, Mr. Rodrigo listens to the radio avidly.

It is not only their heroic deeds that these gentlemen share. The mischief they were occasionally up to is also fondly remembered. Born in 1904, M.B.P. Wijeyawardene who is now a grand centenarian, being 101 years old, was a driver in the Army Service Corps. His work took him to Italy and Egypt."My duty each morning after the parade was to transport equipment to the various units," he recalls.

When they heard that the war was over there was much rejoicing. "I asked a woman server to bring me some liquor but had to hide it because a major walked in on us," he smiles.

Reading the autobiography of World War II veteran, 87-year-old Percy George Benjamin Perera one can get a fair idea of his adventurous life. Liberally peppered with humour, it makes interesting reading, especially the account of his tenure with the British Army. It was without the knowledge of his parents that Mr. Perera went for an interview with the British Army only to be mobilized on the spot and packed off to Egypt after a short period of training in the use of rifles. They soon boarded the Acquitanta, a troopship after making their last will and set sail along with Australian, New Zealand and Maori troops.

There followed rigorous training at various camps. Battlefields littered with decomposing corpses are something he remembers vividly as also the dips in the Red Sea and a ship wreck. Mr. Perera was attached to the Supplies Unit and then went on to become a confidential secretary to Brigadier Cyrus Greenslade (Military Commander of Eritrea) and later to Colonel J.E.H. Boustead (Commander of the Sudan Camel Corps).

He returned to his country after six years when World War II came to an end."My parents had no choice but to forgive me," he laughs. Thereafter he served as Chief Clerk to Lord Mountbatten before he left for India.

"It is very important to remember people who sacrificed their lives for their country," explains pensioner Major K. Rajanathan, 79 who served as a civil engineer in the army for 22 years. "They were fighting for a cause - against Nazism," he says. He is now proud to live in one of the chalets, of the home maintained exclusively for ex-servicemen.

All ex-servicemen are entitled to apply for accommodation with the recommendation of an association. Potential residents are interviewed and given accommodation provided they produce a discharge certificate, documents to prove they have no other place and a letter of consent from wife/children.

As the home does not have facilities or staff to attend to the special needs of the disabled, all residents are expected to be independent to some extent.While World War II veterans who receive no pension are accommodated in a dormitory with cubicles and provided food, medicines and clothing, retired ex-servicemen who receive pensions can avail themselves of Grade I chalets (Rs.3,500 a month) or Grade II chalets (Rs.2500 per month inclusive of everything), the total capacity being 32.

There is a temple and church nearby as well as a hospital that residents are taken to when ill. Most residents are from the outskirts of Colombo, 90% of them from the Army.

Where do the poppies come from? Poppies are sent each year around September by the British Commonwealth Servicemen's League. Lt. Seneviratne says that they received the usual 4 million poppies this year. Veterans at the home were seen assembling them into packs of 100 each to be distributed to the affiliated associations in the hope that people would “give to those who gave”.

Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day also known as Armistice Day marks the day November 11 in 1918 when World War 1 ended. It will be observed in Colombo on November 11 at the Cenotaph in the Viharamahadevi Park.

According to the Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen's Association Captain Patrick Jayasinghe, over 300 troops from all three services together with war veterans will participate in a parade that will be witnessed by the armed services chiefs, senior officers, retired officers and diplomats. "It is an occasion to remember our own fallen heroes," says the Captain stressing that the day had much relevance to our situation here.

"We have had our own share of woes," says this co-chairman of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day and Poppy programme. Having collected over Rs. 4 million from the sale of poppies last year, he hopes that they would reach a higher target this year.

Kattankudi's sin: Bigotry or blasphemy?

About 200 houses were destroyed and two thousand people rendered homeless when clashes erupted between two Muslim groups in Kattankudi last Sunday with charges of apostasy being at the core of the clashes.

At the centre of the clashes was a religious dispute arising from dogmatic interpretations of various Islamic concepts. Adding fuel to fire was alleged political backing of one of the groups - a group that has emerged dominant after last Sunday's clashes.

Today, as police patrol this eastern town of more than 50,000 Muslims, an eerie calm prevails. The roots of the dispute go back to more than three decades. It all started when a person known as Abdullah Pailvan, a supposed thinker, preached his version of Islam, which not only differed from the mainstream religion but also led to his virtual excommunication. He is alleged to have described Prophet Muhammad as an incarnation of God Almighty and issued fatwas (decrees) that fasting was not compulsory. Though his version of Islam is not widespread, he has a couple of thousand followers in the Muslim-dominant Eastern province.

However, he and his followers have been branded as heretics by the followers of mainstream Islam, which itself is divided along many schools of thoughts. Of late, the eastern province has seen another phenomenon - the rise of Salafi Islam, the puritan version of Islam, widely practised in Saudi Arabia and other West Asian countries.

Last Sunday's clashes erupted when moves were under way to bury the ailing Pailvan in a Muslim burial ground when he dies. The Salafis opposed. A bomb went off at a mosque, injuring several people and unleashing the riot.

Pailvan group members accused NUA politician M. L. M. Hisbullah of instigating the attacks. The Batticaloa-based politician denied the allegations, but demonstrated no remorse for the attacks, saying that the All Ceylon Jammiathul Ulema, the apex body of Sri Lanka's Muslim theologians, had decreed the Pailvan group to be heretic.

"We are horrified by the blasphemy to Islam, especially to Prophet Mohammed," Mr. Hisbullah said, though he was quick to point out that he was not justifying the attack.

He denied that last Sunday's clashes were a manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism in Sri Lanka. Mr. Hisbullah also claimed that the situation was back to normal with Pailvan group members reverting to the mainstream Islam. Pailvan group members, however, had a different story to tell.

Rauf Maulavi, spokesman and understudy of Abdullah Pailvan, said their group members had gone into hiding to avoid being forced to convert into mainstream Islam. "Our members are being hunted down and forced to give up their faith which is based on Sufi (mystic) interpretation of Islam. This is a violation of our fundamental rights. We are denied our freedom to follow the faith of our choice," said H. M. Ameer, another member of the Pailvan group.

Mr. Ameer said the group's spiritual leader, Abdullah Pailvan, was still in hiding for fear of being attacked. M. Mausood, another Pailvan group member, who fled to Colombo said last Sunday's attack was the worst unleashed on the group.

"There have been disagreements in the recent past and even verbal battle. But never have we seen this type of religious thuggery," said Mr, Mausood who said his house was attacked by the Salafi mob. He also accused politicians of all hues backing the attack on the group to gain political advantage.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem lamented divisions among the people of the East, saying it would only strengthen the hands of the LTTE and weaken the case of the Muslims for a separate delegation at the peace talks. He said he believed the clashes had nothing to do with politics but added certain politicians might be involved to settle personal scores.

Refuting the claim that the Kattankudi incident highlighted Islamic extremism, Mr. Hakeem said there was no place for extremism in Islam and urged all Muslim groups to unite and protect the interest of their faith and community.

NUA leader and Minister Ferial Ashraff said she had spoken to Mr. Hisbullah and urged him to take necessary measures to prevent any recurrence. Senior Police Superintendent M. P. Samaradivakara said seven people had been arrested in connection with last Sunday's riots.

He denied any politician was involved in the attacks. "It is just a matter of religious fervour getting out of hand. We have brought the situation under control and any attempt to disrupt peace will be dealt with severely," he said. - Reports by Frances Bulathsinghala

Peace talks: Patchwork continues

The lady photographer shot from all angles as the ebullient Yasushi Akashi, Japan's messiah of peace to Sri Lanka, waxed eloquent at a crowded news conference at Colombo's Hotel Galadari.

With cheque book in his pocket and a broad, slithery smile, that was how he was ending his latest pilgrimage to the island. Since his previous visit on May 11, this year, he was in Colombo and Kilinochchi again to remind the protagonists to a separatist war, how much both were losing by not talking peace. That glittering 4.5 billion dollars from the donor co-chairs hosted by Japan will not shine forever, he hinted. There were other trouble spots in the world that were cash-starved and more deserving.

A mild interruption came when the lady photographer ended her session with the camera and chose to play reporter. She introduced herself as Anila Hettiaratchi, a photographer attached to the Government Peace Secretariat or (the Secretariat Co-ordinating the Peace Process). She had a question to ask, she told Akashi. He lit up again.

Asked Anila "what is the magic you can bring forth to ensure the two parties (the Government and the LTTE) arrive at a peaceful settlement?" Responded the messiah, "politicians have not yet found out such magic."

Instead of raising the question with Akashi, Anila could have saved some embarrassment if she raised the question from her own Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala. If there was such magic, he could have gone far beyond in the quest for peace, so far limited to merely changing his own designation from Director General to Secretary General.

And Akashi would certainly have used such magic long before his foray into the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis. He would not have been dubbed as the born loser for his diplomatic defeats in the Balkans. Nor would he have lost his yearning to become a city father in the Tokyo Municipality. But to become the grand daddy of peace in Sri Lanka, he learnt again, is no easy task. Dejected and deflated, he flew from Colombo to New Delhi to relate his harrowing experience, not least the snub he got from Kilinochchi, to his Indian counterparts.

Just as he left our shores, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo put out a news release. A high-powered team of Norwegian peace facilitators would arrive in Colombo. They are Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, his deputy Vidar Helgesen, and Special Advisor Erik Solheim. Helgesen had just gone through successful heart surgery. He and Solheim will stay behind in Colombo though Petersen will leave after meetings with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Petersen made clear "based on signals received from the parties over recent weeks I do not have high expectations, but in difficult times it is even more important to keep engaging with the parties." Yet, Colombo's diplomatic community was agog with reports that Norway would do some hard talking with Prabhakaran, to impress on the LTTE that prolonged delays in returning to the negotiating table would lead to their international isolation.

A similar message was on the cards from US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, who was due in Colombo today. However, he had to change plans to attend the funeral of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, and later fly to Kabul, Afghanistan.

The fact that international pressure was being brought to bear on him in the coming week was not lost on Prabhakaran. Political Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan, had briefed his leader on his tour of European and Scandinavian capitals where governments had in unison told the LTTE to return to the negotiating table. He had to articulate the LTTE position. None could do it better than his confidant, advisor, theoretician and Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham.

Balasingham was busy at his home in a London suburb writing the Maveerar (Great Heroes) Day speech for Prabhakaran. The speech, viewed by Colombo's diplomatic community as the LTTE's "policy statement," is due this time on Prabhakaran's 50th birthday, on November 26. This time it is certain to contain all the main elements that represent the LTTE's view on the peace process.

A caller from Wanni telephoned Balasingham. On being told that his leader wanted him in the Wanni in time for the Petersen visit, he seemed somewhat confused. "Why the visit and peace talks when Amma is signing a Defence Pact with India," he asked the caller. His Australian born wife Adele had other worries. It is the rainy season in Sri Lanka. There would be lots of mosquitoes in the Wanni. She did not want to expose her husband to health hazards though his services would be required for just an hour or more.

But who would say "no" to the LTTE leader? Balasingham arrives in Colombo on Tuesday. A Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter is ready to fly him to Kilinochchi. His leader Prabhakaran is ready to articulate the LTTE's own position to Norway and through them to the Government of Sri Lanka. But some over-enthusiastic correspondents had decided the peace talks were to begin soon and resorted to their popular sport of hanging them on "Government sources." At most, this is patchwork. More on that later.

It was not only Balasingham who believed that a defence pact with India will be signed this week. The visit of President Kumaratunga to India, and the visit of Indian Army's Chief of Staff, General N.C. Vij to Colombo, had given rise to widespread speculation that the Defence Co-operation Agreement would be signed this week. Nothing is further from the truth. There were no plans to sign it in New Delhi, and no plans at all to sign it at the political level.

The signing of the agreement is weeks if not months away. Firstly it has to go through the formal scrutiny of an inter ministerial committee and thereafter by the Indian cabinet. Only then will it be up for signature by officials of the two countries. Despite all the hype, the agreement, in its current format only seeks to formalize almost entirely the existing arrangements and practices between India and Sri Lanka in the field of defence and security.

Now to the peace talks. Akashi during his talks with Thamilselvan had, LTTE sources say, conveyed President Kumaratunga's willingness to talk on their demand for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). It only drew a cold response from the Political Wing leader who said the UPFA leaders said one thing at one time and later changed their position. He said her latest offer to talk on ISGA could be conveyed through the Norwegian facilitators to the LTTE.

President Kumaratunga softened her UPFA Government's stance with a willingness to talk on the ISGA. But that was on condition that the LTTE gave an undertaking that a final settlement to the ethnic issue would be within the parameters of the Oslo statement (which she erroneously referred to as the Oslo declaration in her inaugural address to the National Council for Peace and Reconciliation) and the Tokyo Declaration.

Anton Balasingham had pooh-poohed the Oslo statement with a strong assertion that the LTTE still reserved the right to secede. Naturally that was egg on the face for the United National Front Chief Negotiator, G.L. Peiris. He had gone to great lengths to gloat that the Tiger guerrillas had at last shed their garb. They no longer wanted a separate state but were content on a federal solution with internal self determination, he boasted after the talks in Oslo. Like Balasingham, the learned professor was also playing, or juggling, with words.

President Kumaratunga was to hurriedly seize the references to the Oslo declaration (in reality the donor co-chair meeting) in the Norwegian capital. The press release after her meeting with Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, included a reference to this so-called declaration - a move that seemed intended to strengthen Kumaratunga's hand. Even if Wickremesinghe did not offer any concessions during the meeting he gave her the handle to use the so-called Oslo Declaration in defence. What better way to save face than to get your opponents to share your misfortune. This Kumaratunga did willingly. An egregious common front, one would say.

But that again was short —lived. Balasingham hit back in the pro-LTTE website, the Tamilnet. He declared, "The donor conferences held in Oslo on November 25, 2002 and in Tokyo on June 10, 2003 and the resolutions adopted at these meetings cannot bind our liberation organization to a particular framework of a final settlement."

He made clear donor governments could only support the peace process and encourage the protagonists to seek a negotiated political settlement but should not stipulate parameters for a political solution. Balasingham insisted that the Declaration issued after the Oslo Donor Conference on November 25, 2002 "only expressed strong support for the peace process and urged both parties to make further 'expeditious and systematic efforts, without recourse to violence to resolve the hard core issues."

Balasingham said: "The Sri Lanka Government, with the active collusion of its international tactical allies, the donor governments, have formulated several resolutions in the form of a Declaration to super-impose its own set of ideas on the LTTE. We have already rejected the Tokyo declaration as an unwarranted intervention by extra-territorial forces in the peace process. In an official statement on June 23, 2003, the LTTE leadership severely censured the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe for seeking refuge in the so-called international safety net' to resolve the political and economic crisis faced by the country, thereby shifting the peace process from third party facilitation to the realm of international arbitration."

Balasingham then delivers judgement on behalf of the LTTE. He says, "The position advanced by the UNP leaders that a framework for a political solution had emerged based on these three documents (i.e. so called Oslo declaration, the Oslo statement and the Tokyo declaration) is untenable and unacceptable. A solution to the ethnic conflict cannot be pre-determined by the resolutions or declarations of donor conferences, but has to be negotiated by the parties in conflict, without the constraints of external forces."

So, both to the UNP and the UPFA, the Tiger leaders have made the bottom line very clear. The LTTE has not and will not abandon its claim to secede and set up a separate state of Thamil Eelam. In saying so, they have termed a myth the so-called Oslo Declaration.

Therefore, the LTTE is insistent that its demand for an Interim Self Governing Authority should be discussed and institutionalized. Of course, they have so graciously extended a concession to the UPFA Government. That concession is to allow the government to raise any other proposal it has on the grounds that the demand for ISGA is not a "take it or leave it" stance.

So now, for President Kumaratunga the question is whether she succumbs to the LTTE demand and talks ISGA and ISGA only, then wait for a moment to say what her Government has in store. That is whilst the LTTE insists it reserves the right to secede and does not give her any political concessions in return.

The road to peace is still strewn with so many obstacles even if the Norwegians have now come up with a road map. Kumaratunga explained to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan during talks in New Delhi her Government's dilemma caused by LTTE's intransigence. She will do the same with Petersen and his colleagues.

The Economist shows Eelam: Lanka protests

Sri Lanka has drawn the attention of the London-based "The Economist" magazine to a cartographical error in the map that accompanied an article on Sri Lanka last month.

High Commissioner Faisz Musthapha is understood to have written to editor-in-chief Bill Emmott pointing out that the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka were shaded in a different colour and designated "Eelam".

The High Commissioner is understood to have pointed out to "The Economist" that the entire island constituted a single state named the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and there was no Eelam.

Mr. Musthapha is believed to have urged The Economist to take early steps to correct an erroneous impression that could be created in the minds of readers by the map which purported to imply the existence of a separate state called "Eelam".

An oil for weapons deal

Iran and Sri Lanka are exploring the possibility of a bi-lateral deal where the former will supply crude oil on concessionary terms. In return Sri Lanka is to agree to purchase some of the country’s defence needs from Iran.

Insiders say an official delegation will visit Teheran shortly for talks in this regard. These talks are a prelude to a proposed visit to Iran by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

The tiger camp bust

Even if it does not draw an official protest, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is somewhat embarrassed. New recruits to the Navy’s elite Special Boat Squadron was training in the jungles off the headworks in Kantalai. As they went deep inside, they discovered some abandoned huts. The men returned and sought instructions from Navy Headquarters on what to do.

Orders went to them to ask the SLMM monitors to accompany a team to the spot. It was done. In the presence of the SLMM monitors, the commandos destroyed what was left of the abandoned huts, suspected to belong to the LTTE.

Publicity to this event was to draw an angry response from one of LTTE’s Trincomalee leaders, Elilan. He said that the Tiger guerrillas had no such camps in the jungles off the naval headworks.

To prove their claims, Navy Headquarters released a photograph that showed the remains of what appeared to be a hut. Two persons on the photo were identified as SLMM members. One was posing for the picture. The other was busy with his back to the camera easing himself.

Doing that on the very ground where the Tigers reportedly held a camp was bad enough. Imagine that becoming a photo opportunity. That seemed worse for the embarrassed monitor.

Where the war was not won, but wealth was - Corruption in military purchases now cripples the crutches

The near two decades of war between the armed forces of Sri Lanka and Tiger guerrillas left behind many a legacy. The most important among them has been greater militarization. Strengths of armed forces and even the Police multiplied to unprecedented levels. Together their accumulated total countrywide was nearly 250,000. The Tiger guerrillas, even at the peak of confrontation in the North and East, never exceeded 20,000 cadres.

Accompanying this growth in numbers was another important factor - the acquisition of a variety of military equipment. If the upkeep of the swelling ranks cast a severe strain on the country's economy, the acquisition of military hardware only went to exacerbate it further. Every Sri Lankan had to bear the burden through direct and indirect forms of taxes.

Added to that are the threats they are exposed to from mounting incidence of grave crime. No longer were such activity carried out with Shot Guns, Kris knives and clubs. Replacing them are assault rifles, automatic pistols and grenades - all procured for war. This process saw the beginning of the proliferation of small arms in Sri Lanka. Paradoxical enough, the deserters who used them were also trained by the State. That has altogether spawned a new crisis.

During what is euphemistically called Eelam War 11 - the phase that began in 1995 with the launch of Operation Riviresa - to re-capture the Jaffna peninsula from Tiger guerrilla control, millions of dollars or billions of rupees were poured in for procurements. Tender and other evaluation procedures were relaxed. They were branded as "crisis purchases." But not all the equipment was worth the money that was spent. It only made some in uniform and others outside it very rich.

In the Army, for example, radars worth millions of rupees did not function, some varieties of ammunition were found to be dud. Body armour meant to save lives of soldiers was of such poor quality that bullets could penetrate easily. In the Navy a Hovercraft purchased at a cost of a million Sterling Pounds (now over Rs 160 million) has become a museum piece. Old Fast Missile Vessels (FMV) lay idle for want of engine replacements. Thus the available stock of missiles may become hazardous for use. A submarine chaser is idler than in use. Under water detection systems were ineffective. The Air Force ended up with helicopter gun-ships that could not fly. Laser guided weapons systems procured at great cost were left to idle. At least one of two C-130 Hercules troop transport aircraft has remained more on ground. One had to be stripped to obtain spares to keep the other airworthy.

These are just a few examples from a lengthy catalogue. Successive governments did not think it fit to conduct a study to ascertain where things went wrong. Not despite the fact that vast sums of money squandered would have been enough to fund much needed development projects. As a result some of the millionaires born out of this process escaped with their ill gotten wealth with little or no scrutiny.

The others, as revealed in these columns last week, are being investigated by the Commission to Probe Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. When legal action against them materialise, the public will no doubt have a glimpse of how comfortably some of them won their wealth even if the war was not won.

One would have thought the military establishment was wiser by the experience. But the cycle seems to be repeating itself. An example which clearly illustrates the situation occurred recently. The Army floated tenders to procure crutches for wounded soldiers under their care. When they were opened, it came to light that suppliers were able to provide them at a little over Rs 1700. An officer involved in the procurement process asked a colleague to go in civvies to one of the bidders and inquire about the local selling price. It came to light that the identical product was available for Rs 570.

The mark up, three times the original price, an Army source who spoke on grounds of anonymity said, was to provide for kickbacks to those who helped. Like in the case of crutches, such high mark ups are all too common says the source. Here again there is a paradox. On the one hand, funds from State coffers are paid out at unconscionable rates. On the other, members of the Army's Seva Vanitha are forced to take to the streets with till in hand to ask for public contributions for the welfare of soldiers. A case of the tax payer's money being channelled for procurements and the poor man's coins, at a time when they are hit by the soaring cost of living, into the tills.

But a study of the procurement needs of the armed forces for the coming year seems to have become a turning point. The Sunday Times (Situation Report - October 10) revealed how the National Security Council (NSC) at its sessions on October 5 examined the procurement needs of the Army. As reported in these columns, a moment of shock came when the NSC was told that the Army needed 98 Main Battle Tanks phased over a period of five years.

These Czech built T - 72 MBTs are estimated to cost more than Rs 100 million each and the total cost would have been a staggering over two billion rupees. In terms of this request, at least an average of 19 tanks per month would have cost Rs 1.9 billion. This is besides a catalogue of other items that would have cost billions of rupees more. President Kumaratunga who chaired the meeting requested the Army top brass to review their list and make a fresh presentation taking into consideration the economic situation in the country. Evidently the Army hierarchy has not properly appreciated threat perceptions taking into consideration the ceasefire, the ongoing peace process and the resources now available.

She has not stopped at that. President Kumaratunga has now appointed a four member Committee to review existing military procurement procedures. It is headed by one time Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva and comprises Rear Admiral (retired) Basil Gunasekera, a former Commander of the Navy, Air Vice Marshal (retired) Paddy Mendis, a former Commander of the Air Force and Chandra Wickremasinghe, a one time Sri Lanka Ambassador to France.

From November 1, this Committee has been studying existing procurement procedures in the Army, Navy and Air Force. They have been told to report to President Kumaratunga within three months on the changes that are necessary and how the procurement mechanism could be centralised for optimum efficiency.

The Government is likely to bring military procurements under the purview of a new National Procurement Agency (NPA). The Cabinet decided recently to set up a National Procurement Agency that will function in liaison with the Procurement Support Bureau of the Department of Public Finance in the Treasury. This agency is to be tasked with the responsibility of procuring goods and services for the Government besides issuing guidelines for tender procedures.

The office of the NPA will be on 17th floor of the West Tower at the World Trade Centre in Fort. Until such time the work of the NPA becomes fully operational, the existing Cabinet Appointed Tender Boards (CATB) and the Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committees will continue.

A United States Pacific Command assessment of the armed forces of Sri Lanka declared that the procurement process in the armed forces was inefficient. Their study noted: The procurement process used throughout the SLM (Sri Lanka Military) needs review and revision. The process is cumbersome, slow and full of bureaucratic requirements that reduce the process to a state of ineffectiveness, and does not provide the flexibility needed to execute efficient procurement actions in a timely manner.

"Procurement decisions by the SLM are primarily based on the 'lowest bidder' concept. Though criteria/specifications are normally established for desired items prior to opening them up for tender, the criteria are often so broad that from year to year, a myriad of different manufacturers may be capable of meeting the prescribed specifications. Thus, over time, the number of makes and models of equipment used by the SLM has significantly increased the variety of equipment currently used by the SLM, resulting in a lack of standardisation within equipment that prevent economies of scale and create second and third order effects that impact equipment readiness rates, service life and capabilities.

"Additionally, the current procurement procedures required by the SLM in order to procure equipment and spares is bureaucratic, and inefficient. In order for needed spares or other items available in the SLM's supply system to be procured, requesting activities must use the same tender process that is used for the procurement of major items. This process calls for bids to be taken for at least 21 days before a contract can be awarded.

"The mandatory tender period, when combined with the administrative process used to process the request prior to announcement of the tender and the order ship time from foreign manufacturers can result in a three month to one year lag time in receiving spares and equipment. As a result of the SLM's current procurement procedures, equipment often awaits repair for extraordinary long periods of time and accumulate additional shortfalls that result from lack of use and cannibalisation."

The visit of the Pacific Command assessment team followed a meeting then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe had with US President George W. Bush in Washington in July, 2002. The United States offered assistance to Sri Lanka to assess various elements of the country's national security and economic establishments. The Department of Defence was tasked to assist the Sri Lankan Military to assess a broad range of issues, including operations, doctrine, procurement, training and Professional Military Education.

In respect of procurements, the Pacific Command report recommended that: "The SLM must move toward a decentralized procurement system where certain category of items, with prescribed costs, can be procured by major subordinate logistics elements without specific approval from the service component level. Additionally, the full tender process should be waived for these items in order to reduce time needed to obtain critical spares and equipment.

"The decentralisation of procurement actions and lessening of controls related to the tender process will provide significant benefits to logistics personnel throughout the system and will improve readiness and responsiveness in key logistics areas such as equipment maintenance and spares availability."

In the wake of the UPFA Government's first budget later this month, the Appropriation Bill presented to Parliament by Finance Minister, Sarath Amunugama, reflected a rise in the defence budget to Rs 56 billion from last year's Rs 43 billion. Though this led to speculation of more military procurements, the Rs 13 billion increase reflected a rapidly declining rupee to the US dollar and an official inflation rate of 11.6 %.

Since the ceasefire successive Governments have down played the need for military procurements or to embark on new plans to ensure enhanced military preparedness. The previous United National Front (UNF) Government only replenished dwindling stocks of ammunition.

However, besides the Army, both the Navy and the Air Force have also placed their fresh requirements before the UPFA Government. The Navy is seeking Fast Attack Craft, guns for its existing FACs and radar among its requirements. The Sri Lanka Air Force is negotiating with the British Ministry of Defence to procure another Hercules C-130 transport aircraft. This aircraft had earlier been used by the Royal Air Force for meteorological purposes. A British firm is to re-fit this aircraft including advanced avionics for troop transport. The SLAF has two C-130s, former tanker versions, converted by the same British company. One is now undergoing overhaul in Jordan while the other is grounded for repairs. The SLAF has also sought transport helicopters.

Though late, President Kumaratunga's decision to streamline military procurement procedures is still salutary. The current "no war, no peace" situation underscores the necessity. The defence establishment cannot altogether ignore military preparedness. Sadly, this is the case today. Only the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) seems to be alive to this reality. They have used the period of the ceasefire to recruit, train and re-equip. They have thus built a much stronger military machine than the one that existed before the ceasefire.

These developments come in the backdrop of the Ceasefire Agreement of February 22, 2002, coming under severe strain. According to Jayantha Dhanapala, Secretary General of the Secretariat Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), "cumulatively the record of violations ruled by the Nordic staffed SLMM (as at September 30) against the LTTE stands at 2,491 while the number of violations by the Government of Sri Lanka totals 113." In other words for every single violation on the part of the Government, there are nearly 23 by the LTTE.

Mr. Dhanapala told The Sunday Times "This reveals not only a wide disparity in numbers but also in the nature of the violations which in the case of the LTTE include political assassinations, torture, child recruitment and abductions while in the case of the Government violations, regrettable as they may be, are mainly in respect of harassment of civilians at checkpoints."

Mr Dhanapala added "Significantly, the highest number of violations by the LTTE has been in the Eastern district of Batticaloa totalling 690 violations since the casefire came into force. Fifty per cent of the violations in the district are of child recruitment and more recently there have been an increasing number of political killings by the LTTE. These cases are currently under investigation by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission."

"Notwithstanding this, the Ceasefire Agreement," Mr. Dhanapala says "is holding up well with the support of the SLMM who has also devised ancillary confidence-building arrangements. These must be implemented in letter and in spirit." But despite the pious pronouncements of the SLMM Head, retired Norwegian Major General Trond Furuhovde, the widening disparity in ceasefire violations by Tiger guerrillas continues.

Though more suave than his predecessor, Maj. Gen. (retd.) Tryggve Teleffsen, neither the SLMM boss who is serving a second stint nor his organisation has so far been successful, as ceasefire monitors, to see a halt to the Tiger guerrilla spree of assassinations. If they say that it is not part of their mission then the question is one of whose responsibility it is? How does one explain the large number of LTTE ceasefire violations? The SLMM head and his organisation have only been successful in issuing comforting statements to the Sri Lankan public most of who have begun to question his as well as the Mission’s dwindling credibility. As one senior serving Army officer in an operational area declared, "they (the SLMM) have been successful in only explaining to the public why they should not be blamed. The time has come for them to play a more proactive and assertive role instead of saying sweet nothings."

Daily incident reports from the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH) to the SCOPP speak of an average of one to two reported ceasefire violations by the LTTE in the Eastern Province. A SCOPP official said they were regularly in touch with the Monitoring Mission with regard to these complaints.

Once again, efforts to revive the peace process at summit level get under way in the coming week. Due in Colombo is Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, leading a high powered delegation. He will meet both President Kumaratunga and LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhkaran. On hand to help Mr. Prabhakaran will be Chief Negotiator and his close advisor, Anton Balasingham. He is due in Colombo on Tuesday and is expected to fly in a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter to Kilinochchi.

Besides taking the peace process forward, as already declared, Mr Petersen is to talk to both sides about the need to ensure the Ceasefire Agreement is upheld. It would not be a bad idea for Mr. Petersen to also remind the SLMM boss, Maj. Gen. (retd.) Furuhovde about this. Perhaps that may help the one time Norwegian soldier not only polish up his seemingly superb public relations but not give up a second time in disgust.

SPUR alleges Akashi trying to appease LTTE with aid by Damitha Hemachandra

The Society for the Protection of Unity, Peace and Human Rights of Sri Lanka (SPUR) writing to the leader of Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera urged the JHU to act immediately to prevent the Japanese envoy, Yasushi Akashi promoting direct donor interactions with the LTTE.

Commenting on Akashi's meeting with Thamilchelvan and his pledge to obtain approval from the donor community to provide humanitarian relief to the people in the North and East prior to LTTE reaching a consensus with the government, SPUR alleged that Akashi is trying to appease the LTTE by offering direct aid on humanitarian basis while his move could harm the sovereignty of the country.

SPUR urged that the donor countries should not consider granting aid to LTTE while they continue to violate the ceasefire agreement, violate the UN resolution on recruitment of child soldiers and would be violating the UN security council resolution on suppressing the financial assistance on terrorism.

Meanwhile Ven. Medhananda Thera commenting on the request of the SPUR said that JHU is aware of the pressure deployed by donor countries on Sri Lanka to commence discussion with LTTE on ISGA proposals.

" We have repeatedly pointed that donor countries or agencies do not have the right to intrude into the internal matters of Sri Lanka," Ven. Thera said adding that it is absurd to except financial assistance granted to LTTE to be used for humanitarian purposes.

"If Mr. Akashi wants to increase the life situation of the people in North and East he should support them through the government of Sri Lanka," he said.

Ven. Medhananda Thera alleged that granting financial aid to LTTE for humanitarian purposes is an attempt to establish LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people and compelling the government to accept ISGA as the basis for the recommencing of peace talks.

Appeal Court orders police to produce missing soldier by Rathnapala Gamage and Ranjith Katugampola

Court of Appeal ordered the O.I.C. of the Veyangoda Police to produce before court a soldier named, Arambage Buddhika Sugath Jayawickrama, who disappeared suddenly two years ago when he was attached to the security battalion of the Eastern Region Commanding Officer of the Army Major General Nanda Mallawarachchi.

The Court of Appeal made this order, when a habeas corpus application filed by the father of the missing soldier, requesting to issue an order to the respondent Major General Mallawarachchi, to find his son or pay compensation on his behalf, was taken for inquiry.

Attorney-at-Law Ronald Munasinghe, who appeared for the respondent Major Mallawarachchi, informed the court that the soldier who disappeared was taken into custody by the Veyangoda Police when he was working at a Coconut Mill in Veyangoda.

Major General Nanda Mallawarachchi and Mrs.Mallawarachchi, Army Sergent Jayathilake Banda, Army Commander Lieut. Col. Lionel Balagalla and soldier Buddhika Sugath Jayawickrama and the Attorney General were named as the respondents of this habeas corpus petition.

This petition has been filed by Arambage Karunasea of Mahagama, Egodawatta, said to be the father of the soldier who disappeared.

The petitioner stated that by an anonymous telephone call received by him on 19th August 2002, he was informed that his son died due to being assaulted by the members of Major General Mallawarachchi's security unit. He made a complaint regarding this to the Welikada Police.

The bench comprising Judges S.Balapatabendi and S.I.Imam, ordered the Registrar of the Court of Appeal to convey the order of the court through the telephone and by telegram.

War if pact is signed: TNA MP

A TNA MP has warned that the proposed Defence Cooperation agreement between India and Sri Lanka might tempt the latter to restart the war against the LTTE.

TamilNet quoted P. Sithamparanathan of the TNA as saying the Tamils feared preparations were underway for another war in the island.

Ms Sithamparanathan’s comments came as Indian Army Chief N.C. Vij visited Omanthai in the north and inspected the main entry point to the territories held by the LTTE.

" The visits of Indian military and naval chiefs to Sri Lanka and the proposed Indo-Sri Lanka defence agreement have caused apprehension among Tamils that preparations are underway for another war in the island.

"Tamils still want to strengthen the relationship with India. Tamils sighed in relief when India announced that it would support the peace process brokered by Norwegian facilitation.

"However, Tamils have been marginalized by India, which is working closely with the Sri Lankan government without consulting the Tamils ", she said.

Ms Sithamparanathan said, "Tamils feel that the proposed defence agreement between India and Sri Lanka would encourage Sinhala rulers to prepare for another war abandoning the current peace process. "The Indian government should rethink signing a defence agreement with Sinhala political leadership that did not honourd its previous agreements."

Prabha's children eligible for campus by Sunil Jayasiri

LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's children who sat the GCE Advanced Level examination on April 6th this year have reportedly gained eligibility for entrance to a Sri Lankan university.

Examination Department sources said that Mr. Prabhakaran's son Charles Anthony had been placed ninth in the Kilinochchi district while his daughter Dvaraka was 29th on the list.

They had sat the examination from the Killinochchi Central School.

The sources also said that Charles Anthony had taken subjects in the Maths stream and had secured a B pass in Physics and simple passes in Applied Maths and Chemistry. He was placed at No. 8576 on the all-island list according to the Z-score system. Daughter Dvaraka, who took Science subjects had secured three simple passes in Physics, Chemistry and Bio Science. She was ranked No. 9762 in the all-island list.

Lankan envoy on Al Jazeera: Plea for release of Dinesh

DOHA, Friday (AFP) - Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Qatar appealed on television today for the release of the Sri Lankan truck driver taken hostage in Iraq, urging his militant kidnappers to look at the matter from a "humanitarian" angle.

"I issue this appeal on behalf of this Sri Lankan worker and his five children who exhort the people who kidnapped him to have mercy on the family and free him unharmed ... in this (Muslim) holy month of Ramadan," Mohammed Yussef said on Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV.

In Colombo, officials earlier said uncertainty still hung over abducted truck driver Dinesh Rajaratnam whose release was expected this week.

Fundamentalism of Right-wing US and the Muslim world in place by Farah Mihlar Ahamed

What could have been a full stop has become a coma. A lone crusader has become a vindicated leader. There was a moment in which George W. Bush looked like he would have faded into the sideline of history, but the American people have permitted him to stamp his fist on the future of the world. Personally, I had hoped the intelligently unimpressive autocrat would have left our TV screens, our thinking and our political convictions, for life. But alas, he is here to stay, another four more, long years.

I have little respect for George Bush. I perceive myself as a moderate Muslim and yet he offends me. He has had no regard for the international system, shown no respect for international humanitarian thinking or norms. And he has always acted in greatest of righteousness. His dominant sometimes insolent 'go it alone' attitude isolated America from some of her closest allies. His one sided, pro-Israeli policy, his determined justification of an illegal war on Iraq has lost him credibility amongst the Muslim world. His uncompromising and despotic behaviour has made America not just the enemy of terrorists, but of communities and entire populations.

Even America's closest ally, Britain has a public that continues to spit wrath on Bush's face. The British media and political talk shows hardly ever attract even consolatory views of Bush.

Outside of America, the greater number of people who had wanted John Kerry to win, had not supported him for his superior ability or in the belief that he would drastically change American Foreign policy. Rather, it had been a desperate measure to find an alternative for what they saw as a powerful, legitimate dictator. Bush's international opponents see his policies as a 21st century imperialism, an attempt to revert to a political concept millions fought to defeat.

But Americans clearly thought differently. In 2000 when George Bush became President, there were questions about his legitimacy, the lack of democracy in the process, he had lost the popular vote though he was elected to hold the world's most powerful position. However, this time there was no obscurity, there were no questions. Bush won a decisive majority, the largest popular vote an American President had gained in many years.

This victory came despite the US losing more than a 1000 troops in Iraq and amidst increasing and obvious opposition to the long-drawn out war in Iraq.

The American people did not just give George Bush a second chance, they vindicated his beliefs, his internationally unpopular policy and his 'big bully' image.

President Bush's victory is not just a second term as an American President, it will signify a lot more, greater division and more insecurity. As a Sri Lankan, I am forced to take a positive view as the victory may augur well for the country. The Bush administration has been supportive and involved in the peace process whilst it has kept a firm eye on the LTTE. There will be no cessation of the war on terror and the Sri Lankan government can only benefit by such a stance. America's stern warnings to the LTTE has played a significant role in making the rebel group aware of its international marginalisation, which in turn has forced them to be committed to a peace process. But the Sri Lankan government, like many other third-world countries, will face new complexities in reconciling between supporting old allies or standing for their principles and depending on America. When President Bush declared war on Iraq, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe found it very difficult to take a firm stance, it was a choice between moral justice and supreme power.

But as a Muslim living in the West, I see this victory in an entirely different spectrum. Europe had hoped that Bush will be defeated, they had hoped they could re-instate normal relations with America, they had wanted to see an end to the antagonism.

But as Jonathan Freedland writes in Thursday's, British Guardian newspaper - "For those outside America, in the chanceries of Europe and beyond, who hoped that this would be a passing phase, like a Florida hurricane that wreaks havoc only to blow over, will instead have to adjust to a different reality".

With little international backing and questions about domestic support President Bush had acted with conviction on every unpopular decision he took. Now with a pat on the back from a majority of his countrymen, it is difficult to imagine what may restrain him. A continuation of his policies are likely to undermine international systems, disregard international norms and create more insecurity in the geo-political arena. American people have elected a man they believed will defend and protect their nation, but they have also increased the threat their country would face and plunged the world into a state of higher risk.

The key European States that opposed the war on Iraq will have to move closer to mend ties with the United States. It is not possible to stand against such a powerful nation. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has constantly been tagged as Bush's poodle, will have an opportunity to defy his critiques. Just prior to the US elections he permitted British soldiers to be led by US forces in areas under American control, a decision that sparked an outcry in Britain. A second term for Bush is also a second chance for Blair to either forge an international consensus, particularly with Europe and the US, or else detach himself from the internationally condemned American hegemony.

But the results of the November 2 election speaks volumes. It is not just a victory for Bush, it is not just about greater international insecurity, it has also shown that the political believes of the world super power is moving more to the right. Bush's campaign was largely based on the 3F's of 'family, faith and flag'. He focused primarily on attracting the vast number of conservative Americans and hit at their core values. Republicans won overwhelmingly in the heart of Christian America. So this victory is not just a political event, but is a statement on the clear right wing position of the country.

The world is today facing much more than what Samuel Huntington called a clash of civilizations. It is a clash of ideology where much of the world will be caught up in a war between fundamentalism. The fundamentalism of a right-wing America and the fundamentalism of the Muslim world.

The latter displays a prolific militancy, the former democratically elects a militant leader.

LTTE to discuss future of peace talks with TNA by Ramesh Kumar and Sunitha Gamage

A meeting of the LTTE and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is due to be held tomorrow to discuss the future of the peace process. LTTE political wing leader Thamilselvan has informed all TNA members that their presence is compulsory.

It is understood that the main objective of the meeting is to inform the parliament and foreign diplomats through the TNA members of the LTTE stand on the delay to resume peace talks.

On inquiry Jaffna district TNA parliamentarian Selvam Adikkalanatham said that he was not aware of matters that are likely to be taken up for discussion and that they were bound to implement the proposals brought forward by the LTTE.

Killer an associate of Inspector ?

The killer of PLOTE member Dayalan last week at Dehiwela has been identified as a close associate of late Inspector of Police Sunil Thabrew of the Dehiwela police Intelligence unit who was murdered by the LTTE some time back.

DIG K.P.P.Pathirana said ten persons have so far been interrogated and security has been tightened in the area.

Killer an associate of Inspector ?

Security checks yes, but also check bad cops

Probably nowhere in the world has so much innocent blood been allowed to be shed as in the search of a permanent peace in this country. The policy of appeasement has certainly brought peace of the graveyard to hundreds since the signing of the peace accord in February 2002.

So it was high time that the authorities reintroduced security checkpoints at least in the city of Colombo from late last week to check the menace.

As a result of lax security, not even a handful of those killings have been solved despite many of those victims having in some way assisted the state in fighting the LTTE terror. All law-abiding citizens will whole-heartedly welcome this measure, even though it would entail certain amount of inconvenience to all citizens.

With plenty of hindsight, the top brass of the armed forces and police must this time ensure that plenty of wrongs committed by their men in the past in the guise of fighting crime and terror are either eradicated or minimized to the maximum, for already the public have a very bad impression especially of police. They identify it more as a rogue force than a service to the people. Similarly because of the large number of crimes committed by armed forces deserters and some in uniform, public are really weary of all security personnel in general.

Like those corrupt in the armed forces who have made a one hell of a business out of the war. Many police officers from sometimes, highest levels to the bottom rung virtually mint money by using their uniform and position.

First of all they must be courteous to all irrespective of position or status in life, for that is the only way to win over any member of the public. They must be extra cautious in not hurting the feelings of ordinary Tamils, so it must be an all-round effort in winning hearts and minds of the people. Policemen must be made to shed their false arrogance that they have acquired with donning of the uniform. In pithy Sinhala it is called the acquiring of uniform "Unak" (heat of the uniform). And with this heat they harass people especially at checkpoints and during random searches, especially if they do not show proper deference to the uniform. And some policemen when pulled up for such acts readily tell their superiors that respect was not shown to the uniform.

Early this year a group of policemen in civvies, brimming with this heat or fever terrorized a young man of mixed parentage at a bus stop near Thunmulla Junction in broad daylight watched by many commuters and pedestrians in the vicinity. This young man a fairly recent returnee to Sri Lanka having migrated to Canada with his parents after the infamous July'83 riots was boarding a bus to go home to Kotte, when several men in civvies grabbed him asking for his identity. Though thoroughly shocked he had plucked up enough courage to ask for their identity. Then one of them had flashed a police identity, but before the victim could even get a proper glance he had put it away amidst much abuse. Having treated him like a criminal in front of possibly hundreds of people they had let him go. No wonder people are reluctant to come to police for anything.

Leave aside tribulations of the public at the hands of rogue police personnel, the just retired IGP Indra de Silva, probably had the shock of his life recently when he was stopped by some traffic policemen at Kiribathgoda, in a area where they were not even supposed to be on duty and they wanted to charge him for some trumped up traffic offences not knowing that he was their former big boss. But when they realized their folly they had pleaded with him not to report them. Need we say more? Respect is given where it is due, but not when those in uniform resorts to criminal and crass behaviour. People did and still do respect those in uniform who risk their life and limb for the future of this country, that is why people openly display stickers with sayings like "we support our forces".