By Walter Jayawardhana
HEAVY FIGHTING SPREADING FROM VAVUNIYA TO MANNAR MORE CLOSE TO TAMIL TIGER HEADQUARTERS
Heavy fighting spreaded into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held area of the North Western Province of Sri Lanka and the Army said twenty Tamil Tigers and three Sri Lanka Army soldiers were killed.
The Sri Lanka Army said they were trying to neutralize some LTTE guns that were continuously firing at their troops in Mannar District.
According to the Army the international Committee of Red Cross officials serving the Omanthai entry -exit point North of Vavuniya pulled out during the morning hours of March 23 as the cross loading point was heavily shelled by Tiger artillery guns . The army said until further notice the cross loading point was closed.
The Army said due to the heavy shelling all North bound and South bound traffic was blocked. Army said all security neasures were taken to ensure safety to entrapped civilians by resisting enemy shell power.
Commenting on the Mannar District clashes Army spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said, “”The LTTE is attacking with mortars … without considering the safety of the civilians in the area. Three soldiers were killed and 4 injured.
“We have retaliated to neutralise them and we have observed more than 20 Tiger dead bodies.”
Earlier the LTTE claimed that the they were fighting fierce artillery battles with hundreds of troops who had crossed into territory in Mannar, they claimed as their own.
The Mannar clashes came at a time the LTTE fighters have been evicted from about 230 square miles (600 square kilometers) in the Eastern Province.
Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said on the previous day, Thursday,13 LTTE rebels were killed by the army.
During the recent months the LTTE has suffered heavy set backs like losing three ships carrying arms and hundreds of square milles of land in the East.
Analysts said there are signs that the war is gradually shifting to places close to LTTE headquarters from the East.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its relief at the news that Sri Lankan journalist Munusamy Parameshawary has finally been released from custody.
The IFJ has been campaigning for the 23-year-old Mawbima reporter’s release since she was arrested on November 21, 2006, by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan Police.
Despite languishing in detention for four months, Parameshawary was released on March 22 without any charges laid against her.
IFJ President Christopher Warren said Parameshawary’s release was a victory for human rights and freedom of the press.
“We are very happy to hear that Parameshawary’s imprisonment is finally at an end,” Warren said.
“This is a triumph for justice and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka,” he said.
“But the fact remains that she should never have been held in the first place.”
“Parameshawary’s detention was a frightening example of the threats to basic human freedoms in Sri Lanka – it is disgraceful that legislation supposedly introduced to protect Sri Lankans from terrorism is instead being used to silence and intimidate the media,” he said.
“It is an important win for those who refuse to bow to government pressure, and gives hope that with solidarity, determination and vigilance, achieving a peaceful, open Sri Lanka is possible.”
Parameshawary was held under Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Prevention laws, and for many weeks was not even allowed access to lawyers, her editor or family.
Prior to her arrest she was reporting on Tamil issues and investigating disappearances in Colombo.
On January 31, the IFJ and journalists’ organisations in more than 10 countries supported a Day of Action led by IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), and wrote to the Sri Lankan government demanding Parameshawary’s release.
Locally more than 500 postcards were sent protesting her detention.
The IFJ acknowledged its gratitude to the many Sri Lankan and international groups and individuals, including the FMM, who campaigned tirelessly for Parameshawary’s release, and commended them for their solidarity.
“The strength and determination of the campaign to free Parameshawary should send a strong message to the Sri Lankan government that violations of press freedom and journalist rights will not be tolerated,” Warren said.
“We urge the Sri Lankan government to heed the voices of international criticism and act decisively to give Sri Lanka the free, safe and independent media it deserves.”
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By Walter Jayawardhana
VAIKO’S PARTY ORGANIZING SECRETARY SURRENDERS TO POLICE Q BRANCH IN CONNECTION WITH LTTE CASE
Vaiko led Marumalrch Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Organizing secretary, Seema Basheer has been arrested by the Q branch of the Tamil Nadu police in connection with the case of smuggling bomb making material to the Sri Lankan terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (LTTE) Basheer has been suspected of laundering money in this case where several people are suspected of procuring and smuggling bomb making materials to Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
Although Basheer has been giving the slip to the police when they visited his house to question him he voluntarily surrendered to the Q Branch of the Tamil Nadu police who are investigating into the LTTE and other terrorist related cases in the South Indian state.
Meanwhile, Rameshkumar, a suspected LTTE supporter, who had been running a soap factory in Perambalur, from where the aluminium ingots meant for bomb making were to be moved to Sri Lanka, and who has been absconding from the police so far also surrendered before a metropolitan magistrate in Chennai.
But MDMK Secretary Vaiko Gopalaswamy issuing a statement said that his party functionary Basheer has been framed for political reasons by the DMK administration in the South Indian state.Police said since the arrest of Barakath, a DMK functionary and on the information supplied by him, they have been watching Basheer of Vaiko’s party for several days.
The police took Basheer to a municipal magistrate of Tiruchirappalli to be remanded.Vaiko accused that Basheer has been framed to demoralize other functionaries of his party. In the last Tamil Nadu assembly elections, Basheer lost to DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan by a narrow margin of over 400 votes in Chennai Harbour seat. Vaiko said although he has been supporting the LTTE he has never involved his party in any unlawful activity in Tamil Nadu. Describing the arrest as a politically motivated move against his party workers Vaiko said they would never be cowed down by such threats.
The other person, Rameshkumar, the soap factory owner who surrendered to a municipal magistrate has been absconding many days from the police. The magistrate remanded him into judicial custody for fifteen days. But the Q Branch of the police said they would be filing a separate motion to take him to their custody for questioning on the case.
With the surrender of Rameshkumar the number of people in the custody of this case has risen to eight people.
By Walter Jayawardhana
SRI LANKA JOURNALIST MUNNUSWAMY PAREMESHWARI TO BE RELEASED
The lawyer representing the Attorney General told the Supreme Court that the Mawbima journalist Munnuswamy Parameshwari who has been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act will be released since the police were unable to discover enough evidence to file charges against her.
The young Tamil reporter was arrested three months ago for her association with an alleged suicide bomber on suspicion. The police said she was attempting to get the suspected suicide bomber released using her influence as a reporter.
The lawyer representing the Attorney General informed the Supreme Court that there is no sufficient evidence to file charges against her and it will be conveyed to the magistrate to release her from the remand jail.
The matter came up before the Supreme Court when Ms. Munnuswamy Paremeshwari filed a fundamental rights petition before the apex court asking the court to release her since she is innocent.
By Walter Jayawardhana
PARISH PRIEST OF MADU CHURCH CHARGES THAT THE TAMIL TIGERS ARE KIDNAPPING 17 YEAR OLD MINORS AND YOUNG ADULTS AMONG 10,000 WAR REFUGEES CAMPING AT THE CHURCH
The parish priest of Madu Matha Catholic church charged despite continuous warnings not to do so the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) keep on kidnapping 17 year old minors and young adults among war refugees who have camped themselves in the church premises.
Rev. Emilus Pillai, the parish priest charged that LTTE recruiters enter church grounds and kidnap the war refugees among about 10,000 desolate people who have been living in the church grounds for protection for the last two months. They are Tamil civilians who have fled from the war between the LTTE who are also known as the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka security forces.
He said, “First we told them not to enter the church premises armed and banned all such people from entering the the church premises. Now they come unarmed and forcibly take away 17 year olds and young adults to be recruited for the war.”
He said the church should become a sanctuary for all people regardless of their race or creed. He said by violating that concept the LTTE has violated the sanctity of the church.
Father Emilius Pillai said the refugees have come to the church since they had no other place to go and the helpless people should not be harassed at all and left alone.
The priest said he has seen it with his own eyes how they come and visit the people living around the church and kidnap them for war. On such occasions they are careful not to step inside the church, Father Emilius Pillai pointed out.
The Reverened Father said the refugees are leading an extremely difficult life and spending a hand to mouth existence due to food shortages. On the top of that comes the LTTE harassment, he charged.
Describing the difficulties of the Madu Church refugees the parish priest said they have been forgotten by NGO’s and the government. Father Emilius Pillai said they are living on meager rations of dry food supplied by World Food organization. He was of the opinion that all should do little more to lessen their misery.