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.
By Walter Jayawardhana
THE MOST VALUABLE HARDWARE DESTROYED WITH THE TWO SHIPS WERE AIRCRAFT PARTS THAT ALARMS DEFENSE EXPERTS
The cargo destroyed with the two LTTE ships by the Sri Lanka Navy off Sri Lanka’s Eastern coast has once again drawn the attention of the South Asian defense community to the Tamil Tiger’s attempt to build its air force.
According to intelligence reports some of the most expensive military hardware destroyed with the ships were aircraft spare parts or parts necessary to assemble light aircrafts.
By these shipments the LTTE has attempted to improve the airworthiness of its existing fleet of airplanes and military helicopters or add few more aircraft to its fleet. The LTTE is the only terrorist group in the world capable of flying, thanks to the Ceasefire Agreement that allowed them to build one although it violated the agreement and millions collected in the West to buy arms and ammunition.
Sri Lanka navy sources said that the first ship destroyed was 70 meters long and the second ship destroyed was 50 meters long. In the initial reports both ships were reported as 70 meters long erroneously.
Navy sources said according to the information of the Navy the first ship contained 1500 tons and the second ship contained 1000 tons of arms, ammunition and aircraft parts.
It is estimated by the Navy that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has lost about US $ 7.9 million dollars worth of cargo in both ships. Sources said the cargo ships are worth about US $ 15 million dollars. With the ships went down 24 Sea Tigers who were very much trained in arms smuggling and sailing activities who were of immense value to the Tamil Tigers.
Unlike in the LTTE arms ships destroyed by the Sri Lanka Navy off the Dondra head more than two weeks ago the boxes of cargo were packed inside the ship making the explosions inside that turned the ship upside down, before sinking navy sources said. That prevented the debris of the ship’s cargo floating in the sea like last time, the sources further said.
Navy sources pointed out, according to information received the ship contained a cargo of airplane parts, anti-aircraft missiles, rocket propelled grenades and other artillery missiles and tons of high explosives. Both ships were proceeding to Mulativu from the seas of Indonesia.
The destruction of the two ships is considered a further step started by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to give priority to completely destroy the air power of the LTTE which had been untouched before, mainly due to religiously following the Norway brokered Ceasefire Agreement.
In 1998 , the semi official organ of the LTTE, the Tamil Net said the aircraft of the Air Tiger Wing of the LTTE spread flowers on the graves of the slain LTTE cadres in Mulliyawalai on November 27 1998. The Voice of the Tigers, a clandestine radio, that day broadcast that while the aircraft were flying LTTE cadres watched the ceremony with their anti-aircraft guns ready.
Following the assassination attempt on the life of Army Commander Sarath Fonseka the government sent its fighter jet aircraft of Mig 27 ‘s and Kfirs to bomb and destroy the Iranamadu airstrip South of the Iranamadu tank. Intelligence photos later showed pock marked craters along the airstrip. The Sri Lankan intelligence services knew that the Tamil Tigers possessed at least two light aircrafts and two small helicopters. In Indian intelligence reports they were identified as Czech built Zlin-143 aircrafts and two small helicopters of R44 type .
Later the Sri lanka Air Force jets pounded on the second airstrip in Pudukuduiruppu which is 1250 meters long. But intelligence report show even after the bombing the LTTE has been repairing the damages at both airstrips.
Fully using and violating the Norway monitored Ceasefire Agreement, the LTTE also has built a third airstrip at Pilaikudirippu in the South East of the second airstrip.
The LTTE’s attempt to bring in more aircraft parts and the airstrips still being repaired in the Vanni show the LTTE’s determination to build its Air Wings despite set backs. Indian intelligence has said that the LTTE possessing aircraft poses a grave security threat to the region. Those aircraft could be used in a skyjack situation to force down an aircraft or they could be used as a flying bomb for a terrorist attack on an important building like during 9/11, they have warned.
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By Walter Jayawardhana
RANIL, MANGALA AND CHANDRIKA COALITION BEING CONTEMPLATED SAY ANALYSTS IN COLOMBO
United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera have simultaneously called for unity among those who want to protect democracy to counter what they have called “an emerging government tyranny.”
This has led to some political speculation that both groups and former President Chandrika Bandaranaika are attempting to come together in an alliance to launch an attack on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Ranil Wickremesinghe said at the last United National Party special sessions held at Sirikotha, the party headquarters, that it is time for all those who love democracy should come forward and be united against the Rajapaksa Company, a reference to the government.
He further said even there are differences between those who love democracy those differences could be eventually narrowed if those people come together on a united platform.
Meanwhile the former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has told Colombo’s Daily Mirror newspaper that a unity is necessary encompassing United National Party elements and Sri Lanka Freedom Party elements together with former President Chandrika Bandaranaike.
The Daily Mirror newspaper said, “ Former Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday called on all democratic forces to come together to work against what he termed as `the emerging tyranny` in the country.”
Samaraweera said even though former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has expressed the view that she is not interested in politics there is room even for her in this coalition.
Despite Samaraweera’s denial, by all her activities and dealings the former President since day one after her Presidency ended has shown all proclivities to re-enter active politics.
Obviously angered by the new enmity created between him and his former friend, Mahinda Rajapaksa Samaraweera said that a small clique cannot be allowed to destroy democracy.
Colombo analysts said a link between the UNP and Samaraweera has been eased by the fact his close friend S. B. Dissanayaka is now the National Organizer of the United National Party. Like Dissanayaka, Samaraweera has also been an anti-war activist in the Sudu Nelum movement, funded by foreign NGO’s.
Their friendship was openly demonstrated during the crisis of Olympic medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe when the former Minister S. B. Dissanayaka was alleged to have been instrumental in lacing the urine samples of Jayasinghe with prohibitive drugs in retaliation of by her refusal of sexual favors to the Minister. Referring to his private life style and in contempt of the runner and inferring she is having a masculine physique Samaraweera openly said that if the allegations were against him, rather than against Dissanayaka who is supposed to be a ladies’ man, there could have been some credibility in the story. Since it was later proved the samples of urine were not sealed by the Ministry of Sports officials the runner was exonerated and proceeded to Olympics to win the country a medal after 52 years in the Olympic history.
During the crisis UNP led by Ranil Wickremesinghe promised a public inquiry but swept it under the carpet after S. B. Dissanayaka joined the UNP government. Jayasinghe made the sexual allegation in a Los Angeles Times interview made at Sydney, Australia.
By Walter Jayawardhana
INDIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REITERATES THAT JOINT PATROLS BY INDIAN AND SRILANKA NAVIES UNDER CONSIDERATION
The Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony reiterated that the Indian government is still considering the introduction of India and Sri Lanka Navies to do joint patrols in the sea between both countries.
The Indian Defense Minister after a visit to India’s Southern Naval Command at Kochi in the State of Kerala said, “Joint patrolling by the navies of India and Sri Lanka has been suggested, to keep trouble-makers at bay.”
It is an obvious reference to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) who have been allegedly using the sea between both countries as a passage for gun and drug running.
Indian intelligence services have alarmed that the Tamil militants could be supplying guns not only for their armories but also for some Indian insurgent groups for money or in kind.
The Indian security establishment has been alarmed after large quantities of high grade explosives and other bomb making materials have been arrested in the hands of LTTE supporters from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka while such materials were being transported.
Answering a question at a media briefing, after the visit, by a reporter on the terrorist threat to the country from the seas, he said the Navy, Coast Guard and personnel of coastal police stations must act in coordination, to thwart attempts to attack India’s coastal assets.
“We already have unmanned aerial vehicles to do surveillance of the coast. Three offshore-patrol vessels and more helicopters will be commissioned into the Navy, ” he further said.
He said India, by incorporating the Integrity Pact in defence contracts will usher in transparency in the sector, and said the 12-member Defence Acquisition Council with him as the Chairman, takes joint decisions on defence purchases.
The Council has as members the chiefs of the three services and officials from related departments. The integrated Council was formed to counter corruption and speed up decision-making in military procurements
By Walter Jayawardhana
S. B. DISSANAYAKA IS MAKING THE UNITED NATIONAL PARTY AS HIS LATEST PLATFORM TO CRUSADE AGAINST “WAR”
A leading anti-war crusader of the Kumar Rupasinghe group and the National Organizer of the United National Party, S. B. Dissanayaka in an obvious reference to the victories of the armed forces in the East said land won by war would not last long.
He was quoted as saying, “in earlier instances when the Sri Lankan forces were able to take control of LTTE held areas it did not last long.”
S. B. Dissanayaka for many months in collaboration with former husband of Sunethra Bandaranaike, Kumar Rupasinghe attempted to launch anti-war demonstrations in Colombo but they did not succeed.
The non-government organizations that were financing Kumar Rupasinghe are now backing Dissanayaka to lead the movement. But a rally he organized at Nugegoda was sabotaged by his political opponents and he pointed his finger at government Minister Mervyn Silva.
His opponents charged that their movement was trying to demoralize the contry’s armed forces as fifth columnists in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Addressing the UNP convention at Siri Kotha S.B. Dissanayaka said even though it seemed as if the war can be won through military offensive the victories would not last long. His latest attempt seems to be making his position as the National Organizer of the country’s main opposition party to move forward the anti-war movement.
The international funds generated by the same NGO’s are now expected to be diverted to S.B. Dissanayaka to strengthen his position in the United National Party.
Addressing the UNP Convention presided over by Ranil Wickremesinghe S. B. Dissanayaka said, ““There are many countries that have won wars, countries like Russia, Ireland, Indonesia but they were all not long lasting. Even in earlier instances when the Sri Lankan forces were able to take control of LTTE held areas it did not last long. But at instances where peace was sought through negotiations it was possible to weaken the terrorists.”
But his critics said it was wrong on the part of Dissanayaka to compare Russia or Indonesia who attached foreign countries to them by military means to Sri Lanka’s situation. Russia in the second world war attached some countries to them and eventually lost them with the collapse of the Soviet empire. But the Sri Lanka problem is a problem created by a feudal lord attempting to attach parts of the country to his private estate, critics pointed out. In any country such feudal lords would be crushed by military means. The terrorists recruiting children by force indicate the movement lack any popular support and Dissanayaka is misinterpreting the whole situation for his own gains, critics said.
Ranil Wickremesinghe also expressed some other points against the people who conduct the war in the country. He said, “Some people who did not even have a bank account fifteen months ago are now the wealthiest people in the country. It is a fact and known secret that Rajapaksa and company have taken over the whole administrative powers into their hands. It has come to a stage where the war is being waged so that some people in the government can benefit monetarily from the war,”
By Walter Jayawardhana
MINISTER FERNANDOPULLE SAYS DAYS FOR RANIL AS LEADER OF OPPOSITION ARE NUMBERED AND WIMAL WEERAWANSA MIGHT GET HIS JOB
Cabinet Minister Jeyaraj Fernadopulle predicted that there are possibilities that Ranil Wickremesinghe might lose his job and Wimal Weerawansa might very well become Sri Lanka’s Leader of Opposition very soon in the present parliament.
With the planned cross over of the next five UNP parliamentarians the office of the Leader of Opposition held by the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would come to an end predicted Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. But he did not give a date that might happen.
Minister Fernandopulle was speaking at the foundation laying ceremony for a new bridge being erected with Chinese aid on the Veyangoda -Ruwanwella Road to replace an old iron bridge erected in 1896 with a new one.
Fernandopulle said currently the United National Party(UNP) is only having 42 members in the parliament and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is having 38 parliamentarians.
If the UNP loses another five members in the next cross over, said the Minister, their number would decrease to 37 – that is one less than the JVP.
Fernandopulle said that day Ranil would even lose the job he is already having in his hand rather than getting the Prime Ministership or the Presidency of the country he is dreaming about.
Fernandopulle was obviously referring to the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement at the recent Special General Convention of the United National Party that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s days are numbered. He was quoted having said that the country’s situation is worsening by the day in all aspects with the rising cost of living, high inflation, war and corruption and these doesn’t augur well for the President to continue for much long. At this party session Wickremesinghe got the post of the party deputy leader abolished in retaliation against Karu Jayasuriya who held the post, who recently led 18 parliamentarians in the history’s biggest cross over to the government. The reformists led by Karu call the Siri Kotha party convention illegal and the matter could be the subject of a long drawn court litigation.
Obviously sensing some impending political turmoil, the Anuradhapura District Member of parliament, Lal Kantha addressing a different rally of his party, the JVP in Ampara said the immediate need of the country is to form a patriotic opposition for the nation. He said that is the need of the hour.