7th February 1999
Since 1948, thousands have thronged the sites where Independence Day celebrations were held.
Last year when we celebrated the golden jubilee of independence the presence of Prince Charles as the chief guest led to tighter security measures which restricted the public presence.
Last Tuesday the people for whom independence was won were not only kept away from the site, but also prohibited from coming on to the main road. At Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha (Green Path) a resident who wanted to walk to Kollupitiya junction to obtain medicine for his ailing mother was ordered by the police to keep away.
A picture by The Sunday Times cameraman Gemunu Wellage shows the pathetically few people who attended the 51st independence celebrations at the Independence square.
DIG denies removal of flags, but photographs tell story
By Ayesha R. Rafiq
An influential group in the police gave orders to some city police stations to remove decorations put up by the UNP for its Hyde Park rally on Tuesday.
The move has caused concern at the highest levels of the police after the revelation that the group or its leader had no authority to give instructions to the police.
Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya told The Sunday Times "there is somebody in between in the police who has done this damage."
He however, declined to elaborate.
Mr. Jayasuriya said he spoke to the IGP after UNP supporters complained that the flags put up had been removed by persons in civvies backed up by police jeeps.
When the decorations in front of the Mayor's House in Colombo were being destroyed, the Mayor himself had approached the personnel in civvies and asked who had instructed them to pull down the decorations.
Police personnel had told him they had got their orders from Chief officers of Police stations in the respective areas.
IGP Lucky Kodituwakku was not available for comment.
Colombo's Acting DIG, T.N. de Silva said he had not received any orders from the IGP to make inquiries into the matter.
Asked to comment about the incident in his capacity of Acting DIG Colombo, he said: "I know nothing about the incidents and have not received any complaints. So I can't comment."
UNP General Secretary Gamini Athukorale told The Sunday Times the same group was in operation at the Wayamba Provincial Council elections and helpless police officers had to carry out their orders.
An officer of the Cinnamon Gardens police told The Sunday Times they had no knowledge of or any involvement in the incidents.
However, photographs available with The Sunday Times show the presence of Cinnamon Gardens Police at the time the decorations were brought down.
White flags with a black cross, signifying the death of democracy, were put up all over Colombo last week in protest against last month's Wayamba election violence, and ballot tampering.
However by Tuesday the decorations around the Cinnamon Gardens, Maradana, Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya areas were torn down.
Mr. Jayasuriya in his capacity as the Mayor who possesses the authority to give permission for street decorations within the Colombo city lodged a strong protest to the IGP about the removal of the flags.
The IGP had given the mayor an assurance that he would take immediate action to stop any persons removing the flags.
"But by this time 30% of the decorations were destroyed," Mr. Jayasuriya said.
"I regret that in a city which is renowned for peace and its freedom of political expression such events should occur. This is a black mark on democracy, and an obstruction to peace," he said.
The Sunday Times learns that a senior police officer had directed a group under his supervision to remove the flags put up by UNP supporters.
By Frederica Jansz
A diplomatic controversy is brewing after the Foreign Ministry last Tuesday sent a note to all foreign missions in Colombo, warning that any premature comment on the Wayamba election controversy could amount to an interference in Sri Lanka's internal affairs.
This note was sent after the United States embassy expressed concern over reports of widespread violence, mass rigging and intimidation at the Wayamba provincial polls.
The Sunday Times learns that some diplomatic missions are deeply concerned over the alleged fraud in the Wayamba elections while at least one foreign mission funded an independent polls monitoring group.
Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the country's official aid giving body, funded Sri Lanka's main polls monitoring group, the People's Action Front For Free and Fair Elections.
A Swedish Embassy official said that at a meeting of heads of missions on Friday, they discussed the note sent by the Foreign Ministry. Some diplomats described the note as an "awkward reaction".
Sweden's envoy Torvald Akesson told The Sunday Times he would make no official comment at this stage on the recently concluded polls but he was working on a joint statement to be issued by the countries of the European Union.
Britain's Deputy High Commissioner Martin Hill also declined comment on Wayamba at this stage.
Despite the Foreign Ministry note, the official of the US embassy said they would not retract the statement voicing concern over the events in Wayamba.
The US embassy said it hoped responsible authorities would probe allegations of violence and take necessary steps to ensure public confidence in the electoral process.
"We are naturally concerned about news reports of violence surrounding the election and about the allegations of voting day irregularities," an embassy spokesman said.
"The US believes that fair and free elections are essential for democracy."
Taking part in a dinner hosted by US Ambassador Shaun Donelly to visiting US Assistant Secretary of State last night were polls monitors.
Just a week after attending the world economic conference, in Switzerland, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga flew to Jamaica on Friday night to participate in the Group of 15 Summit there.
She is accompanied by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for this important economic summit of a third world grouping for which Sri lanka was admitted recently.
There was however no official announcement made about the visit.
She is expected to meet several leaders taking part in the summit.
Among them is Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with whom she is expected to discuss bilateral matters.
The Summit will continue till February 13.
By Shelani de Silva
More than 30 post election incidents have been reported from Wayamba province by the two independent election monitoring groups.
While the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) concluded monitoring post election violence one week after the election, the other monitoring body, People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) will continue for two weeks.
CMEV which started monitoring from January 24 to 31 has recorded about 31 incidents. These included threats and intimidation, assault, damage to property, robbery, mischief and murder.
"Post-election violence is common. It is mainly retribution but judging from the high scale violence of more than 1500 incidents before the polls, the post-poll incidents are relatively few," a CMEV official said.
Of the 31 incidents the CMEV has recorded, eight of the alleged perpetrators are from the PA, 12 from the UNP, one from the JVP and 10 are recorded as parties unknown.
Meanwhile the Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has recorded ten incidents up to Friday.
PAFFREL Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo said most of these incidents were from Yapahuwa.
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