JVP hopeful of common stand with PA
By Shelani Perera
The JVP has reiterated its total opposition to the upcoming peace talks but it is also continuing discussions with the PA to reach a common stand on this issue though the PA is giving conditional support to the peace process.

JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva told The Sunday Times that despite opposition from some elements within the PA, the talks between the two parties were progressing successfully. Excerpts.

Your party has been talking to President Kumaratunga. What's going on?

We took up two main issues - economic matters centring on privatisation and the peace process which we fear would lead to a division of the country. We discussed a common stand on these and other matters but no decision was taken and talks will go on.

Several senior PA members, including Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, are known to be against any common agreement with the JVP mainly your stand on the peace process. Do you agree with the view that your talks might further split the PA?

We are not sure of what is happening. But it is also possible the UNF may be creating these rumours because they don't want the PA and the JVP to come together. If the PA has internal problems, the PA must settle them. Our aim is to come together when we see a serious danger to the national security.

Are you hopeful of a common stand despite the opposition within the PA?

We believe that those who are genuinely interested in the common good of the country will be keen on a common stand. We think that those who are against a common stand are not interested in defeating the UNP. In any event, we believe that internal disputes won't seriously affect a new agreement between the PA and the JVP. There was opposition even when we signed the memorandum of understanding last year, but it went through.

Are your planning to sign another MoU with the PA?

No document is being drafted and matters are still at a discussion level.

Have you agreed on anything yet?

Essentially, the PA and the JVP agree that the current course of the country needs to be changed. We have also agreed to continue discussions.

On privatisation, the PA when in government did what the UNF is doing now. So how can you come to a common stand with the PA?

We strongly protested when the PA privatised public institutions and utilities. We hope the PA would agree to a change of policy and course.

If the PA comes to office, will it continue the privatisation policy?

We don't know what the PA would do. But if we are in government with the PA, we will oppose privatisation.

On the national question, the PA and the JVP appear to be far apart. How are you trying to find the common position?

We have differences, but there are also certain points we agree on. We hope the discussions which have been successful so far would bring us closer to a common stand.

What is your main aim in teaming up with the PA now?

We believe the UNP is destroying the country. We believe the ceasefire agreement and the peace talks will lead to a separate state for the LTTE. In addition, some ministers are trying to sell our country to the United States or to be plundered by global corporations. We will join not only the PA, but with any party to defeat such moves.

If there is a snap election, will we see a PA-JVP electoral alliance?

A: We have not taken up such matters still.

Some media reports refer to a possible no-contest pact.

Those are just rumours spread by interested parties in the government. We never discussed an election and we believe there will be no snap elections. We can't take up electoral alliances before agreeing on how we could work together.

There is speculation that the PA is trying to team up with the JVP because some PA MPs are planning to cross over or give conditional support to the government?

We don't know the motives of the PA.

Do you insist that the previous PA-JVP agreement was successful?

Though the agreement existed for only 35 days, privatisation was stopped, farmers' debts were written off and the cost of living was kept under control. We believe that if we were able to carry on for a year things would have been much better now. But the UNP did not allow this and the people were deprived of the benefits.

What is your stand on the peace talks next month?

We don't have any faith in peace talks. We urge the Government to tell the people what it will discuss at the so-called peace talks. Otherwise, we fear the government will give into all the demands made by the LTTE. We are also against the lifting of the ban on the LTTE before talks. The ban should be lifted at the negotiating table only if the LTTE is willing to give up Eelam and arms and join the democratic process.

Right of reply by Anura Bandaranaike
The Sunday Times of August 11, 2002 carries a front-page story titled "Anura Blasts U.S.A again"

I am, indeed sorry to note that The Sunday Times has resorted to publishing a highly exaggerated and factually incorrect details about an exchange of letters that I have had with U.S Ambassador Ashley Wills.

Your story has attempted to create the impression that I have "blasted" the U.S again. There was only the exchange of letters between the U.S Ambassador and myself. Ambassador Wills made no reference in his letter to a PA-JVP axis, as stated in The Sunday Times.

In my reply, I clearly stated, giving several examples from recent history why I do not believe that the U.S will in anyway get involved militarily if war breaks out here again. I never stated that "the U.S proved to be the most untrustworthy friend listing out a litany of instances where they have left their friends down." This is purely a figment of someone's weird imagination. No reference was made in my letter to the U.S being a most untrustworthy friend.

In your final paragraph, you say that I have "slammed" the U.S for having supported a long list of the world's worst dictators and let them down. This is again completely false. There was no reference whatsoever, in the letter to Ambassador Wills, regarding the matters referred to in the final paragraph of your article.

I have always had the greatest regard for the U.S as a bastion of democracy and freedom, even though I do not agree with some of their policies.

Reporter's note: It is unfortunate that Mr. Bandaranaike will not make available to us his letter to the US Ambassador, which he confirms having written despite our request for it.

He maintains it is a private communication.

In the circumstances, we will give Mr. Bandaranaike his right of reply to our story, which he is entitled to and hope that his private dinner with the US Ambassador last Wednesday would have sorted things out for him.

Court restrains SLMC from suspending senior member
By Nilika de Silva
The Colombo District Court has issued an enjoining order against SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and 21 High Command members restraining them from suspending the membership of Hafiz Nazeer Ahamed Zainulabdeen, the party's international affairs chief.

The SLMC leader reportedly took a decision under extraordinary powers vested in him by the party constitution to suspend the membership of Mr. Zainulabdeen on allegation that he fraudulently effected the registration of title of a property after the death of party founder M. H. M. Ashraff.

Mr. Zainulabdeen was the chairman of the Centre for Muslim Ethnic Studies and Director International Affairs of the party in addition to being member of the High Command.

But some party sources opposed to Mr. Hakeem's leadership said the move to remove Mr. Zainulabdeen was linked to disagreements Mr. Hakeem had with Mr. Zainulabdeen over the activities of CMES.

They claimed that Mr. Hakeem felt threatened by the international publicity Mr. Zainulabdeen received as head of the party's international affairs directorate.

The CMES which collects information regarding the Muslim people in the North East had acted independent of the party and held news conferences to highlight the plight of the Muslims in the east. CMES members have also met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to press their case.

UNF's VIP kids in club brawl again
By Faraza Farook and Tania Fernando
Despite warning by the Prime Minister to ministers that they should check the behaviour of their children, two VIP children allegedly broke up a barbecue party at the Colombo Swimming Club on the Kollupitiya beach - with the police now allegedly under pressure to pin down a party organiser.

The barbecue party had been organised by a member of the Club - just opposite the Prime Minister's residence Temple Trees at Kollupitiya - mainly for friends but others were also allowed at Rs. 1,500 per head.

Among 250 barbecue revellers were Dakshitha, son of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Ifham Ariff, grandson of Minister M.H. Mohamed. About 16 others had come with them.

Eyewitnesses and club officials said the barbecue started getting too hot when some one started smashing up glasses. Some 10-15 glasses were broken.

The management tried to bring the situation under control but failed and called in the organisers. One of the organisers said he saw one person smashing a glass and when he intervened, one of the VIP children had asked "do you know who my father is?"

The situation then got out of hand and the club management asked the organisers to call off the party. As the organisers escorted the two VIP children to the car park, another fight began there.

The two VIP children later went to the police station opposite the road and made a complaint that one of the organisers had assaulted them.

Kollupitiya Police told The Sunday Times they went to the Club to investigate the case and they were under 'political pressure' to take legal action against those who organised the party.

One of the organizers was produced before the Fort Magistrate on Friday on the charge of causing simple hurt. He was released on bail.

Earlier another organizer had filed an anticipatory bail application.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's orders for good behaviour by children of ministers after club brawls involving ministers' children. An open-air shoot out took place in a hotel in Colombo on New Year's Eve. The Minister's son unable to settle the row between two girls tried to bring his security guards in. The hotel management refused entry to the guards because they didn't have tickets. This led to an argument during which the security guards of the ministerial son shot in the air, creating chaos on the dance floor.

Last February the sons of ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Mahinda Wijesekera stamped on the feet of girls while dancing at a nightclub at a hotel in Kollupitiya.

The children of the VIPs' were avoiding telling their version of what happened.

Ministry defends huge salary, Mangala horrified
The appointment of a consultant to the Economic Reforms Ministry at an unprecedented salary of more than a million rupees a month, has set off a political controversy.

Ministry secretary G. Hewagama said money allocated for a World Bank funded project for the Ministry of Economic Reforms Science and Technology would be utilized to pay the US dollars 12,000 (Rs one million) salary for the consultant Rohan Samarajeewa.

Mr. Hewagama said Prof. Samarajeewa deserved that payment as he was an American citizen holding permanent residency status there and an internationally recognized expert in infrastructure reforms.

At a cabinet meeting recently President Chandrika Kumaratunga had objected to the payment of such a huge salary to Prof. Samarajeewa.

Former Minister Mangala Samaraweera-during whose tenure Prof. Samarajeewa was brought in as Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, lashed out saying the payment of such a huge salary to Prof. Samarajeewa would be a draining away of funds coming into the country for development.

"The Government has created another record. At a time when the cost of living is high it has brought a consultant to the Ministry at a massive salary," Mr. Samaraweera said.

He pointed out that at the TRC Prof. Samarajeewa had got a salary of only Rs. 70,000 a month. (

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