Journalist-diplomat's husband in mystery train death

By Neville de Silva in London
The husband of a London-based Sri Lankan diplomat and former The Sunday Times journalist died tragically when he was run over by a surface train last Wednesday morning at a station close to their home.

Khan Azard (32), husband of Sithara Khan, Second Secretary Information at the High Commission here, left for work as usual on Wednesday morning but never returned home.

Sithara Khan who worked for several years at The Sunday Times before moving into the foreign service was to have returned to Colombo at the end of December after completing her three-year posting.

However the Foreign Ministry extended her stay by another two months or more and she was due to return in late February.

When it was found that Azard had not reported for work on Wednesday and he seemed to have gone missing, the police who were informed launched a search.

The Diplomatic Protection Division which was also informed of the missing person, later informed the High Commission that the body of an Asian male was found at the Cricklewood Station, near where the Khan's lived.

I was with High Commissioner Faisz Musthapha early Thursday afternoon when a police officer from the Diplomatic Protection Division who had come to the High Commission in connection with some other matter was informed of the discovery of a body of an Asian male at Cricklewood and passed it on immediately.

Later the identity of the person was established after Sithara Khan handed over to the police fingerprints of her husband.

It is now established that Khan Azard, a computer technician holding a degree from an American university, died as a "result of a collision with a train".

"The attendent circumstances will have to be established after an inquiry," High Commissioner Faisz Musthapha told The Sunday Times.

What it means is that Azard was killed when he was run over by a train and the inquiry will try to ascertain how it happened.

It is known that Azard has a history of blackouts and whether this led to his falling and ending up on the tracks or other circumstances caused it, might be revealed if the CCTV cameras usually installed at these stations have recorded the incident.

The inquiry itself is likely to take a week or two as a jury has to be empanelled.

Azard's body was released by the Coroner pending the inquiry.

Janaza prayers were held yesterday morning at the mosque in Hendon.

Pongu resolution for troop withdrawal

In what is seen as an LTTE backed campaign, a massive organisation including student groups moved a resolution calling for the withdrawal of security forces from the northern peninsula.

The resolution which was moved at the 'PonguThamil' festival held at the Jaffna university premises, stated that they would not accept the 'occupation of the army' in what they called the 'Tamil homeland'.

More than 300 academics, trade unionists and the student union organizing committee of the Pongu Thamil' programme were involved in passing the resolution.

The resolution while emphasising the need for troops to vacate the areas if civilians were to return to their homes and lead a normal life also said the government should accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils, the concept of the traditional homeland and self-determination of the Tamils.

It also called for the handing over of lands to civilians to carry on with their agricultural activities.

It also said nobody should call for the LTTE to decommission weapons as that was the only means of protection of the Tamil people

'Pongu Thamil' programmes have been earlier held in various parts of the north and east.

Ministries at cross purposes

By Nalaka Nonis.
Lack of co-ordination between two ministries has caused one ministry to revoke a gazette notification claiming ownership of a land.

The Environment Ministry had declared the Karagam Levaya area in Hambantota as a bird reserve while the Southern Region Development Ministry had reserved the land as a suitable area for the construction of the Hambantota harbour.

Minister Rukman Senanayake said it was a mistake as the area had already been reserved.

He said his ministry was taking immediate steps to revoke the gazette notification.

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