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4th October 1998

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President still away...

President Kumaratunga who left two weeks ago to attend the UN General Assembly in New York is still out of the country.

From New York, the President flew to London for a private visit. The BBC Sinhala service has sought an interview with her there but the Sri Lanka High Commission had said her visit was private.

The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and opposition parties have raised questions about her absence at a time when the troops had suffered their worst debacle in the 17 year war.

CBK in London

Commends heroic soldiers

President Chandrika Kumaratunga in a statement from London has commended the services of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the battle at Kilino-chchi and said these soldiers would go down in history as heroes.

The President also appealed to the public to act with restraint at this decisive moment.

'The war is cruel. Loss of lives should be expected. Our brave soldiers are well aware of this.

But certain forces are trying to gain political advantage. I wish to urge the public not to fall victim to these groups trying to secure political gain over the deaths of the soldiers," the President said in the statement.

The President also expressed her sympathies to the families of soldiers killed in action.

"The answer to the ethnic problem is not war. The war is only to contain the LTTE," she said.

MP seeks probe over defamation of Anagarika

An MP has criticised a state-run newspaper for publishing an article containing derogatory references to the Anagarika Dharmapala, a revered national leader.

UNP parliamentarian Karunasena Kodituwakku has also accused the government of allowing such smear campaigns to tarnish the image of heroes who had contributed much to the nation.

Dr. Kodituwakku in a speech in parliament recently said the article in the 'Sunday Observer' on September 25 had claimed that the Anagarika's "sexual urges came in to serious conflict with his goal." He asked whether it was the national hero's psychiatrist who furnished the medical report to Dr. Michael Roberts, the writer of the offensive article.

"We are not concerned about the individual writer. Nor do we question his research. But the Observer is a state-owned newspaper and the voice of the government. The article contained many negative references to the Anagarika," he said.

Dr. Kodituwakku, a former vice Chancellor of the Sri Jayawardenepura University censured the writer for defaming a great personality who had made a unique immense contribution to the resurgence of Buddhism and to free Sri Lankans from colonial thought patterns and perception.

He said there were other national heroes also had dedicated themselves to the task of nation building, but special mention needed to be made of the Anagarika because it was he who played a pivotal role in propagating Buddhism.

He asked for an inquiry to find out who authorised the publishing of such an article in a largely read national newspaper. "What is the significance of this report which projects this country as a sex paradise and at the same time tries to destroy what is left of a vibrant culture, a proud heritage and an incomparable national identity," he asked.

He said the same article also referred to the Anagarika's dedication to restore Buddhagaya on a negative note as if the writer desired to charge sheet the Anagarika.

Dr. Kodituwakku asked the speaker to find out who wanted such an article carried to coincide with the Anagarika's birth anniversary. He said the nation had a right to know who was responsible for it and whether the Sri Lankan identity and the Sinhala culture had become bad words to the Lake House hierarchy.

They were trying to destroy the revered image of a son of the soil who through the Maha Bodhi gave the Sinhalese and the Buddhist their most treasured heritage back, he said.

On the spot

Lighting a candle in the storm

By Chris Kamalendran

A fishing village deserted after an LTTE massacre three years ago is coming alive again with members of all three communities Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims mingling together, though under heavy security protection.

The first of more than 300 families began moving into the area last month after the army declared that the area was safe for return. More families are expected to return within the coming few months as basic facilities for the villagers gradually increase.

The coastal village of Kallarawa, 35 miles off Trincomalee was earlier frequented by 'migrant fishermen' who are aware that the location brings them a 'high yield'.

After nearly two years of absence, the army moved into the area in an operation code named 'Jayaboomi' to take control of the area with little or no resistance from the rebels.

The entry of the security forces has not only facilitated the return of the civilians, but also enabled the forces to cut off one of the strongest LTTE supply routes between the eastern province and north eastern areas, including Mullaitivu.

The area was also known to have one of the LTTE's main hospitals which it was using to treat its wounded from the battle front.

G. Dayananda, a 43-year-old fishermen from Kallarawa told The Sunday Times he was the last to flee the village and the first to return after the security forces re-established control over the area.

"I remember the day we were attacked on May 25, 1995.

It was a gory scene. There were 32 mutilated bodies around my house following the LTTE attack. My family and I took cover behind a bush and escaped. Immediately we came off to Trincomalee. We were living in refugee camps until we returned," said Dayananda, who is a father of three.

"Life was miserable in the refugee camp. It is nothing like living in your own area. We are happy to come back.

But we are yet to get what the authorities promised us. We were promised Rs. 7000 each to rebuild damaged houses and also other basic facilities," he said.

In the Pudavailkaddu village adjoining Kallarawa, the situation was different. Those who have returned are mostly men who apparently want to see whether things are okay before bringing the women and children.

The villagers are aware that the LTTE can strike again, but they have confidence that the security forces would do everything to protect them. "What we do not want to see is the troops being withdrawn from the area that will fully expose us to the LTTE again," said W. Farook, the head of a village organization.

Daya, Dushantha to head Journalists' Association

Lake House journalist Daya Perera was yesterday elected as presidnet and Dushantha Samarasena of Lankadeepa as the secretary of the premier Working Journalist's Association of Sri Lanka.

The keenly contested election under the supervison of the Press Council of Sri Lanka was held at the MICH in Colombo, with hundreds of journalists gathering there.

Mr. Samarasena received the highest number of 293 votes from working journalists in newspapers, television and radio.

The other officials elected at the annual general meeting are: Vice Presidents: Chandragupta Amarasinghe (Ravaya), S. N. R. Pillai (Virakesari).

Asst. Secretaries: Bandula Abeyratne (Lake House), Sudarman Radaliyagoda (EIS).

Treasurer: Sirimevan Kasturiarachchi (Upali) elected uncontested.

Asst. Treasurers: M.M.M. Ismeth (Wijeya Group) and A.V.S. Moses (Express Newspapers) elected uncontested.

Among the 22 Executive Committee members elected were Keith Noyhar, P.C. Kamalendran, Pushpakumara Mathugama, Mulan Perera, Sandya Weerasinghe of Wijeya Group.

Magistrate's house stoned

An acting magistrate's residence in Moratuwa was stoned following a dispute over dumping of garbage in the premises of a sports club.

A local politician was allegedly behind the incident in which the windows of the acting magistrate's house were damaged. A complaint has been lodged at the Moratuwa Police.

Public has the right to know, says Free Media Movement

The Free Media Movement has strongly condemned what it alleges to be the misuse of government censorship on matters relating to the war.

FMM secretary Sunanda Deshapriya said the censorship was being used to cover up the real situation in Kilinochchi, since the launch of the latest Jaya Sikurui Operation on September 27. He said the FMM has an obligation to defend the public's right to know.

The Statement follows: "The Free Media Movement condemns the manner in which the Govt.. is using press censorship to conceal the real situation which has arisen in Killinochchi since the LTTE launched its attack against government troops at dawn on September 27, 1998. This is a clear violation of the democratic right to freedom of expression and information.

When it imposed censorship on news relating to the war, the government justified this move by saying that this would be only applicable to news about matters relating to national security and military strategy. On a later occasion, Deputy Defence Minister General Ratwatte said that he would not leave room for the misuse of censorship relating to war news.

However, it is clear that the government is now using censorship to cover up the truth about Kilinochchi, including the number of security forces personnel who have been killed there.

Steps taken to prevent the publication of news regarding the hundred or more bodies brought to Anuradhapura on October 1, 1998, can be cited as another example. This situation paves the way for rumour and speculation to abound. The result is not that the credibility of the government is enhanced but that speculation reigns supreme in the media.

The Sri Lankan media can report on these incidents which have nothing to do with security issues and which can have no strategic impact on the on-going war. Therefore it cannot be covered by the laws governing censorship of war-related news.

Even if it were, the Free Media Movement strongly believes that it has an obligation to publish news regarding this situation in the interests of defending the public's right to know.

The Free Media Movement urges the government to desist from using censorship of war-related news to cover up the truth behind the Kilinochchi attack, and calls on free media personnel to bring this information to public attention."

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