The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on May 6, 1993 · 12
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 12

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 6, 1993
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THE GUARDIAN Thursday May 6 199c Tamils fear mob violence at funeral of Sri Lanka's slain populist! president Up to two dozen cult members may have been shot 12 INTERNATIONAL NEWS Suzwm QoJdnbrg fn Colombo JkfeRI LANKA'S acting LS president, D.B. Wije- "ltunea, met Tamil lead- r era yesterday amid ris ing panic about the prospect of mob violence alter me lunerai today of Ranasinghe Prema-dasa, who was assassinated allegedly by Tamil Tigers last Saturday. Although Tamil leaders have dismissed reports of a mass ex odus from the capital, fear of reprisal has spread irotn worn-ing-class neighbourhoods to leafy sections of Colombo. The Tamils said they were satisfied that Mr Wijetunga was sincere about wanting to prevent a repetition of the pogroms a decade ago which were the turning point in the island's civil war. As well as bringing in extra troops from the war zones of the north and east, the president broadcast appeals for calm and is also considering imposing a curfew tonight. "He has told everyone that, some action will be taken to maintain law and order," said S. Thondaman, leader of the largest Tamil trade union, the Ceylon Workers' Congress. As many as 1,000 Tamils were killed in three days of looting and murder 10 years ago that went largely unchecked by security forces. Although there have since been no serious riots in the capital, despite the increased intensity of the war, Colombo's Tamils still feel vulnerable, especially the 70,000 refugees from the north and east. Large numbers of the refugees are believed to be among those who have left the city. Tamils living in rented flats in working-class neighbourhoods near the homes of both Prema-dasa and his assassin, a suicide bomber who has been identified by investigators, were advised by police and Sinhalese neighbours to go away for a few days. "This is mainly at the level of a fear psychosis because there have been no incidents as yet," said a spokesman for the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, a former militant group which is now represented in the Sri Lankan parliament. The biggest threat to security comes from the thousands of villagers who have been brought to the capital for the funeral. By last night, queues for viewing the remains at the official residence used by Pre-madasa's estranged wife were i several miles long. ! Funeral rites A Sri Lankan worker prepares the pyre for Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated last Saturday Premadasa was immensely popular in the countryside because of his concern for the poor, and there is a fear that grieving crowds could be di-o- voked into an anti-Tamil frenzy. There is, however, a great deal of cynicism about the response to his death and a belief that much of the mourning has been orchestrated. Many of the mourners are-said to have been coerced or were offered free trips to the capital. The prospect ot violence is the biggest nightmare for the president's United National Party, which is desperate to prove it is still fit to govern, although Premadasa was its only prominent leader. The party has rushed to assure the security-conscious leaders of neighbouring states that it would be safe to attend the funeral. Mr Wijetunga has also told foreign donors that he intends to pursue Sri Lanka's liberalisation programme as energetically as his predecessor. Premadasa's development schemes may, however, suffer. Earlier this week the treasury refused to release 750 million rupees (10 million) pledged for village improvements. Yesterday, J. R. Jayawar-dene, the island's former president, acknowledged that the biggest task confronting Mr Wijetunga would be the legacy of political violence. "The challenge is to see1 that violence does not erupt individual and collective," said Mr Jayawardene. - Mr Wijetunga, aged 71, has never been a particularly prominent politician and has been a reluctant prime minister since 1989. Observers are doubtful whether he will be able to control the younger ambitious members of his party who were held back by Premadasa. However, his self-effacing style may also come as a relief after Premadasa's bitter exchanges .with, the breakaway, party faction which emerged as the most high-profile section of the opposition, the Democratic United-National Front. "During an interim period, a man like this is a healing factor. He can apply balm to a wound and not iodine," said Mr Jayawardene. PHOTOGRAPH: JEFFWIOENER Mr Wijetunga is expected to be confirmed tomorrow when parliament meets to elect a president to serve out the remaining 18 months of Premadasa's term. Although the opposition had debated putting up a rival candidate in the ailing-leader, Siri-mavao Bandaranaike, it recognises that it does not have the strengthin-paTliamcnt-tO' defeat Mr Wijetunga. It is likely that he now will be elected unopposed, ensuring in theory at least a smooth transition of power. Sam How Varhovek INVESTIGATORS say they have found mounting evidence that as many as two dozen members of the Branch Davidian cult, including their leader, David Koresh, were shot as fire began to consume their compound outside Waco last month. But one of the remaining mysteries is whether the shootings were a mass suicide or whether people began shooting .themselves or were shot by fellow members to escape death by fire. Investigators say they have not ruled out other possibilities: that some people were shot trying to escape, or that some might have been shot by a disoriented sect member even after they had succumbed to flames or smoke. Among those with gunshot wounds was at least one infant with a bullet in the forehead, a senior federal official said. In Koresh's case medical examiners are not yet certainthe bullet wound between his eyes caused his death, although they concede this is the most likely explanation. They said it could be several days or weeks before tests prove if the wound was self-inflicted or if the rire, rather than the bullet, killed him. The tests have failed to confirm FBI reports that some of the 17 children who perished were killed by injections. These questions are critical to the assembly of a murder case if authorities conclude that any of the nine survivors had anything to do with the fire or the shootings. All insist they did not. The investigation is vital for another reason: if it is found Koresh shot himself, this would renew questions about the FBI's psychological profile of the leader. The authorities said this precluded suicide and indicated he was unlikely to put himself in danger unless he had an opportunity to engage federal agents in a gun battle the sort of Armageddon he prophesied. If Koresh simply shot himself it would intensify criticism that the FBI should not have resorted to the tear-gas assault that ended the siege. If it turns out he ordered the fire, or even that a follower killed him, the conclusion could bolster the FBI's insistence that waiting would not have worked. New York Times. Witness to beating by LA police 'was shot dead to silence him' Christopher Reed In Los Angeles A POTENTIAL witness in a Los Angeles police brutality case was shot by officers to silence him, neighbours have told the city's police commission. The city's police chief, Willie Williams, has promised to widen an investigation into the death in April of Darreli Harts, aged 30, a black police academy graduate, who was to enter the police force in Compton, part of the Los Angeles area. Sharply different versions have been given of the shooting. Police say Mr Harts had shot his neighbour's dog near his home in south central Los Angeles. Two officers in an unmarked car heard the gunfire and confronted Mr Harts, shouting that they were police officers and he should drop his gun. He then fired in their direction and a gun battle ensued. Mr Harts, who was wearing a bullet proof vest as part of his job as a security guard, was struck several times and died of a wound to the head. Police fired 18 rounds. But a witness has told the Harts family lawyer and the Los Angeles Times that Mr Harts did not shoot the dog, that nobody shouted "Stop" or "Police" and that a barrage of gunfire came from the car while it was still moving. The city's animal department has since destroyed the dog, a bull terrier and no bullet was recovered. Although the Los Angeles- police department insists that Mr Harts shot the dog before they arrived, a note in the animal department's log says: "Shot by LAPD." In 1991, Mr Harts saw a black professional footballer, Austin Shanks, being beaten by officers after their patrol car bumped him off a motor cycle. The district attorney's office is now investigating Mr Harts's death and his relatives are filing a $5 million law suit. N V. W M (J R T c; A c; B S A N U It E ,V1 O R T G A Cj E S a-! With these rates, and discounts guaranteed until 1st June 1994, it takes a lot less to get settled. ' Our rate for any new mortgage or re mortgage- is down to a low 4.98 pa (8.0 apr) when you borrow up to 75 of the property's valuation. That includes a 3.01 discount off our variable base mortgage rate, guaranteed until 1st June 1994. 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