talks to Prabha via ‘Uthayan’
- Unhappy days are here again
- Mayoral saga continues
- JVP’s secret talks with UNP
- Van Dijk to tour Pesalai
times are ahead for the people and the government with the sky
rocketing cost of living and peace moves being stagnant despite
efforts by the Norwegians to salvage it.
A move by the Norwegians to broker a fresh bid for a cessation
of hostilities was aborted by the LTTE itself, when they
attacked the Pesalai naval base in the early hours of last
Initially both the government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation
of hostilities after a fresh spate of violence resulted in the
killing of more than 60 people by the LTTE, including women and
children in Kebethigollewa.
However, the LTTE decided otherwise and launched a massive
attack on the Pesalai Naval base which came as a surprise to the
government. The Norwegians had a ready answer for the fallout by
the LTTE. They told the government that it was because of the
aerial attacks carried out by the government on selected LTTE
targets in the east that the LTTE decided to retaliate. This
apparently irked the government and the Norwegian efforts to
salvage the ceasefire came a cropper.
Accompanying all this was a grand design by the LTTE to attack
ships on the western coast. This plan was revealed following the
detection of sea mines along the coast of Pamunugama and
subsequent explosions in the mid seas off Negombo.
Sea Tigers, who were arrested by the navy following these
detections, confessed their plan to the authorities and this
compelled the government to tell the Norwegians that the LTTE is
not sincere in word or deed.
At the same time, political circles in Colombo discussed the
current ground situation and the LTTE’s plan to proceed with an
UDI (Unilateral Declaration Of Independence) and draft a new
constitution for the Eelam state, which they hope to create
within the territory of Sri Lanka.
This task has been assigned to a former Attorney General of Sri
Lanka, Siva Pasupati and several other lawyers who were with the
LTTE in Oslo during their recent visit.
The pertinent question raised is that who would recognise such a
state other than the LTTE themselves? The EU ban was the worst
of its kind the LTTE has gone through during its protracted war
with the government of Sri Lanka.
In these circumstances, the government has a lesson to learn;
that is not to play into the hands of the LTTE by way of
military excesses and various other forms of human rights
violations which would leave room for the LTTE to make a case
against the government before the world community.
This does not mean that the government should tolerate every
heinous crime perpetrated by the LTTE on innocent people whether
it be Sinhalese or Tamils. The government should certainly
strike back, but at the correct target, without making innocent
Tamil civilians destitute in the process.
The state of Tamil Nadu has already made a case against Sri
Lanka, calling upon the centre to take appropriate action to
restore normalcy in the trouble torn north and east. The
resolution passed by the political parties in Tamil Nadu is a
matter of great political significance.
The Indian Congress is somewhat dependent on Karunanidhi and his
party to maintain equilibrium at the centre and it would be
natural if India expresses its concerns to the Sri Lankan
government over the influx of refugees to the southern state of
Hence, appropriate political action should be taken to arrest
In this backdrop the current visit undertaken by the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, to apprise the Indian
leaders of the situation is timely..
It is known that what is happening in Sri Lanka is a matter of
minuscule importance to the people of North India, but the South
could bring pressure to the centre to act promptly.
This is what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is doing right now by
sending a special envoy to Tamil Nadu in order to address their
The end result is yet to be seen, but the general perception
among politicians and political analysts is that India will not
get involved in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka since they
themselves are saddled with much bigger problems such as the
petroleum price hike and related issues.
According to reports, Prime Minister’s Security Advisor Mr.
N.K.Narayanan will meet with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister,M.
Karunanidhi to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka.
It is important at this juncture, to take note of this
situation, even if India does not want to interfere with Sri
Lankan affairs as in the past
No doubt the President sighed with relief when he learned that
Mangala Samaraweera who rushed to Delhi from London had
accomplished his mission.
The Indian government during the talks with Foreign Minister
Mangala Samaraweera reassured their commitment to safeguard the
territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
The President who kept his options opened as far as the peace
moves are concerned was exploring each and every avenue to bring
the LTTE back to the negotiation process in a bid to improve the
general conditions of the country. The President thought that it
would be appropriate at this stage to try his luck through a
journalist. By Tuesday last week he telephoned the Editor in
Chief of the Uthayan and Sudaroli newspapers N. Vithyatharan and
the Managing Director of the Uthayan Publications, V.
Saravanabavan. When they met subsequently, the President had a
long conversation with the duo which lasted for at least three
hours. At the meeting the President expressed his concerns about
the imminent dangers if the government troops had to clash with
the LTTE, and asked these two gentlemen to strike a deal with
the Tigers. The President said that initially it could be a two
week moratorium and thereafter both sides could build on that.
The President’s move to call the Editor and the owner of the
Uthayan was described by analysts as an erosion of confidence
the government had placed in the Norwegian facilitators. The
President told the journalists that the LTTE could put forward
their requirements for such an unofficial ceasefire within the
official ceasefire. Mr. Vithyatharan told the President that he
could convey the President’s message to the LTTE leadership and
told the President that he should get independent reports on
what’s going on in the north and east so that he would not have
to depend solely on Defence Ministry reports. He pointed out
that none of the Tamil MPs representing the north and east are
having a dialogue with the President which he said would make
things worse for the government. He described the actual
situation in the north and east which had not been reported in
the media correctly. For instance the report that a policeman
was killed in the premises of the Uthayan office was totally
false he told the President. He was killed at least 150 yards
away from the office when he was on the way to have moonshine
after duty, Mr. Vithaytharan said.
Mr. Vidyatharan and Saravanabavan immediately contacted
Political Wing Chief of the LTTE Thamilselvan to convey the
President’s message. Mr. Vidyatharan thereafter called LTTE
theoretician Anton Balasingham who is a close friend of his to
convey the President’s concerns on the ongoing conflict. This is
not the first time that Mr. Vidyatharan and the President had a
dialogue. Just before the Geneva talks, Mr. Vidyatharan informed
the President of the LTTE’s intention to participate in peace
talks even before Norwegian Minister Solheim arrived in the
country and had a meeting with the LTTE.
Besides this the Dutch Ambassador in Sri Lanka ReynoutVan Dijk
is to undertake a fact finding mission to Pesalai, Mannar where
several civilians had been killed allegedly by the navy. It is
in the wake of a 16 page document that the Bishop of Mannar
Rayappu Joseph had issued to the Holy See in Colombo condemning
the attack on civilians at a church in Mannar. Mr. Dijk had a
chat with Peace Secretariat Chief Dr. Palitha Kohona who said
that it was only a fraction of the 200,000 strong security
forces in Sri Lanka who were responsible for such attacks. Dr.
Kohona said one soldier or two or even 20 could go berserk but
the percentage could be insignificant when compared with
incidents taking place in Iraq, where security forces are
accused of blatantly violating human rights.
Meanwhile the British High Commissioner addressing a gathering
at the 80th official birthday of the Queen pointed out:
“No country’s armed forces are perfect. We in Britain know that
through bitter experience. But when serious lapses in discipline
occur, the important thing is that they should be investigated
and the perpetrators dealt with under the law. Indeed, we have
higher expectations of the authorities and security forces of a
democracy - because they represent a democracy,”
While the government is embroiled in resolving complex problems
at hand, the main opposition UNP is trying to work on a
programme to increase their vote base in the rural areas where
they fared badly in the presidential elections and the local
The UNP’s political affairs committee met once again last week
where the UNP Leader invited the other members of the committee
to watch a documentary on a video screen where Dr. Harsha De
Silva analysed the elections and election results from the
The UNP Leader spoke at length on how the UNP should improve its
vote base and on short term, mid term and long term programmes
to achieve this objective. The members felt that it was a useful
exercise and made many suggestions which they felt would be
useful for the party in its future endeavours.
Former Minister and UNP stalwart S.B. Dissanayake, who remained
silent all this while, came out with a strong suggestion that
the party should change its outlook at village, electoral and
national levels. He said that the support extended by the
Sinhala Buddhist masses to the UNP is slowly diminishing and
this is true where the SLFP too is concerned, because of the
short-sighted policies of the party leaders. He said that though
the vote base of the SLFP, JHU and JVP had eroded over the
years, the UNP had not been able to muster that support. He
warned that a powerful force could emerge as a result and the
UNP also could face severe setbacks unless the party geared
itself to face the new challenges.
He, however, said that that the forces opposing the UNP could
get together at some point when there is an election to see that
the UNP is defeated. This is likely to happen despite the sharp
differences that had surfaced in the Sri Lankan polity now, he
Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed but the fact remains
that there is still no political solution in sight.
Party members are apparently disgusted over the manner in which
the leader is poised to protract the proposed party reforms.
Some say it is useless to participate in the political affairs
committee meeting since there are no signs of party reforms
One member of the political affairs committee told this column
that the leader should either go ahead with the reforms or tell
the party that he opposed such moves. “Then we will know where
we stand,” he said. “He is keeping the whole party in suspense
without taking a decision,” he alleged.
Kurunegala District Parliamentarian, Jayawickrama Perera,
appealed to the party leader to go ahead with the party reforms
without dragging it any further and told Wickremesinghe that the
party should work according to an agenda. “I hope you wouldn’t
make it a mockery,” Perera said.
Sajit Premadasa also spoke but he was not as vociferous as the
others.Colombo District Parliamentarian, Ravi Karunanayake and
Kalutara District Parliamentarian, Rajitha Senaratne, also spoke
at length at this meeting. Both these members criticised the
party leadership for the ongoing crisis in the Colombo Municipal
“You have put the entire CMC in an awkward position and
shattered the hopes of the voters who voted for us,” they said.
Wickremesinghe at this stage made an attempt to apportion the
blame on the Deputy Leader of the party, Karu Jayasuriya, who
also came under fire by the members.
Then came the suggestion by Ravi Karunanayake to hand over the
affairs of the CMC to them so that they could resolve it, once
and for all. However, Wickremesinghe, the shrewd politician,
dodged the issue using his diplomatic skills and proceeded to
the next item on the agenda.
At this stage, Dissanayake once again chipped in to say that
what they should do under the circumstances is to go ahead with
the present set of councillors and enroll them to the UNP.
“We can have a big ceremony to welcome them,” he added. Party
Chairman, Malik Samarawickrema, also approved this suggestion.
It has now been revealed that Rajendran, the leader of the
independent group, has taken his oath before government
parliamentarian, Wijedasa Rajapakse, as the new Deputy Mayor of
UNP insiders believe that this has been orchestrated by some
party men in connivance with the government in order to keep
Sirisena Cooray out of the mayoralty. “This is a conspiracy
where some party men are involved,” an insider told this column.
However, the story is that the leader of the independent group,
Rajendran has taken the oath after having nominated Stanley Janz
for the position of Deputy Mayor.
The UNP feels that the Election Commissioner erred in law when
he admitted Rajendran as the Deputy Mayor since he had already
nominated Stanley Janz for this position. The UNP feels that the
Election Commissioner should have had an inquiry before deciding
on the second nominee of the independent group for the position
of Deputy Mayor. Now it appears that another legal battle is in
the offing to determine the legitimate heir to the post of
Deputy Mayor of the Colombo Municipal Council.
More than anything, what baffles the UNP top brass is the
unusual behaviour of Wickremesinghe, when it comes to party
reforms, but some suspect there could be something up his sleeve
which he doesn’t want to come out with openly right now.
If the UNP’s aspiration is to form a government, and if this
could be achieved by some way or the other, it doesn’t bother
the UNPers too much as to how he is going to do it. What they
want Wickremesinghe to do is to form a government as soon as
However, the unresolved issue here is whether this is a part of
his ploy to keep the UNPers at bay since he is ostensibly
inimical to proposed party reforms.
Does Wickremesinghe have a definite plan for this? The answer
could be “yes” and “no.” Certainly he is trying something to
appease the partymen who otherwise would turn hostile towards
Reports indicate that Wickremesinghe is having a secret dialogue
with the JVP at present. The JVP’s interest lies with the
Western Provincial Council and the Chief Minister whom they want
to get rid of as soon as possible, but is it the same with
Wickremesinghe? His interest lies elsewhere, certainly not in
the Provincial Council. Wickremesinghe wants to explore the
possibility of toppling the ruling party with the help of the
The JVP’s position is very clear that they will not backtrack
when it comes to the issue of the Chief Minister and while
trying their luck with President Rajapakse, they want to explore
all possible avenues to see that Reginald Cooray is ousted.
There is a logical background to the whole episode. During the
proceedings of the Provincial Council last week, Chief
Opposition Whip, Lakshman Abeygunaratne, raised a pertinent
query about an overseas trip by two ministers of the Provincial
Mr. Abeygunaratne alleged that these two ministers had
accompanied two characters who had close links with the
underworld. At the same time, he queried as to whether acting
appointments have been made to carry out their duties. With this
there was pandemonium and chaos inside the council. Finally the
council moved to get down the relevant fax copies from the
Governor’s Office relating to the acting appointments which the
members refused to believe.
It was a known fact that Reginald Cooray had a lease of life as
the Chief Minister because the UNP refused to support a JVP-sponsored
no-confidence motion against Reginald Cooray earlier during
President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure.
This was on the basis that the UNP did not want to support the
JVP as and when they wanted, but at the last session of the
Provincial Council, Lakshman Abeygunaratne told the Council that
they would withdraw their support for the Chief Minister.
This means that the Chief Minister will be compelled to quit his
office, paving the way for Lakshman Abeygunaratne of the UNP
according to the understanding between the UNP and the JVP,
after talks the JVP had with the President proved futile.
President Rajapakse had talks with the JVP on the CEB issue as
well as on the issue relating to the Chief Minister. Both these
matters ended up in a stalemate situation. The JVP position was
that they would not support the CEB reforms bill planned by the
UNP when they were holding office, even with amendments.
The President said that he would have to discuss with other
parties if they are to bring in a new bill. When Minister John
Seneviratne pointed out that the CEB is saddled with so many
problems, JVP representative Lal Kantha said that it would not
be possible to bring in a bill that would deepen the crisis
Though the President temporarily halted the CEB reforms bill
under pressure from the JVP, the cabinet of ministers later on
Wednesday decided to introduce CEB reforms as an urgent bill in
The President, however, could not agree with the JVP on the
issue relating to the Chief Minister. The JVP was not happy with
the President but the party that always looks for the long term
benefit rather than the short term benefit, was ready to talk
even with the enemy, hence, the discussions with the UNP began
to thaw the ice at the Western Provincial Council.
The announcement made by Lakshman Abeygunaratne was sequel to
this understanding between the UNP and the JVP. The JVP is not
happy with the government and the way they conduct themselves in
the present political context. It is in this backdrop that
Vijitha Herath, a member of the JVP hierarchy, met with the UNP
The UNP is now exploring the possibility of securing the
government in the event the JVP withdraws their support to the
government over the present misunderstanding with the ruling
The UNP is also having a dialogue with former President
Chandrika Kumaratunga as part of their plan to strengthen their
forces in parliament.
President Kumaratunga who is in London now is reportedly
perturbed over the moves by the party to oust her as the
President of the SLFP. She feels that the party is not doing the
right thing as far as the Bandaranaike family is concerned
However, it is learnt that she would not canvass among the party
members to secure her position in the party if the party members
could be so ungrateful to the Bandaranaikes given the sacrifices
her family has made for the SLFP.
It appears now that moves to oust her could sharply divide the
party, and the Bandaranaike loyalists could create problems for
the Rajapakse Administration.
The Central Committee meeting of the SLFP is scheduled to take
place on June 29. However, according to the plan, the Central
Committee is likely to appoint President Rajapakse as the
President of the party, while Chandrika Kumaratunga will be
appointed as the patron. But it is widely believed that
President Kumaratunga will not accept this position.
In the circumstances, the UNP is poised to exploit the situation
to turn tables in parliament by securing a majority. At the
party leaders’ meeting, various things ranging from salary
increase for MPs to the 17th Amendment were discussed. The JVP
opposed the proposed a salary hike for the parliamentarians
while Minister Jeyraj Fernandopulle said that the JVP say one
thing for benefit of publicity, but do the exact opposite. When
the party leaders’ attention was focused toward the proposed
amendment to the 17th amendment to the constitution, TNA leader
R. Sampanthan said that there is no point in trying to amend the
17th Amendment after having violated it. He said that the
government should first rectify this problem before taking
action to appoint a select committee to go into the matter in
The UNP too expressed its displeasure over the manner in which
the government had conducted itself by paying scant respect to
the provisions of the constitution.