pushes for peace
- MR wants guarantee from Prabha
- Anura Bandaranaike censured
- President writes to Karu
appear to be fresh hopes for another round of talks between the
government and the LTTE after President Rajapaksa’s meeting with
representatives of the co-chairs.
The President had told the ambassadors of those countries that
he was keen to have a fresh look at a peace initiative, provided
that the LTTE reciprocates.
However the President told the co-chairs that the present
ceasefire agreement has to be reviewed in light of the present
situation. The President could not allow the status quo to
remain on the ground, since Sampur has become a sore point after
the LTTE directed artillery fire towards the Trincomalee naval
base from Sampur.
It appears to the international community that both parties need
a respite since they have suffered heavily owing to the recent
clashes in the north and the east.
Maybe it was with this in mind that the President invited the
former special envoy Erik Solheim to get involved in a fresh
peace bid. The invitation to Solheim went through the co-chairs
and he is reviewing it at the moment. The President told the
co-chairs that he needs a guarantee from none other than
Velupillai Prabhakaran that he was willing to sit down and talk
with the government.
Until that was done, the President emphasised that he could not
tell the armed forces to stop their operations which is mainly
defensive to protect the people and government territory.
“Get a verifiable guarantee from Prabhakaran and not from second
or third rung members,” the President said. He said that Mr.
Solheim can travel up to Wanni and meet the LTTE Leader.
President Rajapaksa told the delegation representing the
co-chairs that the government tolerated all the political
killings in the south and other acts of terrorism perpetrated by
the LTTE in Colombo and elsewhere until the attack on the Army
Commander on April 25, after which the government engaged the
LTTE in the Sampur area. “That was also a limited operation,” he
“It was after the Mavil Aru incident that we decided that
necessary steps should be taken to safeguard the interests of
the people,” the President emphasised that all the operations
undertaken by the security forces were purely on a defensive
basis and reiterated the fact that the government did not
violate the CFA.
The President in the same breath said that the country’s
security cannot be compromised and it takes precedence over
everything. He told the ambassadors that the Trincomalee Naval
base had to be protected and that he could not allow the LTTE to
enact a hostage drama there.
The LTTE meanwhile, is to put forward and make it clear to the
Rajapaksa administration that any peace move would only be
possible if the government disarms the Karuna group, which they
allege is operating from government controlled areas.
During discussions with the President, the co-chairs also
brought up the issue of political killings allegedly carried out
by the security forces in the north and the east. They probably
expressed the LTTE’s sentiments that the security forces in an
organised manner is in the process of liquidating the civil
leadership which has links with the LTTE.
The President also wants to put a halt to all types of political
killings carried out by the LTTE in the south. All these points
were discussed at length and further discussions will also take
It is learnt that there is a marked shift in government policy
and that the SLFP as an individual party would submit proposals
to the All Party Conference, a solution for the crisis based on
the Indian model brushing aside any kind of JVP opposition.
The government thinking appears to be that the LTTE also should
be serious on the government’s peace initiatives and should not
take it for a ride as had happened on previous occasions. They
are of the opinion that the LTTE should also come up with a
proposal for a final solution.
EU Ambassador Julian Wilson told the President that the NGOs and
INGOs feel insecure and that they feel that they are not wanted
in the country anymore. The President replying said that a bulk
of the NGOs and the INGOs are doing yeoman service to the
country except for one or two bad eggs. The President said that
there was no problem in facilitating them.
Subsequent to this discussion, a meeting with the NGOs and INGOs
were held on the following day, presided over by Secretary to
the President, Lalith Weeratunge and Presidential Advisor, Basil
Rajapaksa, where the problems of these organisations were
discussed at length.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Disaster Management
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe also briefed the co-chairs on
peace initiatives and humanitarian assistance to the displaced
people in the north.
The meeting was attended by Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar,
EU Ambassador Julian Wilson and representatives from US, Japan
and Germany, which is holding the current local presidency of
the EU bloc.
The President on Tuesday (25) had a separate meeting with the
British envoy in Sri Lanka, Dominic Chilcott. At that meeting,
President Rajapaksa appraised the British envoy on the current
position of the country with regard to the conflict.
Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, had also
visited Norway for talks with the Norwegian government on the
Sri Lankan issue. He also had talks with Norwegian Special Peace
Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer. India is facing a huge problem right
now due to the influx of refugees from the north of Sri Lanka to
Tamil Nadu, which state is exerting pressure on the centre to
get involved in the Sri Lankan issue on humanitarian grounds.
On Thursday, security at the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission
in Chennai was strengthened following reports that groups
supportive of the Tamil cause are trying to stage demonstrations
Following a Presidential directive given during the meeting with
the co-chairs, Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga and
Presidential Advisor, Basil Rajapaksa, held a meeting with the
NGOs where many issues were discussed and sorted out.
The NGO officials were pleased with the disposition of both
Weeratunge and Basil Rajapaksa and told others later that it was
a very useful meeting.
At the meeting, NGO officials spoke of the inconveniences they
were facing due to a new directive issued by the Defence
Ministry that they should possess a letter issued by the
ministry on their registration as an NGO.
They told the Secretary and Rajapaksa that the security
establishment had demanded this letter of registration where
ever they went.
Both the Secretary and Basil Rajapaksa explained to the NGO
officials that some sort of registration is necessary and it
could help the government give their locations to the security
forces who could give them necessary protection when needed and
that it would also help the government forces to identify them
as people involved in community service.
They also said that there was no proper registration of NGOs
carried out after the tsunami and hence it was necessary.
Access to NGOs
Basil Rajapaksa explained that even military trainers could come
under the guise of NGO officials to give training to the LTTE.
Rajapaksa cited an example from a recent FBI discovery of an
attempt to procure missiles for the LTTE and where they had
asked the undercover agent whether they could provide training
to the cadres and as to how they should handle them.
However the government agreed to give the NGOs access to the
refugee camps and expressed their willingness to meet them in
two weeks to review the progress and to determine whether they
need more facilities to carry out their humanitarian relief work
without any hindrance.
As the country steps into the third week after bloody clashes
against the LTTE to secure the Mavil Aru area, the President has
expressed his concern over the general security of the country.
President Rajapaksa addressing the government parliamentary
group last week told his Parliamentarians to be mindful of their
security when they move about freely in Colombo and elsewhere.
Unlike late President J.R. Jayewardene who called upon fellow
countrymen to look after their own security, President Rajapaksa
told his parliamentarians to exercise caution and take adequate
measures to ensure their security and safety. In other words he
told them to strengthen their security but the members were not
aware whether instructions had trickled down to the security
agencies to provide them with additional men and material.
“If something happens to you I cannot face your families and the
country,” the President said urging his parliamentarians to take
Thereafter, the President apprised the members of the current
security situation and emphasised that all the members should
participate in these meetings since it was important to get
their views also on what was going on in the country.
Having observed that many members were absent, he directed
General Secretary Maitripala Sirisena to call for explanation
from members who were not present without giving a proper
The President also referred to an issue were it was said that
former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had not been invited to
take part in the SLFP convention scheduled for September 1. This
is the first convention that will be held under the patronage of
President Rajapaksa as Party Leader.
The President inquired from General Secretary Maitripala
Sirisena whether Kumaratunga had not been invited to the
convention. Sirisena said he had sent two invitations by post
and the third had been hand delivered and the signature of the
officer who undertook to deliver the invitation to the her is on
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake at this stage said that
he had received the invitation by post. Then the President said
he had not received his invitation so far.
Being satisfied with the reply given by party General Secretary,
the President thought that Minister Anura Bandaranaike, his
erstwhile friend, had been for a long time trying to undermine
the President’s political career by creating dissension in the
party when he wrote a letter to the general secretary deploring
his action of not inviting former President Chandrika
Kumaratunga to the convention.
An angry President inquired as to what the purpose of Mr.
Bandaranaike’s letter was. The President immediately directed
his office to recall Mr. Bandaranaike from Nepal since he found
that Mr. Bandaranaike had left without permission his
permission. The office of the President later sent a message
through Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna to Mr.
Bandaranaike, asking him to return immediately on a Presidential
Bandaranaike had to go to Nepal to attend a conference on
tourism and wrote a letter to President Rajapaksa seeking
permission for the same. But before the President gave him the
green light, Bandaranaike left for Bangkok on a private holiday,
hoping to go to Nepal from there.
In the meantime, Bandaranaike wrote a letter to the general
secretary of the party blaming him for not inviting Kumaratunga
to the party convention. Mahinda loyalists in the SLFP are of
the opinion that this has been purposely orchestrated by
Bandaranaike to create dissension within the party.
They say that it was a cover up for President Chandrika
Kumaratunga not to attend the convention, as she is now
holidaying in Peru. The letter would also serve to build opinion
that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is undermining her position,
thereby making things uncomfortable for Rajapaksa within the
The Presidential directive stunned Anura Bandaranaike because he
never expected Rajapaksa to react so aggressively. He made a
couple of calls to friends in Colombo to ascertain this position
and on certain occasions denied that Alagiyawanna was in fact
contacting him to convey the President’s message.
Now Bandaranaike is trying to accuse Secretary to the Ministry
of Tourism Dr. Ramunjan for not getting him covering approval to
participate in the Bimsteck Conference in Nepal. Ranmujan has
conveyed to confidants that while he had nothing to do with the
incident, Bandaranaike had sent the President a letter
explaining his position, accusing Ranmujan for the bungling.
Just before he left for Bangkok, he summoned all his supporters
to Horagolla and told the organisers in Attanagalla to boycott
the party convention since the SLFP had conveniently forgotten
to invite Kumaratunga.
He told them that the party had been ungrateful towards the
former leader who gave life to the SLFP after the party had been
in political oblivion for 17 years. Mahinda loyalists in the
party are mocking Bandaranaike saying that though he had
attended a tourism parley in Nepal, he never sighted his
ministerial office in Colombo. They question why the President
was tolerating him by giving him a luxurious house such as
Visumpaya and a huge security outfit at state expense.
He has not gone to his ministerial office even once over the
last three months, one SLFP stalwart told this columnist, adding
that it was unfair of Bandaranaike to send stinkers of that
nature to the general secretary of the party without clarifying
They say that while Bandaranaike is globe-trotting his Chairman
is also running amok creating problems for the tourist industry.
The industry people are lamenting that the amendments to the
Tourism Act to create a Tourism Authority has not been gazetted
so far, although the matter had been finalised some time ago.
In this backdrop, the UNP group also met under the chairmanship
of Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya. Jayasuriya mentioned a few
things to the UNP parliamentarians which he discussed with the
President. UNP Assistant General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake
told the group that although the press has carried reports about
the meeting the UNP delegation had with the President, it was a
lopsided version of what had really taken place. “Everything has
not been told to the press. Under the circumstances, the UNP
group thought that it would be better to issue a press release
giving details of what transpired at the meeting.”
Jayasuriya told the group that he inquired from President
Rajapaksa about the fighting that is taking place in the North
and the East. He had told the President that even if the
government had taken a decision to fight the LTTE, the country
should be told the truth. “There are hundreds of bodies in the
battle field and they are not coming to their relatives,”
Jayasuriya had said and emphasised that the truth should be told
to the people and not supressed.
The general feeling among UNPers is that the government is
trying to keep things from the opposition and the people of the
Jayasuriya appraising the UNP group said that he had told the
President that the voter base of the UNP would not shift if one
or two UNPers crossed over. He also told the group that he had
told the President that he would not get the support of the UNP
by taking one or two UNPers occasionally.
“If you want to get the full support of the UNP, the best thing
to do is to come clean,” Jayasuriya has told the President.
The UNP had questioned the sudden closure of schools and the
government asking for help from India etc. to which the
government had not replied directly. The question posed by the
UNP on whether there are foreign pilots operating along with the
Air Force went unanswered, the UNP delegation who met the
President told the group meeting.
Besides this, the UNP group had discussed the TV talk shows
telecast by the state run Rupavahini, ITN and the private
electronic media. UNP parliamentarian T. Maheswaran, had told
former Minister Bandula Gunawardena to exercise caution when he
participated in TV talk shows. Maheswaran told Gunawardena to
protect the party and the individual concerned when
participating in TV debates. Gunawardena in response told the
group that when he was invited to participate he had been told
something to which he was agreeable but when he went there he
had found that the show was completely different to what he had
been led to believe earlier.
Maheswaran was referring to a television debate telecast over
state run Rupavahini, where Wimal Weerawansa and Deputy Minister
Sripathi Sooriyarachchi launched a scathing attack on the UNP.
Bandula Gunawardena, the sole representative of the UNP was
helpless in the face of the barrage. Maheswaran told Gunawardena
“We are there to face these sort of attackers. We know how to
deal with them and speak the language they understand. If you
are unable to face them you should not go. We are there to face
At this stage, former Minister Ravi Karunanayake chipped in to
say that irrespective of the subject of debate, the person
participating in TV shows should protect the UNP and the
individuals concerned. He said most of these debates are
orchestrated to sling mud at the UNP and they should not get
caught in this kind of government trap.
In the meantime, it is learnt that UNP Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe who is now in Europe has sent two emissaries to
talk and settle matters with UNP National Organiser S.B.
Dissanayake. The emissaries were Dinesh Weerakkody and Mihira de
Alwis who requested Dissanayake to work along with
Wickremesinghe in party matters.
Dissanayake replying said “We have differences. We thrash it out
within the precincts of the party and we respect him as the
leader. We do not do anything detrimental to him outside party
forums and there is no problem working with him.” However
Dissanayake said that whatever that transpires at party forums
appeared in newspapers. “I don’t disclose them to outsiders. I
don’t know how these have been leaked out to newspapers,”
At the same time there is a move by some top rung UNP members to
make Rukman Senanayake UNP Chairman Tissa Attanayake, General
Secretary. Present Party Chairman Mallik Samarawickrema is the
prime mover behind this. Samarawickrema had recently hosted
Tissa Attanayake and former Minister Lakshman Seneviratne to
dinner at the Trans Asia Hotel to map out the strategy to
appoint Rukman Senanayake chairman and Attanayake, the general
secretary. But it appears now that there is going to be vehement
opposition to this move since it was originally agreed to
appoint Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya as the Executive Chairman
of the Party. Party seniors prefer Karu Jayasuriya to hold this
post while they insist that Jayawickrema Perera should be
appointed the General Secretary of the party.
Besides the two group meetings, the parliamentary committee on
Public Enterprises (COPE) also met last week to discuss the
issue of privatising the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation.
Minister Anura Yapa was in the Chair when PERC Chairman Nihal
Amarasekera appeared before COPE.
Amarasekera told COPE that the government was deprived of Rs.
3,100 million when the Insurance Corporation deal was sealed by
the former UNP government. He told COPE that he was stifled by
Finance Ministry Secretary P.B. Jayasundera and Attorney General
K.C. Kamalasabayson and he had written to Ernst and Young and
personally to Deva Rodrigo who was the senior partner of Cooper
and Lybrand, but there was no response.
He told COPE that this was done by moving current assets to
fixed assets. Deputy Minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi who was
also present at the meeting told COPE that he had also submitted
a report to cabinet on the matter but there was no response.
Anura Yapa took the Chair at this meeting in place of Wijedasa
Rajapakse who was late to come. But the UNP now feels that there
is an organised attempt on the side of the government to attack
business tycoon Harry Jayawardena.
COPE also went into the activities of the Ceylon Petroleum
Corporation and seismic studies done by them to explore oil in
the coast around Sri Lanka.
At the meeting, Secretary to the Ministry of Petroleum and
Petroleum Resources Development A.P.A. Gunasekara said that it
would be difficult to work with the SEMA (Strategic Enterprises
Management Agency) which he said was interfering with the
ministry without proper authority. “How can I work
independently, SEMA is interfering in our work in an
unprecedented manner. What is SEMA? It is a non-incorporated
body; they are telling us to cancel this tender and that tender
which is beyond their mandate.”
“In the circumstances what are we to do?” he questioned.
There appears to be an ongoing battle between the Secretary to
the Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development and the Chairman
of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Jaliya Medagama, who says
that he was working according to the directives given by the
Ravi Karunanayake of the UNP who was present at the meeting told
the Secretary and the Chairman that the people of this country
are suffering while the Corporation is making thumping profits
mainly because of the corruption in the Ceylon Petroleum
The JVP also was taken by surprise when they saw the balance
sheet for 2005, where the petroleum corporation had made profits
amounting to 7000 million rupees. All were of the opinion that
there was no justification in government raising oil prices.
However the Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation told COPE that
petrol prices had to be raised by seven rupees in the coming
weeks because it was a main revenue earner for the government of
The Committee on Public Enterprises once again perused the
agreement reached between the government of Sri Lanka and the
Norwegian Oil Company on oil exploration in the sea basin around
Sri Lanka. The argument of the JVP that the agreement was signed
a day before the UNP sponsored ceasefire was nullified by UNP’s
Ravi Karunanayake, who pointed out that it was signed during the
tenure of the People’s Alliance government before Ranil
Wickremesinghe took office as the Prime Minister under President
SEMA which is now proposing to cancel the agreement is facing
problems with the ministry secretary who has pointed out any
cancellation would cost the government at least US $7 million,
which he pointed out was waste of public money.
On the submissions made by the Secretary to the Ministry of
Petroleum Resources and Development, COPE has ordered an
immediate report on the matter for further examination
COPE Chairman Wijedasa Rajapakse wanted to get in to the bottom
of the problems relating to SEMA and the relevant ministry and
on numerous occasions posed the question as to why the ministry
succumbed to the pressure of SEMA when it was not an
Rajapakse may not have realised that SEMA was directly under the
President and that those directives are trickling down from
It appears now that there is a chain reaction to what he is
doing as the Chairman of COPE Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena of the
UNP is posing a verbal question in Parliament as to whether
Rajapakse is working as a legal consultant to the government
institutions and the fees he is getting from these institutions.
Some UNPers and members of government think that this has a
direct bearing to the questions and clarifications he wanted
from the Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal on financial