|One year of Mahinda
President remains strong despite
a year ago the backwoods politician from the deep south Mahinda
Rajapaksa ascended the pinnacle of Sri Lankan politics when he
took oaths as the fifth Executive President of the country
before Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva.
people are divided over his ascendancy to the country’s
leadership. Some would say that Rajapaksa strove himself and
worked himself up to the position he is holding currently, while
others would just relegate his victory to sheer good luck and to
the LTTE preventing a large number of voters in the North and
the East from exercising their vote.
The Presidential election in 2005 between President Mahinda
Rajapaksa and UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe was a run down
to the wire and the difference of total votes between the two
main candidates was a mere 1.86 percent. But Rajapaksa clearly
commanded more popularity among the people in the South where he
won with large majorities.
His candidacy from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was too in
jeopardy until the last moment. Even after been selected as the
SLFP Presidential Candidate he was left high and dry without any
tangible support from the then incumbent President, Chandrika
Kumaratunga and bulk of the SLFP stalwarts. However he was able
to win the confidence of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and
the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and also 28 other parties.
President Mahinda Rajapakse’s first year in office seems to be
of mixed nature where he had achieved in certain aspects as well
as not in other areas. Although branded as an extremist and a
hawk by some, President Rajapakse showed much restraint in
handling affairs of the country especially with regard to the
North and East issue.
Despite all three rounds of peace talks ending in deadlock,
even with the LTTE boycotting Oslo talks he was able to win the
confidence of the international community which led to banning
of the LTTE by the European Community on May 29.
Compelled to remain with a hung Parliament, not commanding a
clear majority, President Rajapaksa was able to maneuver and
gain the support of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and
Upcountry People’s Front (UPF) on August 25.
As the JVP and JHU continued to show opposition to Rajapaksa’s
policy he was able to gain the support of the main opposition
the United National Party (UNP) on October 23.
The high water mark in President Rajapaksa’s one year was the
signing of the Memorandum of Understanding to implement a three
point common national agenda on the North and East Conflict,
Electoral Reforms and Good Governance with the UNP.
Militarily too there were both ups and downs. Although there
were attacks and retaliation from both sides a major scale
warfare was not launched until the closing of the Mavil Aru
sluice gates by the LTTE on July 20 causing hardships to
Serunuwara farmers. However after a major offensive the forces
were able to reopen the sluice gates around August 10.
Meanwhile the LTTE launched a major offensive in Muttur on
August 1 and kept it under siege until it was recaptured by
forces on August 5 after fierce fighting. LTTE was charged for
killing 100 Muslims fleeing to government held areas at
Pachchanur while government forces were suspected to have killed
seventeen aid workers of the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim
(Action Against Hunger- ACF) on August 5.
LTTE launched offensives in Jaffna by attacking the Palaly Air
Base, in Trincomalee by attacking the Naval Base and Harbour and
at sentry points in Amapara and in Batticaloa on August 11. Main
supply route to Jaffna A9 road was closed and is closed ever
At least 61 schoolgirls were killed and 129 were wounded when
Sri Lankan Kfir jets bombed an LTTE training compound Vallipuram,
Mullaithivu on August 14, although the LTTE denounced the and
said that the schoolgirls were attending a residential course on
Government was successful in its preemptive operation to
capture Tiger held Sampur launched on August 28. During 55 Party
Convention of SLFP on August 4 President Rajapaksa joyously
announced that security forces have captured Sampoor. Around 50
Sri Lanka Army troopers were killed in action and 108 wounded
during the offensive.
In the Northern frontier too President Rajapaksa tried his
luck. Sri Lanka’s military on September 9 launched a ground
offensive Saturday against the LTTE territory in Muhamalai,
after heavily bombarding the area for two days. At least 25
soldiers were killed and around 125 wounded. Army claimed to
have advanced 1 km into LTTE-held territory in the Muhamalai.
There were several downfalls during President Rajapaksa’s
regime as well. When ten unarmed Muslim workers were found
butchered near the Radella Tank, Potuvil on September 10, it
caused the wrath of the hitherto largely neutral Muslim
community’s fall upon security forces. As the massacre had taken
place near Shasthraveli Special Task Force (STF) training camp
located near Lahugala National Park , many suspected security
forces hand in it.
But the biggest blow came on 11 October 2006 when Army troopers
who broke through the Muhamalai FDL were repulsed leaving 75
dead bodies of Sri Lankan soldiers inside the LTTE territory in
Kilali. Three tanks were damaged and one destroyed, according to
LTTE military spokesman. Meanwhile, SLA sources in Colombo
claimed 133 were killed and more than 300 wounded in the Sri
Later on October 16the LTTE blasted a lorry laden with
explosives in an open space in Digampathana Junction in Habarana
where more than 24 Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) vehicles and buses with
more than 340 sailors were parked, killing 99 and seriously
wounding 150. 8 civilians were also killed in the explosion.
Two days later on October 18 a 15 Sea Tigers in five boats
entered the Sri Lankan Naval Base Dakshina, in the southern port
city of Galle damaging four Sri Lankan naval vessels and
installations. At least three explosive laden attack vessels,
attacked naval crafts including a ship and destroyed a Fast
Attack Craft (FAC) and two water jet inshore patrol vessels
anchored in the port. Later mobs looted around 20 shops owned by
In a severe blow to the already faltering peace process Jaffna
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj
was shot dead in Colombo on November 10 also killing his
bodyguard Sergeant Lakshman Lokuwella. The Police have so far
failed to arrest the assassins.
Earlier the MP was critisisng the Sri Lanka Army for shelling
Vaharai where 47 Internally Displaced Persons from Trincomalee,
were killed on November 8.
A bag of mixed fortunes
By Ravi Ladduwahetty
Despite the Government proclaiming vibrant economic growth for
the end year of President Mahinda Rajapakse who is also the
Finance Minister, the actual scenario is quite different.
The Treasury says that the economy for the year 2006 has grown
by 8% vis –a- vis the projected growth rate of 6% despite the
oil shocks and the security risks. The last such growth was
reported as far back as 1978 and for 2006 the growth has seen an
all round increase in agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and
small and medium scale industries.
Regional development has also taken a special impact in the post
tsunami era with greater provisioning for the farming community
where the post tsunami work also contributed to this
development. The 2007 Budget is expected to maintain this growth
momentum, the Treasury has said in a document. However, if the
Government has done so well in the economic development, the
production costs should have declined and Cost of Living should
have declined, but it has risen with unbearable consequences to
the lives of the people.
Despite the Government claiming that the unemployment had also
dropped to 7% during 2006 in sharp contrast to 8.3% in 2004 and
7.7% in 2005, these statistics are without the North and the
The drain in the heavy foreign exchange in the light of the high
fuel bills and the high price of the country’s imports, the
reserves have been maintained to fund three months of imports
which has been supported by the continuous flow of foreign
worker remittances and the high receipts of tourism. There has
been a notable feature in that there has been import of capital
and intermediate goods reflecting the expansion of economic
activity with the exports also showing high growth, the Treasury
says. The oil prices have also impacted the cost of living
through the higher electricity and transport costs. There has
been an expansion of banking credit to the private sector which
has resulted in demand, pushing prices upwards.
Despite the proclamations, the transport costs have gone up.
The total recorded foreign aid disbursement by September 30,
2006 amounted to US$ 887 million on account of project loans,
program loans and grants which is 60.2% amounting to US$ 1157
million forecasted early 2006.
The Japanese Government, the World Bank and the Asian
Development Bank have contributed US$ 449 million or 63.8% of
the total disbursement. The Government of Japan’s contribution
was US$ 198.8 million, Asian Development Bank – US $ 138 million
and the World Bank US$ 198.8 million. It is also said that
the total debt service payment of the as at August 31, 2006
was US$ 321. 3 million which includes the principal repayments
of US$ 217.3 million and that the estimated debt repayment for
2006 is US$ 494.4 million. The Government’s total debt stock
as at August 31, 2006 is at US$ 10.084.9 million, as compared
to US$ 9491.2 million as at end 2005.
If there was such a large inflow of foreign aid and with the
well being of the economy, eye brows are being raised as to why
the Government has engaged in Dollar commercial borrowings to
the tune of US$ 1.3 billion.
The Foreign Reserves of the Government has declined to US$ 2400
million with the Rupee depreciating to 108 against the Dollar
and 203 against the Sterling Pound. The Government has also
borrowed at LIBOR + 1.8%. The permanent overdraft of the
Government also has an interest rate of 32%.Foreign Direct
Investments have increased with the arrival of the tsunami funds
but those projects too are far from over.
It appears that a Government which was dependent on the
privatization proceeds in the post 1994 era with the
divestitures of the major state assets is now engaged in big
time commercial borrowing and in Dollar borrowings too.
On the contrary and in a diametrically opposite position, the
Colombo Stock Market has shown much more promise with the
fundamentals being more positive. There has been a year on year
growth in the market in the last four years, despite the fragile
peace process and there is expectation that the market will see
a 40% year on year growth for 2007 over 2006. Despite the
difficulties in the defence and political fronts, the market
has seen improvements with solid corporate earnings and also
with record earnings in recent weeks and also coupled with the
promotions that the Colombo Stock Exchange and its members are
There is also expectations that the market will rise and influx
of foreign funds into Asia with a special emphasis on India and
Pakistan and more so into Sri Lanka in the event of the peace
process taking the full turn for the better. The sectors
which are expected to significantly show improvements are the
telecommunications, banking and power and energy and
especially Sri Lanka Telecom and John Keells Holdings where
there is renewed buying interests and where the market is also
expected to see a technical correction.
Mahinda Chinthanaya: What was achieved and
what was not
Family, Society and Religion
Under an “affectionate Family” all expectant mothers who cannot
afford a nutritional meal were promised with a basket of
nutritional foods (Poshana Malla) free of charge. However the
Government is yet to fulfill this in the entire country.
According to the first five year plan although a new ministry
for Children was set up the monthly allowance of Rs. 200 for the
purchase of milk for every child and assistance promised to
Children’s Homes, Day Care Centers and Pre Schools are yet to be
A Supreme Inter Religious Council was to be set up to enable the
Head of State to seek advice from religious dignitaries in
crucial crises facing the country under “ Virtuous State “
President Rajapaksa promised to commence discussions with all
political parties represented in Parliament and have
simultaneous discussions with religious dignitaries and civil
society organizations in the North and East, under the
initiative of an “Undivided Country, National Consensus and an
Initial discussions were promised to be concluded within three
months and move to have direct talks with LTTE Leader and to
present a consensus has failed.
Rajapakse promised that he shall present a specific timeframe
and a clear agenda to the LTTE in order to recommence
discussions. The agenda was to include vital concerns such as
renouncing separatism, demilitarization, entry into Democratic
process, discussion towards a final solution and the
Move to obtain an Asian co-operation with India , China, Russia
and Pakistan has not materialized and no discussions have been
held with the Peace Co-chairs.
The Cease Fire Agreement was to be amended and monitoring
mechanism was to be reviewed while obtaining regional
co-operation for it as well.
Resettlement of all persons displaced by war was promised
expeditiously and the interim payment of Rs. 150,000 for
resettlement and a further Rs. 250,000 of a permanent abode
under new authority “Jathika Saviya” have not been fulfilled.
Also the defunct P-TOMS was to be replaced with an expanded and
accelerated “Jaya Lanka” designed to immediately provide for
rehabilitation of the tsunami affected persons with the
participation and leadership of affected people.
President assured that people will be the owner of water
recourses and that a National Irrigation Plan was to be set up.
However action has been taken to market as a commodity under the
new Water Resources Management Policy. The Dahasak Wew (10,000
tanks) programme did not see any progress during the past year.
A National Land Policy is yet to be formulated and allocation
of 100,000 land polts for cultivation is yet to the light of
Although a bag of 50 Kg of fertilizer was promised at Rs. 350
this scheme is not fully functioning in most areas. For
purchasing Paddy Marketing Board was to be re-established and a
guaranteed price of Rs. 16.50 was promised for Nadu rice per Kg.
Power and Energy
President Rajapaksa promised the expeditious construction of
thermal power plants (Norochcholai and Kerawalapitiya) and the
hydro power plants ( Upper Kotmale ) according to the generation
plans of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).
Although even delayed much and at a slower pace the Power Plant
projects are off the ground. Moragolla, Uma Oya and Gin Ganga
Projects are to be completed within another five years but no
tangible steps have been taken so far taken.
Despite the strong assurance in the Mahinda Chinthanaya not to
privatize the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) the new management
approaches that are being introduced can be said to be
equivalent to privatization. Furthermore the consensus of
stakeholders especially the trade unions had not been sought.
Although under the National Education Programme, a move to teach
Tamil to Sinhala students and vice versa under a new syllabus
was proposed no such steps have been taken.
Two fully fledged Tamil schools in Colombo and a Muslim Boys
School in Kandy are yet to be established. Although mid day rice
meal is provided in some schools a majority of students are not
given the mid day meal.
Under “University for All” Mahapola bursaries have been
increased by Rs. 500 under the 2007 Budget.
Although 10,000 more jobs for unemployed graduates in 2006 in
his Budget speech President Rajapakse said that around 3,000
were recruited to Government. The 42,000 jobs previously
recruited had not been given permanent appointments yet.
Around 33,000 vacancies were promised to be filled ‘early.’ All
volunteer teachers attached to Government schools along with
other casual and temporary public servants were promised
pe5rnants appointments. Under “Yowun Diriya” 50,000 well paid
job opportunities during 2006 were proposed and tools and
equipment for 100,000 personnel skilled in technical fields.
Although under Livelihood Skills Programme formal training
opportunities presently available in the Public Sector for the
benefit of young school leavers were to be increased from 60,000
to 10,000 annually, no such has been accomplished in the first
year of tenure.