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Politics


...and now, the end is near
  • President unimpressed by Bogols tardiness at cabinet
  • New committee to build Lanka’s image abroad
  • Govt. accuses Ranil of riling up European States during tour
  • Mangy’s attempt to find common opposition candidate fails


While its battle against the terrorists are nearing an end, the government has had to wage war on a different front, after the LTTE propaganda outfits have pitted several States in the international community against Sri Lanka and her humanitarian liberation mission.
The government is currently trying its best to brief the international community about the real situation on the ground and urging their friends in the world not to be misled by pro-LTTE information coming out of the conflict zone.
Ethnic Tamils who fled Sri Lanka’s shores following the riots of 1983, took up residence in countries such as England, Canada, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and other Western States. From these places of security, the Tamil diaspora has been feeding the flames of the Eelam War and providing financial assistance and moral support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam towards creating a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka
 

The three year long humanitarian operations launched by the Sri Lankan security forces are finally reaching its conclusion, with the fate of LTTE Leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran and his erstwhile lieutenants Pottu Amman and Nadesan to be decided in a matter of a few hours, according to senior military officials.

While its battle against the terrorists are nearing an end, the government has had to wage war on a different front, after the LTTE propaganda outfits have pitted several states in the international community against Sri Lanka and her humanitarian liberation mission.

The government is currently trying its best to brief the international community about the real situation on the ground and urging their friends in the world not to be misled by pro-LTTE information coming out of the conflict zone.

Diaspora support

Ethnic Tamils who fled Sri Lanka’s shores following the riots of 1983, took up residence in countries such as England, Canada, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and other Western States. From these places of security, the Tamil diaspora has been feeding the flames of the Eelam War and providing financial assistance and moral support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam towards creating a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.

This same diaspora has found it difficult to digest the Sri Lankan Forces’ march into LTTE held territory in the north of the island, thereby extinguishing forever their hopes of a separate Eelam or State. In order to prevent a complete annihilation of the LTTE and the cause it allegedly stood for, the diaspora, which counts considerable numbers around the world, has been lobbying each of their governments to intervene in the Sri Lankan issue and force a cessation of hostilities. Since this strategy has proved an abysmal failure these pro-LTTE communities have taken to launching violent protests and road blocks in many of the major capitals around the world and in many cases have resorted to violent attacks on Sri Lankan diplomatic missions abroad, Buddhist shrines and even the foreign missions of countries perceived as being supportive of the Sri Lankan Government.

It is as a by-product of these protests and terror tactics that world leaders including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, US President Barack Obama, UN Chief Ban Ki Moon, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, French Foreign Secretary Bernard Kuchner and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have begun to apply pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to end the war. The calls have intensified in the last few days after the international press have repeatedly highlighted the alleged shelling and aerial bombardment of the no-fire zone that have resulted in massive civilian casualties.

Global press takes on Lanka

The reports on international news networks including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others are based on the reports by alleged government doctors working in the no-fire zone, who are believed to be tools of the LTTE. These doctors have claimed that hundreds of Tamil civilians are being killed and injured by shelling and bombing by the Sri Lankan Armed Force and have spoken to the international networks via telephone to relay the information. It is due to these reports in the international press that the world has come to see Sri Lanka as a contemptible State that attacks its own citizenry, resulting in the international community’s apparent decision to take steps against Sri Lanka.

At the last Wednesday’s cabinet briefing therefore, this international heat was a major issue. Both the issues of interference from world leaders and negative publicity in the international press came under discussion at the cabinet meeting chaired by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

To begin with, the President seemed very cheesed off that Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was not present at the commencement of the meeting. “This is not like Chandrika’s time. I expect all ministers to be present at the cabinet meeting,” the President told his Ministers in a stern tone. The Foreign Minister mumbled meekly that he had been delayed because he had been compelled to brief several foreign leaders about the current situation in the conflict zone.

Image-building

President Rajapaksa stressed on the need to take immediate steps to build Sri Lanka’s image overseas by telling the world the true facts of what is taking place in the island. Since the Foreign Minister cannot tackle such a grave task on his own, it was necessary to appoint a special committee to carry out this work, the President said. He named Dinesh Gunewardane, Keheliya Rambukwella, Rohitha Bogollagama, DEW Gunesekera, Douglas Devananda, Sarath Amunugama and Prof. G.L. Peiris as members of this cabinet sub committee.

The President also warned his ministers to be extra cautious about their security, since intelligence reports had surfaced indicating that there were threats to their lives. The President said that SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena in particular needed to be careful about his movements.

The President also undertook a two day visit to Jordon on Thursday to attend the World Economic Forum and the G-11 countries meet in Amman. Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickremanayake is also overseas at the moment. Therefore, on Thursday morning, a few minutes before boarding his flight, President Rajapaksa appointed Minister Sirisena as Acting Minister of Defence.
Nambiar back in SL

Almost as soon as President Rajapaksa landed in Amman, Jordon, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon telephoned him. The two held lengthy discussions and Ban told the President that he would be sending his Chief Of Staff Vijay Nambiar to Colombo as his special envoy. On Thursday night, President Rajapaksa telephoned Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Field Commander Brigadier Shavindra Silva several times to find out about the latest developments on the battlefield. He urged his commanders and the Defence Secretary to refrain from the use of heavy weapons under any circumstances.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has undertaken a tour of Europe these days, a move that has been construed by the State media as an attempt to make intercessions to European Governments on behalf of LTTE Leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran and to provide these governments with misleading information about Sri Lanka and the conflict.

However, UNP Spokesman Lakshman Kiriella told a press conference that the Opposition Leader was hoping to raise issues such as human rights violations, the lack of democratic processes in Sri Lanka and the threats to media freedom in the country with European leaders. UNP MP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam has claimed that Wickremesinghe had undertaken this tour on the invitation of the European Democratic Organisation and added that if the UNP Leader was to reject such an invitation that would be an affront to the European States.

International conspiracy

Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told a news conference that it was regrettable that the Opposition Leader had become a stakeholder in the international conspiracy to save Tiger Supremo Prabhakaran. He said the Opposition Leader’s decision to go to Europe to speak about Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka at this crucial juncture when the international community was engaged in a massive effort to save the LTTE Leader, was a well-calculated move. “If Ranil Wickremesinghe loves this country, he should be calling on the international community to support the government’s humanitarian operation,” Rambukwella told journalists.

Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abyewardane told a press conference that the government disgustedly condemns Wickremesinghe’s decision to rile up the international community at this decisive juncture in the government’s humanitarian operation in the North.

“We are not saying that the Opposition Leader does not have a right to travel to Europe. But at a time when Sri Lanka has been coming under heavy criticism from these countries, it is wrong for Wickremesinghe to make statements that only make the situation worse for the country. Especially at a time when other global citizens like Russia, China, Japan, Libya and Iran are standing by the country.

Ranil in Oslo

Meanwhile, a meeting between Wickremesinghe and Norwegian Foreign Ministry officials was obstructed after pro-LTTE supporters staged a protest and obstructed the entrance to the ministry. The foreign ministry officials were to meet with Wickremesinghe to organise the agenda for the Sri Lankan Opposition Leader’s visit. However, the protest resulted in the Norwegian foreign ministry officials being unable to travel to the Tridan Hotel in Oslo for discussions with Wickremesinghe. The same group of protestors also demonstrated outside the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo against Wickremesinghe’s visit.
The Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe held talks with former Norwegian Prime Minister Bondwick on May 14. It was Bondwick who was Prime Minister of Norway in 2002, when the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration signed the Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE through Norwegian facilitation. During these discussions, the plight of the innocent civilians trapped in the no-fire zone was not taken up. Following this meeting, Wickremesinghe held discussions with Norwegian International Development Minister and former Special Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka Erik Solheim. The opposition leader described the campaign against the free media, democracy and human rights in Sri Lanka by the ruling government. Wickremesinghe then visited the International Democratic Union (IDU) headquarters in Oslo and held several discussions with officials there. Wickremesinghe has cancelled his planned visit to France under security advice.

Common candidate

There is a possibility of a presidential election after November 2009, claimed Mass Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane at a press conference last week. This statement left political circles buzzing, with some political parties even discussing how they will go about facing such an election. Even former SLFP MP Mangala Samaraweera who has returned to the island after several months abroad has expressed significant interest in such an election. He has told confidants that opposition parties should put forward a common candidate and has also claimed that only a common candidate can defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sources close to the former minister claim that Samaraweera has approached Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva regarding this matter. Justice Silva who is scheduled to retire next month is reported not to have expressed much interest in becoming the opposition’s common candidate.

Subsequently, Samaraweera is reported to have approached another soon-to-retire high ranking military officer who has played a major role in the present military campaign against the LTTE through a third party. However, this too has proved a failure.
While Samaraweera was busy looking for a common candidate, UNP Chief Organiser S.B. Dissanayake has stated that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the party’s presidential candidate at the next election at a political rally in Kandy. He claimed that the presidential election will be held on February 22, 2010. Meanwhile, the UNP rebels have demanded that Karu Jayasuriya should be the UNP’s presidential candidate, party sources claimed. The rebel group claims that Dissanayake would have mooted Wickremesinghe as the party’s next presidential hopeful in order to prevent Jayasuriya from being nominated instead.

Samaraweera’s attempts to find a common opposition candidate have proven to be another flop because he could not convince any individual to stand election. Furthermore, the UNP has not expressed its consent for such a proposal. The UNP feels that as the main opposition party, it should nominate its own candidate and strive to obtain the support of other opposition political parties for their choice.

Ruwan vs. Karu

Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe’s decision to give Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya more prominence within the UNP has been praised by many party members. During his European visit, Wickremesinghe appointed Jayasuriya as the Acting Leader of the UNP – this being the first time he has done so. There is also a proposal to remove Jayasuriya from the Gampaha District and appoint him leader of the Kalutara District, Sirikotha sources say. This is an attempt to make Ruwan Wijewardane the District Leader of Gampaha, according to senior UNPers. Wijewardane obtained the highest number of preferential votes in the Western Provincial Council elections for the UNP and Wickremesinghe has decided to nominate him as a parliamentary candidate from the Gampaha District at a future general election. Since Jayasuriya would be an obstacle in this plan, it has been decided to appoint him UNP District Leader for Kalutara instead. However, it is learnt that the UNP Deputy Leader is not in agreement with this decision.

****

Muzzamil clarifies

Responding to our last week’s Political Column A. J. M. Muzammil says that he was not instrumental in blocking former Deputy Mayor Azath Sally from receiving nominations in the recent provincial council elections, but admits having complained against Sally based on his behaviour during the election campaign.

“Your column had allegedly stated viz a viz. “When Sally had requested for a nomination for the WPC election Muzammil reportedly lobbied parliamentary MP Mohamed Mahroof to prevent such a chance being given to the former Deputy Mayor.”
“Again in the same article, you have stated thus “It is the intention of Mahroof and Muzammil to pressure the party to hold a disciplinary inquiry against Sally in order to oust him from the party.” Firstly, I must categorically state that I made personal representations to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Deputy leader Karu Jayasooriya that Sally be given nomination to contest the WPC election so he could prove his mettle and the position in the Colombo District.

Therefore your statement is a misrepresentation of facts. Secondly it is true that I have complained against Sally based on his behaviour during the election campaign. It was clearly evident that he was trying to undermine my campaign.”
“It should also be stated that I have no connection whatsoever with the action taken by Mohamed Mahroof MP, Mr. Mahroof would have had grievances against Mr. Sally on which he had acted separately. Further it is up to the party to decide on the mayoral candidate at the appropriate stage and I am not aware who would be the next mayoral candidate for Colombo.”