Cake walk for MR as Opposition wavers
and West’s double standards
- Opposition wavers over Presidential candidate
- Second term for Mahinda?
- West still cock-eyed on Sri Lanka
- Non aligned aid helps development
recent announcements by several government high- ups about a
possible Presidential Poll early next year, most political parties
have begun bracing for the big event that could determine their
However, the dissention-wracked – UNP has found itself in the
grip of another crisis over the question of picking its Presidential
candidate. The JVP has begun an island-wide poster campaign with two
slogans: ` Abolish Presidential system ‘ and `Say `no’ to another
Presidential election’. The JVP usually remembers their aversion to
the Executive Presidency only when a Presidential election is round
When Chandrika Kumaratunga came forward as the candidate of the
United People’s Front in 1994, The JVP obtained a pledge from her
that she would abolish the Executive Presidency if she were elected.
The JVP, in turn, pledged to support her at the election and they
did support her as pledged. However, Kumaratunga failed to take any
meaningful action towards abolishing the Presidency during her 11
Mahinda Rajapaksa successfully contested the 2005 Presidential
election on the UPFA ticket. By then, the JVP had entered into a
13-clause agreement with Rajapaksa. The abolition of Executive
Presidency was one of the 13 clauses. The JVP worked hard for
Rajapaksa’s victory at the Presidential Poll and later became a
partner of the government. However, shortly afterwards, JVP quit the
Soon after the announcement that the Presidential election would
be held early next year, the JVP maintained that holding the
election at this stage is a serious breach of the agreement they had
signed with Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005. In fact, JVP leader Somawansa
Amarasinghe had told a media briefing that the Presidential election
should not be held, and the President should take steps to abolish
the Executive Presidency in terms of the agreement signed with them.
Agreement now a dead letter
However, government spokesman Media Minister Lakshman Yapa
Abeywardena replied that there was no agreement with the JVP in
operation any longer, as it became a dead letter when the JVP quit
the government willfully violating it.
Meanwhile, former Minister Mangala Samaraweera who formed the SLFP
(M) after breaking away from the government, had made a statement
assuring the support of all Parliamentarians except that of the
Speaker, for a Constitutional amendment providing for the abolition
of the Executive Presidency.
According to the guarantee he has given, he will secure the
support of all Ministers including the Prime Minister, the other
government members as well as members from all opposition parties
for the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment.
It is pertinent to recall in this context, that Samaraweera after
quitting the government, planned to topple the government by
defeating the 2007 Budget. He had assured UNP leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe on that occasion that there were 18 government
Parliamentarians prepared to vote against the Budget. But when the
vote on the Budget was taken following the third reading, only he
and Sripati Suriarachchi voted against the Budget. The late Anura
Bandaranaike and Wijedasa Rajapakse abstained from voting. The
Budget was passed with a large majority voting for it.
Mangala ‘s assurance to secure the support of the entire
Parliament for the proposed Constitutional amendment, in the
backdrop of his failure to win over the support of 18
Parliamentarians on a previous occasion, would sound hollow and it
has only evoked guffaws in political circles!
The UNP has not made an official statement so far to the effect
that the Executive Presidency should be scrapped. It has all along
stood for the continuity of the Executive Presidency. However, the
party recently slightly shifted their stand saying that the
Executive President should be made accountable to Parliament.
The minority parties like Ceylon Workers Congress and the Sri
Lanka Muslim Congress have always backed the Presidential system.
These parties hold the view that the Presidential system provides a
safeguard for the minority communities.
UNP wavering over Presidential candidate
Meanwhile, the UNP is yet to decide on their Presidential
candidate. The UNP rebels such as Lakshman Seneviratne, and Johnston
Fernando say that the party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe should
contest as the party candidate.
With a popular opposition candidate of national stature yet to
appear in the political horizon, all present indications point to
the possibility of Mahinda Rajapaksa bagging a resounding victory
for a second term. Wickremesinghe’s possible defeat at the next
Presidential Poll which appears to be a foregone conclusion, might
mark his exit from politics for good, say political analysts. Given
this obvious certainty, Wickremesinghe is wavering between two minds
about contesting the upcoming Presidential election, say the party
Another section of the UNP strongly feels that the party should
field Karu Jayasuriya as the party candidate at the next
Presidential election. Jayasuriya too is willing to come forward as
the party candidate, according to his close associates.
Meanwhile, UNP’s National organiser and opposition leader of the
Central Provincial Council is too, vying for the party candidature
at the Presidential election, say party sources.
SLFP (M) Leader Mangala Samaraweera has compounded the confusion
within the UNP by advocating the feasibility of fielding a common
opposition candidate at the poll. He is reportedly looking for a
suitable candidate who could win wide acceptance in the country.
According to sources close to Samaraweera, he has already held
discussions with a retired high ranking judicial officer and a
retired Army commander in this connection.
Two lines of thinking over the upcoming Presidential election
have emerged in the JVP. A group led Anura Kuamara Dissanayake has
taken up the position that the party should support a possible
common Presidential candidate, while the party leader Somawansa
Amarasinghe and general Secretary Tilvin Silva are strongly
advocating the idea of boycotting the election. This issue is to
come up for further discussion at the JVP’s politbureau which is due
to meet shortly.
Negative attitude towards Sri Lanka
Despite the obvious fact that the government is riding on a wave
of popularity at home, winning election after election, certain
Western countries are adopting a negative attitude towards it, which
also could be euphemistically described as uncharitable, say
Although three months have passed since the decimation of the
Tiger terrorism in the North by the government security forces, the
Western countries have yet to call a halt to their spiteful activity
against Sri Lanka.
The countries such as the United States, UK, France and Norway,
which brought pressure on Sri Lanka to stop the military operations
in the North, saying that civilians in large numbers were getting
killed in the cross- fire, have now begun pressing the government to
send the IDPs now sheltered in relief camps, back to their villages.
Robert O Blake, former US ambassador in Colombo, now the
Assistant Secretary in charge of Asian Affairs of the US State
department had recently met a delegation from the Tamil diaspora in
the States. According to media reports, Blake at these talks had
emphasised the urgent need to provide a solution to the problems of
Sri Lankan Tamils and to resettle the war-displaced people in their
Meanwhile, US State department’s Assistant Secretary in charge of
Refugees and Immigrants Eric Schwartz had told media that the Sri
Lankan government should take immediate steps to send the displaced
people in refugee camps in Vavuniya, back to their homes before the
onset of monsoonal rains.
More calls to re-settle IDPs
A group of professionals representing an India-based organisation
called ` Concerned Citizens’ Forum of South Asia’, in the meantime,
had submitted a document entitled ` A Road Map for Sri Lanka
government to carry out Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Relief
provision for the war-displaced People ‘ to Indian External Affairs
Minister S.M. Krishna on August 13. SLFP (M) leader Mangala
Samaraweera is also among the signatories to this document which
also calls on the Indian government to pressurise the Sri Lankan
government to resettle the displaced civilians without further
They have in this document compared the IDP camps in Vavuniya to
concentration camps where the persecuted Jews were held in Germany
by Hitler during the Second World War.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, party’s general secretary Tissa
Attanayake, and the party spokesman Lakshman Kiriella too these days
are harping on the urgent need to resettle the displaced people in
They point out that the resettlement process of the displaced people
should be expedited as they are undergoing much inconvenience and
hardship due to heavy rains lashing the area.
However, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa points out that
the displaced people would be exposed to a life-threatening risk if
they are sent back to their villages before the areas are cleared of
land mines. The Defense Secretary also says that an estimated 10,000
LTTE cadres have merged their identity in the large numbers of IDPs
and they have to be first identified for rehabilitation.
The countries such as Norway, Germany and France which pressed
for a ceasefire when the military operations were on, are reportedly
now making preparations to present an anti-Sri Lanka resolution on
this issue which has now been blown out of proportions.
It is no secret that these countries turned a blind eye to Tigers
using Tamil civilians as a human shield in the battles that raged
from Mannar to Pudumatalan in Mullaitivu. Accompanying possessions
of these human shield -Tamil civilians which began as lorry-loads at
the inception, had been reduced to the travelling bag-size by the
time they had ended their plodding trek in Pudumatalan. According to
tales of woe recounted by Tamil civilians there had been instances
where some of them had been compelled to exchange their push cycle
for a kilo of rice.
The Western countries and some INGOs did not raise their voice on
behalf of civilians who had to undergo such misery and hardship.
They exerted pressures only to rescue the Tiger leaders from the
It is an undeniable fact, that the countries like the United
States, UK, France, Germany and Norway had come forward to look
after the interests of Tigers, due to the clout wielded by sizable
Tamil populations domiciled in their countries. It is no secret that
Tamil diaspora in the United States who banded together to form an
organisation called `Tamils for Obama’ made large contributions to
Obama’s campaign fund at the last US Presidential election. There
were reports that the Tamil diaspora in the US extended their
financial backing to Hillary Clinton at the preliminaries held to
pick the Democratic party candidate. It is evident that US Assistant
Secretary of State Robert O Blake is being sympathetic towards
Tigers only as a gesture of gratitude.
Rudrakumaran operates unhindered in US
The United States listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in
1997. Former US President George Bush extended this ban on the LTTE
for a further five years. However, V. Rudrakumaran, a well known
leader of the LTTE, now an American citizen, is openly working to
resurrect the outfit in that country. Rudrakumaran shared Kumaran
Pathmanathan’s initiative to declare the so called `Transnational
Government of Tamil Eelam’. Why is the US government turning a blind
eye to Rudrakumaran’s activity? The US government would never allow
anyone to openly represent the banned Al-Quaida or Taleban on
American soil. The American authorities, so much concerned about
security measures as to ward off possible terrorist threats, had
gone to the extent of retaining India’s super-film star Shah Rukh
Khan for two hours for questioning at the New York airport. But they
are passively looking on when Rudrakumaran is flaunting the Tiger
credentials in that country. Is the US adopting a double standard on
A section of international media like the CNN, Al-Jazeera,
Channel 4, London Times, and Daily Telegraph continuously churned
out news stories critical of the Sri Lankan security forces during
the military operations in the North. But, for them the arrest of
Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP and his being brought back to Sri
Lanka made hardly any news! However, the British TV Channel 4
considered KP a good enough news maker when they decided to televise
to the entire world an interview given by him in Malaysia!
Neither US State Secretary Hillary Clinton, nor British Foreign
Secretary Miliband or Norwegian Minister of International
Development Eric Solheim , has so far made any comment on the arrest
At a time when the countries such as US, UK, and France had
suspended providing military aid to Sri Lanka, countries like China,
Pakistan and Ukraine came to Sri Lanka’s rescue. It is quite clear
from their attitude that they never expected this government to
defeat the LTTE militarily.
Aid inflow continues
Sri Lanka has been able to obtain assistance from many countries
thanks to the non-aligned policy being followed by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa. When China is funding the Hambantota harbour project,
India is busy setting up a coal-fired power plant in Trincomalee.
Meanwhile, Iran is helping us to renovate the Oil Refinery at
Sapugaskanda. These signify the direct benefits being derived from
our non-aligned foreign policy.
In this context, the countries such as the US and UK have been
placed in a situation where they have to provide economic aid to Sri
Lanka. Kissing the proverbial hand that cannot be cut, the US last
week granted US $ 68 million to Sri Lanka to meet the needs of the
IDPs. The British government too has extended similar aid.
Meanwhile, neighboring India has come forward to help resettle
the displaced people in practical terms. India as part of their aid
package has sent here a team of Army personnel to carry out
de-mining in the North. This has accelerated de-mining now underway,
and the government hopes that the situation about six month hence,
would be conducive for resettling the war-displaced people.