Following General Fonseka’s damaging statement
The UN turns guns on Sri Lanka
  • SL Govt. asked to account for General’s statement
  • Tamil Diaspora exploiting the statement
  • Attractive election promises by General Fonseka
  • The TNA facing
    a split

The anti-Sri Lanka attitude of a section of the international community has taken a turn for the worse following General Fonseka’s controversial statement to the Sunday Leader newspaper that three LTTE leaders, Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh who had come forward carrying white flags to surrender were summarily executed by the troops of the 58 Division on orders from Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston in a letter addressed to Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN Kshenuka Seneviratne has asked Sri Lankan government to account for General Fonseka’s statement.

The UN official’s letter is an indication that the UNO has not taken serious notice of General Fonseka’s subsequent rebuttal. In the circumstances, the accusation earlier made against Sri Lankan Government that it is guilty of committing war crimes has gained added weight from General Fonseka’s statement. This also means that Sri Lanka faces the deprival of many concessions like enlistment of our troops with UN Peace Corps deployed in foreign countries, and provision of overseas military training programmes for our military personnel, say high ranking military officers. Former Navy Commander Vasantha Karannagoda too had echoed this view in a recent interview with Rupavahini.

Despite having made a statement that has triggered a series of international repercussions, a visibly unconcerned General Fonseka keeps repeating at public rallies that he would never betray the security forces or the country. Meanwhile, the General’s sponsor the UNF and its leaders keep mum about the General’s statement and also the UN Special Rapporteur’s letter calling for the government’s explanation. Their silence has set a poser to UNP members and supporters as well.

Weak defence put up by Mangala and JVP

General Fonseka’s joint media spokesman Mangala Samaraweera has said that the General’s statement should no longer be an issue as the latter has already corrected the statement misreported by the Sunday Leader. But he too has avoided making any reference to the UN Special Rapporteur’s letter sent to our Permanent Representative at the UN.

JVP’s Vijitha Herath added a new dimension to the issue when he told the Divaina newspaper recently that the government has, in cahoots with the UN launched a propaganda operation aimed at defeating General Fonseka. He charged that the government is giving unnecessary publicity to a letter sent by Phillip Alston to vilify General Fonseka. Vijitha Herath does not appear to have thought for a moment whether our enlightened voters would buy such a cock and bull story.

Secretary to the Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha has pointed out that Fonseka, a candidate at the upcoming presidential poll made the controversial statement to gain political mileage and later disowned it, adding that therefore, the charges made by the UN Special Rapporteur in his letter are baseless.

State media has exploited both General Fonseka’s statement and the UN Special Rapporteur’s letter as a propaganda weapon against the common opposition candidate, little realising the damage they are unwittingly causing to the image of Sri Lanka abroad.

Tamil Diaspora makes hay while sun shines

Meanwhile, the Tamil Diaspora too is gleefully making use of the General’s statement to create a world opinion against Sri Lanka. They have begun staging protests and demonstrations in a bid to place Sri Lanka in a bad light abroad. For instance a large group from Tamil Diaspora from Boston staged a demonstration opposite the office of the Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry. They were protesting against the recommendations made by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that an effort be made by the US to revive friendly relations with Sri Lanka and providing military training programmes for Sri Lanka military be resumed. Protesters demanded that the recommendations made by the Senate Committee be rejected and a probe into war crimes committed in Sri Lanka be launched.

Presidential election propaganda campaigns placed on top gear

With the presidential poll is only one month away, propaganda activity on behalf of the two main candidates is gaining full steam. Public rallies whistle-stop meetings, and house-to-house canvassing have got underway at grassroots level. However, both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the common opposition candidate General Fonseka have yet to present their election manifestos.

A team comprising senior ministers, economists, and intellectuals is busy preparing the UPFA election manifesto which is to be unveiled early January, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha said.
A group of Central Bank officials along with several colleagues of theirs now on retirement is currently working on the election manifesto of General Fonseka, UNF and JVP sources said.

Utopian promises held out by Fonseka

Several attractive promises like granting a Rs.10,000 pay rise to public servants, paying a monthly allowance to senior citizens of over 60 years, giving Police personnel the option to retire on completion of 22 years of service, extending to Police officers as well, the food subsidy currently provided to service personnel and increasing the Samurdhi allowance will figure in the manifesto of General Fonseka, informed sources said.

Billions of rupees will be required to meet these commitments. It is obvious that only a phenomenal increase in government revenue could provide funds to honour the promises. General Fonseka and the JVP argue that the funds required to grant the pay hike to government employees, could be found by eliminating waste and corruption in the public sector. The General has pledged to scrap the Executive Presidency within 180 days.
He plans to dissolve Parliament and hold a General Parliamentary election and to appoint as Prime Minister the leader of the political party winning the majority of seats in Parliament.

Meanwhile, UNF leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had told the Sunday Leader last Sunday that he will become the Executive Prime Minister in a government to be formed following the next General Parliamentary election.
Dissolving Parliament, and holding a General election paving the way for forming a new government and other collateral imperatives will involve about three months, leaving the General only three months to embark on the process of abolishing the Executive Presidency. If he is to keep his promise, he has to within the next three months introduce the necessary Constitutional amendment in Parliament and secure its passage by a two thirds majority and also hold a Referendum to obtain the approval of the people.

UNP’s new Chief Organiser for Maharagama Wijedasa Rajapaksa, who is now functioning as the Constitutional Advisor to the UNP says that amending the Constitution sets no poser as the UNP, JVP, SLMC and DPF combine is certain to muster a two thirds majority in the next parliament.
In case the opposition combine fails to secure a two thirds majority, Parliament could meet as a Constitutional Assembly to adopt the new Constitution. He says that it is legal for the proposed Constitutional Assembly to adopt the new Constitution by a simple majority, even by a single majority vote.
The enlightened public laughs off statements such these with mild contempt. But ordinary people can become confused.

Journalists prevented from getting answers from the horse’s mouth itself
There is an obstacle in the way of journalists keen on getting matters clarified by General Fonseka himself at media briefings held on behalf of the common opposition candidate. Whenever a question is posed to General Forsake at a media briefing, either Mangala Samaraweera or Anura Kumara Dissanayake would jump up to reply on behalf of the General. Incidentally, people recently could see in a recent TV coverage on Rupavahini an angry Mangala Samarawera breathing fire at journalists asking questions

TNA stand decisive for two main candidates

The stand to be taken by the TNA commanding 22 seats in Parliament which is incidentally the largest Tamil political party in the country, on their role at the upcoming Presidential election is a decisive factor for the two main candidates.

The TNA, a combine of Illangai Tamil Arasukadchi, TELO, EPRLF and TULF, has already held several rounds of discussions aimed at taking a decision on their participation in the Presidential election, but these talks have so far ended in a stalemate, according to party sources. The party is facing a split in the event of a decision taken by the majority to back one of the two main candidates against the other, party insiders said. Meanwhile, Parliamentarian M.K.Shivajilingam from the TELO has already come forward to contest as an independent candidate. Sri Kantha, an MP from the same party had seconded Shivajilingam’s nomination. Shivajilingam who is on a visit to London to canvass the support of the Tamil Diaspora is expected to be back in the country next week.

The TNA parliamentary group had met on December 22 with the group leader R. Sampanthan in the chair. Despite a lengthy discussion that ran into more than three hours, the group had failed to break the deadlock over their political stand vis-ŕ-vis the Presidential election. Of the 22 MPs of the TNA, only 12 had participated in the discussions at this meeting.

Shivajilingam, Sri Kantha and Kishore not invited

Presidential hopeful M.K.Shivajilingam, Sri Kantha who is backing him, and Sivanthan Kishor who had pledged his support to President Mahinda Rajapksa had not been invited to this meeting. The TNA leaders had reportedly decided to discuss their conduct as a separate issue.
R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran and Shivashakti Anandan belong to the group in favour of backing General Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy. Gajendran Ponnambalam, Solomon Cyril, Vino Nohotalingam, P.Airinethran, S. Gajendran, Padmini Sithamparanathan and K. Thgurairajasingham comprise the group that advocates the party should abstain from supporting either of the two main candidates Jaffna district MP M. Imam has opted to remain neutral.

Meanwhile, S. Adaikkalainathan, Thomas Thangathurai William and Chandranehru Chandrakanthan who hold the view that the party should withhold support to both main candidates, had not attended the meeting. The meeting had ended with the participants agreeing to take a final decision at their Parliamentary group meeting due on January 4.

TNA leaders submit demands to General Fonseka

Meanwhile, TNA leaders R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah and Suresh Premachandran had met the common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka on December 22. UNF leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem too had participated in these talks.
The TNA leaders had submitted a list of demands to General Sarath Fonseka. Some of them are as follows:

* LTTE suspects numbering about 12,000 now being held under the PTA should be released under a general amnesty

• High Security Zones established in the North and East should be dismantled
• The number of army camps in the North and East should be reduced
• A reasonable solution to the ethnic problem should be provided
• People displaced by war should be expeditiously resettled in their original homes
• The IDPs once resettled should be provided with all amenities to lead a normal life, and
• People whose houses were destroyed during hostilities should be provided with new houses

General Fonseka had promised at these talks to remove the High Security Zones in the North and East, reduce the number of army camps in the two provinces and to take prompt action to release the LTTE suspects under a general amnesty. He has agreed on principle to meet the other demands as well, according to a TNA MP. He said that the talks were a great success. Rauff Hakeem who had attended the talks had remarked that the talks were very productive.

Flashback to General Fonseka’s proposal to recruit 100,000 more soldiers

Soon after the conclusion of the war, General Sarath Fonseka had submitted a proposal to the National Security Council to reinforce the army by recruiting 100,000 more soldiers, and establish army cantonments covering all main towns in the North and East. His objective was to settle families of army personnel in army cantonments to be opened up in places like Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had shot down this proposal given the possible adverse reaction to the proposed move by the international community. Besides, he had to consider the massive cost the proposed exercise involved. This is one of the main factors that contributed to General Fonseka’s falling out with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and President Rajapaksa.

Political analysts say that it is an irony that a person who was keen on opening up army cantonments in the North and East has now promised the TNA to thin out the army camps in the two provinces and remove the High Security Zones from there. Meanwhile, the TNA leaders are expected to meet the UPFA Presidential candidate President Rajapaksa during this week to discuss their demands with him. The TNA will possibly take a final decision on whom they should back at the Presidential election depending on the outcome of their talks with the President on January 4.

TNA heading for a break-up?

Notwithstanding the decision that the TNA is to take on January 4, indications are that a split in the TNA is not preventable. The TNA had earlier decided not to support Shivajilingam contesting as an independent candidate. What is likely to happen at the end of the day, is that one section of the TNA will support President Rajapaksa while another section will throw in their lot with General Fonseka. Still another section is likely to abstain from playing any positive role in the election.

General Fonseka’s election campaign suffers a setback

The sensational statement that General Fonseka made during an interview with the Sunday Leader that Major General Shavendra Silva as the GOC of 58 Division had executed LTTTE leaders who had come forward to surrender on orders from Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has made a serious dent in his election campaign. Notwithstanding the correction he made in a rebuttal late in the day, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston has called for Sri Lanka’s explanation triggering a public outcry.

Following this public outburst, the JVP and Mangala Samaraweera holding a brief for General Fonseka has begun attacking the Sunday Leader editor Fredericka Jansz. The pro-UNP websites too have started carrying letters critical of Jansz.

Addressing a trade union anniversary celebration on December 23, JVP’s Lal Kantha challenged the Sunday Leader editor to produce the audio tape containing the controversial interview with General Fonseka. He categorically stated that the editor had distorted what General Fonseka had said.

Another pro-UNP website said that the Sunday Leader had carried that damaging interview at the instigation of President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a bid to ruin General Fonseka’s political career. Readers know very well that the Sunday Leader is an anti-government newspaper quite partial to the UNP. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has filed a law suit against the Sunday Leader claiming damages for Rs.1 billion for having carried an article defamatory of him. The pro-UNP website which carried an allegation against President Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had studiously avoided making any reference to this case pending in courts.