Fonseka agrees to TNA demands
|R. Sampanthan MP, Mavai Senathirajah MP and
Suresh Premachandran MP all from the TNA had met
the leader of opposition Ranil Wickramasinghe
and the common opposition candidate General
Fonseka and had discussed the problems Tamil
community are facing and on the solution to the
The TNA members have also had an hour long
discussion with SLMC leader Party leader Rauf
Hakeem about the problems that Tamil and Muslim
Sri Lanka Watch learns from sources close to UNF
that at the end of the meeting common candidate
Gen. Sarath Fonseka has agreed to most of the
demands tabled by the Tamil National Alliance,
including the removal of all high security zones
on the north and east, reduce the number of
defence camps in the north and east, release
over 12,000 Tiger suspects held in detention
under a common amnesty etc. etc.
following were the demands of the TNA.
1. Release 12,000 Tiger suspects held in
detention under a common amnesty.
2. Remove all high security zones in the
3. Reduce the number of army camps in the
north and east.
4. Find a political solution to the ethnic
5. Resettle the displaced quickly.
6. Provide them with all necessary
7. Construct houses they need.
8. End all planned resettlement that is being
done in the east.
Prior to the meeting with Fonseka, Sampanthan
had called for a meeting of all 22 members, but
only 12 members showed up for the meeting.
Will he be forced to borrow heavily from IMF, WB and
The election manifestos of the two main candidates
contesting the upcoming presidential election have already
been placed before the people of this country. President
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s manifesto has been named `Mahinda
Chintana Idiri Dekama’ and `Vishvasaneeya venasak’ is the
title of General Sarath Fonseka’s manifesto.
An election manifesto is meant to apprise the people of
the programme of work, and action plans the candidate is to
implement with the aim of achieving his targets. President
Rajapaksa, has in his `Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma’
manifesto, provided a comprehensive description of the
programme of work he has planned to implement during his
next term of office. The economic policy he is going to
implement is given pride of place under his programme of
work. Outlining his economic policies, President Rajapaksa
says, “I firmly believe that we should achieve a growth rate
at an international level by beating into shape a well
disciplined economy which is free and strong, and is in
keeping with our national identity.”
Further clarifying his economic policies, the President
says, “There are two formidable challenges facing us. One of
them is offering the dividends of the economic prosperity
and modern development to the ordinary people of this
country. The second challenge is simultaneously laying the
foundation for essential for sustainable development. It is
my firm determination to overcome these two challenges as
well the way we have successfully met the challenges we have
had to face so far.”
He also has furnished details of the new harbours and
airports already under construction and naval development
projects already being implemented and such projects which
are about to get off the ground. He has also promised to
grant a pay hike of Rs.2,500 to public servants and raise
the minimum Samurdhi allowance to Rs.1000.
However, the election manifesto of General Fonseka is
confined to a list of promises. Among the main promises
listed in his election manifesto are: making available in
the open market fertiliser for farmers at Rs.350 a bag,
paying a guaranteed price of Rs.40 for a kilo of samba paddy
and Rs.35 for a kilo of naadu paddy purchased from farmers,
increasing the guaranteed price of milk purchased from diary
farmers to Rs.45 a litre, granting a monthly pay hike of
Rs.10,000 to public servants, increasing the minimum
Samurdhi allowance by Rs.500, waiving off the taxes levied
on petrol, diesel and kerosene oil, reducing taxes levied on
LP gas and other essential commodities, paying a monthly
allowance of Rs.2,000 to youth undergoing vocational
training programs and a monthly allowance of Rs.3,000 to
First year yes, next year?
A monthly pay hike of Rs.10, 000 to public servants promised
by General Fonseka even from the election platform would
cost the exchequer an estimated Rs.44 billion a year.
He says that he proposes to meet this massive financial
commitment with the savings affected by reducing the number
of ministers, and eliminating waste and corruption in the
public sector. Let us presume that he would affect
sufficient savings to meet this additional expenditure in
the first year, how would he find the funds to meet this
expenditure in the next year? If he is to honour all the
promises he has made, he would need Rs.400 billion a year.
He has not explained in his `Vishvasaneeya Venasak’,
manifesto how he proposes to find this expenditure.
If he is to find monies to meet the financial commitments
he has made in his manifesto, he has to impose additional or
increased taxes on people and bring about a sharp increase
in the national income simultaneously. People have to be
taxed more to grant a pay increase of Rs.10, 000 to an
estimated 1.2 million public servants. This means the tax
burden on the 21 million populations in the country has to
be increased to pay increased salaries and grant other
relief promised in the manifesto. General Fonseka has not
outlined the strategies he is going to adopt to increase the
national income and step up the national productivity
No clear-cut policy or vision
All in all, it appears that General Fonseka has neither a
clear-cut economic policy nor a clear vision. Even if he
has, he might not have wanted to embarrass the JVP by
declaring his economic policies. Fielding a question
relating to his economic policies by a journalist at his
Jaic Hilton media briefing, General Fonseka said that he
would implement the economic policies of the UNP. The 2001
–2003 UNP government under its ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’
manifesto, privatised the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation,
and ended the oil distribution monopoly of the Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation by introducing the Indian Oil Company
as another actor in the oil distribution in the country.
Dissolving the public service in stages was also part of the
economic program of that government.
The JVP angrily reacted to General Fonseka’s statement
that he would implement the UNP economic policies. Following
protests made by Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Tilvin Silva,
General Fonseka stopped making any reference to his economic
policies in his subsequent policy statements. When General
Fonseka met a group of businessmen recently, they inquired
about his economic policies. However, he avoided giving a
direct answer. It was Ranil Wickremesinghe who made
clarifications on his behalf.
As mentioned earlier, fulfilling promises made by General
Fonseka would involve a massive expenditure. If he were
elected President, he would not help seeking loans from
international monetary agencies such as the IMF, World Bank,
and the Asian Development Bank. Then, these monetary
agencies as usual would impose conditions relating to his
relief measures such as the Rs.10,000 pay hike and tax
reductions. If these agencies stipulated conditions
requiring the implementation of measures such as reduction
of the public service workforce, promotion of the private
sector, and privatisation of state enterprises, how would
General Fonseka face such a situation? What would be the
reaction of the JVP to such conditions?
The JVP and the student organisations affiliated to it
have already launched demonstrations to protest against the
establishment of private medical colleges and universities.
The state universities can accommodate only a small
percentage of the GCE (AL) qualifieds annually. Therefore,
only relatively small number of students scoring very high
marks get the opportunity to secure a university education.
Parents with means would get their children admitted to
foreign universities. This results in an outflow of a
massive amount of foreign exchange to foreign countries
where these Sri Lankan students receive a university
education. This drain of valuable foreign exchange can be
easily stemmed by opening up private universities in the
country. The JVP opposes the establishment of private
universities saying that it would toll the death knell of
the country’s free education. However, they overlook the
fact that there is a large number of foreign- qualified
doctors serving in our hospitals today. Perhaps most of them
would not have got the opportunity to become medical
graduates if they had waited for a chance to enter a
state-run university here to study medicine! There is no
doubt that General Fonseka would welcome the idea of opening
up private universities in the country. In fact, both his
daughters had their education in the United States. But he
is mum about the question of private universities lest what
he says would offend the JVP.
General Fonseka has promised in his manifesto that he
would scrap the present jumbo cabinet and appoint a
caretaker cabinet if he were elected President. According to
his promise, he would invite all parties represented in
parliament to nominate a member for the proposed caretaker
cabinet and he would thereafter dissolve parliament. In his
manifesto, he says, “I will within one month present cabinet
papers seeking the sanction for a constitutional amendment
providing for the abolition of the Executive Presidency,
Press Council Abolition Act and the Right to Information
Act. After the abolition of the Executive Presidency, I
shall diligently discharge my duties in the service of my
people and the country, working in co-operation with the
parliament as the President answerable to the people.”
• If he is to present a cabinet paper on the scrapping of
the Executive Presidency within one month, he should already
have the draft Constitutional Amendment Bill cut and dry. If
the present constitution is to be replaced by a new one, the
parliament has to transform itself into a Constituent
Assembly to prepare the draft constitution after canvassing
the views of the public and those of the civil society
organisations. This exercise cannot be completed within a
short time. The 1978 Constitution of J.R. Jayewardene had to
be amended 17 times due to numerous flaws in the supreme law
that had resulted from its hasty adoption.
Abolishing Executive Presidency a myth?
General Fonseka says that he will be a President accountable
to the people. But what Ranil Wickremesinghe and the JVP
leaders had been telling the people was that they would
appoint an Executive Prime Minister accountable to
Parliament to replace the Executive President. There is no
reference to the creation of office of an Executive Prime
Minister in General Fonseka’s manifesto. In these
circumstances, the UNP members would naturally wonder what
would become of their leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in a
government formed by General Fonseka. What JVP General
Secretary Tilvin Silva said was that General Fonseka would
be a nominal President just like what the late William
Gopallawa was. However, General Fonseka had subsequently
said that he was not prepared to be a ceremonial president
after being elected by the people. He categorically said
that he too should have powers by the virtue of his office
he is to hold. He had reportedly told several public rallies
that he would retain several ministerial portfolios like
Finance, Health and Education if he were elected President.
Therefore, it is obvious that if elected, General Fonseka
would continue in the office of Executive President until
the expiration of his term of office. There is another
significant factor: The passage of a constitutional
amendment requires the support of a two thirds majority in
parliament. However, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in an
interview with Swarnavahini on Thursday, said that the
remerger of the North and East would require a two thirds
majority vote in parliament and in the present circumstances
no single party would be able to muster a two thirds
majority in parliament. However, the announcer, who
conducted the interview, failed to ask the UNP leader if the
remerger of North-East could be a non-event due to the
difficulty in mustering a two thirds majority in Parliament,
how could they expect to secure a two thirds majority in
parliament to abolish the Executive Presidency. It was not
clear whether the announcer failed to ask the question
through fear or ignorance.
There was no reference to General Fonseka’s solution to
the national problem in his manifesto. This significant
omission could be attributed to the fact that his two main
sponsors UNP and the JVP are holding diametrically opposed
views on this question.
Therefore, it could be said that General Fonseka’s
manifesto is, a de facto list of promises.
Violence increases as election day approaches
As the election draws near, incidents of election-related
violence are also on the increase. According to reports
released by the election violence monitoring centres, the
number of election-related incidents of violence has topped
the 500 mark. Attacks on election offices, destruction of
posters and cutouts and assaults on the supporters of rival
candidates account for most of these incidents.
Two major incidents of election-related violence were
reported last week from Polonnaruwa and Tangalle. A 62-year
woman was killed and several others were injured when a
gun-toting a motor bike rider at Hungama fired on a
Tissamaharama-bound bus carrying people to an election rally
organised by Sajith Premadasa in support of General Fonseka.
This incident provided much grist to the propaganda mill of
the main opposition candidate. Addressing a hastily got up
media briefing immediately after this incident, several
opposition leaders including Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mangala
Samaraweera and Somawansa Amarasinghe claimed that the
elements, who knew of impending defeat as a certainty, were
now resorting to murder. They said that President Rajapaksa
should bear the responsibility for this incident. The
UNP-JVP supporters took advantage of this incident to stage
a number of protests and demonstrations. They claimed that
the dead woman was a supporter of the UNP. Meanwhile,
UNP-JVP supporters, who took out a procession to protest
against the Hungama incident, had attacked the UPFA election
office near the 28 milepost in Polonnaruwa. A meeting
attended by Minister Maitripala Sirisena had been gong on in
the election office when it came under attack by the
protesters. The UNP-JVP supporters had damaged Minister
Sirisena’s car which had been turned turtle. This incident
was reported by a private tv channel later the same day.
Inquiries shed new light on Hungama shooting
Meanwhile, the husband of the woman, who was killed in the
Hungama incident, testifying at the inquest on the death of
the woman, said that his family for generations has been
supporters of the Rajapaksas. And that at all elections,
they had voted for President Rajapaksa and the President had
provided jobs to several members of the family. The deceased
too had been an SLFP supporter and she had left home saying
that she was going to attend a meeting where pairs of
spectacles were to be distributed free.
Immediately on hearing about the incident, President
Rajapaksa directed IGP Mahinda Balasuriya to carry out
investigations to arrest the suspects without delay. The
investigations were handed over to the CID. The CID had
arrested two suspects with a firearm in their possession
from their hideout on a coconut estate. The two suspects
were due to be produced in courts and also presented at an
identification parade. According to latest information
Police had received, the shooting was a sequel to a personal
feud and it had nothing to do with politics.
The attempts by the opposition to exploit the incident to
gain propaganda mileage failed due to the timely action by
the President and what transpired in evidence at the
Meanwhile, President of the Centre for Monitoring Free
and Fair Elections and Democratic Rights (CMFFE) H.
K.Chandrasiri de Silva said that supporters of certain
opposition political parties would attack their own election
offices and tear down posters and cutouts in a bid to pass
the blame on to the supporters of the rival candidate. He
said that he had received reports of several such incidents.
Meanwhile, two Policemen had been injured in a clash between
some police personnel and a group of supporters of a
candidate who were distributing leaflets to the public at
Narahenpita. A private TV channel telecast a video footage
of this incident. It transpired later that the scene was an
orchestrated one and those who had planned it, had video
camera crew on hand to cover the scene that was to unfold.
Police investigations have revealed that most election
related incidents were very minor ones which were not even
worth complaining about. However, some monitoring outfits
have held them out incidents of election- related violence.
Elections Comm. meets party secs.
Meanwhile, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake last
week held a discussion with the general secretaries of
political parties fielding candidates at this election.
UPFA’s Susil Premajayantha and UNP’s Tissa Attanayake were
among the party officials present.
A visibly dismayed Elections Commissioner Dissanayake
complained that he appointed a Competent Authority to
monitor reporting by state media, but he has now been placed
in an embarrassing position as the relevant authorities are
not following his instructions.
Several party secretaries pointed out that there were many
posters and cutouts yet to be removed. The commissioner
blamed the Police for this situation. IGP Mahinda Balasuriya
asked for another 48 hours to remove all illegal election
propaganda materials put on display
Several general secretaries requested the commissioner to
seek legal redress.
Commissioner Dissanayake said in reply, “You may go to
courts. I will attend courts to give evidence. UPFA General
Secretary Susil Premajayantha assured that they would not do
anything that would militate against holding a free and fair
election.” We do not influence Police in anyway. We have
directed all our people to carry out the directives of the
Elections Commissioner,” he added.
Meanwhile, as we disclosed in our columns several weeks ago,
last Friday Deputy Minister Segu Izzadeen joined the SLMC
and assured his support to Opposition Candidate General
Fonseka. The same day he attended a media briefing by
General Fonseka. On Friday, former Deputy Minister of Higher
Education and independent candidate `Myown’ Mustafa
announced his support to General Fonseka at a media
briefing. Jatika Nidaham Peramuna Parliamentarian Mohamed
Mussamil, who attended this media briefing, later walked out
saying that he had been promised a bribe of Rs.30 million to
cross over to the opposition to support General Fonseka, but
he was not a person who could be bought over.