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  Politics  


 
To coincide with war victory anniversary and talks on GSP+

HR outfits at it again

• British Channel 4 TV, Human Rights anti-Sri Lanka crusade timed with war victory anniversary
• Lankan delegation for talks with top EU officials extension of GSP + concession
• Vocal UNP group query use of Rs.600m. foreign donations election fund

A number of anti-Sri Lankan forces in the West have resumed directing war crime charges at Sri Lanka just at the psychological moment when the country is preparing to mark the first anniversary of the victory over LTTE terrorism that plagued it for over 26 years.

HR charges ‘resurrected’
The British Channel 4 TV, London Times, International Crisis group, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch have renewed their campaign to press for an UN-sponsored international probe into the war crime charges preferred against Sri Lanka. The British Channel 4 TV has set the ball rolling this time around quoting a statement allegedly made to it by a commanding officer and a soldier who are said to have been in action in the war theatre in Sri Lanka. This was, of course, was no news, for they were only repeating what they had aired last year.

Channel 4 TV quoted the commanding officer as saying that they had received orders ‘from above’ to gun down all Tamils coming from the LTTE-held areas to surrender. The soldier said to have been at the battle had confirmed the ‘disclosure’ made by the commanding officer, saying:”Yes. Our commanding officer ordered us to kill everyone. Accordingly we killed everyone.” However, this TV has failed to reveal the identity of either the commanding officer or the soldier who allegedly made these statements.

Later, The London Times prominently carried this story as they did last year. Meanwhile, American newspapers like New York Times repeated the story. Here, it is relevant to recall that the Channel TV in August last year televised a video footage showing Tamil civilians with their hands tied behind being summarily executed by soldiers who were supposed to have arrested them. Sri Lankan government dismissed this allegation while producing a report by a team of experts which cited it as a fake. The airing of this fake video tape by the Channel 4 served as a signal for the London Times and a host of Human Rights organisations to launch an agitation calling for a probe into war crime charges against the Sri Lankan government.

It is quite interesting that the Channel TV and the Human Rights outfits have resumed their hue and cry against Sri Lanka to coincide with the first anniversary of the war victory. Former Chief Prosecutor in International War Crime Trials Louise Arbor too has said the UN Secretary General should appoint a team to inquire into war crime charges being made against Sri Lanka. Louise Arbour is now the Head of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) which had recently released a report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka.
The ICG says that Tamil civilians who had been loyal to the Tigers had been executed on orders ‘from above’ and it is a war crime to kill non-combatants.

Deny allegations
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London has issued a communiqué refuting the Channel 4 news story. While, strongly refuting the charges, Sri Lanka has asserted that the army, on the contrary, had welcomed the civilians who had sought their refuge and provided them with shelter in safe places despite the fact that the LTTE had used them as a human shield.

LL & R Commission
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed the eight member-Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission headed by former Attorney General C.R.de Silva. The other members of the Commission are Legal Advisor to the External Affairs Ministry Dr. Rohan Perera, former Foreign Secretary H.M.D.S. Nanayakkara, Deputy Chairman of University Grants Commission M.T.H. Jiffry, former Secretary to the Treasury C. Chanmugam, former High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama, Prof. Karunaratne Hangawatte and Deputy Legal Draftsman Manohari Ramanathan.


The mandate of the commission is to investigate the serious incidents from February 2002 to May 2009, the causes that led to the war and hold out the lessons that the society can learn from them and recommend measures to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such untoward situations in the country.
However, ICG Chief Louise Arbour says that this commission has not been granted adequate powers and therefore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon should take action to appoint an international commission of inquiry. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UN has said that Secretary General Moon is not satisfied with the measures taken by the Sri Lankan government and he would be appointing a separate committee to inquire into the incidents in Sri Lanka in the recent past. The Secretary General has decided to send here for talks in this connection UN Deputy Under Secretary for Political affairs Lynn Pascoe.

Human rights outfits in the West and certain media institutions appear to be determined to move the UN into taking serious action against Sri Lanka. British journalist Marie Colvin who, after coming to Sri Lanka in 1991, lost the vision of one eye after being caught in crossfire between the Tigers and the troops, and Channel 4 journalist Jeremy Page, who was deported when he came here on a tourist visa to visit the North when the war was raging, are at the vanguard of the campaign to embarrass Sri Lanka by getting an international probe appointed against it. It came to light sometime ago that Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP had sought the help of Marie Colvin to rescue the top LTTE leaders including Velupillai Prabhakaran when they were cornered into a small swathe of land in Wellamulllaivaikkal during the final days of the war in May last year.
These two journalists are now engaged in a relentless campaign against Sri Lanka.

Suspended GSP +
Now on a visit to Brussels is a Sri Lankan delegation comprising External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Attorney General Mohan Peiris, and Finance Ministry Secretary
Dr. P. B. Jayasundara for talks with top officials of the European Union to seek a further extension of the GSP + concession. The EU suspended this concession taking into consideration the Human Rights violation charges being made against Sri Lanka. The delegation has briefed the EU officials on the human rights situation in the country and the measures taken by the government for rebuilding the national integration as an imperative after the war and reconstructing and rehabilitating the war-torn North and East in the country.

A number of anti-Sri Lankan forces in the West have resumed directing war crime charges at Sri Lanka just at the psychological moment when the country is preparing to mark the first anniversary of the victory over LTTE terrorism that plagued it for over 26 years.

HR charges ‘resurrected’
The British Channel 4 TV, London Times, International Crisis group, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch have renewed their campaign to press for an UN-sponsored international probe into the war crime charges preferred against Sri Lanka. The British Channel 4 TV has set the ball rolling this time around quoting a statement allegedly made to it by a commanding officer and a soldier who are said to have been in action in the war theatre in Sri Lanka. This was, of course, was no news, for they were only repeating what they had aired last year.

Channel 4 TV quoted the commanding officer as saying that they had received orders ‘from above’ to gun down all Tamils coming from the LTTE-held areas to surrender. The soldier said to have been at the battle had confirmed the ‘disclosure’ made by the commanding officer, saying:”Yes. Our commanding officer ordered us to kill everyone. Accordingly we killed everyone.” However, this TV has failed to reveal the identity of either the commanding officer or the soldier who allegedly made these statements.

Later, The London Times prominently carried this story as they did last year. Meanwhile, American newspapers like New York Times repeated the story. Here, it is relevant to recall that the Channel TV in August last year televised a video footage showing Tamil civilians with their hands tied behind being summarily executed by soldiers who were supposed to have arrested them. Sri Lankan government dismissed this allegation while producing a report by a team of experts which cited it as a fake. The airing of this fake video tape by the Channel 4 served as a signal for the London Times and a host of Human Rights organisations to launch an agitation calling for a probe into war crime charges against the Sri Lankan government.

It is quite interesting that the Channel TV and the Human Rights outfits have resumed their hue and cry against Sri Lanka to coincide with the first anniversary of the war victory. Former Chief Prosecutor in International War Crime Trials Louise Arbor too has said the UN Secretary General should appoint a team to inquire into war crime charges being made against Sri Lanka. Louise Arbour is now the Head of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) which had recently released a report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka.
The ICG says that Tamil civilians who had been loyal to the Tigers had been executed on orders ‘from above’ and it is a war crime to kill non-combatants.

Deny allegations
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London has issued a communiqué refuting the Channel 4 news story. While, strongly refuting the charges, Sri Lanka has asserted that the army, on the contrary, had welcomed the civilians who had sought their refuge and provided them with shelter in safe places despite the fact that the LTTE had used them as a human shield.

LL & R Commission
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed the eight member-Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission headed by former Attorney General C.R.de Silva. The other members of the Commission are Legal Advisor to the External Affairs Ministry Dr. Rohan Perera, former Foreign Secretary H.M.D.S. Nanayakkara, Deputy Chairman of University Grants Commission M.T.H. Jiffry, former Secretary to the Treasury C. Chanmugam, former High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama, Prof. Karunaratne Hangawatte and Deputy Legal Draftsman Manohari Ramanathan.

The mandate of the commission is to investigate the serious incidents from February 2002 to May 2009, the causes that led to the war and hold out the lessons that the society can learn from them and recommend measures to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such untoward situations in the country.
However, ICG Chief Louise Arbour says that this commission has not been granted adequate powers and therefore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon should take action to appoint an international commission of inquiry. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UN has said that Secretary General Moon is not satisfied with the measures taken by the Sri Lankan government and he would be appointing a separate committee to inquire into the incidents in Sri Lanka in the recent past. The Secretary General has decided to send here for talks in this connection UN Deputy Under Secretary for Political affairs Lynn Pascoe.

Human rights outfits in the West and certain media institutions appear to be determined to move the UN into taking serious action against Sri Lanka. British journalist Marie Colvin who, after coming to Sri Lanka in 1991, lost the vision of one eye after being caught in crossfire between the Tigers and the troops, and Channel 4 journalist Jeremy Page, who was deported when he came here on a tourist visa to visit the North when the war was raging, are at the vanguard of the campaign to embarrass Sri Lanka by getting an international probe appointed against it. It came to light sometime ago that Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP had sought the help of Marie Colvin to rescue the top LTTE leaders including Velupillai Prabhakaran when they were cornered into a small swathe of land in Wellamulllaivaikkal during the final days of the war in May last year.
These two journalists are now engaged in a relentless campaign against Sri Lanka.

Suspended GSP +
Now on a visit to Brussels is a Sri Lankan delegation comprising External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Attorney General Mohan Peiris, and Finance Ministry Secretary
Dr. P. B. Jayasundara for talks with top officials of the European Union to seek a further extension of the GSP + concession. The EU suspended this concession taking into consideration the Human Rights violation charges being made against Sri Lanka. The delegation has briefed the EU officials on the human rights situation in the country and the measures taken by the government for rebuilding the national integration as an imperative after the war and reconstructing and rehabilitating the war-torn North and East in the country.

Reason
It is noteworthy that the British media and INGOs such as ICG, Human Rights Watch, and the Amnesty International have resumed their campaign to vilify Sri Lanka at a time the country is seeking an extension of the GSP+ concession. This shows that their main objective is to deal a telling blow to our economy. These organisations mounted a similar campaign against Sri Lanka when the country was holding talks to secure this duty free concession last year. It is quite obvious that the Tamil Diaspora is behind these human rights organisations, vociferous about so called human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Scheming diaspora
Now that peace is back in Sri Lanka, the Western countries are taking action to repatriate the Tamil refugees who had been granted asylum in their countries. However, the Tamil Diaspora wants to prevent Tamil refugees being sent back to Sri Lanka and ensure that they are granted citizenship in the countries now providing them asylum. The stratagem they employ to gain their objective is to show the world that human rights violations, abductions and killings continue unabated and the Tamil people are being persecuted in Sri Lanka. It is quite obvious they are funding the Human Rights outfits as an inducement for campaigning against Sri Lanka.
The TNA had made an appeal to Tamil people to observe May 18 as a day of mourning for Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders who were killed while being cornered in Wellmullaivaikkal. The TNA had also exhorted them to engage in religious observances in their memory. The Tamil Diaspora too had taken action to observe the Day.

According to reports, people in the North and East have not paid any heed to the appeal made by the TNA. A few people in Vavuniya had attended poojas in kovils held in memory of their friends and relatives, but there had been no widespread commemorative activity to observe the day.
There had been commemorative functions to mark the death anniversary of Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders organised by the Tamil Diaspora in Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Ottawa, Stockholm, Chennai and Washington. But few Tamils had attended these functions.

To be elected
The report of the six-member committee on party reforms appointed by the UNP Working Committee came under intense discussion at the joint-meeting of the party’s Parliamentary Group and the working committee held at the Sirikotha party headquarters on Wednesday.
Unofficial reports said on Thursday that the six-member committee had recommended that that the party Leader, Deputy Leader, National Organiser, Chairman and Deputy Chairman should be picked by election and the party leader thus elected, should be empowered to appoint the General Secretary and the Treasurer of his choice.

However, the committee recommendations would not mean an ouster of Ranil Wickremesinghe as he is expected to contest the election to the office of the party leader at its national convention due to be held in July. The present indications are that none will come forward as a rival candidate for party leadership. Therefore, chances are Wickremesinghe will lead the party for a further period, a party senior told this columnist. The reason for this is that the ‘rebel group’, including Sajith Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekera, which has been pressing for party reforms is not in a hurry to secure the top positions in the party. Their aim is to make it to the leadership position in another few years, the party senior explained.

The proposal that the elected leader be empowered to pick the general secretary and treasurer he wants, is said to have been submitted to the reforms committee by Ranil Wickremesinghe himself. Under the present UNP constitution all powers in the party are concentrated in the hands of the party leader. The high sounding posts like the Deputy Leader, National Organiser, Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, sans any powers delegated to them, have been reduced to nominal status. In fact, S.B. Dissanayake publicly articulated this position when he said though he was the UNP National Organiser by name he had no powers and functions in keeping with the post assigned to him.

Ranil, de facto ruler
Ranil Wickremesinghe, all powerful de facto ruler, is in a position to run the party the way he wants, say party seniors. They feel that even the implementation of the reforms committee recommendations would be a futile exercise because Wickremesinghe would continue to manage the affairs of the party in his own style.
Meanwhile, a vocal group in the UNP is querying as to what had become of about Rs.600 million donated by certain countries towards the party’s election fund. They charge that this massive amount of money is stashed in the bank accounts of some party high ups at a time when the party is struggling to raise funds to settle the telephone bills of the party headquarters.

Sajith’s ‘Jatika Jeewaya’
Regardless of the obstacles being placed in his way, Sajith Premadasa is forging ahead with his ‘Jathika Jeewaya’ programme. Another of its meetings aimed at building up his image as a national leader had been held last week covering the Yatinuwara and Hewaheta electorates. Lakshman Kiriella and Dayasiri Jayasekra too had participated in the largely attended Pradeshiya Bala Mandala meeting held at Sunilagama in Yatinuwara.

Sunilagama is an Udagama established under the Gam Udawa programme by the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Sajith had made it a point to hold this series of UNP Balamandala meetings in Udagama as the residents in them are mostly Premadasa supporters. Slamming the party leader and certain party front-liners at this meeting Sajith Premadasa said, “Our party made a big mistake by not supporting the war on terrorism. I never described Thoppigala as a jungle. (It was Ranil Wickremesinghe who called Thoppigala a jungle.) Nor did I say that our army, having reached only Medawachchiya, had claimed to have marched on Kilinochchi or it had taken Alimankada when it was still at Pamankada. (It was Ravi Karunanayake who made this statement in Parliament.) We can’t take our party forward by approaching people dressed in tie-coat. We must start organising the party from the grassroots level. We must rally people round the party to go on a new political journey.”

Ravi reacts
Replying to Sajith, Ravi Karunanayake had told a national Sinhala daily that it was a pity some people in the party have picked the party leader himself for attack. He was quoted as saying, “Why can’t they criticise the government? All should get together to rebuild the party. There is the need to appoint a council of party seniors to direct the affairs of the party. Some of our people are trying to be Buddhas by themselves. They are running after party positions. Why should they attack the party like this? It appears that they are only carrying out a contract entrusted to them by the government.”
Ravi Karunanayake had complained to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe about the statement Sajith had made. Karunanayake is too an aspirant to the UNP leadership. But he knows well that he would not succeed in attaining the leadership position by the vote of the membership. That is why he is proposing a leadership council to direct the party. It was obvious that the ‘tie-coat’ innuendo made by Sajith in Yatinuwara had hit the mark when Ravi Karunanayake attended parliament attired in the national dress for the first time last Thursday. Ravi had been attending parliament in the Western dress since 1994.

SIRASA on crisis
Meanwhile, the programme serial titled ‘Paksa Arbhudaya’ (Party Crisis) targeting Ranil Wickremesinghe which the SIRASA TV channel had been televising as part of its news telecast has been stopped since last Wednesday. The programne raked the present UNP leadership over red hot coals for his political blunders and made him suffer by comparison to UNP leaders who preceded him since 1947. According to UNP insiders, the SIRASA had decided to discontinue the programme following a discussion UNP Deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya had with a top SIRASA official. Ravi Karunanayake too had reportedly lodged a protest with the SIRASA high ups against this programme which had been designed to give a boost to the image of Sajith Premadasa. Meanwhile, UNP leader Wickremesinghe has wished many happy returns over the phone to a SIRASA high official on his birthday.

Azwer presides
At parliamentary sittings, either Deputy Speaker or the Deputy Chairman of the Committees takes the chair in the absence of the Speaker. In the absence of all three, one of the six-member panels of chairpersons appointed for the purpose would preside over the sittings. UPFA National List MP A.H.M. Azwer had to occupy the chair for four hours at a stretch as the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Chairman of Committees, Deputy Chairman of Committee or any other of the panel was not available in the House. In normal circumstances, an ordinary member would not occupy the chair for more than two hours. However, Azwer was compelled to preside over the sittings from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, thus creating a record in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary history. Being tied down to the chair, Azwer, it is learnt, had to bear the agony of holding up calls of nature.

Opposition stand
The SLMC has taken up the position that the opposition en bloc should take a unanimous stand on the constitutional reforms to be introduced by the government. The SLMC politburo, given this stand, had decided to hold talks with other opposition political parties in a bid to reach unanimity on their stand on proposed constitutional changes. Accordingly, the SLMC leaders held talks with the TNA leaders on May 16. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, General Secretary Hassan Ali, and Baseer Zegudawood represented the SLMC at these talks while the TNA was represented by leader R. Sampanthan and Suresh Premachandran. The participants at the conclusion of the lengthy discussion decided that proposals aimed at resolving the ethnic crisis should be presented prior to introducing any constitutional amendments. They decided to back the constitutional amendments only if the government moved into action to provide a satisfactory solution to the ethnic problem.
The leaders of the two parties, SLMC and TNA at these talks had also agreed to hold discussions with the CWC, other Muslim parties and the Jatika Nidahas Peramuna led by Wimal Weerawansa as well.
President at G 15 summit
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during bilateral talks held with Iran President Ahemedinejad on the sidelines of the G 15 summit held in Tehran recently, had made a reference to the delay in the provision of promised Iranian aid to Sri Lanka for the Umaoya irrigation project and for modernisation of the Oil Refinery at Sapugaskanda. In a prompt reaction to President Rajapaksa’s disclosure, President Ahamedinejad had immediately directed his secretary to look into this delay and submit an early report to him. Later at the banquet hosted by him at the conclusion of the G 15 summit Iranian President Ahamedinejad had explained to President Rajapaksa that the delay in providing pledged aid had resulted from a lapse on the part of his officials and he had already directed the Minister of Trade and Commerce to expedite the matter.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Tehran, M.M. Suhair said on Wednesday that Iranian authorities have made arrangements to hold a conference this week with a view to expediting the release of aid for modernisation of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery. The ambassador had expressed confidence that it would be possible to inaugurate the work on the two projects shortly, as the Iranian aid would soon be on the pipeline.
It is noteworthy that the British media and INGOs such as ICG, Human Rights Watch, and the Amnesty International have resumed their campaign to vilify Sri Lanka at a time the country is seeking an extension of the GSP+ concession. This shows that their main objective is to deal a telling blow to our economy. These organisations mounted a similar campaign against Sri Lanka when the country was holding talks to secure this duty free concession last year. It is quite obvious that the Tamil Diaspora is behind these human rights organisations, vociferous about so called human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Scheming diaspora

Now that peace is back in Sri Lanka, the Western countries are taking action to repatriate the Tamil refugees who had been granted asylum in their countries. However, the Tamil Diaspora wants to prevent Tamil refugees being sent back to Sri Lanka and ensure that they are granted citizenship in the countries now providing them asylum. The stratagem they employ to gain their objective is to show the world that human rights violations, abductions and killings continue unabated and the Tamil people are being persecuted in Sri Lanka. It is quite obvious they are funding the Human Rights outfits as an inducement for campaigning against Sri Lanka.

The TNA had made an appeal to Tamil people to observe May 18 as a day of mourning for Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders who were killed while being cornered in Wellmullaivaikkal. The TNA had also exhorted them to engage in religious observances in their memory. The Tamil Diaspora too had taken action to observe the Day.

According to reports, people in the North and East have not paid any heed to the appeal made by the TNA. A few people in Vavuniya had attended poojas in kovils held in memory of their friends and relatives, but there had been no widespread commemorative activity to observe the day.
There had been commemorative functions to mark the death anniversary of Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders organised by the Tamil Diaspora in Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Ottawa, Stockholm, Chennai and Washington. But few Tamils had attended these functions.

To be elected
The report of the six-member committee on party reforms appointed by the UNP Working Committee came under intense discussion at the joint-meeting of the party’s Parliamentary Group and the working committee held at the Sirikotha party headquarters on Wednesday.
Unofficial reports said on Thursday that the six-member committee had recommended that that the party Leader, Deputy Leader, National Organiser, Chairman and Deputy Chairman should be picked by election and the party leader thus elected, should be empowered to appoint the General Secretary and the Treasurer of his choice.

However, the committee recommendations would not mean an ouster of Ranil Wickremesinghe as he is expected to contest the election to the office of the party leader at its national convention due to be held in July. The present indications are that none will come forward as a rival candidate for party leadership. Therefore, chances are Wickremesinghe will lead the party for a further period, a party senior told this columnist. The reason for this is that the ‘rebel group’, including Sajith Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekera, which has been pressing for party reforms is not in a hurry to secure the top positions in the party. Their aim is to make it to the leadership position in another few years, the party senior explained.
The proposal that the elected leader be empowered to pick the general secretary and treasurer he wants, is said to have been submitted to the reforms committee by Ranil Wickremesinghe himself. Under the present UNP constitution all powers in the party are concentrated in the hands of the party leader. The high sounding posts like the Deputy Leader, National Organiser, Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, sans any powers delegated to them, have been reduced to nominal status. In fact, S.B. Dissanayake publicly articulated this position when he said though he was the UNP National Organiser by name he had no powers and functions in keeping with the post assigned to him.

Ranil, de facto ruler
Ranil Wickremesinghe, all powerful de facto ruler, is in a position to run the party the way he wants, say party seniors. They feel that even the implementation of the reforms committee recommendations would be a futile exercise because Wickremesinghe would continue to manage the affairs of the party in his own style.
Meanwhile, a vocal group in the UNP is querying as to what had become of about Rs.600 million donated by certain countries towards the party’s election fund. They charge that this massive amount of money is stashed in the bank accounts of some party high ups at a time when the party is struggling to raise funds to settle the telephone bills of the party headquarters.

Sajith’s ‘Jatika Jeewaya’
Regardless of the obstacles being placed in his way, Sajith Premadasa is forging ahead with his ‘Jathika Jeewaya’ programme. Another of its meetings aimed at building up his image as a national leader had been held last week covering the Yatinuwara and Hewaheta electorates. Lakshman Kiriella and Dayasiri Jayasekra too had participated in the largely attended Pradeshiya Bala Mandala meeting held at Sunilagama in Yatinuwara.

Sunilagama is an Udagama established under the Gam Udawa programme by the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Sajith had made it a point to hold this series of UNP Balamandala meetings in Udagama as the residents in them are mostly Premadasa supporters. Slamming the party leader and certain party front-liners at this meeting Sajith Premadasa said, “Our party made a big mistake by not supporting the war on terrorism. I never described Thoppigala as a jungle. (It was Ranil Wickremesinghe who called Thoppigala a jungle.) Nor did I say that our army, having reached only Medawachchiya, had claimed to have marched on Kilinochchi or it had taken Alimankada when it was still at Pamankada. (It was Ravi Karunanayake who made this statement in Parliament.) We can’t take our party forward by approaching people dressed in tie-coat. We must start organising the party from the grassroots level. We must rally people round the party to go on a new political journey.”

Ravi reacts
Replying to Sajith, Ravi Karunanayake had told a national Sinhala daily that it was a pity some people in the party have picked the party leader himself for attack. He was quoted as saying, “Why can’t they criticise the government? All should get together to rebuild the party. There is the need to appoint a council of party seniors to direct the affairs of the party. Some of our people are trying to be Buddhas by themselves. They are running after party positions. Why should they attack the party like this? It appears that they are only carrying out a contract entrusted to them by the government.”
Ravi Karunanayake had complained to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe about the statement Sajith had made. Karunanayake is too an aspirant to the UNP leadership. But he knows well that he would not succeed in attaining the leadership position by the vote of the membership. That is why he is proposing a leadership council to direct the party. It was obvious that the ‘tie-coat’ innuendo made by Sajith in Yatinuwara had hit the mark when Ravi Karunanayake attended parliament attired in the national dress for the first time last Thursday. Ravi had been attending parliament in the Western dress since 1994.

SIRASA on crisis
Meanwhile, the programme serial titled ‘Paksa Arbhudaya’ (Party Crisis) targeting Ranil Wickremesinghe which the SIRASA TV channel had been televising as part of its news telecast has been stopped since last Wednesday. The programne raked the present UNP leadership over red hot coals for his political blunders and made him suffer by comparison to UNP leaders who preceded him since 1947. According to UNP insiders, the SIRASA had decided to discontinue the programme following a discussion UNP Deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya had with a top SIRASA official. Ravi Karunanayake too had reportedly lodged a protest with the SIRASA high ups against this programme which had been designed to give a boost to the image of Sajith Premadasa. Meanwhile, UNP leader Wickremesinghe has wished many happy returns over the phone to a SIRASA high official on his birthday.

Azwer presides
At parliamentary sittings, either Deputy Speaker or the Deputy Chairman of the Committees takes the chair in the absence of the Speaker. In the absence of all three, one of the six-member panels of chairpersons appointed for the purpose would preside over the sittings. UPFA National List MP A.H.M. Azwer had to occupy the chair for four hours at a stretch as the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Chairman of Committees, Deputy Chairman of Committee or any other of the panel was not available in the House. In normal circumstances, an ordinary member would not occupy the chair for more than two hours. However, Azwer was compelled to preside over the sittings from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, thus creating a record in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary history. Being tied down to the chair, Azwer, it is learnt, had to bear the agony of holding up calls of nature.

Opposition stand
The SLMC has taken up the position that the opposition en bloc should take a unanimous stand on the constitutional reforms to be introduced by the government. The SLMC politburo, given this stand, had decided to hold talks with other opposition political parties in a bid to reach unanimity on their stand on proposed constitutional changes. Accordingly, the SLMC leaders held talks with the TNA leaders on May 16. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, General Secretary Hassan Ali, and Baseer Zegudawood represented the SLMC at these talks while the TNA was represented by leader R. Sampanthan and Suresh Premachandran. The participants at the conclusion of the lengthy discussion decided that proposals aimed at resolving the ethnic crisis should be presented prior to introducing any constitutional amendments. They decided to back the constitutional amendments only if the government moved into action to provide a satisfactory solution to the ethnic problem.

The leaders of the two parties, SLMC and TNA at these talks had also agreed to hold discussions with the CWC, other Muslim parties and the Jatika Nidahas Peramuna led by Wimal Weerawansa as well.

President at G 15 summit
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during bilateral talks held with Iran President Ahemedinejad on the sidelines of the G 15 summit held in Tehran recently, had made a reference to the delay in the provision of promised Iranian aid to Sri Lanka for the Umaoya irrigation project and for modernisation of the Oil Refinery at Sapugaskanda. In a prompt reaction to President Rajapaksa’s disclosure, President Ahamedinejad had immediately directed his secretary to look into this delay and submit an early report to him. Later at the banquet hosted by him at the conclusion of the G 15 summit Iranian President Ahamedinejad had explained to President Rajapaksa that the delay in providing pledged aid had resulted from a lapse on the part of his officials and he had already directed the Minister of Trade and Commerce to expedite the matter.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Tehran, M.M. Suhair said on Wednesday that Iranian authorities have made arrangements to hold a conference this week with a view to expediting the release of aid for modernisation of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery. The ambassador had expressed confidence that it would be possible to inaugurate the work on the two projects shortly, as the Iranian aid would soon be on the pipeline.