Wimal fast gives new twist to UN-Lanka standoff
  • President Rajapaksa resolves Maldivian crisis
  • GL says Govt. ensured safety of UN workers
  • JHU seeks Russia, China support to oust Ban ki
  • Tamil Political Parties Forum formed

The fast-unto-death launched by Minister Wimal Weerawansa over the controversial three-member panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary General, has triggered a diplomatic standoff between the UN and Sri Lanka.
Recalling Resident Coordinator for the UN in Colombo Neil Buhne to the UN headquarters in New York is considered a throw-up from the present situation. Media reports, meanwhile, said the UNDP office too had been closed down. However, its media officer of UN office in Colombo Mohan Samaranayake has refuted the media reports.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa quitting his ministerial portfolio on Saturday is another outcome of this standoff. It is understood that his resignation had been called for by the government leadership considering the embarrassing position the government has been placed in by the fast staged by no lesser person than a Cabinet Minister of the government.

UN faults SL govt.

Reacting to the death fast being staged by Wimal Weerawansa, a spokesman for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has faulted the Sri Lankan government saying that the Sri Lankan authorities concerned had failed to stop the ‘illegal protests ‘ being led by a Cabinet Minister disrupting the day-to-day functioning of the UN office in Colombo.

GL replies

However, External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris maintained in Parliament on Thursday that the government did intervene to ensure the safety of the UN office and its staff. He explained that his Ministry secretary Romesh Jayasinghe was rushed to the scene to reassure the UN personnel and ensure their safety. Thanks to the security measures taken, the UN staffers had left the UN compound after work without any hindrance. It is a civil right of the citizens to stage peaceful protests, a right recognised even by the UN Charter of Human Rights and the government has no right to prevent such protests, Minister Peiris had pointed out. “We have also provided security to the UNP Office premises in conformity with local and international laws,” Prof. Peiris told Parliament.

UNDP office functioning

Putting the record straight, media officer of UN office in Colombo Mohan Samaranayake explained that the UN Resident Coordinator being summoned to the UN headquarters in New York is a routine practice. “It is the usual practice to summon the head of the office concerned to obtain a full report whenever an incident relating to the particular office has occurred. Buhne will return after fulfilling this mission,” he said. He also explained that the Colombo UNDP office is functioning as usual and what has been closed is the UNDP Regional office located at Torrington Place, Colombo.
Samaranayake explained that the UNDP Regional Office was earlier located in Katmandu and it was shifted to Colombo in 2005 following disturbances in that country. It had been decided in 2008 to close the Regional Office in Colombo and most of its sections were moved over to Bangkok in 2009. He emphasised that the closure of the UNDP Regional Office in Colombo had nothing to do with the death fast.

JNP, JHU in equation

Following Sri Lankan government lodging an official protest against the appointment of the three member panel of experts to advise the UN Secretary General on accountability issues relating reported war crimes committed during the final phases of the war last year, the Jatika Hela Urumaya (JHU) staged a demonstration opposite the UN compound at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo last Monday. Wimal Weerawansa the same day told a media briefing held by his party, Jatika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) that people should surround the UN office in Colombo and hold the staff hostage until Ban Ki-moon dissolves the expert’s panel on Sri Lanka. The following day a group of JNP activists led by Wimal Weerawansa laid siege to the UN office and staged a ‘Satyagraha’ after locking up all exits from the premises, thus virtually taking the staff hostage. Later, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe visited the scene and negotiated with the protesters and the beleaguered officials. Riot Police who arrived on the scene later in the afternoon made way for the staff to leave the premises by forcibly removing the protesters. At this stage a clash between Police and the protesters ensued with protesters resisting Police action. Later, Weerawansa got Police removed by calling Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaka on his mobile phone. Weerawansa also announced that he would launch a fast unto death if there was no positive response to the Satyagraha. Accordingly, Wimal Weerawansa started his fast opposite the UN office on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the UNP issuing a press communiqué condemned the protest staged by Weerawansa and blamed him for using thuggery to resolve an issue that should be sorted out by diplomatic means.

JHU plans Ban-Ki ouster

The JHU describes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s move to appoint the panel of experts regardless of the strong protests from Sri Lanka as a bid to appease Western countries with the aim of securing a second term in office with their support. Therefore, the JHU leaders have decided to take every step possible to prevent Ban Ki-moon from getting a second term in office. Accordingly, a JHU delegation including Ven. Omalpe Sobhita, party secretary Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and Legal Advisor Udaya Gammanpila will meet heads of diplomatic missions of China, Russia Japan and India in Colombo to canvass their support to oust Ban Ki-moon, a spokesman for the JHU told this columnist.

UNP reforms

The UNP reforms Committee chaired by Joseph Michael Perera handed over their final report to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last Monday. The committee has recommended, among other things, that all office-bearers of the party except the General Secretary be elected either with unanimous consent or by ballot at a joint meeting of the Working Committee and the Parliamentary group. This means there will be elections to top posts of the party, the Leader, Deputy Leader, National organiser, Chairman and the Treasurer failure to reach unanimity in selecting suitable persons for these posts, says UNP Media spokesman Gayantha Karunatillake.

UNP convention

Meanwhile, an obstacle in the way of holding the UNP national convention on August 7 as scheduled, has come up, say Sirikotha sources. According to the party Constitution, the UNP membership should be informed of holding a national convention at least one month ahead of the scheduled event. However, the membership had not been officially informed about the convention scheduled for August 7, up to July 9 Friday. It is understood that the party’s Working Committee is to meet this week The Committee at this meeting is likely to re-schedule the national convention for a date in September, a senior party MP said.Some protest
The members of PCs and Pradeshiya Sabhas and electoral organisers of the UNP have begun expressing their concern and disappointment over the failure on the part of the Reforms Committee to extend to them the right to vote at elections to top posts in the party. They have even complained to Sajith Premadasa about them being sidelined in this matter.

President peacemaker in Maldives

The protracted conflict between the government and the opposition in the Maldives reached a climax when the 13 Cabinet Ministers of the Maldivian government resigned en bloc on June 30. With repeated attempts to appoint a new Cabinet ending in failure, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on July 6 sought the intervention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to resolve the crisis that had overtaken his government. President Rajapaksa on July 6 itself dispatched External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris as his special envoy to the Maldives and the following day itself, he visited the Maldives accompanied by his secretary Lalith Weeratunga and checked in to Kurumba Village hotel. Soon after he held talks with President Nasheed. He met former Maldivian President, the current opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom following the talks with the Maldivian President. President Rajapaksa also called on Speaker of the Maldivian Majlis Abdul Shaheed and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and held lengthy talks with them.
President Rajapaksa wrapped up his goodwill mission after taking the initiative to have a six-member committee comprising three members each from the government and the opposition appointed to carry forward the dialogue towards addressing the contentious issues. President Rajapaksa returned to the island on Friday and the Maldivian President appointed his new cabinet of Ministers the same day. Both Maldivian government and the opposition have expressed their gratitude to President Rajapaksa for mediating to resolve their crisis.

UNP-SLMC tiff drags

The dispute between the UNP and the SLMC triggered by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s appointment of Daya Gamage as the EPC opposition leader has taken a turn for the worse, say informed sources. The SLMC has been insisting from the very inception that the post of opposition leader in the EPC should be conceded to them as the SLMC commands the majority of members in the opposition of the Council. Appointing Daya Gamage as the opposition leader disregarding the objections by the SLMC has angered the SLMC members in the EPC.
Meanwhile, a majority of SLMC MPs are urging party the leadership to join the government. They argue that they should necessarily be part of the government if they are to do anything worthwhile for their constituents. However, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and party secretary Hassan Ali are reportedly against joining the government
SLMC Hakeem is on a visit to Libya these days. The Supreme Council of the party which is due to meet on July 18 after the Hakeem’s return home will take a decision on the proposal to cross over to the government.

Communist Party 67

The Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CP), the second oldest political party in the country made a symbolic resumption of political activity in the North after an interval of 30 years by holding its 67th anniversary celebrations in Jaffna yesterday.
The party secretary Dew Gunasekera delivered the key note address at this celebration which was presided over by party chairman Raja Collure.
The CP had been running a wide organisational network covering the entire North since 1950s, which gradually weakened with the LTTE spreading its tentacles in the peninsula and the mainland areas of the district in the later years. What little political activism that continued after the advent of the LTTE came to a complete halt, when the Tigers gunned down a number of CP leaders in the North.
Meanwhile, the CP is making elaborate preparations to hold their 19th national convention at Shalika Hall, Narahenpita for three days beginning August 27. Delegates from Communist parties in India, China, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh and Cuba are expected to attend this convention. The report of the party secretary and the political report to be presented by the party leadership outlining its political roadmap will come under discussion by the delegates from party branches islandwide attending the convention. The political report has already been distributed to party branches and district organisations and the feedback proposals on it submitted by the latter will be reviewed by the party for the purpose of accommodating suitable proposals in the final report to be presented at the convention.

North-South leftists align

Meanwhile, it is understood that the EPRLF (Padmanabha Wing) and the PLOTE are planning to enter active politics in the North in alliance with the Samajavadi Janatha Peramuna which is a combine of the LSSP, CP and the Democratic Left Front led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara. The EPRLF has also decided to drop the word ‘Eelam’ from the name of its party. EPRLF leader former North-East Chief Minister Vardharajah Perumal, party secretary N. Sritharan and PLOTE leader D. Sidharthan had agreed to enter into a broad political alliance following a discussion with the Samajavadi Janatha Peramuna leaders. Talks are also reportedly being held with a view to contesting the forthcoming NPC election under a common banner.

Tamil Forum

A number of Tamil political parties which separately contested the local government elections in Vavuniya and Jaffna and at the general election have now teamed up to form a broad alliance called the ‘Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF). The initial discussion on forming this political alignment had been held at the residence of EPDP leader Douglas Devananda. TULF leader V. Anandasangaree, Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation leader C. Chandrahasan, (son of founder-leader of the Federal party the late S.J.V.Chelvanayakam), EPRLF (Padmanabha Wing) leader Vartharaja Perumal, its secretary N. Sritharan, PLOTE leader D.Sidtharthan, M.K.Shivajilingam of the Tamil National Liberation Front A.C. Kaileshvararajah and V. Prasanandan of the TMVP EPDP leader Douglas Devananda were among those who had participated in the talks.
A committee comprising eight members representing the constituent parties of the TPPF which participated in the discussion had been appointed to work out a political agenda of the new combine. The TNA has not joined this alliance so far. TNA leader R. Sampanthan has assured the Forum leaders to inform them of their decision on whether they are to join the Forum or not.
A proposal made by Sivajilingam to invite Vinayagamrthy Muralitharana ( Karuna Amman) and Kumaran Pathmanathan well known as KP also to throw in their lot with the Forum had been dropped following strong objections made by the other constituents. However, those who had objected to Karuna Amman and KP joining the Forum had not opposed the TMVP led by Sivaneshthurai Chandrakanthan (Pillayan) joining the new alignment. Former TNA parliamentarian Tamil National Liberation Party leader M.K.Shivajilingam had told the participants of the Forum talks held on July 2 that the Tamil political parties have no other option than to make a united effort to get their problems solved as the government is enjoying the support of the majority and the Tamils no longer are receiving the backing from an armed group.
Devananda eyes NPC?
It was EPDP leader Douglas Devananda who took the initiative to found the Tamil party combines TPPF. His main objective in founding the new combine is obviously to capture the power of the Northern Provincial Council. However, he knows that his chances of winning are a far cry as he does not enjoy a high acceptance among the Tamils in the North. According to North political sources, Devananda is planning to field Vartharajah Perumal as the Chief Ministerial candidate under the banner of the new Tamil combine, the TPPF. Devananda, according to these sources, believes that the Indian government too would back Perumal, one-time North- East Chief Minister, if he contests as the Chief Ministerial candidate. How the TNA, commanding the majority of seats in Parliament from Tamil majority areas, is going to react to the latest political moves by Devananda is yet to be seen.

TNA delegation

The TNA delegation led by R. Sampanthan now on a visit to New Delhi had held talks with Union Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna, Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao last week. They had not been able to meet Indian National Defense Advisor Shivasankar Menon as he is out of the country these days. According to Tamil political sources, this delegation which also includes Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran, A.Vinayagamurthy, and T. Sumanthiran had made it a point during their talks to complain to the Indian authorities that the lands of the Tamils in the North are being acquired to set up army camps and quarters for military personnel and ask for India’s intervention to stop this move.
They had also urged the Indian authorities to intervene to expedite providing a solution to the ethnic problem. The Indian authorities had in response informed the TNA delegates that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had already to devolve more powers to the Tamils through the Northern Provincial Council by making necessary amendments to the 13th amendment of the Constitution. The Indian authorities had also asked the TNA to welcome the Northern PC to be set up shortly after effecting the necessary Constitutional reforms.