BASKS IN GLOBAL
- Solheim plea to Tamil
- Ranil scoffs at ‘timid
- Fonseka seeks justice
- Bakeer Markar’s success
Erik Solheim also called upon the Tamil diaspora to
look pragmatically at the changes taking place in Sri Lanka
and how best these developments could be used for the
benefit of the Tamil people
focus this week is on the UN General Assembly in New York
where President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed its main
President Rajapaksa addressed the main UN sessions as a
leader of a country that faced two major calamities in the
first decade of the millennium.
Firstly, Sri Lanka though smaller in extent was plagued by a
three-decade long terrorist problem unleashed by the most
ruthless terrorist outfit in the world, the LTTE.
Secondly, in the year 2004, an unexpected tsunami ravaged
the coastal belt of the country causing an unprecedented
damage to life and property.
Yet, Sri Lanka today has emerged as an amazingly resilient
country with an economy recording a very satisfactory growth
rate during the first two quarters of the year according to
Central Bank data, which is encouraging.
As a leader committed to uplifting the living standards
of all Sri Lankans without any discrimination, the President
on the sidelines of the UNGA met a host of world leaders to
apprise them on the progress the country had made since May
2009, from the period the Sri Lankan security forces
vanquished the LTTE.
Addressing the session on Millennium Development Goals, the
President called on the developed countries to relax
regulations on protectionism for the developing world to
achieve MDG targets. President Rajapaksa, among other
leaders, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Qatar Emir
Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Iranian President
Mahamoud Ahmadinejad and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens
He told the Norwegian Prime Minister that the ties between
the countries should aspire to open a new phase putting the
past behind them. Norway played a major role during the
presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga and subsequently when
Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the reins as prime minister
in 2001 in devising a peace formula to the troubled Sri
The Norwegians continued their peace effort during the
first half of the tenure of President Rajapaksa too, but
failed in their endeavour to formulate a solution acceptable
to both sides.
Though Norway played a key role in peace building and even
devising a ceasefire agreement between the two warring
sides, they made it a point to keep India informed of the
developments implying that India controlled the Sri Lankan
peace process from behind the scenes.
The Norwegian-sponsored peace process did not last for long
since the LTTE backed out on several occasions putting the
government negotiators on the lurch.
Following the breakdown of the ongoing negotiations and
suspension of the peace process, which was carried forward
by the Norwegians with the help of the world community,
painstakingly, both sides indulged in a fully-fledged war
leaving behind a trail of destruction, loss of life and
The government thereupon relied on a military solution to
eradicate terrorism while promising the Tamils who are
moderate in their disposition a fair deal.
What Sri Lanka is longing for now is to build a sound
economy that would help all its citizens in the long-run
without any discrimination.
To achieve this goal, the country inevitably needs the help
of the global community.
President Rajapaksa’s task at the UNGA was exactly to tell
the world community to have a fresh look at Sri Lanka
putting behind the bitter past where the military had to put
down the LTTE rebellion.
Sri Lanka once again is emerging as a country built on the
principles of democratic ideals respecting human and
fundamental freedoms of the people, following the
Erik Solheim, one-time special envoy for Sri Lanka and
Norwegian Minister of International Development expressed
his willingness to visit Sri Lanka to look at areas where
the two countries could cooperate in the field of
Solheim also called upon the Tamil diaspora to look
pragmatically at the changes taking place in Sri Lanka and
how best these developments could be used for the benefit of
the Tamil people.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa appeared to have made optimum
use of his visit to the UNGA to address its 65th annual
sessions by creating an impact among the world leaders on
the progress the country had made following its victory over
the LTTE known as the most dangerous terrorist outfit.
In New York, there had been demonstrations extending their
support and opposition to the Sri Lankan delegation at the
One group, especially the Sinhalese community and other
Sri Lankans living in New York, welcomed and showered praise
to a leader who crushed terrorism and liberated the country
from the clutches of the LTTE, while another group
identifying themselves as the American Tamils, demonstrated
against the delegation on the ground that there had been a
genocide in Sri Lanka against its Tamil populace, which
finally led to the victory over the LTTE.
Besides these, there had been an uneasy situation
persisting in Sri Lanka and amongst Sri Lankans elsewhere in
the world where they had sought some sort of justice to
former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka on whose head a
three-year jail sentence is hanging like the sword of
There is already a difference of opinion among the
politicians and the political parties over the Military
Court ruling on Sarath Fonseka.
The JVP accused the UNP for failing to prevent one of its
senior members giving evidence against Fonseka.
However, the situation is inevitable as far as the UNP is
concerned since they could not stop Lakshman Seneviratne
from crossing over to the government benches and supporting
what they termed as the most “obnoxious amendment” to the
The UNP’s position is that they condemn the action of its
member and hopes to take disciplinary action against him for
defying the party whip.
Nevertheless, the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter
Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera had
pledged to intervene in the matter, on behalf of the former
Army Chief, after a discussion with other Buddhist prelates
to obtain some sort of redress from the authorities
concerned. The Mahanayake Thera said there could have been
some slip on the part of Sarath Fonseka too and queried from
Anoma Fonseka whether she did not attempt to talk to the
President on the matter.
It was, however, revealed that the position taken by the
Fonsekas is that Fonseka had not committed any offence as
such, to go begging for a pardon from the authorities.
Subsequently, the prelate also took up the position that
Fonseka had not committed a grave offence that entails such
a drastic step.
As it stands today, it is up to the President as the
Commander-in-Chief to either affirm the sentence or reject
This may happen once he returns to Sri Lanka after his
fruitful visit to the UNGA.
Meanwhile, the UNP and more particularly, Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe recorded his vehement opposition to the
sentence handed down by the Military Court on the ground
that the alleged offence is of a civil nature rather than a
His position was that a Military Court was not competent,
determining on such offences even if Fonseka had allegedly
committed an offence of the nature described in the charge
sheet. Instead, the state should have charged him under the
bribery law, if there are any charges after an inquiry by
the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament or by the
Wickremesinghe, addressing a meeting in Kurunegala,
declared that the charge sheet by present Army Commander
Jagath Jayasuriya is illegal unacceptable and violates
Parliamentary privileges. On this occasion, he said there is
no other alternative other than tearing it off.
Has he been jailed for not having revealed the link between
the Hi-Corp and his son-in-law, Wickremesinghe queried
adding that it was the responsibility of parliament to
control the public finance and that it was parliament that
approved the funds for military procurement in terms of
Article 148 of the Constitution.
Wickremesinghe also said that deciding contrary to Cabinet
tender procedures is therefore not a matter for a Military
Court to decide.
Elsewhere, lawyers were busy analysing the possible legal
implications of the sentence handed down by the Military
The pertinent question that arose is as to whether Sarath
Fonseka would lose his seat in Parliament as a result of the
ruling by the Military Court.
The opinion expressed by most of the eminent lawyers is that
he would not lose his seat in Parliament ipso facto the
ruling by the Military Court.
Their argument is that a Military Court is not recognised by
the constitution and the constitution had not been designed
to give that legal effect through a Military Court.
Many lawyers, however, admit that this is a grey area in the
constitution by being silent on sentences passed down by a
At the same time they point out that the sentences passed
by a Military Court has not been recognised by relevant
sections of Chapter 89 that deals with disqualifications of
It states that no person shall be qualified to be an elector
at an election of the President, or of the Members of
Parliament or to vote at any Referendum, if he is subject to
any of the following disqualifications, namely:
(a) if he is not a citizen of Sri Lanka ;
(b) if he has not attained the age of eighteen years on the
qualifying date specified by law under the provisions of
(c) if he is under any law in force in Sri Lanka found or
declared to be of unsound mind ;
(d) if he is serving or has during the period of seven years
immediately preceding completed serving of a sentence of
imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term not less
than six months imposed after conviction by any court for an
offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not less
than two years or is under sentence of death or is serving
or has during the period of seven years immediately
preceding completed the serving of a sentence of
imprisonment for a term not less than six months awarded in
lieu of execution of such sentence:
Provided that if any person disqualified under this
paragraph is granted a free pardon such disqualification
shall cease from the date on which the pardon is granted;
A competent court has to be presided over by a judicial
officer within the meaning of the Constitution, which would
be determined by the Judicial Service Commission.
The Courts operating under the constitution are prescribed
under relevant sections of article 105 of the Constitution:
It states that subject to the provisions of the
constitution, the institutions for the administration of
justice which protect, vindicate and enforce the rights of
the People shall be –
(a) the Supreme Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka,
(b) the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Sri Lanka,
(c) the High Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka and such
other Courts of First Instance, tribunals or such
institutions as Parliament may from time to time ordain and
Accordingly, in line with their argument a Military Court is
only an institution within the meaning of the law.
If it is a court of law, the basic argument is that there
should be a right of appeal and in this instance an order of
a Military Court could only be challenged by a writ which
means it is an administrative body within the meaning of the
The lawyers, who are looking into the legal implications,
have also cited Article 13 of the constitution that deals
with fundamental freedoms of the citizens.
Nevertheless, there is a counter argument to establish the
fact that the Military Court is a court of first instance.
They dwell on the fact that a court of law established by
the constitution or any other law has legitimate rights to
decide on cases within the ambit of such law. In that sense
the Military Court could be considered as a court of law set
up under the Military Act. Hence, they also argue that the
Military Court is a competent court of law.
There are, however, doubts whether the law would be
interpreted in the same spirit as was stated earlier raising
reasonable doubts about Fonseka’s future as a Member of
In any case, if, Fonseka loses his seat, the Democratic
National Alliance (DNA) is planning to nominate Anoma
Fonseka to parliament in place of Sarath Fonseka.
This means the members of the Colombo District list
contested under the DNA banner who qualify to be
Parliamentarians after Sarath Fonseka would be compelled to
tender their resignations to pave the way for Anoma Fonseka.
There is, however, a doubt as to whether the members on the
list would resign to facilitate Ms Fonseka if the need
Sarath Fonseka’s issue is likely to cause ripples in the
body polity of Sri Lanka since the Buddhist clergy including
the prelates are now trying to exert some pressure on the
government to mete out justice to the man who led the army
to a monumental victory over the LTTE.
Besides, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is determined to
take his fight against the 18th amendment to the
Constitution to the grassroots level to muster some support
and educate them on its implications.
The UNP, up to date, had held a series of meetings to
educate its rank and file on the issue including the youth
Wickremesinghe vowed to take disciplinary action against
those who left the opposition benches to join hands with the
government to vote for the 18th Amendment to the
At a wedding held the previous Saturday at Hotel Ramada
Colombo, Wickremesinghe met some senior journalists with
whom he had a cordial chat about the current political
developments in the country.
Wickremesinghe emphatically said that the whole objective
behind appointing TNA member M A Sumanthiran to the
Parliamentary Council was to sabotage the 18th Amendment
that was passed without following proper procedure as laid
down in the constitution.
He said it is imperative that the amendment goes before
every Provincial Council for a debate before being presented
“The government is expected to adhere to the provisions of
the 13th Amendment and that had not been heeded to,” he
When said that the 17th Amendment was passed contrary to
this procedure without going before the PCs he said that the
18th Amendment particularly spoke about the Provincial
Public Service Commission and therefore it is nothing but
mandatory that it goes before every PC for a debate.
He also said parliament one day could declare the 18th
amendment null and void since it had been passed illegally
and in violation of the provisions of the constitution and
parliamentary standing orders.
Thereafter, the discussion centred round the defections,
where former CEO of the Rivira Media Corporation, Krishantha
Cooray, posed a pointed question as to why he was treating
Sri Ranga and Digamabaram differently to that of Rauff
Wickremesinghe said in his response that it was because
the SLMC is a constituent party of the United National Front
and whereas Ranga and Diganbabram had separate agreements
with the UNP. Wickremesinghe said that they have to wait and
see as to what the SLMC would do at the local government
During the ensuing discussion, Wickremesinghe accused the
‘Sirasa” media network for trying to drive nails into him;
it was more of a political connotation than the literal
meaning of driving nails, at which Krishantha Cooray said
Wickremesinghe made a bad situation worse by linking
‘Sirasa’ with Mervyn Silva during a debate in Parliament.
Wickremesinghe then said that supporting the government
is one thing and attacking him in a relentless manner
another and accused all round that they were attacking him
because he was one who always respected freedom of
expression and queried why the media could not do the same
thing with the present government. He himself replied saying
that the journalists are mortally scared of the present
regime and pinpoint their faults.
For Wickremesinghe, it is a two-pronged battle firstly
with the ruling party which encouraged defection to
government benches in order go through the 18th Amendment to
the Constitution and secondly with his own party men who are
asking for a pound of flesh through party reforms.
However, both Wickremesinghe and party secretary Tissa
Attanayake are appear to be firm on the UNP members who are
threatening to sit in Parliament as independent members.
Attanayake says that the party would not tolerate such
action and Wickremesinghe is of the view that the UNP is a
party that had risen from scratch after its crushing defeat
The UNP history records similar episodes during its
existence of nearly 65 years in the Sri Lankan political
arena. At one stage when Dudley Senanayake was at the helm
of the party and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka former minister
and veteran politician, A C S Hameed formed a ginger group
in Parliament with the blessings of late J R Jayewardene,
but it was frowned at by other seniors from time to time.
Since Hameed wanted to clarify matters with the prime
minister, he requested the PM for an appointment with others
in the group, which was granted. The invitation was to have
tea with the Prime Minister at ‘Temple Trees’. Soon after
the ‘tea’, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake told the group
in no uncertain terms that there could not be a party with
in a party and ended the meeting which also signified the
end of the ginger group.
Even during the 70s former President R Premadasa did not
go behind positions but worked for the victory of the party
along with J R Jayewardene. It was after the victory and
Jayewardene assumed office as the President effecting an
amendment to the 1972 Constitution that Premadasa became the
deputy leader of the party and Prime Minister through a vote
in the Parliamentary group.
It is time for the young Turks of the party to take leaf
from the Premadasa era before taking hasty decisions to sit
as an independent group in the opposition.
The newly-appointed media spokesman of the party Mangala
Samaraweera put it right when he said that such action would
only help the government to fortify itself.
As one political analyst put it, what the dissidents or the
young Turks should realise is that conflicts within the
party would further weaken the opposition.
It will only leave rancour among the feuding factions while
the opponents reap the dividends of such action. However,
the UNP’s young Turks too are determined to take their fight
forward while Wickremesinghe is more obsessed with taking on
the government on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and
on the issue relating to Sarath Fonseka.
It was the position taken by the Sajith Premadsa group
that the party leader should be elected by a vote that is
similar to that of electoral colleges.
Simultaneously, he wants to include at least 10% of members
selected from local councils into this voting process, but
it appears that Wickremesinghe who is averse to this
proposal had determined to fight the dissidents and
consolidate his position in the party.
In spite of all these, it is sort of a consolation for the
party leader Wickremesinghe to learn that Sajith Premadasa
was not yet willing to take over the party leadership.
This was implied at a meeting held to discuss the modalities
of a settlement in the presence of Kabir Hashim, the chief
When the dissidents were talking about the creation of a
new position called the ‘senior leader’ Malick
Samarawickrma, who pooh-poohed the idea, offered the
leadership to Sajith Premadasa.
“I will get the leader to resign,” he said but Sajith
Premadasa was not ready to take over yet.
Yet, in another development, former Minister Imtiaz Bakeer
Markar insisted that the UNP should now look for young
blood, if the party is to be revamped and brought back to
the former glory.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the volume
titled ‘The History of the UNP’ authored by Keerthi
Tennekoon, Bakeer Markar drew an example from Britain where
the Labour Party faced consecutive defeats in the hands of
Margaret Thatcher and subsequently how it reformed itself to
register a convincing electoral victory.
Bakeer Markar said that there is no magic but sheer hard
work and dedication coupled with wisdom to learn and analyse
the needs of the people.
He said that Peter Mendelson was the architect of the Labour
Party victory in 1997 after he re-branded the party as new
labour and replaced the age-old hammer and sickle with a red
He did one more thing, Bakeer Markar said, though Gordon
Brown was Mendelson’s close friend and senior most party man
he backed Tony Blair to take the mantle because he knew, new
face and change could do wonders.
Tracing the history of the Grand Old Party, Bakeer Markar
added that the UNP came into being at a time the Sri Lankan
society was being divided on ethnic politics and the Left
took directives straight from the Kremlin.
He also said the UNP was built on three strong pillars; they
are democracy, social justice and national unity. The first
leader of the UNP and the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,
D S Senanayake, taking over the leadership pronounced that
the prime task ahead is to build a country where all
communities could live together.
Bakeer Markar also said that changes are necessary based on
ground realities though he doesn’t advocate changes similar
to Britain, he said the UNP should change according to times
and the needs.
As many old-timers in the UNP insisted and exerted
pressure that there should be some visible change in the UNP
structure, Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to have
softened his stand on the rebels. Accordingly, he sent a
message to Ranjith Madduma Bandara who took a principled
stand to remain in the party when some of the rebels opted
to crossover to the government benches, to meet him. Madduma
Bandara, however, took an exception and decided to go along
with Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and Secretary Tissa
There, the leader told him that the disciplinary inquiry
against him over the “tipex” issue which caused ripples in
the party during the Parliamentary General elections has
been called off.
At this point of time Madduma Bandara emphatically told him
that he was not instrumental in doing that, but take
responsibility as the district leader.
He also told that the real culprit’s name would become
Wickremesinghe then told him to talk to Mangala Samaraweera
so that he would take necessary steps to withdraw the court
case filed by Ananda Tissakuttiarachchi of the then SLFP (M)
against Madduma Bandara.
However, Madduma Bandara refused and said that he would deal
with the party instead.
The task of talking to Mangala Samaraweera and resolving the
matter was later assigned to Tissa Attanayake.
UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya earlier promised that he
would look into the grievances of Madduma bandara and moved
that the party should treat him with respect as a member who
stood by the party during the time of despair.