The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 5

The Nation Sunday, November 16, 2014 Page 5
politics
From the Floor
India seemed really disturbed this time
for it got TNA to criticise Lanka’s rapidly
growing relations with China in Parlia-
ment on Friday (14). TNA parliamentary
group Leader R Sampanthan made use of
the time given to his party - 30 minutes and
obtained five additional minutes from the
UNP, during the committee stage debate on
budget 2015 under the expenditure heads
of the Ministry of External Affairs, to find
fault with Government for increasing the
Chinese presence in Lanka.
What Sampanthan wants
Sampanthan commenced his speech, ro-
manticizing the past when Sri Lanka stood
high above in the list of countries promot-
ing non-alignment. Has the incumbent
Government “for narrow parochial domes-
tic considerations, sacrificed the policy of
non-alignment with consequences that can
be dire for the whole country? This has
happened, through activities in several
areas: trade, economic co-operation to an
unprecedented degree with one country,
defence co-operation again with the same
country and geostrategic co-operation in-
cluding maritime co-operation with that
same country. There are concerns in Sri
Lanka.”
Sampanthan went into the question
whether the Government was distancing
from India and closing ranks with China
with the intention of getting out of obliga-
tions and commitments made to India.
He said that the total assistance extend-
ed by China to Sri Lanka from 1971 to 2012,
around 41 years, was US Dollars 5,056 bil-
lion of which US Dollars 4,761 billion, ap-
proximately 94 percent, was packed into a
period between 2005 and 2012, around sev-
en years that coincided with the term of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The fund-
ing promised by China from 2012 to 2014 is
said to be around US Dollars 2.18 billion,
the majority as a loan, while of the total
funding from 2005 to 2013, only 2 percent is
grant, 98 percent is loan.
What India wants
“In contrast, I would like to look at
Indian assistance to Sri Lanka. It is
approximately US Dollars 1.3 billion, one-
third of that amount is by way of grant.
Is this a clear indication of President
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s insensitivity to the
concerns of neighboring India, recognized
as the regional power in South Asia, or is it
the pursuit of a deliberate, pre-determined
program to undermine Indian interests
and thereby isolate India so as to free
itself from obligations and commitments
made to India not only in the interests of
reconciliation, peace and harmony within
Sri Lanka but also in the region? No
country has greater links with Sri Lanka
politically, economically, socially and
culturally than India. Are these actions
intended to undermine all these linkages
which have their roots in both geography
and history?” Sampanthan questioned.
Of course, there is also the possibility of
the very large loans that have been given
by China to Sri Lanka being converted into
equity and it is a matter of grave concern
to many Sri Lankans who want to protect
the country’s independence in every way.
Sri Lanka claims that it will have
operational control over many projects
executed by China. To what extent this will
be possible is questionable given the scale
of indebtedness of Sri Lanka to China.
What China wants
Thereisdefenseco-operationbetweenSri
Lanka and Chinawhich in recent times has
received prominence. There were reports in
the middle of this year of the establishment
of aMaintenance Facility in Trincomalee by
China. This proposal had Cabinet approval.
This would have been in contravention of
the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.
AChinese submarinealongwithaChinese
warship docked in the Colombo Port in Sep-
tember 2014. It docked again in the Colombo
Port on its return. Though various assur-
ances are given by Sri Lanka - when things
that did not happen earlier happen now, they
cause concern and raise the question of
whether there is new thinking, whether it
is sought to undermine and marginalize In-
dia by Chinese dominance - the million-dol-
lar question being with what consequences
eventually, both for India and Sri Lanka,
Sampanthan said.
What Sri Lankans want
What both India and her mouthpiece
TNA do not understand is that the growing
Chinese presence poses no problem to any
Sri Lankan. Apart from generous assistance
and backing in international forums, China
has never been a threat to Sri Lanka while
India has always been. For those who know
of the Medamulana way of diplomacy,
the battle between India and China over
Sri Lankan soil or waters is nothing to be
worried about.
Pol Diplomacy
To describe the Medamulana diplomacy
we have to narrate a little story going back
many decades. Rajapaksas owned a coconut
grove - a large one straddling two villages in
Medamulana. The owners obtained the ser-
vices of residents of both villages separately
when the time came for coconut plucking.
Those on the right side of the estate would
pluck coconuts from the right when they
were ripe, and their counterparts plucked
the coconuts on the left side. The owners
were careful not to pluck coconuts of the en-
tire estate at once, but separately. Whenever
villagers from the right side demanded a
wage hike, the owners would say that there
was no need, as the services of the villag-
ers on the left side would be available for
the same price and vice versa. So the villag-
ers in fear of losing their source of income
would be compelled to serve the landowners
despite their demands being continuously
overlooked.
Those who know well the Rajapaksas
would say that the same policy had been
applied for China and India. Both coun-
tries would serve Sri Lanka, for each of
them would be bound to lose more if they
do not.
R Sampanthan
A Diplomatic Siren
Making India and China vie for her favors
Rasika Jayakody
T
he Supreme Court has now given its
opinion on the ‘vexed question’ on
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s third
term presidency. The apex court’s opinion,
which was devised on Monday, was sent to
the Temple Trees and was subsequently read
in Parliament by Leader of the House Nimal
Siripala de Silva amidst interruptions by the
Opposition. However, the highlight of the
Minister’s statementwas that it only revealed
the Supreme Court’s decision in parts. The
full version of the Supreme Court’s decision
was held back by the Government, plunging
the opposition and some sections of the legal
fraternity into a state of confusion.
According to the Supreme Court opinion,
the incumbent President has no legal
impedimenttocontestforhisthirdterm.Also,
the Supreme Court stated that the President
was allowed to call for a Presidential election
four years after assuming office. To cut a long
story short, the Supreme Court cleared the
path for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to go
for a Presidential election in January next
year, seeking a fresh mandate for his third
term.
Partial disclosure of SC
opinion
The most important aspect of the whole
game was the manner in which the Govern-
ment presented the Supreme Court decision
to the country's legislature. Despite vehe-
ment protest mounted by the Opposition,
the Government did not take measures to
disclose the Supreme Court decision in its
entirety. No one, except the President and
judges of the Supreme Court, was aware of
the grounds on which the incumbent was al-
lowed to contest for a third term.
The Government did not disclose the full
version of the Supreme Court decision for a
solid reason.
It was already in the grapevine that
multiple parties were holding discussions
with
former
President
Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with the aim
of fielding her as the common candidate of
the Opposition. It was reported in media
that even the closest associates of the UNP
Leader, including former Chairman of the
partyMalik Samarawickrama, were strongly
backing Kumaratunga’s candidature. CBK’s
candidacy was certainly a concern from the
ruling party’s point of viewas some assumed
that shestillhadthesupport of somequarters
of the “old guard” of the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party.
By not disclosing the full version of the
Supreme Court decision, the Government is
attempting to put a damper not only on the
main Opposition party, but also on the for-
mer President. The Government’s move has
now left both parties in confusion with re-
gard toCBK’s eligibility to contest for a third
term in Presidency. Even if she submits her
nomination to contest, the former President
now faces the risk of being rejected due to le-
gal impediments arising with this Supreme
Court’s opinion.
“If the Supreme Court has arrived at its
determination by taking into consideration
the date of inauguration of President Raj-
apaksa's second term, that will disqualify
CBK from being the common candidate of
the Opposition.” A senior lawyer told
‘The
Nation’
while commenting on this matter.
“If there is no reference to the date of inau-
guration, then the former President stands
a chance of contesting again,” he further
added. However, it is now rumored among
political circles that the Supreme Court de-
termination is based on the date of inaugu-
rationof PresidentRajapaksa’ssecondterm.
In the face of such an opinion coming from
the country’s apex court, the former Presi-
dent, who has already held the office twice,
will be compelled to stay out of the electoral
race this time, making way for Karu Jayas-
uriya or UNPLeader RanilWickremesinghe
to contest.
Go to people’s court
The Supreme Court’s opinion has certain-
ly cleared the path for President Mahinda
Rajapaksa toannounce thePresidential elec-
tion at his discretion. This has, according to
some legal experts, prevented other parties
from going to courts challenging President
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s third term.
“All the judges of the Supreme Court
have made their position clear on the mat-
ter. Therefore, a common citizen cannot go
to courts challenging the President’s third
term,” former Chief Justice Sarath N Silva,
who fired the first salvo at President Ma-
hinda Rajapaksa’s third term, said just a day
after the Leader of the House disclosed the
Supreme Court’s opinion in Parliament.
“However, the matter can certainly be re-
solved before the people’s court,” the former
Chief Justice asserted indicating that the
only option the country’s Opposition has, at
the moment, is to go for the election and chal-
lenge President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s candi-
dacy.
UNP on common
candidate track
The rally held by the common Opposition
in Colombo onWednesday was important for
the country’s Opposition in many ways. The
first highlight of the event was the partici-
pation of UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera,
whose name was mentioned in connection
with a possible crossover to the Government
over the past fewweeks.
Samaraweera had informed the organizers
of the rally that he would take part in it, but
everyone greeted the UNP Parliamentarian’s
confirmation with a modicum of suspicion.
However, denying months of speculation,
Samaraweera, a firebrand MP of the main
Opposition party, attended the rally and was
given a front row seat. Samaraweera’s front
row seat at the common Opposition’s public
meeting was of significance because at the
UNP polling agents’ rally, which was held at
Hyde Park a few weeks ago, he was given a
second row seat, raising eyebrows of many!
UNP Deputy Leader and Parliamentar-
ian Sajith Premadasa, who is known to be a
harsh critique of Samaraweera, sat along-
side him at the common Opposition rally
and they shook hands with a smile on their
faces, the moment they saw each other on the
same stage. Opposition Leader Ranil Wick-
remesinghe, UNP Leadership Council Chair-
man Karu Jayasuriya and Colombo District
Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake also
attended the event representing themainOp-
position party.
It is important to examine why UNP Depu-
tyLeader SajithPremadasa, who vehemently
opposed the formation of a joint Opposition
alliance in the first place, decided to attend
the rally, organized by the common Opposi-
tion on Wednesday. It was Premadasa who
kept saying that Ranil Wickremesinghe
would be the UNP candidate for the Presi-
dential election and he will contest under the
symbol “elephant”, with or without the sup-
port of other political parties of the Opposi-
tion. It did not require Einstein’s wisdom to
realize that this was an act of jumping the
gun, deliberately or otherwise.
However, it has now come to the limelight
that the Deputy Leader of the UNP had tak-
en part in the protest rally at the insistence
of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The
UNP leader, whowas at one point the archen-
emy of Premadasa, had requested the Depu-
ty Leader to participate in the meeting and
play an active role in the campaign against
Executive Presidency.
Ranil’s strange request
to Sajith
Wickremesinghe’s ‘strange’ request cer-
tainly came with a purpose. The UNP Leader
has still not fully given up hopes on becom-
ing the Executive President and his motive
was to use Premadasa as a pressure factor
to influence the common Opposition to field
Wickremesinghe as the Presidential candi-
date.Wickremesinghe’s calculation is that he
can contest the election and win while Pre-
madasa is of the view that Wickremesinghe
should contest and lose! Although their
preferred outcomes are different, this has
set a platform for the two to work together
towards a common goal.
However, the majority of UNP Parlia-
mentarians are of the view that the party
should proceed with a common candidate.
Therefore, it is still not clear whether Wick-
remesinghe and Premadasa will be able to
make their “personal dreams” a reality on
the ground.
Meanwhile, in an interesting turn of
events, Premadasa, taking what seems to
be a 180 degree turn, said he was willing
to proceed with the party’s decision, even
if the party decided to field a common
candidate. The Parliamentarian, speaking
to
BBC Sandeshaya
on Saturday, said a
better outcome could be obtained if the UNP
decided to work in collaboration with the
other Opposition parties for the Presidential
Election. This means Premadasa, who earlier
strongly opposed the “common candidate”
idea, will now support Karu Jayasuriya or
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga if one of them contests as the
common candidate. This is in stark contrast
to the statements made by him in the recent
past. Premadasa vociferously claimed that
the UNP should never abandon the party
color or its traditional symbol in its quest for a
common candidate or a common Opposition.
However, Premadasa made this controver-
sial statement with a caveat. He said the UNP
has already decided on its Leader Ranil Wick-
remesinghe as the Presidential candidate
for the party. “According to my knowledge,
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will be
the party’s Presidential candidate and the
decision has been endorsed by the party”,
Premadasa said in his brief interview. This
caveat brings Premadasa’s bona fides into se-
rious question.
The Nation
lead story last week exclusive-
ly reported that Premadasa’s move to dis-
close the name of party Leader Ranil Wick-
remesinghe as the Presidential candidate of
the party had earned the ire of many mem-
bers of the Working Committee. Speaking
to the newspaper, a member of the commit-
tee said Premadasa’s statements had come
as a surprise to many members of the UNP
WC as one needs approval from the Working
Committee before announcing the name of
the Presidential candidate. And this time too
Premadasa has repeated the same mistake,
despite concerns raised by some quarters of
the party’s Working Committee.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Supreme Court
blocks CBK’s path?
However, it is nowrumored
amongpolitical circles
that the Supreme Court
determination is basedon
the date of inauguration
of President Rajapaksa’s
second term. In the face of
such anopinion coming
fromthe country’s apex
court, the former President,
whohas already held
the office twice, will be
compelled to stay out
of the electoral race this
time, makingway for Karu
Jayasuriya or UNP Leader
RanilWickremesinghe to
contest
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