shotgun marriage (and later a divorce)?
the time of writing the JVP and the PA are to meet in order to form
an electoral alliance, and to reach a memorandum of understanding.
Ravi Karunanayake, one of the government's top order whiz kids said
'that's the best thing that can happen to the UNF.'' He said the
two parties can go ahead and ruin each other.
in the UNF have shown similar indifference to the PA- JVP alliance
that is being currently hatched, but nobody is sure whether the
UNF top order is pretending to be brave or not.
This is a week
in which further fault lines began to appear in the fragile People's
Alliance. Richard Pathirana, the former Minister of Education, who
has not been too sure whether he wants to join the UNF or not, made
a formal plea to President Chandrika Kumaratunga to replace the
leader of the opposition Mahinda Rajapakse with her brother Anura
Bandaranaike. He was adamant and sought a meeting person-to-person
and up close with the President, but the President gave Pathirana
the slip. But, later she was heard to taunt Pathirana, but not before
allowing that Anura Bandarnaike can be appointed opposition leader
under certain circumstances. She may have been saying it tongue
in cheek, but that was not the point. The PA was enjoying its 'splittism''.
(Ethnic splittism is a word that was invented to talk about the
Balkans, and with apologies, that word is borrowed to describe the
current condition of the PA.)
Many PA insiders
were of the opinion that 'splittism' will surface in the PA when
Anura rejoins, and this seems to have come true to a certain extent
at least, going by what Pathirana wanted done to the current opposition
This is why
some of the UNF leaders were grinning when they heard that there
is going to be a shotgun wedding - yet again -- between the PA and
the UNF. UNP longtimer Rukman Senanayake for instance was of the
opinion that a PA- JVP alliance was a shot in the dark, since there
was total control over the parliament being enjoyed today by Ranil
The UNF is
confident that 'peace'' is a thing that has such massive bankability,
that when it comes to voting time, the PA will not be able to think
about voting against any solution that is arrived at between the
LTTE and the government. Top UNFers were saying ' the PA and the
JVP can make noises now, but when it comes to voting in parliament
they will not be able to go against the critical mass of opinion
that has been created in favour of the peace process.' In fact,
in some quarters the thinking is that it is good that the JVP and
the PA can get together and let off a good deal of steam, because
then they will be ready by the time it is voting hour in parliament,
to vote for the package that the UNF government has to offer. Hope
wells eternally in the human breast.
If the government
is definite that peace creates its own momentum and that the new
PA- JVP alliance in the offing is not going to make a dent in its
hold on power, then the government must obviously be confident about
the ' peace process''.
But, in the
face of criticism from analysts that the last round of peace talks
was the least successful and that peace making is gradually becoming
more difficult and dangerous, peace analysts sprang to the support
of the government in different ways.
for instance (speaking in Sinhalese though he has been accused recently
of being able to speak and write only in English!) said that the
LTTE may have pulled out of the committee on de-escalation, but
has still not pulled out of the process of de-escalation. "The
work that has been done by the committee on de-escalation is now
being done by various other committees
.'' Uyangoda rationalised.
If he was saying
that there is a form of de-escalation in resettlement this was a
the original Norwegian peace mover, was saying similar things to
the diplomatic community in Oslo, but he was being realistic to
the extent that he said it is unfortunate that the army top brass
is not meeting the LTTE top brass any more on military de-escalation
issues. But, Solhiem, like Uyangoda said that the issues with regard
to de-escalation and normalisation have been taken over by the committee
on humanitarian issues after the LTTE unilaterally decided to quit
the former committee.
To a great extent
this was the week in which the LTTE obtained loads of international
legitimacy, and in real terms at that. Special Peace Envoy from
Japan and the World Bank Vice President themselves participated
at the meeting of the Sub Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and
Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East (SIHRN) held in Kilinochchi.
This sense of legitimacy may have to some extent been positively
felt by the fact that on the government side they were playing a
little bit slick, with the President giving the Japanese envoy Akashi
the slip. This contrasted with the meetings that Akashi was having
in a heads down Japanese workaday manner, to grapple with a host
of humanitarian issues in the North and the East, the most important
of which was the resettlement of IDPs (internally displaced persons.)
The Sihala Urumaya
was miffed with this new bout of legitimacy that was accorded to
the LTTE and its firebrand Champika Ranawaka told a senior government
Minister : "I will only go to the North East the day they raise
the Lion flag in Kilinochchi.'' For last week, it seemed the Japanese
flag was fluttering there, though only metaphorically. Hela Urumaya's
Tilak Karunaratne was so outraged, that he said this is a step towards
Sri Lankans getting fed up of the Japanese, the country's best friend
in terms of friendly nations. He said it will be like the Indonesians
getting alienated about Australia over the issue of East Timor.
his coming colours?
colours are no good about Sarath Amunugama.' This at least was the
joke at a TV personality's wedding last week among some UNF parliamentarians
who took some satisfaction over the fact that Sarath Amunugama,
the PA spokesman, was discussing Sri Lankan politics with the UNF
leadership in the rather cosy surroundings of Brussels in Belgium.
is no greenhorn when it comes to switching sides. He did so first
when he crossed over from the ailing UNP of that time (in the First
Kumartunga administration ) to join the PA government amid much
had declared in public, as PA spokesman several times that the "PA
will form a government very soon' what was Amunugama doing proposing
his jaw-jaw Con (convivial) chat with UNF leaders, at a dinner hosted
by the Sri Lankan ambassador in Belgium Romesh Jayasinghe?
all political crossovers generally being with a cosying up, and
with a desire to merge with the other side, this is not a crossover
bid perhaps, because others such as John Amaratunge, Ferial Ashraff
and Nimal Siripala De Silva were among the parliamentarians in Brussels
who proposed closer cooperation and exchange of ideas with the UNF.
They are among a 13 member parliamentary delegation of UNFers and
PA members who are visiting Brussels to study a federal solution
to Sri Lanka's conflict, by getting acquainted with federal systems
of government elsewhere. But that reality didn't prevent the jokes.