For now at least, who is rocking the boat?
By Our Political Editor
On Thursday morning the Sri Lanka Navy spotted
6 boats hovering around the Jaffna lagoon. These boats were around
6 kilometres into the lagoon, across from government of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka
Navy informed the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) almost immediately
after these sightings, and the Monitoring Mission was almost immediately
activated. But when SLMM members physically wanted to verify the
presence of the boats, they had disappeared.
wing leader of the LTTE however, told the SLMM, upon inquiry by
the latter, that the boats were not LTTE boats, and that he was
unaware whose boats they were.
morning around 7.10 a.m the Sri Lanka Navy also spotted a boat about
3 kilometres into the lagoon from the shore area occupied by GOSL.
The boat was cruising for a while in this area of the lagoon, and
then, a dozen boats came into view about 6 kilometres from the shore
in the same area.
The SLMM was
contacted -- and the same process was activated again, but as earlier,
the LTTE said that the boats were not theirs. As of the time of
writing the SLMM was yet to ascertain to whom these boats belonged
-- the boats that were seen on Thursday had also disappeared by
the time the SLMM wanted to verify their presence themselves. Also
at the time of writing, the SLMM was conducting comprehensive inquires,
but had not yet ascertained anythng cocusive about these dissapearing
boats in the lagoon.
Is the LTTE
getting ready for some action? Is this the political fallout of
the government going ahead with the Tokyo aid meeting, without the
LTTE's participation? Some unconfirmed information from certain
sources indicated that this might be so - - and that the government
is conferring in secret about the possibility of this kind of fallout
as a result of the aid conference and related events in the political
arena. But otherwise, it was largely business as usual. Even the
SLMM was not in any state of heightened alert - - their business
was also very much as usual….
The real political
drama was in the South, even though the LTTE sent a clear message
last week via Gajendra Ponnambalam, MP, the son of the late Kumar
Ponnambalam that the LTTE was hoping that even at the eleventh hour,
the Prime Minister will change his mind about an Interim Administration,
making possible such an Interim Administration on their (the LTTE's)
By now it was
an open secret in political circles that Indian intervention, of
some sort had 'forced the hand' of the Prime Minister to confine
the Interim Administration to what he offered ie: the one with the
' developmental blueprint' with an Apex body , which the Tigers
famously rejected. It was also reported that a RAW (Research and
Analysis Wing)operative was seen in the North, masquerading as an
Indian official - which sighting had apparently not pleased the
Tigers at all.
From the initial
period in which an Interim Administration was mooted, when the UNF
had just clinched power and was heavy on the rhetoric about an Interim
Administration, it had been pointed out that India will not tolerate
an upstart LTTE running affairs just south of the 'border' as it
were. So, if the RAW or whoever the Indian operatives were, indeed
prevailed on the Sri Lankan political leadership to water down any
Interim arrangement -- that development certainly didn't qualify
as an award winning surprise. But strangely the internal political
rhetoric continued as if India had nothing to do with any of this
at all --- and that is the direction that the political discourse
will have to go. As far as interested parties are concerned (the
LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance etc etc.,) the Government of Sri
Lanka has offered a particular type of interim arrangement to the
LTTE and that was the bottom line.
of external powers was therefore, politically speaking, an aside.
For instance, there has been a furious sideshow, between the EPDP
led by Douglas Devananda and the TULF, on the issue of the Interim
Administration. Last week, Douglas Devananda wrote to the TULF ,
calling the TULF leadership all kinds of names, for instance on
the issue of the Interim Administration.
He had said
that Sambandan's earlier letter to the PM on the matter was full
of errors and inaccuracies; and he had also said that even though
there was an understanding after the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed,
about an Interim Administration between the GOSL and the LTTE, this
was subject to the condition that the LTTE will lay down weapons
, and create a democratic political environment conducive to all
He adds that
the TULF was itself, with the help of the late Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam,
placing obstacles to an Interim Administration when the Kumaratunga
government was holding discussions with the Tigers on setting up
such an administration in 1994. Among a host of other factors the
EPDP leader points to the fact that the TNA is not the elected representative
of the voter of the North and the East, certainly not exclusively.
For instance he says that there are 6 representatives in the Jaffna
and the Wanni who do not subscribe to TNA politics.
But his most
vociferous is saved for the final paragraph of the letter which
says that the Tamil people 'cannot be sacrificed in the hypocritical
drama that is being staged by the LTTE, which is acting with the
sole aim of establishing its hegemony over the Tamil people.'
earlier letter addressed to the Prime Minister states among other
things that during the tenure of the first Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga government in 1994, discussions took place regarding
the setting up of an Interim administration for the NorthEast. If
the peace talks continued an Interim Administration would have been
set up. The thinking was that the LTTE would be given a significant
presence in the Interim Administration.
He also states:
In the context of the clearly articulated position of the United
National Front/United National Party in its election manifesto the
vast majority of the people both in and outside the North East support
the setting up of an Interim Administration. The LTTE had made it
clear therefore that political imperatives make it necessary for
the Sri Lankan government to agree to the setting up of an Interim
Administration according to the LTTE's guideline, which is that
the LTTE will be the dominant power in such an Interim arrangement.
No piti kotapang pushover
The Tokyo talks will get under way with or without the
LTTE. The Japanese definitely have not been successful in getting
the LTTE to play ball as far as participating in the Interim Administration
The Japanese have been unable to get the Sri Lankan
President to play ball either. Even though the Japanese Ambassador
in Colombo (who sings a mean Gypsies imitation of 'piti kotapang
nonay' at various parties and let-your-hair-down gatherings) has
tried, he has not been able to get the Sri Lanka 'none' (Her Excellency
the President) to do his bidding. And even though peace envoy Akashi
wanted a video clip message from the President to be played at the
donor conference in Japan, the President has decided to opt out
The President created a minor flutter when she said
that she will facilitate a de-merger of the North and East provinces
soon, using her powers. She said so to a delegation of Buddhist
monks who called on her and asked for such a de-merger; but the
fact that Presidential spokesman declined to comment on the matter
later, indicated tht this was perhaps not the most considered Presidential
As for Japan and the whole matter of getting the
President's good offices too involved in the Japan deliberations,
when it was revealed that TIME magazine was to bestow an 'Asian
hero' honour on the President after the donor conference, she said
that that's just the way that international magazines go ga-ga over
these things. She was named one of Asia's top ten personalities,
she said, when her peace bout with the LTTE was going on, but as
soon as the LTTE pulled out such honours were forgotten. It is the
story of the fifteen minutes of fame, then?
The President among other things was a calming influence
on some PA hotheads who complained that there was absolutely no
security for PA MPs in the new assassination culture (re the provincial
councillor Ranjith killing) on top of which they were trying to
take over the guns that have been given for security purposes to
Members of Parliament.
The President said she will have none of that and
will ask Ranil Wickremesinghe to see that all guns possessed by
UNP thugs were handed in first. Meanwhile though there were certainly
moves, as there always was among a PA coterie to stage a power bid,
from all indications and from all information at hand, it seems
that this is but the work of a good deal of hopefuls who are vying
for power and position. It is a 'wannabe' parade, more than a serious
considered bid for power, at least from all that it looks to be
at the moment.
man for all polls
poll win (BCCSL) was registered on behalf of Thilanga Sumathipala,
a man who has notched up election victories now in areas as so far
afield, that there is no way one can even begin to bet on what election
he will win next. He is definitely a new polls phenomenon in this
country -- every poll he touches seems to be a successful pole-vault
It will be recorded
in history, no matter what they said about at that time, that Sumahipala
had the major hand to play in the backrooms, in ensuring the downfall
of the PA government.
'backed' (informally albeit) the correct candidate for the Presidency
of the Bar Association, who won despite a formidable fight by a
well organised opposiing candidate. Sumathipala was there at all
victory celebrations by the winner. Now Sumathipala has -- yawn
- won the BCCSL elections in what was for all intents and purposes
a one horse race.
He is no new
kid on the block, which is why he is not acting like one. In a recent
letter written in his capacity of Sri Lanka Telecom Chiarman, to
bureaucrat and Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Communications
Mr K. Abeysinghe, Sumathipala pooh pooh's Telelcom Regulatory Commission
of Sri Lanka, with regard to “interconnection Rules”concerning
overseas calls etc.,
In reply, referring
to 'your (Thilanga's) unnecessary acrimonious letter' the Ministry
Secretary says he was only doing his job. Earlier Sumahtipala had
said in this so called acrimonious letter that he had never seen
such disorganised and unprofessional methods in the project of telecom
liberalisation embarked on by the TRCSL. Sumathipala has also pointed
out that TRCSL cannot talk of investor interest, while ignoring
the interests of NIT which invested heavily in Sri Lanka Telecom.
But the rub,
says those in the industry, is on why Sumathipala is stalling on
the liberalisation process. His appointment as the head of Sri Lanka
telecom had raised eyebrows for the fact that a relative had acquired
telecom operations including call termination operations which could
pose a threat over conflict of interest issues. The Secretary has
all but alluded to these - - and he has certainly stood his ground,
and shown the displeasure of the government with regard to what
is but a government representative on the SLT Board.(Sumathipala).
It may be a
home and home affair -- but who wins this round? The last time a
Ministry Secretary got involved in such an exchange of letters,
he had to leave his job. This no election, what?