The UPFA Government has appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to formulate a new political package to resolve the national question.  This, however, has not deterred South Africa from continuing its initiatives towards seeking a settlement. The only problem it has faced is the difficulty to meet in Colombo in the pursuit of that exercise. [...]


South Africa holds Sri Lanka reconciliation talks in Singapore


The UPFA Government has appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to formulate a new political package to resolve the national question.  This, however, has not deterred South Africa from continuing its initiatives towards seeking a settlement. The only problem it has faced is the difficulty to meet in Colombo in the pursuit of that exercise.

So it did the next best thing — get together select invitees from political parties and organisations in Sri Lanka for a meeting in Singapore last week. It was an all-expenses paid trip for some 15 different representatives who took part.  When the two-day event ended, the In Transformation Initiative (ITI), a South African Government supported grouping, issued a statement. It said:

“Dialogue promotion amongst Sri Lankans

“As part of the on-going dialogue process towards the deepening of democracy and peace in Sri Lanka, “In Transformation Initiative” (ITI) from South Africa invited a group of different political and academic stakeholders to a meeting in Singapore from 31 August to 1 September 2013.

“This is in keeping with various visits and engagements during the last 18 months organised by ITI to-and-from South Africa by Sri Lankan Government ministers and senior officials, opposition and ruling party members, as well as other representative groups.

“Various issues related to the achievement of the deepening of democracy, peace and social cohesion in Sri Lanka, were discussed. Further visits are planned for a selection of grouping to South Africa for key Sri Lankan stakeholders to continue to study and observe the SA processes towards peace, reconciliation and justice. A visit is also planned for a group of South African academics to come to Colombo during October.

“Signed by the directors of ITI: Roelf Meyer, Mohammed Bhabha and Ivor Jenkins” Roelf Meyer was a one-time Minister of Defence in the F.W. de Klerk Government. He resigned within months over differences with military generals. He later became Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Communications under Nelson Mandela thus bringing him into the negotiating process.

As chief negotiator for the National Party (NP) government, Meyer was intimately involved in the negotiations on the settlement of the South African conflict. He is a consultant on peace processes in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Burundi, Kosovo and Bolivia. 

Interestingly he is also on the board of directors of Armscor or Armament Corporation of South Africa. That is the organisation that supplies all the needs of that country’s Department of Defence. Mohamed Bhaba, an attorney-at-law, was part of the African National Congress (ANC) negotiating team for the final South African Constitution.

Ivor Jenkins is Director of Kutlawanong Democrcy Centre, a part of the Institute of Democracy of South Africa (IDSA). IDSA is an independent public interest organisation committed to promoting sustainable democracy in South Africa. They were the convenor of the ground breaking “Dakar Conference” which assisted in facilitation of the transition to democracy in South Africa.

One way for Norway, another for polls

They were all in the land of the one-time peacemakers – Norway.  Rival candidates for the September 21 Northern Provincial Council election had shed their differences to travel all the way from Jaffna for the National Day.

The combination included Douglas Devananda, leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), V. Anandasangaree, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Suresh Premachandran (TNA).

In the north, the politicians of rival Tamil parties are at loggerheads with less than two weeks left for the Provincial Council elections. But, during the Norwegian National day celebrations held in Colombo earlier this week that was not the case among these politicians who show rivalry in the speeches made from election platforms.

Rivals, Minister and EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, TULF leader V. Anandasangaree, TNA Parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan, EPRLF leader and TNA MP Suresh Premachandran and N. Thavarasa, the UPFA candidate were all enjoying the smorgasbord and smoked salmon on offer.

Even if he could believe his lens, a news photographer evidently could not believe his eyes. “You tear each other outside. Now you are like long lost friends,” he remarked to one of them. The politico replied: “This is like a cricket match. As different team members, when we get to the field, we play. When we are off the field, we are friends.” The northern politico had an appeal to make – please do not circulate these photographs. However, they were flashed in many a website.

The witty photographer told a colleague, “Sure some of them will be out after September 21. There will be those who will be ruled LBW whilst others will simply get out for zero.” But the party going will not stop, said the colleague.

Did an EAM Lady also play hide and seek from the Pilz-lady?

It is now well known that when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights came here for an all-important visit, a high level entourage left the shores to Belarus.   One person who was keen to take flight was an MEA Lady who believed her future lay in Belarus not Colombo. Many wondered as to why the Lady was not in the country to ‘handle’ the Human Rights High Commissioner’s visit, being the officer directly in charge of the subject HR.

The scathing criticism for the mess made by the MEA on the Navi Pillay visit by the Big Boss himself has resulted in him having to turn to troubleshooter of the Government and a key personality in the SLFP. (Dullas Allahapperuma, though being foreign to External Affairs, was told to respond in more diplomatic terms to project a balanced view of the visit.

MR’s response to key Afghan question

With the US troops set to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, even close Afghan watchers have no answer to the question what will happen next. Publisher and former Sunday Times Editor Vijitha Yapa asked this question from President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a book-presenting ceremony at Temple Trees.

Mr. Yapa, who is the publisher of the book “Facing the Taliban: Experiences of a UN woman aid worker in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan” and the book’s author, Anoja Wijeysekera, presented a copy to the President.

In response to Mr. Yapa’s question, Mr. Rajapaksa smiled and said, “They will have to negotiate, no”. Mr. Yapa shared this anecdote when he addressed a gathering at the formal launch of the book on Friday at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in Colombo.

Three recalls and counting

So far in the current year, three heads of mission have been recalled by the External Affairs Ministry albeit with the sanction of the office of the Head of State on account of ‘a beheading and creating friction with a friendly country’, ‘mismanagement and disregarding interests of the diaspora’ and ‘bungling of two visits of the Number one citizen of the island.’

The first two cases interestingly involve stations that are located within touching distance to centres of two main religions of the world, Islam and Christianity. The latest recall is from a place renowned for wildlife. Incidentally, while the three Heads concerned are from the three main ethnicities of the country and a mix of career and political appointees, no one can accuse the Government of any bias in the three recalls. Also of interest is that the three are now reported as ‘missing from work’ and out of reach! The three are, Saudi Arabia (A.A. Jawad, career), Italy (Asitha Perera, political) and Kenya (T. Raveenthiran, career).

 Cop talks shop on transfers

It is customary for Ministers and other VIPs holding public office to hold weekly meetings with their constituents or the people.  The event has come to be even named “Clinic Day” because Outpatients Departments in Government Hospitals hold different specialised clinics on specific days.

It was Uva Province Chief Minister Shashindra Rajapaksa’s turn to hold his weekly “clinic” in Moneragala. Among the visitors this week, when the Police Department marked the 147th anniversary, was a constable. His complaint: he has been transferred to his home station, located within walking distance from his house and only a few steps away from his shop.
He wanted Chief Minister Rajapaksa to transfer him back to his original station – manning a checkpoint on the Buttala-Kataragama Road.

Mr. Rajapaksa was surprised at the request. Often police officers came to him for a transfer to their home stations. Here was one in the reverse. He kept questioning the officer.  He confessed that a transfer would ruin his business. His shop would go out of business. How? The constable claimed he “purchased” goods for his shops from lorries that he checked. They were offered to him at a “discounted rate” by the lorry drivers.

The Chief Minister diagnosed the problem in no time. He said the police officer should go to his superiors and have his transfer reversed. There was nothing he could do, he said.

Dhanapala in top world team to revive CTBT

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, has been named as a member of a group of 20 “eminent persons” tasked with a formidably unenviable job: convince eight recalcitrant countries to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The eight holdouts – China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States – have not given any indication of possible ratifications, leaving the treaty in limbo. Until these eight countries ratify the CTBT, the treaty will not come into force, although it was adopted by the UN General Assembly back in September 1996.

The primary task of the new group is to get the eight on board. The group also includes Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s former Director-General Hans Blix, former British Defence Secretary Lord Hutton, Argentina’s former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Dhanapala is currently a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a governing board member of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for its efforts towards nuclear disarmament.

Bullet or pen cap?

An inquiry by the Sergeant-at -Arms Department in Parliament on whether UNP Gampaha District MP Ajith Manapperuma brought the empty shell of a bullet into the Chamber of the House could not reach a definitive conclusion.

The UNP MP on August 21, while speaking on an adjournment debate on the Rathupaswela shooting incident, showed what looked like a bullet inside the hallowed Chamber and claimed he had picked it from the scene of the shooting. 

However, after Government MPs protested saying the MP produced a forbidden item in the Chamber, he said what he had showed was a pen cap. Those conducting the inquiry could not find evidence that he had indeed shown an empty casing even after close scrutiny of the CCTV camera recordings of the day’s proceedings and hence the findings remain inconclusive.

The benefit of the doubt, insiders say, is most likely to go to the new MP who replaced the late Dr. Jayalath Jayewardena. The report is now with Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa who will decide what action, if any, is needed in this regard.

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