Political Column  

UNP leadership and People’s Alliance hopefuls go back to grassroots
By Out Political Editor
Broken buses may not be equal to broken spirits, but the spirit of the UNP MPs delegation was sometimes almost as broken as the broken bus that took them on a tour of the Eastern province. Somewhere in Samanthurai, the van/mini-bus that was carrying UNP Chairman Malik Samarwickreme and Secretary Senarath Kapukotuwa got submerged, careened and turned onto a side, on a broken stretch of road.
The scene of the bus - - on a side -- and tilting over, almost completed the picture for the UNF MPs who came in for a great deal of flak from party organisers and grassroots level UNPers at locations such as Adalachchanai, Sammanthurai etc., in the Eastern province.

The main complaint of the UNP organisers and grassroots men was that the constituent parties of the UNF are running the show in the Eastern province, and sometimes in the rest of the country. At least in the case of the Eastern province, this is the situation they said, with nothing being done unless there was the okay given by the local SLMC man. When the UNP MPs were being battered with this line some of them were seen resisting - and getting into bigger messes.

MP Azwer, ever impish and ready to say something - anything -- was saying that the UNP was only trying to assert itself and see that the party organisation was active in the Eastern province as well. "It was not a case of trying to get the UNF back from the clutches of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, certainly not,'' he said.

But others were not so clever. Minister Dayaratne was quite irritated with the UNF organisers’ complaint, and finally in exasperation, he said 'it is a case of the dog wagging the tail and not the tail wagging the dog.'' Guess what? Dayaratne is now in hot water for making that statement, and the tail is wagging the dog so hard over this matter, that Dayaratne may soon have to issue an apology.

The 'dog wags tail'' statement reached the ears of the small party constituents of the UNF even though their leaders, Rauff Hakeem and Arumugam Thondaman were both in Japan, one for the peace talks, and the other for a parley on irrigation. When the 'dog wags tail'' statement was conveyed to them , both of them got incensed saying that this is an insult that had been offered to them by the Minister.

They sent messages back home saying that they intend taking up this matter no sooner than they arrive on Sri Lankan shores. They are so serious about this insult, that they intend taking up the matter with the Prime Minister, who it is said, may ask Minister Dayaratne to apologise. Talk about tail wags dog……

If the UNP was trying in this way to whip up some enthusiasm among their rank and file and was getting only broken spirits and broken buses, there was even less success with the opposition trying to imbue some life into its own ranks. Anura Bandaranaike was spearheading a meeting at President's house to ensure that power is returned to the People's Alliance in the Central Provincial Council.

But Central Provincial Council members were blunter than Bandaranaike ever imagined. One said aloud that 'first the PA was trying to grab parliamentary power, but now what's this talk about grabbing power in the Provincial Councils first.?''
Anura Bandaranaike was not about to take that lying down , so he said that a bid for power in the national arena will be made at the correct time, but until then , the party had decided to make a bid in the fringe by regaining power in the Provincial Councils.

But all he got a was bleak picture, with grassroots men telling him that a lot of potential PA votes have gone the way of the UNF after the Udatalawinna massacres that had brought the PA a bad name in the Central province. Some were heard to say that it is better to determine the state of affairs in the Central province, only when the PA was ready for power in the national electorate. Anura Bandaranaike did not seem to have any respite that day -- and when he inquired about Matale after one session of loud bickering, and asked 'how is Monty Gopallawa fareing'' he was told bluntly that ''Monty Gopallawa is your kinsman, so you should know better about him.''

What was this 'correct time'' to launch the bid for power, then that Anura Bandarnaike was talking about? Nobody knows, but if you would ask the sister, the correct time is written in the stars. Last week she had asked various stargazers both of local and Indian origin what the stars foretell about her future bid for power, and she was told that the current is definitely not the best time for her to make that bid.

Apparently she was given a certain date and time - -some say in April - - from whence her political campaign will bear success, and so we are told that through the grapevine the national Defence Establishment, under Tilak Marapana has been told that they will have to watch out. There is bound to be trouble -- but only after a certain date. All we can say is they are not the Ides of March.

Lost in the human rights roadmap
IAN MARTIN, the former Amnesty International chief now co-opted for the Sri Lankan peace process, alas, came a cropper this week in Hakone. His proposals for the all-important Human Rights roadmap for the LTTE was shot and sunk just like the Chinese trawler off the Mullaitivu coast.

The Human Rights roadmap was the sine-qua-non for the exchange of autonomy for the LTTE - a pre-requisite from the "international community" to legitimise the LTTE.
Multi-party democracy, elections, the rule of law, no child conscription - these were to be the culkverts on the roadmap.

But Mr Martin could not deliver.His problem was to find a suitable group which could monitor the implementation of this roadmap. He had suggested the local Human Rights Comission headed by Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy who must have held her head in horror at the suggestion.

Then came the suggestions that the Norwegians do the honours. Having their plate full already, and if trying to ensure that their monitors dont have to jump off boats is not bad enough, the Scandinavians opted out.

Not necessarily in that order, the UN was to be asked to undertake the unenviable task - something positively the Sri Lankans, possibly the Indians, and probably the UN itself - to appoint a special UN Human Rights Force to be planted in the country.
And even if that did not work, a coalition of UN agencies - UNICEF, UNHCR, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights et al.

And so, Ian Martin got lost in his own roadmap. The LTTE didn't mind that at all, for they are in no indecent hurry to effect Human Rights as the world knows it in the north and east of Sri Lanka where they claim they rule the roost. But what was clever (or not so, as the case maybe) on the part of the Norwegians was the way they put down all this in their official press release for the consumption of us yakkos.

This is how they put it to the public; " Following up on the discussions in Berlin inFebruary on human rights,the parties asked their international human rights adviser, Mr Ian Martin to develop three aspects of the proposed roadmap for adoption at the seventh session of talks".

They then detailed what these three aspects were; basically, (i) the drafting of a Declaration of Hunan Rights and Humanitarian principles, (ii) human rights training for LTTEcadres, government officials, police etc., with specialised training by UNICEF in relation to the Rights of the Child with the support of the ICRC and the UNHCR, and (iii) the strengtening of the Human Rights Commission to increase effective monitoring with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UNHCR, SLMM and UNICEF.

Nary a word about what happened to Mr. Martin's original proposals painfully worked out betwen Berlin and Hakone. So then, so much for expert international advise. Thats the Human Rights roadmap as we have it for the moment, to ensure the LTTE will support multi-party democracy, abide by the rule of law, refrain from child-conscription and the like. He himself realised his limittaions when all he could come up with was.

Men, women and Ministers
How come there was a male in the women's delegation of MPs that emplaned for Bangladesh to study violence against women? Apparently this was on the rationale that women alone are not responsible for such violence, and now, on return MP Pavithra Wanniarachchi has proposed a special committee allied to one of the select committees already in session in parliament to study the issue of violence against women.

But violence against women is never as serious as violence against Ministers, certainly not to the ruling party - --and therein lies a tale. Ministers - - the formidable duo Tilak Marapana and John Amratunga of Defence and Interior portfolios --- were to tour Jaffna to ascertain the security situation there, when intelligence reports reached them that there was a LTTE plan to assassinate these two Ministers in Jaffna.

The Ministers promptly notified the Prime Minister of this development, and the Prime Minister you could say hit the ceiling. He ordered an immediate investigation, and launched an inquiry into the circumstances of this intelligence report. He eventually determined that it was false, and now the officers who issued this warning have been asked to furnish letters of explanation with a view to seriously reprimanding them for this 'lapse.'

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