stands for talks based on ISGA
By Our Political Editor
ARUMUGAM THONDAMAN had come of age. Having grown under the shadow
of an oak tree in the form of his grandfather Saumyamoorthi Thondaman,
Arumugam generally had it easy. All he had to do was contest with
the UNP and bargain with whoever won an election thereafter.
spoilt brat of Sri Lankan politics would always have his way. After
all, his grandfather showed him the ropes, and even created a probable
world parliamentary record by sitting in the cabinet while his party
MPs sat in the opposition.
Monday night, Arumugam was frothing and fuming, hemming and hawing.
In-between swigs of Black Label scotche at Subo Nirmalingam's all-party
birthday bash down Bagatalle Road in Colombo's bourgeoisie neighbourhood,
he was equally busy telephoning and blasting President Chandrika
Kumaratunga to all who cared to listen.
Maha Nayake of Malwatte, Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Nayaka Thera,
with whom he closely associated, especially in their joint opposition
to the Kotmale hydro-power project, had passed away earlier that
afternoon. Co-incidentally, his Air Force security men in blue fatigues
had just been taken off, three days after negotiations between his
CWC and the ruling UPFA had collapsed. It was a cocktail of frothing
emotions running through him.
She wants me killed " he told Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
who dropped in to party. Withdrawing of security has been a arch-typical
practice of President Kumaratunga to teach these politicians a lesson.
In 2001, then Minister Rauff Hakeem awoke one morning to find his
security withdrawn. Then came his sacking from the cabinet.
was a move the PA was to regret, for it set the stage for a string
of events that followed. eventually resulting in the PA administration
of the time failing to maintain a parliamentary majority, just like
now, and then face defeat at the polls in December of that year.
about 11 that night, just as the Nirmalingam party was hotting up,
Thondaman exited, making his way to the ' Asapuwa ' - the headquarters
of the Jathika Hela Urumaya at Sulaiman Terrace, a five minute drive
in a Merc at that time of night from Bagatalle Road, even if there
were no Air Force escorts now to clear the road.
he met the monk-MPs who were still deliberating on whether the newly
appointed MP of theirs, Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana should take his
oath the next morning in the face of a court order that ex-facie
seemed to stay him from doing so.
was adamant. He argued that the monk should take his oath. The argument
was two-fold, one that the stay order had not been served either
on the MP-designate or on the Speaker, and secondly that the MP's
appointment had been gazetted on May 19 long before the District
Court proceedings of June 3.
an MP is gazetted, he becomes an MP. He must take oath only to be
able to conduct parliamentary business. Some political observers
cite an interesting instance when Dr. Colvin R. de Silva was gazetted
an MP but fell ill and was unable to take his oath. He was, technically,
an MP when he died. So, in the case of the Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana
he was in fact, an MP already, he had only to take his oath of office
before the Speaker to take his seat in the House.
monks however shot back asking Arumugam why he was flirting with
the UPFA government. They all laughed. As the time approached the
witching hour, Arumugam got through on his mobile to Ranil Wickremesinghe
who had left the Nirmalingam party and was still at a private dinner.
He was told that Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana would take his oath.
events of the following morning are now well known to the country.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera had been quoted in a morning English
daily confidently forecast on its front page a " dull "
day in the House.
Padma Kumara and his pretty co-host Sithara in their increasingly
popular Swarnavahini morning show " Mul Pituwa " ( Front
Page ) quoted the quotable quote. Forecasts and fore-warnings from
Mr Samaraweera, the swinging southern politico, has often foreshadowed
events in the political scene. But this one turned out to be the
understatement of the new century as Members of Parliament turned
into Members of Pandemonium. The new political culture promised
by the UPFA had been unleashed full throttle (no pun) . It was pun
Kumaratunga is reported to have been unhappy about the turn of events
that day. She must be un-happier at the turn of events the day after
when the joint opposition - parties ranging from the TNA to the
JHU to the CWC to the SLMC and UNF banded together under one banner.
At least, even if there is no National Government, there seems to
be a National Opposition.
though, the Opposition allowed the Speaker to accede to the Government
request to adjourn Parliament till July 20. When the Speaker called
a party leaders meeting amidst the mayhem inside the Chamber, S.B.
Dissanayake had walked in for the meeting. JVP's Wimal Weerawansa
rightly objected to his presence. S.B. Dissanayake then asked, rightly,
what Nandana Gunathillake was doing there and started claiming that
the match was over for the UPFA - the opposition having a majority
then, why did the Opposition agree to such a long postponement.
One would have imagined the first Tuesday in July would have been
ideal timing, on the eve of the Provincial elections. A squandered
chance for the Opposition that is carefully orchestrating a slow-death
of the UPFA.
Opposition recognises the fact that price hikes are inevitable in
the days ahead. This will only compound matters for the UPFA, but
the JVP realises this, and is already on a country-wide campaign
( or at least in the 'southern' constituencies ) relying on the
mandate they received in April 2, which is already turning into
thin ice very fast.
the reverberations set off by Tuesday's tragi comedy in Parliament
had begun to echo, echo resoundingly in the corridors of power.
Nowhere was it felt more intesely than at Janadipathi Mandiraya,
which like the White House in the United States, formed the epi
centre of power, politics and the citadel that shaped the many lives
of men and matters. The first signs showed when President Kumaratunga
chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday
sessions have now become an on/off event hinging much on how rigorous
her schedule for the week was. Last Tuesday came as a relief to
many participants because it began only an hour late. When the topic
turned to the peace process and related matters, President Kumaratunga
was to alert both Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and her newly
sworn in Deputy Minister of Defence Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. She
said they would have to make themselves available for the next meeting
that evening. It was a strategy session with the JVP partners, particularly
after the Tuesday's show in Parliament. This was the first occasion
that both Kadirgamar and Wickremanayake were present for a NSC session
since the UPFA was voted to powe.
a notable absentee was Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse, who has
still not been an invitee for these meetings. In the past, all serving
Prime Ministers have remained members of the National Security Council.
Equally perplexing to some of the participants was the studied silence
of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, who was known for his incisive questioning
of senior officers during past sessions of the NSC. It was at the
weekly Cabinet meeting that Wednesday evening President Kumaratunga
openly expressed her disapproval of the way the members of the clergy
were treated. She made clear she would address the nation and make
her feelings known. That was when she spells out some national issues
and the UPFA's own position with regard to them.
Tuesday's fiasco in Parliament had brought in its wake another pre-occupation
for the President. With clear signs emerging that her UPFA was in
the minority, the focus turned to her overtly ambitious plans to
kick start the peace process. Does one put the peace process in
the back burner? Presidential aides relentlessly pursued their efforts
to bring about Thursday night's meeting between President Kumaratunga
and MPs of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). It was the President
who had extended the invitation and her aides were telephoning the
TNA leadership periodically for confirmation. The LTTE leadership
in Wanni had given the nod. So 20 of the 22 TNA parliamentarians
turned up at Janadipathi Mandiraya. One parliamentarian was abroad
and another had reported sick.
ambience at Janadipathi Mandiraya resembled an oriental evening.
President Kumaratunga was in a long skirt and a top, much the same
way young Tamil girls dressed. Shorts eats - Kilangu rotti (potato
rotti) Vadai were served all round. Orange and Apple Juice followed.
Those who did not wish to have something cool were offered tea.
On hand with President Kumaratunga were Ministers Mangala Samaraweera
and Nimal Siripala De Silva. Joining in an hour later was Susil
Premajayantha. TNA leader R. Sampanthan began by introducing his
20 colleagues. This was followed by a brief speech from the President.
She said that she would make a policy statement within a few days
time. This will include UPFA's economic policies, the position on
the ethnic issue the situation in the north and east situation.
the Peace Process, President said that she is expecting the Norwegians
to be informing the dates and formulate the agenda. This is for
talks to begin at the end of July or in August.
delivered a narrative of the historical background of what he called
the sufferings of the Tamil people. He emphasised that the government
should start peace talks on institutionalising ISGA proposals. Tamils
don't want the war. They are prepared for a settlement within united
Sri Lanka, he had said.President said that she cannot trust the
LTTE. "Once they get an interim administration they will try
to divide the country," she had pointed out.
said that the late Tamil leader S.J.V. Chelvanayagam only demanded
a Federal System. " Then also you said the same thing. Now
also you say the same thing ", he charged. Sampanthan and Suresh
Premachandran both declared " we are prepared to have a settlement
within a united Sri Lanka". LTTE for the first time in history
has given proposals in writing. India or the international community
will not support a separate state. It is no point talking about
dividing the country. If you don't trust us - much more than that,
the Tamils don't trust you all, they pointed out.
Bandaranaike -Chelvanayakam pact, the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement,
have all been there for over 20 years. We don't trust the Sri Lankan
Government. It is only if you implement the ISGA proposals that
the Tamil people can be convinced. We know what the JVP and JHU
wants, they argued.
Kumaratunga had explained her willingness to discuss the ISGA proposals
though she had pointed out that all its contents could not be agreed
upon. She has said she was vested with powers in the Constitution
(Sections 33 and 76) to enforce some - not all - of the matters
relating to ISGA.
President's stand now is that her Government is prepared to talk
on the ISGA Proposals, and start to implement those provisions which
the UPFA feels are not objectionable. At that time, correspondingly,
the LTTE should talk about the final settlement, she has said.
MPs then brought to President Kumaratunga's attention, the security
situation in the Eastern Province. They claimed that they have information
that sections of the armed forces are collaborating with certain
sections of the people in the eastern province- a clear reference
to the Karuna breakaway faction of the LTTE, to destablise and assassinate
intellectuals and journalists. This has to be stopped. She had agreed
to look into this.
also brought to President Kumaratunga's attention the issue of High
Security Zone (HSZ) in Jaffna. They pointed out that civilians cannot
go back to their own homes as the army is still occupying them.
Two and a half years of cease-fire but still our people cannot enjoy
it. Sinhala tourists come and stay in the HSZ but our people cannot
go back to their own homes, they argued. Action should be taken
to re-settle these people at least stage by stage. Raviraj requested
the President to repeal the PTA and said that they will support
the Government in Parliament to pass the relevant repealing legislation.
headaches are not however the exclusive preserve of the UPFA. Last
week, the UNP also ran into a storm, or was it just a storm in a
tea-cup. For a long time, UNP's beleaguered leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
has had his problems with the enfant-terrible, Milinda Moragoda's
ambitions. Clearly, Moragoda was the creature of Wickremesinghe,
but for the party cadres the relationship has been one where the
former could do anything, and get away.
got away from the abortive 2001 coup to oust Wickremesinghe as party
leader by playing "Reformist" when the knives were out.
Even if one was to be charitable to say that he may not have been
an active plotter, he opted to play the mediator, rather than throw
his whatever weight behind the man who introduced him to politics.
when he was not made a cabinet minister, Moragoda was in the forefront
of the agitation to have the second-rung ministers upgraded to First
Class cabinet-status. And now, he not only leads a team of ' Reformists
' comprising Tissa Attanayake, Sajith Premadasa, Gamini Lokuge etc.,
to pressure the party leader, which is quite legitimate nevertheless,
but has gone to say that he will not support the party at the forthcoming
cheeky one should think, something for which a lesser mortal in
the party could have had to pay dearly. The whole issue blew up
over a statement obviously leaked to the state media last Sunday
from the Moragoda camp saying that their leader will not be campaigning.
The underlying reason being that some of Moragoda's nominees had
not been selected as candidates for the elections while nominees
of some of his party rivals had.
position of keeping away drew flak from party seniors, who are seething
over what they refer to as ' terrorism ' by the emerging 3Ms faction
within the UNP i.e. the Moragoda-Maharoof-Muzzammil. But a fourth
M is standing in the way. That is- M.H. Mohamed who has been in
the forefront of this criticism of the 3M Group. He has accused
them, particularly Maharoof (Colombo Central MP) and Muzzammil (
former Cricket Board VP who heads the newly launched Democratic
Unity Alliance or DUA - aptly named so for the term dua for followers
of Islam is a payer seeking the blessings of Allah for any wish
or thanksgiving) of splitting the Muslim vote in the Western province
by putting forward a separate Independent list, though others say
that this was aimed primarily at the SLMC and its leader Rauff Hakeem
with whom Muzzammil has long fallen out.
any event it would be a split of the anti-UPFA Government Muslim
vote, even though its vote-bank would be marginal even if the list
contains some Colombo MMCs and ex-PC members. Adding to the problems
were two separate salvos from Rajitha Senaratne (Irida Lankadeepa)
and S.B. Dissanayake (Kandy meeting) where they berated the party
leader for the UNP's recent defeat, saying he no longer is the un-questionable
Leader. Which begged the question - where are the UNPers as such?
Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya also raised the issue of the Moragoda
Rebellion, only the octogenarian, the ever-green, Mohamed Hanifa
Mohamed seems to stand firm under the banner of the Elephant and
its Leader, citing the party's Constitution and asking that renegades
be sacked and party discipline maintained.
being eventually pulled up by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Moragoda deigned
to look after the Colombo East, Colombo West and Dehiwela constituencies
for the Provincial elections. Having agreed, he was due to leave
the country yesterday. So much for that.
the events of last Tuesday would surely have some bearing on the
party, as the 'Reformists' might now see a shift in the balance
of power, a weak UPFA Government wobbling at the knees. The way
three other 'Reformists' viz., Navin Dissanayake, Ravi Karunanayake
and Keheliya Rambukwella were in the thick of things in the House
that day, stoutly defending the JHU's new monk-MP might be an indicator
that the UPFA's doings not only joined the Opposition together,
but provided the glue to the cracking UNP as well.
these circumstances, there seems to be a strange paradox in the
country's political firmament. If the UPFA Government is in trouble,
the main Opposition is much deeper in trouble. So, only the Gods,
it seems could save mother Lanka. For it is they who have given
the people the Government (and even the Opposition) they deserve
scenes: Is it dirty politics or political strategy
By Harinda Ranura Vidanage
As the ugly scenes in Parliament began to be interpreted as reflections
of degrading political culture, and erosion of the ethics of the
politician the assault on the holiest embodiment in the Buddhist
community has come as a thunderbolt. Some may want to interpret
it as a grand political plan devised by certain elements in the
JVP policy of attacking the JHU on any forum looks to be a strategy
adopted to force the monks out of a political space which is contested
heavily by both parties. Both parties share the concepts of sovereignty
and unity for Lanka and anti - LTTE sentiments two prerequisites
necessary to keep intact the voter base to stay in power.
JVP with the help of some less knowledgeable elements of the SLFP
keep on hitting at the monks, thus creating a situation where the
UPFA is deprived of the opportunities to interact with the monk
parliamentarian. The efforts of the UPFA mainstream representing
the SLFP old guard and the moderate ideologues in the calibre of
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse are frustrated in this move to
open a channel of communication with the saffron group. If the yellow
robes group were to help the UPFA it would tend to reduce the importance
of the JVP as a main stakeholder in the alliance
these verbal attacks the JVP has now successfully pushed the monks
- a self-confessed independent group - to being an ally of the opposition
led by the UNP. This will make the monks sitting ducks for the JVP
onslaught as they will immediately be branded as stakeholders of
a UNP LTTE TNA JHU alliance.
a "Ali, Koti, Mahana " alliance there is bound to be a
vociferous campaign launch to corner the monks. If the JHU were
to grasp the gravity of the situation they would not go for an all
out war against the UPFA allying with the UNP. Instead the monks
could show maithrii to the JVP and work with the alliance.
case the saffron - robed parliamentarians were to align themselves
with either of the two main parties the voters who opted for the
monks after being disillusioned with the two main parties will feel
let down. The JHU should remember that it's not just the white clad
old ladies "Upasaka Ammas" that voted for them but also
the Southern intelligentsia. Hence they should not be forgotten.
If so it will be the first and the last Dharma Rajya project they
Prime Minister who has forged some strategic links to the JHU is
also prevented from pursuing internal matters by the top party hierarchy
itself. The president should realize that there is a shadow movement
behind the Ops 113. This shadow movement spearheaded by the JVP
is part of the master plan of the red faction. Backed by some SLFP
elements close to President Kumaratunga this operation seeks never
to gain a 113 majority in parliament.
will make them a more powerful component of the UPFA all the while
helping its long term strategy for the JVP to emerge as a single
powerful political party. The JVP trying to achieve this strategic
advantage will not go for 113 in parliament but pretend all along
that they are hell bent on reaching the target for survival.
these events unfold in the political scene it appears the UPFA has
to continue as a minority government since the opposition doesn't
want to topple it. Toppling the Freedom Alliance government can
only pave the way to the creation of a yet another alliance government
with UNP, TNA as major parties.
state will experience multiple dysfunctions in most of its apparatuses,
especially the economy and related spheres will be affected most.
The exit of the BOI chairman recently was also related to the whole
issue of crisis in governance. If President Kumaratunga had anticipated
the repercussions of appointing Mr. De Mel earlier it would have
prevented such difficult situations. The BOI chairman was nicknamed
the 'Two week chairman' as he was in Sri Lanka only for two weeks
of each month before taking wing to UK for his consultancy services.
This led to some important meetings with prospective foreign investors
being cancelled as well.
UPFA leadership must be reminded of the President's letter on the
code of ethics sent to each and every minister just after their
appointment. It seems that such political ethics are just used to
contribute to media hype at a certain point and not meant to be
sustained as policy. The text clearly limited the number of foreign
trips of ministers and the appointment of kith and kin to ministries
writer proposes that if the minister's actions are monitored for
an assessment of the progress of this code of ethics it could locate
the trajectory of where the UPFA is flying to. Thus indulging in
self-criticism for the UPFA is more critical at this moment than
trying to intervene in matters of other political parties.