Peace Secretariat for the Sinhalese?
By Our Political Editor
For the thousands who adorned the ill-fated Shahrukh
Khan's mega show at Colombo's former Race Course, his super hit
kutch kutch hota hai or something is happening, kindled their hearts.
number has been an all time favourite long before the Indian superstar
and his troupe set foot on Sri Lankan soil. Not surprisingly, the
audience joined in chorus with glee and grandeur.
weeks have now gone after the memorable event. For the thousands
who were there, and the many more thousands who were not, are all
now disappointed. Not even something is happening in the Police
bid to nail down the conspirators behind the grenade attack that
night. Not even the offer of a two million rupees reward by Police
Chief Chandra Fernando has so far helped to solve the 'Whodunit'
abound in a nation where the imaginative mind works overtime -a
thriving industry without either foreign or local investment. With
the precision of Sherlock Holmes who cracks many a convoluted crime
case, his local counterparts have found answers to the most complex
issues. Some blame it on the LTTE. Others accuse the CIA (Americans),
and still others the ISI (Pakistanis). Yet others, on the UPFA Government
itself on the basis that they wanted to embarrass the monks of the
JHU. Among those spared this time round have been President Premadasa.
this backdrop, a person who identified himself as Ranjith Sooriyaarachchi
went to a private communications agency. He shot off a fax to Deshamanya
Lalith Kotelawala, chairman of the conglomerate Ceylinco Consolidated,
for financing the Sharukh Khan show. He alleged that about 18 Buddhist
organisations are attempting to involve the business magnate cum
philanthropist. Was he fishing in troubled waters, or pouring oil
over a heated politico-religious issue? The answer will be known
only if someone responds positively to the Police Chief's two million
rupee offer. Only that, arguably, will give the all-important lead
to unravel the fuller mystery.
this event brought forth what seems a paradigm shift in how some
of Sri Lanka's professionals are retiring from the state sector
only to continue the same trade in the corporate world. In other
words, yesterday's top investigator for the Government's investigative
arm is today's top investigator for a corporate body. Similarly,
yesterday's spy boss for the Government is today's spy boss for
a corporate body in the private sector.
man who encapsulates all these elements is retired Deputy Inspector
General of Police, Punya de Silva. He retired from service last
month at the age of 60. He was a former DIG in charge of the Criminal
Investigations Department (CID). He was also the Director of the
National Intelligence Bureau (NIB).
week he took up a new job, a job in the private sector - General
Manager - Intelligence Unit of the Chairman's Division of Ceylino
Consolidated which has its offices located at 13, Dickman's Lane
(R.A. de Mel Mawatha).
before his retirement, de Silva telephoned the Janadipathi Mandiraya
to speak to an official there. He said he wanted to bid farewell
to President Kumaratunga in his service uniform before quitting
service. He asked for an appointment but that never came. The official
explained that the President's schedule was so heavy that she had
no time for farewell calls. Moreover, it was the service chiefs
and the Police Chief, who in terms of protocol, were allowed such
calls prior to retirement.
civvie street, the ex-cop seems to have taken time to familiarise
himself with life in retirement. One of his first tasks as GM (IU)
was to shoot off a letter to the Director of the CID, Sisira Mendis.
Dated December 16, this is what ex-DIG now GM Punya de Silva said;
CONCERNING THE GRENADE ATTACK ON THE SHARUKH KHAN MUSICAL SHOW
" I make reference to the conversation I had with you today
concerning the above noted subject.
please, find a photostat of a letter sent by one Ranjith Sooriyaarachchi
(telephone number given) to Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala, Chairman
of Ceylinco Consolidated alleging that about eighteen Buddhist organizations
are attempting to involve Deshmanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala, Chairman
of Ceylinco Consolidated for financing the Sharukh Khan musical
would be most grateful if necessary inquiries are conducted having
contacted the writer as this is a very serious allegation made against
the entire Ceylinco Group.
co-operation in this regard would be greatly appreciated, please."
The letter, no doubt, is identical in content and format to those
Punya de Silva wrote as DIG (CID) to his subordinate staff including
the Director. The only difference, however, is that this time he
is urging that inquiries be conducted over serious allegations levelled
against the Ceylinco Group. This is at a time when the investigators
are perplexed over who was responsible for the attack and are flexing
all their muscle to find out.
fact that Ceylinco's high-profile Chairman was at the epicentre
of the conspiracy theories that were afoot in the immediate aftermath
of the death of the populist televangical monk Ven. Gangodawila
Soma around this time last year, is no secret. Chairman Kotelawela
was himself experiencing the jitter-bugs as angry followers of the
late Ven. Soma accused the Born-Again Christian of masterminding
the monk's death in far away Russia.
instigated this conspiracy theory was the fact that the man who
had invited Ven. Soma to an unknown University in Russia - in the
middle of its biting cold winter - was an ex-employee of the Ceylinco
Group, and someone who had edited a newsletter for the company.
circumstances behind Ven. Soma's untimely death, there were aplenty.
The Government failed to ascertain the truth either way. To find
suspects, or to nail any canards. The result was a spree of burning
churches, by angry arsonists owing their allegiance to the Ven.
Soma. For the Government, its sheer inaction resulted in the formation
of the JHU (Jathika Hela Urumaya ), an off-shoot of the SU (Sihala
Urumaya), and a potent political force to reckon with, when President
Chandrika Kumaratunga called for early elections in April 2 this
April, the JHU has experienced overt and covert operations to cripple
it. In the initial stages, it was the JVP that went for them - seething
as they were, that the JHU ran away with their votes. The rough
and tumble of parliamentary politics was literally taught to the
newly elected monks very early.
were not only hospitalised for what happened to them in the august
assembly, but they also had grenades thrown at their Viharas, and
their members 'kidnapped'.
a hung-Parliament they were asked to take sides on purely parochial
political issues. They were wooed and they were booed. Then, they
had their own internal differences on which way they should proceed.
The lay arm of the JHU - the SU - began to disintegrate with divisions,
the familiar though not necessarily exclusive trait of the majority
the JHU has lost its gloss, but remains a somewhat organised branch
of the Maha Sangha (Buddhist Clergy) that could stand as a bulwark
against attempts to divide the country by mainstream political parties
bending backwards to appease the international community - and the
divided Muslim political leadership of Sri Lanka is today showing
some signs of unification. The Rauff Hakeem led Muslim Congress
and the Feriel Ashraff led NUA have signed at least an MoU to establish
a Muslim Peace Secretariat that will be tasked with the assignment
of articulating the Muslim point-of-view in the peace process.
MoU was a significant step in the fratricidal politics of the Muslims
of Sri Lanka. The hope is that the proposed Peace Secretariat will
very soon invite the M.H, Mohameds (UNP), A.H.M. Fowzies (SLFP),
Athaullahs and even the Faizer Mustaphas (CWC) into its orbit. The
Secretariat will act as a think-tank for the Muslims, many of whom
in the eastern province are facing the brunt of the LTTE's fascist
dictates from which they had some reprieve when the Karuna faction
of the LTTE split the rebel organisation.
former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe launched the peace process
with the LTTE in 2002, and set up a Peace Secretariat, he did appoint
a Muslim division under his watchful eye. He appointed Dr. M.S.A.
Cader, a leading academic from the Eastern University, to watch
the interests of the Muslims, but due to the fact that it was under
the Prime Minister's Office, there was little credibility among
the wider Muslim community.
was known in circles close to the then Prime Minister, that as the
peace process progressed, he was going to confront the LTTE with
the Muslim issues of the day. That day never came because his negotiators
and the LTTE could not even get through the preliminaries, and the
process came to a grinding halt.
they will not admit it, the fact that the Muslims have opted for
a separate Peace Secretariat is because they have no ultimate faith
in either the Government's Peace Secretariat or in the Advisory
Committee on Peace and Reconciliation to look after their specific
Peace and Reconciliation Advisory Committee has now divided itself
into three sub-committees viz. political, religious and civil society.
The civil society sub-committee divided itself into three sub-commitees,
and so it goes on.
question that arises then is what happens to Sinhalese representation.
When a group of Sinhalese organisations went to meet the then chief
negotiator of the Government, G.L. Peiris and asked that he looks
after their interests, he had told them that he could not do so
because he represented the Government, which represented all communities.
When asked whether these organisations could represent the Sinhalese,
he said that might not be possible. When asked then who would represent
the Sinhalese, Peiris, the usually eloquent professor was stuck
for an answer.
is in this context that the latest political skit in town - the
'Jeff and Tilvin Show', or the exchange of fan-mail between Jeff
Lunstead, the US Ambassador in Colombo, and Tilvin Silva, the JVP
General Secretary, has some significance.
showing any signs of intimidation by the sole super-power in the
world, the JVP has stuck to its position, as much as the LTTE has
to its. The JVP has indicated that it will not permit the UPFA Government
to talk on ISGA, the LTTE's demand for a self-rule authority. The
JVP is espousing the views of the majority Sinhalese, but it has
the backing of at least some Tamil groups in this stance. For instance,
the Tamil EPDP agrees with the JVP that ISGA is the stepping-stone
to a separate state of Eelam a few years ahead.
behind their back, President Kumaratunga is trying desperately to
appease the international community and the LTTE. The Peace Secretariat
head Jayantha Dhanapala has sent signals to the LTTE that the UPFA
Government is still willing to talk, and talk with a great sense
colleague, The Sunday Times Defence Correspondent, deals with this
aspect on the opposite page, but suffice to say here, that Dhanapala's
intervention has been seen by political analysts here as a move
by the President to involve him more in the negotiating process
with the LTTE.
this has been the virtual exclusive preserve of Foreign Minister
Lakshman Kadirgamar. However, given Kadirgamar's hard-line approach
to the LTTE, and his sympathies with the JVP, especially on these
issues, President Kumaratunga appears to have relied more and more
on Dhanapala to bell the cat.
has made an official announcement ironically through the mouth of
Kadirgamar that he (Dhanapala) would like to be the next Secretary-General
of the United Nations.
seems to be his ultimate goal, and what priorities he has towards
the peace process, and viz-a-viz the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Sri Lanka now comes into focus.
long ago, Dhanapala's remarks to the press in Jaffna earned him
the wrath of the JVP. Now, the JVP will need to keep a tab on Dhanapala
merely to ensure that he is not the cat's paw of President Kumaratunga
for a sell-out with the LTTE simply because of his grandiose plans
for his own future.
probably is time, therefore, for a separate Sinhalese Peace Secretariat
to look after the interests of the Sinhalese to add to the LTTE
Peace Secretariat and the proposed Muslim Peace Secretariat. And
a Burgher Peace Secretariat might not be out of place either. That
is not to mention a demand for a Malainadu Peace Secretariat for
the plantation sector Tamils.