Who should be blamed?
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is today facing a situation akin to what her father faced well-nigh half a century ago in 1956. Buddhist monks then performed satyagraha in front of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's Rosmead Place residence 'Tintagel', protesting the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact which was a forerunner to federalism.

This time though, the President faces much more virulent opposition from the monks, a symbol of the turn political agitation has taken over the years. Back then, father Bandaranaike was forced to tear up the B-C Pact. Daughter Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga it seems, may now be forced to tear up the JM (Joint Mechanism) or P-TOMS (Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure) Agreement

At the root of the crisis which has now enveloped the country is President Kumaratunga's stubborn refusal to take even her own Cabinet, her coalition partners, nor the Leader of the Opposition into her confidence. She has kept the JM (P-TOMS) Agreement so close to her chest that it naturally arouses suspicion all round.

Ironically, this is what she said in a statement soon after the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE leader in February 2002;

"The President is of the opinion that the procedures followed with regard to concluding the MOU, ignoring Constitutional provisions to obtain Presidential approval, as well as not informing the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament is considered improper and undemocratic and also violative of practices required by the consensual politics of cohabitation ".

What then is she herself doing, people may well ask. Is it a question of political expediency? The JVP is perfectly justified in its stance -- if not for anything but that the President's refusal to take them into her confidence constitutes a rank insult to the coalition partner whose role in the April elections of last year gave new life to her lame duck Presidency.

Has not the JVP infused some life into the Presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga? The President would have had to spend the last four years of her two-term 12-year reign as a spectator merely rubber-stamping what the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration was implementing, if not for their role in forming the government.

She asked for a mandate on the basis that the Wickremesinghe administration was yielding too much to the LTTE, that the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity was at stake -- and that like Vihara Maha Devi she was coming forward to save the nation from this sell-out.

And that is what she -- and her coalition -- received a mandate for. The question therefore, is, can she go against this resounding mandate. In other words, does President Kumaratunga have a mandate to do other than what she said she will do?

And neither has she countered the arguments raised by her main coalition partner the JVP (and now the JHU) about the dangers of implementing the JM (P-TOMS).

The only hint of reason forthcoming from the President's quarter is that this mechanism will draw the LTTE into a working relationship with the Government of Sri Lanka and that this, hopefully, would be the beginning of the end of their 20-year military campaign for a separate state.

This no doubt, has some merit, but is -- in the least -- a political gamble, and something that the President and her Govenment, are entitled to consider. But clearly, a very significant arm of her Govt. is not willing to take that gamble -- and has gone to the extent of saying that this is tantamount to a sell-out.

The JVP's eventual ultimatum to the President this week -- the June 16 deadline to drop the proposal means that the writing is on the wall for her. She has to now decide between the JM and the continuation of her coalition Government.

It signals the end of the road in what has right along been a stormy marriage of convenience -- brought about with the sole purpose of defeating the fledgling UNP administration.

In the meantime, both the Government and the LTTE must take equal share of the blame for squabbling over how to alleviate the suffering of the people in the North and East, both from the effects of the tsunami and the two-decade long 'civil war '.

The Norwegians too are at fault -- for promoting with this draft proposal completely ignoring the sentiments of the JVP and the JHU and those they represent.

The ineptness of successive Govenments to checkmate the LTTE, and the LTTE's own intransigence -- given oxygen by the international community -- with their duplicitous attitudes to the global war on terror -- has seen this country stagnate while others around it are forging ahead -- full steam -- with economic development and upliftment of the living standards of their citizens, irrespective of race, religion, caste or creed.

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