Protest in Colombo and fast in
Kandy as JM crisis reaches flashpoint
By Santhush Fernando
After weeks of uncertainty and conflict, confusion and contradiction,
the national controversy over the Joint Mechanism reached a dramatic
and decisive stage this week with dual flashpoints at the Mahamaluwa
of the Dalada Maligawa and President's House in Colombo.
the fasting JHU General Secretary Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera lay
virtually unconscious supported and surrounded by thousands of increasingly
militant people, hundreds of monks accompanied by lay people tried
to break through barriers and march to President's House.
Presidential Security Division and riot police reportedly got tough
by using teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets to turn back the
monks and protesters, leaving at least three of them injured. The
Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya (JSS), the Bhikku front arm of the JHU,
led Friday's protest march.
had heard that the four Mahanayake Theras were in Colombo and they
wanted to hand over a petition to the prelates asking them to intervene
and save the fasting monk's life by getting assurances from the
President regarding the JM.
300 monks of the JSS accompanied by about 1,000 lay people at Viharamahadevi
Park left around 2 p.m. to meet the four Prelates at their official
residence Vivekaramaya at Wijerama Road.
learnt that the Mahanayakes were at President's House for crisis
talks with Ms. Kumaratunga, the crowd diverted their vehicle procession
to the high security zones around President's House in the Fort.
protesters got down close to Lake House as no vehicles were allowed
to pass beyond that point. The monks and the laity then proceeded
towards President's House but had to stop at the Sambodhi Viharaya
as all roads leading to President's House were barricaded. PSD and
Riot Control Unit personnel were called in to take charge of the
demonstrators led by the vociferous JSS Secretary Ven. Galagodatte
Gnanasara Thera then overturned one of the barriers and proceeded
towards Chatham Street, seeking a meeting with the Mahanayakes,
Presidential Spokesman Harim Peiris or Presidential Secretary W.J.S.
Karunaratne. DIG Pujith Jayasundara who was in charge of security
appealed to the monks to remain calm while he went to deliver their
Secretary Karunaratne then came to the scene and was given the petition.
While the crowd waited for his response, tension grew. Some in the
crowd started jeering at the Police, showing bottles of petrol and
threatening to pour it on themselves.
some monks were chanting pirith, others including Ven. Galagodatte
Gnanasara Thera, Kamburupitiye Pannasara Thera and another monk
were reportedly preparing for self-immolation.
some of the protesters tried to break through the barricades and
Police started firing rubber bullets and tear gas, with baton charges
to push back the demonstrators towards the Fort Railway Station
and Lake House. Eyewitnesses said PSD personnel in civvies were
seen attacking the protesters and a number of people were taken
monks, Ven. Ranpathwila Wimalarathana, Mawarawila Bhaddhiya and
Thalagune Buddharakkitha Thera ,were injured and admitted to the
in Kandy, the condition of the fasting Sobitha Thera was critical
and crowds were reportedly getting restive with the JHU asking shops
to close in solidarity with the cause. At the Mahamaluwa too, disputes
arose between the JHU monks and the Police over the use of loudspeakers
without permission and the flying of the National Flag at half mast.
But the dispute did not lead to clashes though the tension was intense.
the fast continued, around 300 JSS monks led by firebrand JHU MP
Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera had on Tuesday forced themselves into
the residence of the Ven. Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Mahanayake
Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and requested him to intervene.
scenario with political undertones developed around midnight when
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse who was a personal friend of the
fasting monk came to the Mahamaluwa with Central Province Governor
premier reportedly claimed he had not come in his official capacity
but as a personal friend of the fasting monk and this apparently
provoked an outburst from JHU firebrand Ven. Athureliye Rathana
Thera, who accused Mr. Rajapakse of being a pseudo-Buddhist.
Mr. Rajapakse reportedly shot back, accusing the monk of being a
pseudo patriot. The Prime minister however did not make a statement
on the JM as requested by the ailing Ven. Sobitha Thera.
Thursday, the crisis took a historic turn, when the four Mahanayakes
in a rare and toughly-worded joint statement to the President expressed
their strong opposition to the JM and asked the President to issue
a statement regarding the crisis.
Mahanayakes warned that if the President did not respond positively
to end the death fast of the monk, they would issue a decisive Sangha
edict to call the Maha Sangha and the people to gather at a particular
place to decide on a course of action.
statement from the Mahanayakes drew an immediate response from the
President. A message was apparently drafted immediately and she
sent two emissaries -- Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and advisor
Wijedasa Rajapakse -- to Kandy early on Friday morning for an urgent
meeting with the Malwatte Mahanayake.
President reportedly assured him she would not take a final decision
on the JM without consulting the Mahanayakes and getting their approval.
Following this the Mahanayakes of Malwatte, the Ramanna and Amarapura
Nikayas came to Colombo for the crucial meeting with the President.
In the wake of this, the JHU and the fasting monk decided yesterday
to call off the fast and the Ven. Sobitha Thera was admitted to
Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera said the fast was called off on assurances
given by the President and the Mahanayakes. He warned that they
would resume the fast, if the JM was introduced again.
March 09 - Norwegian Peace Envoy Erik Solheim relates to the LTTE
Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham that Oslo was optimistic that
a Joint Mechanism (JM) for aid distribution could be set up "soon"
between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka.
14 - The JVP inquires from President Kumaratunga about the JM. President
replies that Norway has put forward the proposals and that no final
decision has yet been taken.
19 - The JVP warns that the JM will mean the end of the United People's
Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government and threatens that its ministers
would immediately quit their portfolios if it is set up.
06 - The President holds discussions with the JVP over JM. But no
agreement was reached. The JVP demands that it be shown the document.
06 - The UNP rejects the President's invitation to discuss the JM
stating that the UNP has already set out a document entitled "Making
Rehabilitation Programs People Centred" which was handed over
to the President on January 25.
06 - President Kumaratunga expresses her "surprise and regret"
at the UNP's rejection of her invitation and further stresses that
the proposals are not a part of the peace process.
19 - the JVP puts forward compromise proposals and suggests that
the Joint Mechanism should include Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarians
instead of the LTTE.
06 - Jathika Hela Urumaya General Secretary Ven. Omalpe Sobitha
Thera begins a fast unto death demanding that the JM be withdrawn.
June 06 - UPFA constituent party leaders are briefed for the first
time about the JM by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.
07 - Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar along with SLMM Acting
Chief Wagn Winkel meet LTTE Political Wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan
in Kilinochchi to hand over the document.
08 - The JVP-affiliated National Bhikku Front begins a death fast
outside Fort Railway Station. June 10 - The JVP issues ultimatum
to the Government, saying if the JM is not withdrawn by June 15
midnight, it will quit the coalition.
10 - The four Mahanayakes meet the President to discuss the JM.
June 11 - The President declares that the JM will be set up before
the end of June.
monk takes up death fast
The JVP-backed National Bhikku Front (NBF) opposite the
Fort Railway Station yesterday upgraded their protest campaign against
the Joint Mechanism to a fast-unto-death.
president Ven. Dambara Amila Thera, a lecturer at the Sri Jayawardenapura
University joined the fast unto death in its third day yesterday.
an abdication of power, says JVP
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in a letter to President
Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday issued an ultimatum demanding the
abrogation of the Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure
(PTOMS) proposals before June 15.
General Secretary Tilvin Silva claimed in the letter that with the
JM the government was awarding an unlawful, terrorist organisation
like the LTTE the capability to be on par with and execute duties
of a lawfully elected government.
he pointed out was an abdication of power, vested in the government
by the people as per the Constitution, to another organisation and
also was the recognition of the North and the East as the homeland
of the Tamil people.
proposals subject the whole of the North and the East to the murderous,
dictatorial, terrorist and unlawful authority of the LTTE surpassing
the rebel-controlled areas recognised by the unlawful pact of Ranil
Wickremesinghe and thereby denying the people its democratic rights.
It also confirmed that the LTTE was the sole representative of the
letter stated that the PTOMS proposals disregarded adequate Muslim
representation, they being the majority affected by the tsunami,
awarded a stake hold in governance to the LTTE when it had not made
any indication of joining the democratic mainstream, was a gross
violation of Finance Regulations, Administrative Regulations and
Establishment Code, relegated powers of elected representatives
of the North and the East to the rebels, awarded validity to the
separate administration of the LTTE, violated the Independence,
Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of Sri Lanka.
JHU opposes JM
The Jathika Hela Urumaya says it rejects the Joint Mechanism because
there is no acceptable rationale for the establishment of such a
setup. It says relief and rehabilitation work in the Government-controlled
and the LTTE-controlled areas in the North-East has been going on
smoothly without any joint mechanisms.
the LTTE to take control of rehabilitation work in all 319 tsunami-affected
Grama Niladari divisions in the North and East through the JM gives
room for the LTTE to consolidate power even in areas under the control
of the Government, the JHU says pointing out that only 49 tsunami-affected
Grama Niladhari divisions fall within the LTTE-controlled area.
party says if the government is keen on a mechanism, it should be
set up at divisional secretariat level and its composition should
reflect the population strength of the communities of the area.
JHU also suggests that a monitoring commission comprising members
from SAARC countries should be set up to identify LTTE-controlled
areas to be placed under such mechanism.
commission should be empowered to supervise the finances so as to
ensure the financial independence of the state and prevent any misuse
of funds by the LTTE for military purposes.