A political tsunami
In a totally botched strategy, President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday tabled in Parliament --and thus communicated to the country -- the provisions of the MoU on the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (with the awkward acronym P-TOMS). Hatched in darkness and incubated in secrecy, the document finally made public on Friday shows good reason why it was kept a secret even from the second largest coalition partner of the Government.

The last of the 8-page document contains the following words;" ....The District Committees, already established, and well-functioning, shall continue their work". It begs the question, then - why on earth did this MoU have to be laboured with?

One reason why this newspaper refrained from undue criticism of the provisions of the MoU (apart from critical comment on the justifiable complaint by the JVP that as a senior partner of the coalition government they were not being consulted), was not only because the MoU's details were not made known, but because the argument trotted out by the Government's spokespersons, including the President herself, was that the MoU was the beginning of a new dawn when the LTTE would be prepared to work with Colombo. They argued that this was the beginning of rapprochement -- and the end to war.

The MoU has nothing on this subject. The MoU has nothing on many other issues as well. Nothing about the monitoring of these funds save a vague reference to monitoring the functions of the P-TOMS.

Unfortunately, there is no explanation as to why the Regional Committee which will handle the bulk of the workload and the funds in the north and east should be located in Kilinochchi, the headquarters of the LTTE. And no explanation as to why, for heaven’s sake, the people of Ampara district need to be governed by a Regional Committee which will be chaired by the LTTE from Kilinochchi. Are you driving them to take up arms as well?

Bigger questions arise about what is called the 'High Level Committee'. Even the wording is blatantly transparent -- the three different levels are District, Regional and High? The High-Level Committee is a euphemism for a National Committee.

The MoU seems to deliberately omit the fact that this National Committee refers to the six districts of the north and east. In the absence thereof, it implies that this National Committeee therefore refers to tsunami relief work all-island, including in Galle, Matara and Hambantota and as the chair of this committee is supposed to rotate, the LTTE will get its chance to chair this National Committee as well.

If the UNP devalued the position of a sovereign state by making the GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) a co-chair in the SIHRN (Sub-committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs of the north and east) programme, President Kumaratunga has gone still further by making the GoSL subservient to the LTTE by agreeing to be a Deputy Chairman of the Regional Committee – which will be chaired by the LTTE -- and then compounded it by placing a sovereign Govt., on equal status with the representative of the Muslim community in this committee.

By implication what it has done is yield to the very propaganda of the LTTE that the GOSL represents the Sinhalese, and therefore, the GOSL is in fact, a Sinhalese Government!

There are some significantly dangerous provisions introduced – for instance, the power to build jetties in the north and east (sea bases for the LTTE?), and the fact that the tsunami-hit areas need not be confined to a 2 km ' ribbon' along the coast, as is the argument of its proponents, but include land areas "affected by the re-settlement of persons as a result of tsunami", which can be anywhere inland as well.

The entire exercise seems to be a case of confusion worse confounded. Instead of closing a war in the ‘east’, the President has opened one in the ‘south’. Whether this is going to help end the war in the north and east is very much in doubt, given that the LTTE, even now, gives no credit to the President for pushing through the P-TOMS. They say, and the TNA echoes their sentiments, that the President cannot be trusted.
This is what the UNP says. And the JVP says. And the JHU also says. A President whom nobody trusts.

All the provisions of the MoU have a bearing on the larger peace process. They will be taken as precedents by the LTTE in their future dealings. And it is all going to be detrimental to the GOSL and the people of Sri Lanka when they eventually (if at all) negotiate with the LTTE on the final solution to this two-decade-old conflict.

And as we commemorate six-months since the country’s worst disaster hit its people, leaving almost 40,000 dead, the P-TOMS and its laboured birth has sapped the energies of the nation’s leadership, so much so that the ringing theme of those who survived that trauma, and are living in hell today, is that those who died were the lucky ones.

No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2326247, 2328889, 2433272-3. Fax: 2423922, 2423258
Editor - editor@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
News - stnews@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Features - features@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Financial Times- ft@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Subs Desk - subdesk@sundaytimes.wnl.lk,
Funday Times - funtimes@wijeya.lk

No. 48, Parkway Building, Park Street, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka
Tel: 0115330330, 0115330808, 0115330808. Fax: 2314864
Email: adve@lankabellnet.com


No. 47, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2435454, 2448322, 0114714252. Fax: 2459725

Back to Top  Back to Index  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to