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28th March 1999

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From the Blue Corner

We are not ready for political hara- kiri yet my friend

By Paakshikaya

Reading my unseen friend Viruddha Paakshikaya's laments in "From the Green Corner" last week, I can safely say Viruddha Paakshikaya and his UNP have indeed been painted into a corner.

Viruddha Paakshikaya is so bereft of issues on which to attack our government or President Chandrika Kumaratunga that he (or she) has to resort to discussing the elections to the Presidency of the Board of Control for Cricket in a rather weak attempt to belittle his opponents.

I do not think the editor of this newspaper wanted these pages to contain material pertaining to the sports pages but for the record I feel I must at least address Viruddha Paakshikaya's allegation that our government has even tried to politicise the affairs of the Cricket Board.

To say so merely because the President's uncle- the Prime Minister's brother- is contesting for the Board Presidency is rubbish, my friend. That is a matter for that individual and as far as we are concerned the matter ends there.

If the President's Media Advisor organised his press briefing that again must have been that Advisor's personal decision over which we have no right to interfere. He certainly didn't use state resources for that purpose and therefore there is nothing irregular in that too.

To say that these events are tantamount to a government conspiracy to infiltrate the Cricket Board is like saying that the government is trying to meddle with the affairs of the UNP by sending my former party colleague- and still my good friend – Anura Bandaranaike to the UNP!

The only conceivable link that our government has in the affairs of the cricket administration is the fact that Arjuna Ranatunge, our cricket captain happens to be the son of a Deputy Minister in the government. The next thing we know, Viruddha Paakshikaya, you would be blaming poor Reggie Ranatunge for that too!

And, if it is about politicising the Cricket Board that you are accusing our government of, you can ill afford to cast the first stone because your stalwarts have also "sinned" in that respect.

Wasn't J. R. Jayewardene, Gamini Dissanayake and Tyronne Fernando all ministers in your UNP governments when they became Presidents of the Cricket Board? Now, I don't deny that at least one of them- Gamini Dissanayake- did a good job for he was a capable man. But then there was also Tyronne Fernando who wanted to make a historical contribution, so his greatest achievement was re-christening the Moratuwa Stadium with his own name!

So, there you are, Viruddha Paakshikaya that should set your mind at ease regarding the "involvement" of our government in the Cricket Board. And, I hope now you will stop at that and not do a "Wayamba" and say that the Cricket Board poll was rigged, after the elections which are due to be held today!

Now, while Viruddha Paakshikaya makes allegations about our party's "involvement" in the Cricket Board, I too have a different but much more serious allegation to make- that your party is actively fostering trade union unrest and promoting wildcat strikes to damage the government's popularity on the eve of the elections to the five provincial councils on April sixth.

If you reflect on the events of last week, Viruddha Paakshikaya, there were four strikes,three of them in the health sector. First, nurses went on strike over the trivial issue of an appointment of a government official. Then, the doctors staged a one-day strike. On Thursday, bank employees walked out of work and on Friday, minor-staff of hospitals staged a sick-note protest campaign.

We are alive to your tactics, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, and the President said so publicly at an election meeting at Kegalle when she castigated the doctors for being misled by a UNP Parliamentarian who is himself a doctor.

Surely, Viruddha Paakshikaya, the "demands" and "grievances" of all these categories of employees did not materialise overnight! If these demands were recognised before why didn't the agitation begin earlier? And, how could you explain all these categories striking within a few days of each other, a week before the elections? It is too much of a co-incidence, isn't it?

We wouldn't be surprised at all, my friend, if the frequency of these strikes increase over the next week but remember my friend that you are also destabilising the country's economic and welfare program with these needless interruptions. And, remember also that we would deal with these strikes in a most befitting manner if we find they are being manipulated for political purposes.

Then, Viruddha Paakshikaya, there is always the issue of the upcoming elections. You accuse us of just paying lip service to our President's pledge of removing political posters. But the fact is my friend, you have spoken too soon!

As you have no doubt realized by now, the posters were indeed removed last week by the respective local authorities while police protection was provided. I need only to ask you whether any UNP government took this unprecedented step and you know what the answer to that question is!

Of course I admit there are still posters aplenty but the fact is that candidates –even our party candidates- who resort to such methods for publicity are risking the possibility of an election petition, so they do so at their own peril and our party will not defend them on that count.

But let us be clear on one issue, Viruddha Paakshikaya. As I have boldly stated in these pages before, our party, the SLFP and especially it's top leadership comprising President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike is concerned about what happened at Wayamba and are genuinely keen to avoid a repetition of that notorious day of January 25.

That is why President Kumaratunga made a courageous decision to call an Election Monitoring Committee in full view of the local and international media and put her credibility at stake by making some solemn pledges towards democracy.

Last Thursday she went one step further and promised that the use of all state resources for campaigning –even by our party candidates- would be severely dealt with.

I personally know that some of our own candidates are not pleased with the President because of her decision. Their complaint is that "it was done when the UNP ran the government; so, why not us?" but President Kumaratunga has been steadfast in her decision which will not be altered.

Now I know Virudhdha Paakshikaya you will call all this a sham saying the President is playing politics. You will say that the Elections Monitoring Committee is a façade so that the government can escape the charges of rigging at the next election.

I assure you, my friend that is far from the truth. Remember, the Elections Monitoring Committee meetings have been attended by the heavyweights in your party- Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gamini Atukorale and Karu Jayasooriya- and so far they have not had occasion to complain or voice their concerns regarding the functioning of the committee. That alone is a strong endorsement of the bona fides of the committee.

Then, let us look at this election violence issue a little more, Viruddha Paakshikaya. In these pages last week, you said that something sinister was about to happen on April 6 and you voiced your fears about that.

Now, I cannot agree with you more on that but there is a significant difference in my fears about what would happen on the Sixth. I say so because the latest police statistics reveal an alarming trend:offences against the PA are 196 while the offences against the UNP are only 173.

What does this tell you, Viruddha Paakshikaya? It is good evidence that where election violence is concerned, the UNP has matched the PA and even done better and "scored" a "23 incident" victory!

So, all these claims of the government "terrorizing" it's opponents must belong to the fairy-tales section in the library!

So, let us wait and see, shall we as to what will happen on April 6, instead of predicting that there will be mass scale rigging by the PA. As I have said before, President Kumaratunga is an astute leader and she realizes only too well that were any election malpractices to be committed by her party, it will be her credibility and image that would suffer.

And, it would also be President Kumaratunga herself who would have to face the consequences at next year's Presidential Election. So, rest assured, Viruddha Paakshikaya, our President doesn't have thoughts of committing political hara-kiri- not just yet, anyway!

But, before I conclude, there is one more score to settle, Viruddha Paakshikaya. You have "accused" our leader of sojourning in the "cool climes" of Nuwara Eliya with SAARC Foreign Ministers.

Here, there are two things you fail to mention: First that the sojourn in Nuwara Eliya was not only with SAARC Foreign Ministers but also with your former Mayoress Nalin Thilaka Herath who has now realized where the real political future of this country lies.

Secondly, wasn't your leader also enjoying himself recently,the occasion being his birthday where he was surrounded by the "Nava" UNP crowd? That's not as bad as dancing to the tune of go-go girls in Los Angeles but he must remember that a man is judged by the company he keeps. Don't you agree, Viruddha Paakshikaya.

Devolving terrorism

By Kumbakarna

About a year after the last major bomb attack in Colombo, which took place at Maradana on March 5, last year, three bombs exploded in quick succession. These killed four people and injured over 40 others.

During that period of a year, there have been about 20 bomb attacks against targets such as telecommunications installations, electricity transformers and railway lines. These did not cause many casualties, but had a general de-stabilising effect on the country. One theory about these mini-attacks was that they were being carried out by a group connected to the government, with the idea of postponing elections. However, it has now been established beyond doubt that they have been carried out by the LTTE.

An interesting feature about these attacks is that they have taken place in several different areas of the country, while most previous bombings were confined to Colombo. It appears that while the government is talking about devolution of power, the LTTE is busy devolving terrorism.

A factor that assists the LTTE in carrying out this campaign is the rapid colonisation of several areas of the country by Tamils from the north and east. Although every single Sinhalese who lived in Jaffna has been chased out or killed, their right to live in that part of the country denied for ever, over four lakhs of Tamils have moved into the Colombo municipal area within the past four years alone.

While the lamentations about the riots of July 1983 continue unabated, 21 major bomb attacks have been carried out in Colombo. And while the rest of the world is being told that the Tamils need a separate state because they cannot live in the midst of discrimination and harassment by the Sinhalese, Tamil settlements continue to be established around Colombo. In Kotahena and Mattakkuliya, this is being carried out by various Tamil organizations with the tacit approval of the government. The World Hindu Council, in a letter dated July 23, 1998, informed the Indian government that 3,000 kovils have been destroyed in Sri Lanka. As a matter of fact, over 50 new kovils have been built in and around Colombo alone.

None of this is an honest exercise of the right to live anywhere, speak any language or follow any religion, which in any case has been denied to Sinhalese Buddhists in most areas of the north and east of the country, but rather a carefully implemented plan of action for a specific purpose. It is being carried out by various front organisations of the terrorists, with the assistance of some western governments and the NGOs which are funded by them. Its purpose is to establish a terrorist force in the south, centred in Colombo. Towards this end, the necessary infrastructure is already in place. Financial resources are obtained from the narcotics trade, prostitution, and the supply of arms to the underworld, which are already under the control of Tamil business interests. Protection is provided by influential Tamil people in various spheres of activity. Any attempt on the part of the security forces or criminal investigative units of the police to act against them is immediately labelled as "harassment of innocent Tamils", and the government scrambles to call a halt.

The next step in the scheme is the creation of the political apparatus. The myth that groups such as the TULF and former militant organisations are "moderate", and that they are open to "negotiation", has been propagated for a long time.

What is obvious from the construction of this Tamil stronghold in Colombo is that the ultimate aim is not merely the establishment of a separate state in the north and east. It is the subjugation of the entirety of Sri Lanka as the foundation of a pan-Tamil state. The theme of the conference held recently in Chennai, which was attended by Nedumaran among other racists, was "Towards a Tamil Nation". There is little doubt as to where this Tamil Nation is to be set up.

inside the glass house:

When two powers dispute

By thalif deen at the united nations

NEW YORK— A Peruvian diplomat once characterized the United Nations as a politically wobbly institution that survives only at the will— and pleasure— of the world's big powers.

"When two small powers have a dispute, the dispute disappears", he complained. "When a great power and a small power are in conflict, the small power disappears. And when two great powers have a dispute, the United Nations disappears."

The lesson in hardball UN diplomacy was clearly evident last week when the world body simply vanished from the face of the earth as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) unleashed its military fury on the former Yugoslavia.

The five veto-wielding big powers of the Security Council— the United States, UK and France on one corner and China and Russia on the other— were lashing out at each other against the backdrop of a political scenario reminiscent of the days of the Cold War.

The Security Council, the only international body with primary responsibility for the maintenance of global peace and security, was totally marginalized leaving it in a state of near-paralysis.

The Russians were simply outraged at the unilateral use of force by NATO without authorization by the 15-member Security Council. The Americans, who lead the NATO attack, justified the bombing on the ground that they were trying to avert a humanitarian disaster even as Serbs continued to butcher ethnic Kosovar Albanians.

The Kosovo bombing also brought about new divisions in the United Nations. India, conscious of the ever-present crisis in Kashmir, said that domestic political problems had to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned through consultation and dialogue.

Since the NATO attacks were not authorized by the Security Council, they were completely illegal, India argued.

Since the Kosovars, who were being protected by the US and NATO, are predominantly Muslim, some of the Islamic countries who criticised the US for its attacks on Iraq, were now cautiously supportive of the Americans.

As the man caught in the middle, Secretary-General Kofi Annan walked a political tight rope with a safety net under him. He kept the Americans happy by pointing out that "there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace."

In the same breath, he kept the Russians and the Chinese equally happy by arguing that although the UN Charter assigns an important role to regional organisations (read: NATO), the Security Council should be involved in any decision to use military force.

Asked by a reporter where the emphasis should be, he deftly side-stepped the question: "I think my statement was very clear and I did state the principles that underline the use of force as far as the UN is concerned."

Meanwhile, the United Nations has added Kosovo to its long catalogue of failures and non-successes: Iraq, Angola, Central Africa and the Middle East.

The Security Council has been so badly split on Iraq that the US and UK continue their daily bombings of Baghdad undeterred by the existence of the world body.

The UN's peacekeeping force in Angola has been shut down because the warring parties no long care for the United Nations or the Security Council.

Last week a proposal to set up a UN war crimes tribunal for Cambodia was shot down by the Chinese even before it could get off the ground. The Security Council has also failed to agree on a peacekeeping mission in Central Africa where fullscale fighting continues.

Perhaps the unkindest cut of all is that the UN and the Security Council have absolutely no role in the relentless search for peace in one of the world's major political hotspots: the Middle East. The US and Israel share the sole monopoly of both war and peace in the long troubled region.

In Kosovo and Iraq, the simple rule was that if the US really pushes its way, it will win.

As Yugoslav Ambassador Vladislav Jovanovic puts it: "It's the overwhelming might of the world's only superpower."

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