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November 30, 2009

'Some dictators do hold "elections" but they are neither fair nor free'

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

attacked

JVP office in Kadadolaha, Anuradhapura attacked by thugs in Defender jeep - No. WP GG 9417.Cut-outs & posters for Sarath Fonseka were destroyed

blue lorry

Complaint No.CIB I 55/602 lodged at the Athurugiriya Police says JVP supporters were attacked by five thugs in a blue lorry - No. LC 2914.

SwanTC1130.jpg

Swan at Dehiwela zoo-file pic by: Hafiz Issadeen ~ more pics

danger

Now that Sarath Fonseka has chosen the Swan as his election symbol all Swans at the Dehiwela zoo are in danger of dying "mysteriously"

caretaker

Gen.Fonseka if elected president will appoint a multi-party,caretaker govt without a Prime minister & conduct parliamentary polls says the JVP

foreign

Wimal Weerawansa of national freedom front (NFF) accuses Sarath Fonseka of being a representative of foreign imperialist forces

credit

Wimal Weerawansa says Gen(Retd) arath Fonseka cannot claim credit for defeating the LTTE. He also says Sarath is not the"common"candidate

ceasefire

Weerawansa says any army commander could have defeated the tigers if Ranil had given orders to fire instead of signing a ceasefire with LTTE

implement

Gen.Fonseka if elected president will implement 17th const amendment by appointing Constitutional council & independent commissions says JVP

oaths

Sarath Fonseka if elected will take oaths as president on January 27th 2010 & dissolve Parliament on Jan 28th says JVP's Anura Dissanayake

LTTE

Cabinet minister Alahapperuma says if LTTE chief was alive Praba also would have pledged allegiance to opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka

dictators

Alahapperuma says dictators do not hold elections. But that is not true. Some dictators do hold "elections" but they are neither fair nor free

covered the war

President Mahinda Rajapakse hosts grand banquet at Hilton Hotel for journalists who covered the war on Nov 30th but no invitation for some

canceled

Invitations sent earlier to Journalists suspected of being close to Sarath Fonseka were canceled suddenly by Brig.Udaya Nanayakkara.Why?

"uninvited"

Some scribes "uninvited" for banquet are Ruwan Weerakoon, Tissa Ravindra Perera, Prasanna Fonseka, Mihiri Fonseka and Shanika Sriyananda.

astrologers

Sarath Fonseka's wife Anoma tells media that astrologers who read her husband's horoscope say good times lie ahead for him

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Executive presidency: Remedy is not in abolishing but strengthening it by an apex body

By Dr. M.A. Mahamed Saleem and Arjuna Hulugalle

Which of the two elections will take place immediately in Sri Lanka is now known to all but, under what conditions the former Chief of Defense Staff has agreed to be a candidate is an enigma and a high stake point for bookies to make a quick buck? Although the Presidential term does not finish until Nov 2011 speculations of an early election sent panic waves to all those who are outside the UPFA governing coalition. Mahinda Rajapakse’s common touch with the people and his personal popularity following defeat of terrorism that plagued this country for three decades had given him an advantage for a second term.

Thus, the opposition forces have gone on a crusade to form an alliance with the sole objective of defeating him at the next Presidential elections. Recognizing deficiency to find a matching candidate within their ranks, a political alliance has been cobbled together calling it UNF to entice retired General Sarath Fonseka to contest on their behalf.

An inclusive Apex Body

This article is not to debate whether such a contest is healthy or not or to guess who among the two heavy weights who concluded the war will occupy the Presidential seat. At the present juncture, the people of this country should not be asked just to pick one and dump the rest but, urged to suggest a way for bringing together the contestants and mobilizing their experience and their resources to be of service to the country and save it from the chaos and ruin, as persistent disunity will lead us to that inevitable situation. The present structure of the executive Presidency has some advantages but the concentration of too much power in a single person has its down side as human frailties can take control when exercising its powers and those outside the presidential orbit feel marginalized.

We believe that the remedy is not in the abolition of the Executive Presidency but in strengthening it by an Apex Body composed of three members – inclusive of the ones placed second and third in the Presidential race if they have polled a minimum of 15 % of the total vote count. If none qualifies with 15% requirement the lead winner in the Presidential race should request two parties (other than the party or coalition of parties he represents) that had polled higher number of votes in the election of the sitting Parliament to nominate one representative to the Apex body.

The country belongs to all

The origins of the glaring shortcomings in the country such as corruption and disunity point to the faulty political structure and the politicians. The responsibility of blame for the continuous endorsement of this state of affairs without a vehement protest or an attempt at changing the structures has to be placed on the voters. For six decades the UNP and the SLFP have alternated and ruled this country but they have failed to reduce the ethnic and other divisions and allowed them to fester to the point of hatred and violence seeking a division of the country. Although prime perpetrators of violence have been eliminated, the hegemonic and discriminatory postures which this system nurtures especially in the context of making the Tamils and the Muslims have the perception of being deprived of equal rights by the numerically larger community has not been adequately addressed. This is essential to make all citizens of the country have trust and confidence in each other and accept the culture that the country belongs to all.

With the war over and the country having the opportunity for a great future, this is not the time for another period of acrimony and tension. The people of this country can not continue being pawns in power games. The political culture of winner takes all and loser nothing only leads to a course of dissent and disruption of every nation-building programme by the loser. The winner then spends considerable unproductive energy and resources to neutralize opposition attacks. The new political Agenda has to reconcile this divergence.
Creating a positive synergy

Policy lines of UNP have been pro-urban and pro-business community. The SLFP is perceived to be pro-rural and more caring for the poor and the working class. The country therefore needs a new political structure to capture the different party strengths to derive maximum benefit. To minimize inter-party rivalries and contribute to national reconciliation we recommend the formation of a Supreme Apex Council that includes "the second winner" and the "third winner" (call them members of the Supreme Council or Vice Presidents etc) without casting them out as the losers with less value for the country. This will be the synergy that the nation is looking for collective decision making.

Correcting faulty structures

Sixty years of faulty governance has brought with it developmental disparity at various levels. Over the years, Sri Lanka has lost respect in the international arena and has gained the reputation as being corrupt and bankrupt with increasing level of poverty and dependency on external assistance. Over concentration of amenities and development have centered in urban areas and neglected rural areas. Constant urban inflow of people and net outflow from rural areas has created many social classes which have become the breeding ground for inter- and intra-ethnic tensions and civil unrest. Sri Lanka has fallen short in meeting its food and energy needs. The confidence of the youth has to be reinstated that they have a future and can make a decent living without having to move out of their home bases. To achieve this, people will have to be provided with an environment in which they can take control of their destinies by looking after their immediate localities, and this needs to become the basic development unit to rebuild this country. Everyone recognises that the political structures need change. This has triggered several debates for constitutional reforms and an ongoing deliberation through the APRC and other Commissions. However, there seems no agreement among the legislators on any of the issues. While this is going on, an arrangement has to be formulated at the very earliest, which will give the people of this country a greater and more visible role to govern themselves. This in itself will bring about a momentum for positive change.

Gramarajya

Among others the Mahatma Gandhi Centre has been advocating immediate formation of Gramarajya- village self-ruling 9 member council(s). Each of these members elected based on varying developmental interest sectors (IS) – youth, women, food production, services and heritage- will target sector improvements and the accrued benefits will raise living conditions and human welfare around them. The eligible voters in every village will register under anyone of the interest groups and conduct their own elections to elect IS representatives.

There are close to 14,500 geographically demarcated villages in Sri Lanka, and Gramarajya in each of them can be constituted without any extra effort or expense by leaving this exercise to people of the respective village. Once all Gramarajyas are constituted throughout the country, all village councils (Gramarajya) under a Pradeshiya Sabha division can combine and select the interest group representatives to represent them at the Pradeshiya Sabha and the Pradeshiya Sabha within a District can do the same to elect representatives to the District Councils.

National Advisory Commissions

The Districts will have the power to nominate a Chairperson of one of the 20 Advisory National Commissions which will be responsible for development plans for the entire country. Each Commission will have 3 members. Every district will be entitled to nominate 2 members to the Commissions apart from nominating a Chairperson of a Commission.

The elected representatives will be governed by a proviso of Accountability to the electors, and Right of Recall by their respective electors at any time during their tenure for failing to deliver on the mandate accorded to them.
Although notionally this administrative channel is not new the manner of electing representatives and empowerment is new. The Gramarajyas need to be formed immediately and constituting other levels can be gradually introduced over a period. A mandatory amount of funds (computed on a transparent criteria) has to be allocated directly to every administrative body- The Gramarajya, Pradeshiya Sabha and District Council. This structure will enable the legislative and executive functions to be separate, and thus political interference and corruption associated with it can be minimized as one becomes the watch dog of the other.

In the governance system proposed here the Parliament is constituted under the existing constitution or a modified constitution and will be advised by the 20 subject commissions. Correspondingly, there will only be 20 ministries whereby cutting down on the cost and improving work efficiency without functional overlaps between ministries. The function of Parliament will be entirely legislative, and the Members of the Parliament will not be allocated any development funds as practiced today but will have an overseeing role for the implementation of agreed projects through the District Councils. The Supreme Apex Council, although constituted from party strength of the respective candidates, is to function as an impartial body guiding legislation in Parliament on one side and policy execution and implementation through District Councils and the public servants on the other thus, reducing the parliamentary political interference in the executive functions of the various layers of governing bodies.

Real Independence

Many thought that Sri Lanka had at last its real independence on the 18th May 2009, which opened up an opportunity to re-trace the rugged path the country has treaded and remove the impediments that prevented this country from making it home for all its citizens with equal rights and privileges. To achieve this vision it is, however, necessary that the people’s representatives must be those who do not breathe hatred and vengeance but those who unite people and work for the common good of the country. The country therefore has to work towards a strong base at the periphery with the empowerment of the people and a mechanism to share power at the Centre. Thus the exercise of power should not be a prerogative of a few politicians. It must essentially be held in Trust for the People.

Give the people a chance

In the final analysis let us not talk of victors and vanquished, and let us find a way of making everyone a winner in the service of this country. Let us demonstrate this in the immediate challenge ahead of us as we go into the Presidential Elections. Let us make all of them winners, and let the one who secures the highest votes embrace the others in constituting one Apex Body to lead this country. This will then be a true National Partnership. Let this premise be made known in advance by the contestants. People desire unity and peace and they deserve to be given this chance. Let them not suffer political divisiveness anymore.

Sarath Fonseka press conference: Questions and answers

Former Army commander and ex- chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka conducted a press conference on Sunday November 29th 2009 at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo where he formally announced his intention of contesting the forthcoming Presidential elections on the Swan symbol

SFTC1130.jpg

Former chief of the Sri Lankan army Gen. Sarath Fonseka answers questions during a media briefing in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009.-AP pic

Question:
Are you entering politics ?

Answer:
Yes.

Q.
Are you contesting the Presidential elections?

A
Yes. All Opposition parties are wishing that I contest as common candidate.

Q
Will you win ?

A
Yes. I shall win.

The General Sarath Fonseka making his maiden speech to the media at the JAIC Hilton Hotel on 29th, made an official announcement that he is the Opposition common Presidential candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections while answering the questions posed by the media.

Making an official announcement to all citizens of SL, he stated thus; I, Gardhihewage Sarath Chandralal Fonseka under section 31 of Chapter 7 of the constitution of the Democratic republic of SL hereby announce that I shall be the Presidential candidate for the Presidential elections to be held on 26th January 2010 under a registered democratic party with the symbol ‘Swan’in accordance with the laws of the country.

What I ask from the people is to give me a mandate to introduce good governance. Give me an opportunity to abolish the Executive presidency which brought doom to this country. I have no need to be a President who rides on the backs of the people and spend my time continuing to do evil giving false promises as President, while forgetting the expectations of the people. I totally condemn that attitude. The Executive Presidency shall be revoked. People cannot expect any benefit from a despotic President

Hereunder are the answers furnished by the General to questions posed to him by the media.

Q.
What is your symbol for the Presidential elections?

A
My election symbol is Swan. It is a creature which is intelligent and can distinguish water from milk.

Q.
What is the solution you have for the Tamil speaking population

A
This is a question no politician had been able to give a clear answer for years. Dont forget I have resigned the Army just ten days ago. I am not a PhD in History. T he 13th amendment which should provide the answer ought to be amended according to the current times. By discussion with all a solution should be sought. The political parties with me are vigilant about this. As I said earlier a solution shall be found through the Parliament which is answerable to the people..My personal view is the majority should provide protection to the minorities. Their political aspirations shall be fulfilled. The demnds of the majority should not harm the minority and vice versa. Q.
The Govt. is accusing that those who funded the LTTE earlier re now funding you?

A
I am a an individual drawing a pension of Rs. 50,000/-. Out of this amount I cannot carry on my election campaign, you must be aware. Many are helping me financially..Businessmen, people and even small children are helping me. If the LTTE are helping, it is not because of the war, it is because of the programs we have envisaged. If the LTTE are helping therefore, they are welcome.

Q.
What are your plans to safeguard the Tamils’ rights?

A
I answered this before. There is no need of any arguments on this. The constitution provides rights to the minorities. If those constitutional provisions are followed, there shall be no problem.

Q.
What is your idea about the private sector participation for economic resurgence?

A
The private sector is the backbone of the economy.

You cant develop the country neglecting them.
They must be allowed to acrry on their trade freely and independently. When the Govt. intervenes, corruption, bribery etc. rage. You can see this for yourself now.

Q
Will you go to the North for the elections?

A
I am eager to met them if the Govt. provides adequate security

Q.
After you are elected ,what will you do with those who switch from party to party?

A
This type of selfish politics ought to be changed. T hat culture shall be changed. After the Parliamentary elections laws should be passed to preclude this.

Q.
Mangala Samaraweera who is assisting you today, criticized you earlier .

A
Yes, he said, I am not fit even to be in the Salvation Army. When in the Opposition, it is the practice to criticize the Govt.’s ways. That time I was in the Govt. Others are private reasons. But, now we are together to solve far more important country’s general problems. Today, we are good friends.

Q
What have you to say about the assassination of Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickremetunge ?

A
Not only Lasantha Wickremetunge murder, they are responsible for failure to implement the laws duly, earlier and now. It is no point their pointing an accusing finger at me. I was following the discipline as an Army officer. I had no association with the underworld. Neither did I take a pistol or club and display chandi tactics on the roads. If I am elected I shall hold impartial inquiries into these and mete out punishment. It is useless their making accusations against others without evidence.

Q
How is India’s relationship with you?

A
I have an excellent relationship with India. When I first joined the Army as a second Lieutenant, it is to India I went for training. I have undergone training in India on several occasions. I greatly respect the Indian culture. I also love Indian music. In my school days I had a great desire to see Indian films. India is our special neighbor.

Q
What are you going to do about the waste of public funds on Flyovers which are below standard? How are you going to get back those funds?

A
Those responsible shall be subject to the maximum punishment. Measures shall be adopted to avoid such things happening again. The Govt. should recover the funds from those who caused this. Frauds in public funds shall be stopped once and for all.

Q. What is your reply to those foreign countries which make accusations about SL war crimes?

A
We fought the war observing discipline most scrupulously. However, if anyone is saying that the war was conducted wrongly, we shall hold an inquiry.

Q
What is your view on the ‘Mathata thitha’?

A
A Nation cannot progress while being drunk. But, there is also a good side to intoxication. It is okay for parties. But, heroin and drugs shall be eradicated. The future generation must be saved. Those who are trafficking in them must be punished.

Fonseka is contesting wrong election at wrong time against wrong man

BY Gomin Dayasri

A unique Presidential Election, where the voter will determine the suitability of one candidate - Mahinda Rajapakse. People will decide - Are they with him or against him?

The answer will decide the election. Were his achievements as president, in the plus or minus column - is he good or bad for another six years?

In a capsulated form – the past and the present will be reviewed to determine the future. In a sentence, it is Rajapakse Vs Rajapakse.

The great General is merely breezing past on a pillion of a UNF motor cycle or given permission to ride on a JVP bicycle. Sad to see, hard to stomach! The opponent is the mere repository of the anti-Rajapakse vote. To a man accustomed to decorated uniforms and polished boots, the UNF is more congenial company than those shrieking slogans and carrying placards in the JVP.

Throwing two years of a six-year term to wind, the president is searching for a come back moment - reflects a lack of confidence in himself and of his political future. Take the plunge while the going is good or before things turn worse – is still deemed a worthwhile gamble for a president who peaked to the top of the popularity poll than any predecessor before him, six months back. He rightfully knows he is the front-runner against an opposition pack, whether scrambled or unscrambled, unable to find a suitable candidate amongst them. To attract the gloss of the war campaign, the opposition attracts an angry war hero to contest. The opposition had no other option.

The equilibrium between the good and bad of Mahinda Rajapakse, in the public purview, tilts the scales on victory or defeat on his performance alone. He goes over the top with the defeat of the LTTE, but his opponent is presented as a stakeholder of that victory. Who is accorded the greater glory of the triumph – one is more unsung than the other. No sycophants to buy billboards, no servile media units to focus on prime time, no patronized scribes to be word friendly. Soon Fonseka will be operating on the same wave length as he has to look good, fast on the campaign trail to make a winning impact.

To a military man, known for discipline, where order was not challenged by his subordinates, may find the bizarre and bewildering inconsistencies of politicians, mystifying and perplexing. The supporting cheer leaders on his platform may find Fonseka too hot to handle. Have they unleashed a powerful ‘Exocet missile’ that might backfire? He will continue to be his own man, much to the dismay of his promoters and may attribute his loss to those who spoke on his platform.

Fonseka is projecting himself to the electorate on his name, designation and his deeds, which did not attract the opposition till he decided to trade on them against the president. To the opposition, he is a disposable runner, selected for a sprint, since others failed to reach qualifying standards for entry. Only his inner circle knows the Fonseka Manifesto - he intends to keep. A shock will manifest if the war hero, declines to dance a jig to the tune of interested parties. It will not be easy to retread, recycle, or reincarnate a commander.

The president has to sell himself, as his 113 ministers contribute much to the cause for his decline. The war that Fonseka fought gallantly throughout his career took on the conquering curve only after Rajapakse took control of the War. It was won not merely on battlefield achievements of Fonseka, but the ability to negative foreign interferences, management of foreign affairs, mobilizing the people to support the war effort, pump money and material to the Forces; keep the economy afloat and coordinate and motivate the Tri-Forces to achieve the goal.

The president is ahead on the war front being bionic, while Fonseka is heroic.

The Rajapakse government stands in the dock over corruption, families in the forefront, inadequate governance, cost of living and a faltering economy. Will the events of the past overshadow the issues of the present? People have repeatedly voted for his government in gratitude, but when he holds himself as the candidate will they deny him the desire to be re elected? Have they reached the point of no return? Is he a president for both war and peace? For sure, he did better in times of war than with the dawn of peace.

The opposition is rearing a dangerous pet at home, which will bite and snarl if touched insensitively at an undesirable point, since Fonseka towers over them in the public perception and may not wag a friendly tail to attract the scent of politicians, as an esteemed old soldier. He can boldly enter as a candidate for any election, whereas Ranil or the JVP will shy away, unable to withstand a defeat. He maybe beaten, but can make a formidable comeback as a candidate for the Galle District from his home electorate of Ambalangoda, at a Parliamentary Election.

From there, where Fonseka will march, will depend on how Fonseka fabricates his political image. His iconic character fades when he dons the unfamiliar garb of a politician. It will be an instant devaluation but a desperate effort to fast track back to power or a slide to oblivion for a man once in power. Power when it reaches the head, can disturb the mind of any candidate.

The UNP/JVP, especially Ranil and Tilvin, may find a more formidable adversary in their midst than President Rajapakse, more amenable to his fellow tradesmen being a professional politician – UNP cronies and Ranil’s buddies are likely to be replaced by mess room mates; Tilvin’s travels on a Marxist Leninist route will be rerouted through Sandhurst and Westpoint on a drilled long march. Party hierarchies will not take kindly to military rule. The public, still less. Fonseka will be a candidate the UNP presents to contest but not to win as their leadership, entrenched or aspiring, may face a setback, if Fonseka, with no party affiliations, wins. Fonseka, unlike any other, can afford to lose to fight another day to triumph over a lesser contender.

The nationalist and patriotic forces will have, on the surface, two candidates of their choice to vote. Till the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections are over, they will overwhelmingly vote with the president. It is not a vote against Fonseka, but against the company he keeps. The allies he chose to talk politics with will lose the vote he gains personally. In haste, Fonseka is entering politics through the wrong door, but if he displays the characteristics of a nimble and adroit politician during the campaign, many revolving doors will open to him, even from those who oppose him.

In a virtual home and home match, a vituperative and violent campaign against either candidate can backfire as both candidates have endeared themselves to the electorate on winning the war. The president speaks of development, but has yet to comment on the fight against corruption. Development simpliciter without controls is the short cut to commissions. Corruption is high corruption on Fonseka’s list of priorities. In politics, names get tarnished which cannot be varnished again.

People vote for a civil administration and not for a military regime. Rajapakse’s inability to discipline those around him is a source of strength to his opponent, known to maintain strict discipline. Fonseka looks lame on the endorsements obtained from an alliance where many personalities were known to have been more in alignment with the Peace/Anti War lobby, which the General loathed. Fonseka has to provide a credible answer to explain his shift from the original moorings to a previously hostile territory which is now his comfort zone.

The president will seek re-election to an office from where he effectively saved the nation by ending terrorism. Rajapakse is an affable personality in politics while Fonseka is a lonely trooper straying in a political minefield unknown to him, in the company of a band of brother whose mere presence around makes him look wobbly and has entered the arena without setting his political compass.

Is he trying to usurp an office he is not accustomed to, from a holder who conferred the rights and powers to him to reach the position he now enjoys?

Would those endorsing him for the election have conferred such authority - as much as the candidate that he opposes - to reach the present heights?

He could have a great fall like Humpty Dumpty - and there will be no men in uniform to save him.

Fonseka is contesting the wrong election at the wrong time against the wrong man.

No novice in politics contested Presidency and won without a party membership. Similarly, can a civilian overnight become the Army Commander by Gazette Notifications?

A president, towards the twilight of his second term, becomes an isolated hermit with those around him looking at his possible successor and with it begins the season for defection and desertion with disputes and differences. The second term is going to be distinctly more uncomfortable than the first. It is the tell-tale sign that elections are better held early than late.

Pathetic state of mighty Genrel Fonseka: Tool in the hands of political rejects

BY S.L.Gunasekara

General Sarath Fonseka has announced his candidature for the forthcoming Presidential Election: the UNP, the JVP and the party called the SLFP [M] have announced their support for General Fonseka as their ‘Common Candidate’. By announcing such support, these `parties’ have clearly and unequivocally admitted that they are well aware that they have so miserably failed to win the confidence of the people, that none of their leaders or members has the ‘chance of a snow-ball in hell’ of being vested with power by the votes of the people and have therefore been reduced to finding some person who, unlike they, has won the respect and affection of the people, to put forward as a ‘front’ and to dishonestly acquire power for which they hunger, through him. The ‘front’they have chosen and who has fallen into the pathetic state of being a ‘tool’ of these political rejects is the mighty General Fonseka - a national tragedy of the highest magnitude.

Of one matter there can be no doubt whatever and that is that these decrepit political rejects who have made public proclamations of their support for General Fonseka have not an iota of respect for, or confidence in General Fonseka’s ability to give good and proper leadership to this country, but hold him in consummate contempt.

This is made manifest by several moronic statements made by Ranil Wickremesinghe and his twin mouthpieces Karunanayake and Kiriella as well as by the political IDP who has sought refuge with the UNP, Samaraweera:

i) belittling the efforts of the Army and hence General Fonseka in capturing Thoppigala; [Wickremesinghe]

ii) accusing the Army and hence General Fonseka of going to `Pamankade’ [in Colombo 6] while dishonestly claiming to have gone to `Alimankada’ [Elephant Pass]; [Karunanayake]

iii) stating that any member of the bovine species [‘Ona Gonekta’] can fight a war when the only field of known expertise of General Fonseka lay in fighting `wars’; [Kiriella] and

iv) proclaiming that General Fonseka is not even fit to lead the Salvation Army!!! [Samaraweera]

None of these clowns have, as far as I am aware, retracted any of these foul statements nor tendered an apology for making them.

The fact that the clowns who uttered these outrageous statements meant every word of what they said and have not one whit of confidence in General Fonseka, but only seek to use his enormous prestige among the people to perpetrate a monumental fraud on them, is to be found in the conditions put forward by the UNP, with the acquiescence of its cohorts in this foul endeavour – for those conditions leave no room for doubt whatever that they want to deprive General Fonseka [if he is elected President] of every vestige of power and authority that goes with that post and to cause him to act as their puppet. Let us now look at some of these conditions:

a) General Fonseka must appoint Wickremesinghe caretaker Prime Minister.

Thus, they have decreed that even if General Fonseka bona fide believes that some Member of Parliament other than Wickremesinghe commands the confidence of Parliament and that the interests of the country would best be served by such person being caretaker Prime Minister, he must yet blindly appoint Wickremesinghe Prime Minister like an obedient serf of Wickremesinghe and his cohorts.

b) General Fonseka must forthwith revoke the Emergency and with it all Emergency Regulations.

Thus, they have decreed that even if General Fonseka, with his vast experience and expertise in matters pertaining to security believes that the security situation in the country is such that the dictates of prudence and the maintenance of peace and good order require the continuance of the Emergency, he must revoke it, because his political puppeteers demand it.

c) General Fonseka must forthwith appoint the ethnically based ‘so called’ ‘Independent’ Commissions in terms of the 17th Amendment and deprive himself of all powers to select and appoint persons to key positions in the government of the country.

The degree of confidence these political rejects have in General Fonseka is truly ‘touching’!!!

d) General Fonseka should appoint at least two members of the JVP and TNA to the Cabinet with important portfolios.

Thus, they have decreed that even if General Fonseka sincerely and truly believes that no Member of Parliament of either of these parties is fit for any kind of ministerial office and/or that appointing any of them to cabinet or other ministerial office would be detrimental to the interests of the country, he must yet appoint them because his ‘patrons’ have so decreed; and

e) that he should abolish the Executive Presidency within a specified time frame and render himself politically impotent.

While it is self evident that only Parliament and not the President can abolish the Executive Presidency, General Fonseka’s ‘handlers’ have, by imposing this condition said loud and clear, that they have no intention whatever of letting the mighty General exercise even the discretionary powers of a Sergeant if elected Commander in Chief!!!

The fraud the decrepit politicians like Wickremesinghe and Samaraweera etc. seek to perpetrate on the people brings to mind the pithy Sinhalese saying ‘Nangi Pennala Akka Denawa Wagay’ [‘Like showing the younger sister and giving the elder sister’]. The enormity of the fraud they seek to perpetrate on the people, however, can to my mind be better described as ‘Nangi Pennala Mahalu Aachchi Denawa Wagay’ [‘Like showing the younger sister and giving the aged grand-mother’]!!!

In these circumstances, General Fonseka, having announced his candidature has been left with two options by his ‘handlers’:

i) to become a mere ‘contractor’ for Wickremesinghe and Co. to dishonestly vest in them the governmental powers which they themselves have acknowledged the people have no intention of doing and to thereby perpetrate a fraud upon the people who trusted him; or,

ii) to accept such contract and act in wholesale breach of it and thereby prove himself to be a shameless cheat.

General Fonseka is not one, like his ostensible ‘patrons’, who, having wallowed for so long in the filth and muck that our politics has become, can exercise either option without batting an eyelid. General Fonseka however, is an officer and a gentleman, which none of them are. He, unlike them, is possessed of honour and a vast store of it at that. If General Fonseka exercises either option, he will betray not only the people but also himself, sacrifice such honour and convert the enormous respect and affection he commands among the people to wholesale contempt, ridicule and hatred.

General Fonseka must level with the people and inform them explicitly whether he will exercise either option and if so which; and if as I sincerely hope, he chooses not to exercise either, what his plans are.

November 29, 2009

"Sinhaya on a Hansa", ready for country & politics

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hansa

Sarath Fonseka announces at press conference that he would be contesting Presidential elections 2011 under the symbol of Swan (Hansa /Annam)

separate

Fonseka says he is contesting under the Swan symbol because it is a bird that can separate milk from water when both form a mixed liquid

to the country

Sarath Fonseka's wife Anoma tells newspaper that she gave her husband to the country for army & is ready to give him again for politics

SFAFTC1129.jpg

Sri Lanka former army chief Sarath Fonseka and his wife Anoma prepare for a photo shoot in Colombo, November 27, 2009.Reuters pic

refused

Anoma Fonseka says landlord who agreed to rent his house to them refused later because he was threatned anonymously by telephone not to to so

story

Anoma Fonseka says the story about govt allowing them to stay in official bungalow on Bullers road for three and a half months is not true

Lasantha

SF denies involvement in Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge's murder on Jan 8th 2009 & promises full inquiry into the killing if elected president

war heroes

General Fonseka says the credit for the war victory should go to the war heroes who sacrificed their lives and not to politicians.

discontinue

SF pledges to fully implement 17th amendment to the Constitution if elected president. He will discontinue executive presidency in 6 months

reviewed

Fonseka says 13thamendment to the Constitution will be reviewed as situation that prevailed when it was introduced in1987 does not exist now

undue

Sarath Fonseka opposed to devolution under Provincial councils. Says no community should demand undue powers under 13th amendment

Backtrack

Fonseka says he will commence a study of the 13th Constitutional amendment to learn lessons if any from it. Beginning to Backtrack?

accept

Sarath Fonseka says he is prepared to accept support from former LTTE cadres, sympathisers and supporters for presidential elections

welcome

Sarath Fonseka ready to welcome even the votes of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's parents if they accept his policies and vote for him

Gen. Fonseka trying to become cheap politician says Gotabhaya

by Shakuntala Perera

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa speaks to " Hard Talk " about the threat of an international conspiracy at work against the country in the form of seeking a regime change, as former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka enters the Presidential fray. He attributes this to the ‘disappointment’ that certain countries and their political elements may have experienced with the country’s victory over the LTTE and the decision by the President to not give in to international pressures he alleges were moved by elements who sought to safeguard the LTTE during the last stages of the war.

There are certain elements of the international community who see the President taking a hard stand on the international community when the war was on, taking it personally. Maybe these elements want governments like this changed. We certainly see an international conspiracy to oust the President. I don’t point my finger at any government, but there were pressures that came through to safeguard the LTTE. These elements want to see the President out. Maybe they see that they can come out in a different way to give the LTTE Eelam. We have to be aware of this situation. The people have to be mindful of this danger’, he maintains.

SFTC1129.jpg

Former Sri Lankan military chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka plays with his pet at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009-AP pic

Question:

Who in your opinion was most instrumental in defeating the LTTE? Claims of a varying degree from government side and the newly announced Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has left the people confused?

Answer:

Without the political commitment no one can win a war. It is the President who makes the decision to start military operations and gave the clear aim to defeat the LTTE. If you go through interviews given by Gen. Sarath Fonseka initially he has mentioned that without the political will and direction nobody can win a war. The Army is only a department of the government. It acts according to the wishes of the government and implements the policy of that government. No Army Commander can do otherwise. This explains why this victory could not be achieved before under previous leaderships.

It is the President of a country who decides whether to talk to the terrorists or start military operations. And it is the President alone who can decide how much money to spend on a war, or if to increase the numbers in an army. And one of the key factors for the victory was the increase in the numbers. And this is very clear by the fact that various previous governments decided to increase or decrease the numbers. Then there were the decisions regarding equipping the men, getting the right arms, the salaries etc.

It is very clear to anyone it was the President’s political commitment and decision to start military operations that all this was possible. Don’t forget that Gen. Fonseka wasn’t born just 4 years ago. He was in the Army for 35 years. But what has he done? Has he achieved one tenth of what we had achieved during those years? Take for examples Generals like Kobbekaduwa, Janaka Perera, Wimalaratne etc. Everyone talks about them.

They didn’t become Army Commanders or SF commanders but their contribution was very effective. Kobbekaduwa as a Brigadier conducted Wadamarachchi operation and Wimalaratne was a Colonel at that time, but everyone knew about them because they performed well. But we have not heard of Gen. Fonseka in the same manner. And if he says that he alone did this whole thing why did he not perform one tenth of this during the past years. There are a lot of failures under him. In fact he’s the one who ordered to withdraw troops from Jaffna in 2000.

I’m not saying that he’s not a good military officer, but that without the political direction and assistance a military officer can’t do certain things. This is why under different governments, different officers performed in a different way. Gen. Fonseka himself performed in a different way during the Wickremesinghe regime as he did differently under the Rajapaksa regime. The best example is how the same officers who had to coordinate with the LTTE during the Wickremesinghe regime ended up killing the same seniors of the LTTE during the end of the war.

And don’t forget the contribution of everyone from privates whose numbers were the most sacrificed in the field, to SF commanders or the battalion commanders or Brig. Shavindra Silva whose division captured Pooneryn and going all the way to Pudukudiiruppu. If the Army Commander claims that his was the only contribution then what of all these persons? Then everyone can individually start claiming credit. This was purely the work of team effort. And what about the Navy thanks to whom the Sea Tigers couldn’t get out to the sea, or the Air Force? This is the selfishness. It is wrong to give this impression.

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Question:

He blamed weak military leadership, not political leadership, for allowing the LTTE to survive so long. He said that in 1999, he had told President Chandrika Kumaratunga in reply to a question that the war could be finished off in four years when 4 other military seniors had not supported that view. He also claimed that the army was modernized during Kumaratunga’s regime. Is this an indication that the contribution of the Rajapaksa Presidency has really been minimal in providing political commitment to war?

Answer:

How can you say that when it is the President who decides whether to go on or give in when international pressures come in? It is the President who has to face that and decide whether he goes ahead or stops. How do you explain the decision to stop the Wadamarachchi operation despite it being a successful operation during a previous regime? How can you blame that on a weak military leadership when Wadamarachchi was won?

There were much better leaders in the Army than Gen. Fonseka. Who was he before 2005? Now he’s trying to become a cheap politician. He shouldn’t try to disgrace the military this way. Officers like Chagi Gallage, Shavindra Silva, Jagath Dias or Kamal Gallage were products of Wijeya Wimalaratne. So where is the weak military leadership when he was an excellent officer?

We had enough brilliant officers. Who created the Special Forces or the Commanders? They were not done during the last 4 years? If the military leadership was weak how can these happen? They were the ones who made these sacrifices, who trained these officers, who were simply not given the proper political direction because the political will was not there. How can he blame the men of this great Army going back 35 years like this to portray himself as the only good one? He’s ridiculing the entire army.

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Question:

He levels some very serious charges against you on grounds that you are threatening his security by lowering the numbers allocated to him. Gen. Fonseka claims that Military Police personnel had entered his house midnight on the 25th to remove the vehicles provided the General on an order issued by you. He alleges that you are threatening his security by such measures. His notion is that if the President still needs 2000 people for security and if you need 500 people for your security, how is he expected to manage with 25 men and 3 vehicles? What is the basis for these charges?

Answer:

First he must remember that he is a retired army officer when you lose some privileges. But when he went to meet the President and requested certain security to which the President agreed and then when he mentioned a certain number the President said to give that in writing. In that letter he wrote a certain number of security and we gave everything requested except for the 6 women’s cadres. That was also because there were certain administrative problems related- remember he was going out to civilian life where you needed a certain structure to be maintained. Still we approved even these 6 although the lack of it is not a serious weakness in a security structure! It is sheer hypocrisy to go for a FR case asking for a tenfold number in security, when we have given everything he has requested. This is lying to get the sympathy of the people by showing a completely different picture. It’s very clearly a political game he is playing; one unbecoming of an officer.

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Question:

But according to intelligence reports available to you what is the level of threat to his life at present? He claims that the Security Council is trying to reduce his security to get him assassinated. He alleges that if anything happens to him the Presidnt has to take direct responsibility?

Answer:

We understand that if possible, LTTE will target the President, myself or any one of the Commanders. But don’t forget that the situation is very different today. The LTTE has been destroyed. But when he removed Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya from the Eastern Command for whatever the reason, when the war in the North was still on and suicide cadres were in Colombo, Sarath Fonseka removed his security. This was the man who was responsible for clearing the East. And when Gen. Panipitiya filed a FR case Fonseka gave an affidavit agreeing to give only 6 people when there was a definite threat to his life.

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Question:

He cites Intelligence Services Head J B Galanayaka on information that an explosive laden van had come to Colombo to target a VIP. He alleges that the government is using these tactics ‘intentionally’ to ensure that he gets blasted on the road?

Answer:

I’m trying to bring legislation to provide security to the three commanders. But it takes time. I initiated that and he knows that. I always say that we should give security. I have no issue with that. But when we have given security and then ask for unreasonable amounts just to ridicule us or gain sympathy is not right. I’m the one who initiated the action to provide life time security to all Commanders which is now in Legal Draftsman’s Dept. I don’t say that he shouldn’t get it.

But the situation has changed in the country today which is why we had decided to open up the roads and not even close them for VIPs. We have defeated the LTTE now we have to bring normalcy to the country. That threat has passed. And if we have given what he requested what is the issue?

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Question:

He also points a finger at you on defence purchases claiming that if there is any corruption it is you, the President, and the Tender Board that must take responsibility?

Answer:

How can he say that? Again he’s trying to cover the truth behind this. He himself alluded to this. He told an interview that although normally the Chief of Staff sits on the Tender Board, ‘but I changed that and I sat on the Tender Board’ he said!

Then what is he talking about. What Tender Board was he referring to?

I don’t want to get in to the blame game but all I want to say is that as there are various allegations that have come in various papers etc. that the Army has purchased various things from his son-in-law’s company. All I can say is that this is unethical and illegal, because he himself accepted that he himself sat on the Army Tender Board. Again he’s trying to cover certain things and project a different picture which is not right.

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Question:

But he says that the political leadership has failed to give priority for democracy, national security, including the people in the North and East, those displaced. Would you say that you have failed to win the peace as alleged?

Answer:

I don’t know how he can talk on democracy and media freedom or the minorities. This is just politics. It’s unfair for a person who held such a position in the army to talk like that now that he has retired. I know his ideas and how he spoke in the Security Council. It’s ungrateful of him to talk like that just because he’s in politics, especially because he knows how we brought in a process of democracy to the East by holding elections and disarming the paramilitary groups.

What about the development work that was done there and bringing normalcy to that part of the country. Now because he’s standing with the people who opposed the war for his personal ambitions, and said we can’t win the war or that he himself was not fit enough to lead the Salvation Army, he’s coming out with these things. This shows his character. He’s teaming up with a politically bankrupt crowd, an unpatriotic lot to win his political ambitions.

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Question:

There is sufficient indication to confirm a regrouping of the LTTE internationally. What is the government doing to face this threat?

Answer:

We are doing a lot to curb this threat. The government didn’t believe its work ended after defeating the LTTE here, we went ahead and captured KP; who went on international TV and said he was the new leader. Again Gen Fonseka can’t take responsibility for it, it was the team effort of everyone involved that helped capture him. And such work is continuing.

One success of the operation was the secrecy maintained. No one knew about it till the capture. Very soon you will see more arrests, acquisition of LTTE assets and frozen accounts. We are working with international intelligence to continue this work.

Even locally our policing are working out very well, in interrogations and making more important arrests. All this continues while we are pursuing the development programs, and bringing investors in etc. During the last 4 years we have signed many international agreements that help us share information between the countries.

Of course there are pressures coming through from some of these countries but we have to work with them and win them over to neutralize the LTTE coming through. I know even countries like Canada wants to help break the LTTE network there. It’s a problem for them.

There is a threat of LTTE’s shipping network being used by any other terrorist organization thereby threatening any country in the world. All these countries have to work together if they are working to rid the world of terror.

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Question:

How do you see the pressures that threaten to come through in the form of you and several other key members of the defence team being charged with war crimes violations?

Answer:

Of course although a lot of countries appreciate our victory, there are some who are disappointed due to various reasons. Maybe it’s because of the Diaspora activities, because LTTE’s presence outside has become a political power which affects the governments in those countries. They can influence these countries. This maybe also due to certain strategic interests they have in our country. There are certain elements of the international community who see the President taking a hard stand on the international community when the war was on, taking it personally. Maybe these elements want governments like this changed.

We certainly see an international conspiracy to oust the President. I don’t point my finger at any government, but there were pressures that came through to safeguard the LTTE. These elements want to see the President out. Maybe they see that they can come out in a different way to give the LTTE Eelam. We have to be aware of this situation. The people have to be mindful of this danger.

These charges of war crimes are very unfair. It’s not the time to punish political leaders or officers or military leaders for fighting against terror. We defeated a terror organization that caused so much destruction to property and stalled democracy and destabilized the country. The LTTE caused more harm to the Tamil culture; they killed more Tamil people than any one people. The international community must understand this. They should help us build this country and bring the communities together. All these war crimes charges don’t do that.

COURTESY: HARD TALK -DAILY MIRROR

Abolition of Executive Presidency: Pledge and performance

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

Hello Friends

The question of abolishing the Executive Presidential system has received fresh focus after the foray of Gen.Sarath Fonseka into politics.

The UNP along with the UNF led by it and the JVP are all part of an “unholy alliance” now in backing Fonseka’s candidacy.

The main reason trotted out by these strange bedfellows for supporting Sarath Fonseka is the Generals promise to abolish the Executive presidency. [click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Pillaiyan withholds support for President at polls

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

May extend

member delegation from TMVP led by Pillaiyan will meet President this week in Colombo. May extend support to Mahinda in elections now

upsets

Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) decision not to support Mahinda Rajapakse at presidential polls upsets him. EPC chiefminister contacted

withhold

The Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal(TMVP) controlling the EPC has decided to withhold support for Mahinda Rajapaksa at presidential polls

PTC1129.jpg

Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan

dissatisfied

Eastern Provincial council chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan said that his party was dissatisfied with the govt

restricted

Pillaiyan alleges that Eastern province governor Mohan Wijewickrema has not allowed N-E council to work independently & restricted projects

indifference

13 of 15 member TMVP politbureau voted to withhold extending support to Mahinda Rajapaksa at elections due to indifference shown to party

failed

Pillaiyan says that President Rajapaksa has failed to listen to their grievances despite writing several letters to him about problems

thwart

Pillaiyan alleges that instead of letting provincial council function for the people the govt has used Karuna, ex-leader of TMVP to thwart it

Special cubicle for Namal Rajapaksa at Law College

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

special

Mahinda Rajapaksa's son Namal Rajapaksa answered the Law College examination while sitting in a special cubicle in exam hall

NRTC1129.jpg

Namal Rajapaksa

principal

Guess what? Law College principal sat with Namal Rajapaksa in special cubicle while the president's eldest son was answering the exam paper

traditional

First son and his bodyguards were greeted with betel leaves in the traditional manner when he went to sit for his law exam

pass

Namal Rajapaksa will pass Law College exam with flying colours. Anyone ready to bet against?

Deciding Factors in The Presidential Race

by Pradeep Peiris

In the past few weeks newspapers were rife with speculations of a possible presidential or parliamentary election that was ‘coming soon’. Confirming most of these speculations, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the presidential elections and sent directives to the Election Commissioner to do the needful in this regard. Ending the long speculation of the common candidate, the UNF and the JVP also announced that they will field General Sarath Fonseka as their common candidate in the upcoming presidential election. Political analysts are already busy with their predictions on the outcomes of the most awaited hustings.

Political Analysts and regular newspaper columnist who unconditionally supported the Rajapaksa regime and General Fonseka during the war are now finding themselves in total discomfiture, as on the one hand, they want to seal their allegiance to President Rajapaksa by predicting his potential victory while also being careful not to deny General Fonseka’s ability to be a formidable challenge to that. I guess, this precarious stance can only be appreciated given the obvious prevailing conditions.

As the incumbent, President Rajapaksa has access to public resources and will be able to mobilse the government apparatus for his electoral advantage as all the previous presidents did in the past. In addition, the spectacular victory against the LTTE that ended 30 years of war in the country would definitely make President Rajapaksa a more popular presidential candidate than what he was in November 2005. His personal charisma, Sinhala Buddhist outlook and his links to the South has made him more popular than any party leader in the country. Therefore, as many political analysts pointed out, few months ago, his victory at a presidential election was a highly predictable and an overwhelming one. The opposition’s finding of a potential checkmate in General Fonseka has made making predictions of elections results no longer easy.

Of course, understandably the government is irritable over General Fonseka’s political debut as he has the potential to eat into Rajapaksa’s nationalist vote bank. This prompted the government and its allies to further criticise the opposition of being severely weak as they could not find a candidate from their own parties to contest. That is true! So what? What would determine the election result which is highly unpredictable at the moment? Is it the party, personality or something else that plays the central role in the presidential election?

If one looks at the presidential elections around the world we have evidence to argue that in some cases the party and in others, the personality was instrumental in bringing about electoral victories. In the US presidential election of 2009, probably the world’s most celebrated election victory, Barak Obama used his party machinery to the maximum while exploiting his charisma and his unique social condition elegantly, to draw support across the party lines.

If we re-examine the 2005 presidential election in Sri Lanka, I believe that Rajapksa deserved full credit for his marginal victory over the UNP candidate, because he did not enjoy the full benefit of the party machinery that he belonged to at a time when he had bitter relationship with the former President Kumaratunga, who was also the leader of the SLFP. However, he managed to rope in Sinhala nationalist and anti-UNP parties to elevate himself to strong presidential candidate. During the 2005 election campaign, Rajapksa formed his own new alliances with the JVP who was at loggerhead with his party, to support his election campaign.

Like in many democracies that practise presidential system, in Sri Lanka’s presidential election also, the main candidates drew electoral support beyond their party bases by using cleavages based politics in addition to the support he/she received from his/her party bases. At the 2005 election, the JVP decided to support Rajapaksa despite pulling out of the SLFP led government barely a year before. The JHU, who voted against the UPFA in parliament defeating the UPFA speaker candidate DEW Gunasekara, nevertheless, extended their support for Rajapaksa at the election. This shows that presidential candidates, especially the front runners, are not necessarily prisoners of political parties. These candidates can and would walk across parties using their multifarious skills and strengths while capitalising on the party allegiance of voters toward his/her party. Hence, I believe even the upcoming presidential election could turn out to be a battle between two individuals with an advantageous potential of ‘the war hero’ walking into Rajapksa’s Sinhala nationalist voter base while also enjoying the support of the bases of the UNP and the JVP.

However, unlike in the previous elections, in the forthcoming election President Rajapaksa will be able to fully mobilise not only his party machinery but also his position as the executive president to get himself re-elected for the second term. On the contrary, his opposition contender, General Fonseka, will resort to mobilising the party machineries of UNF and JVP who recognise him as their common candidate. Hence, this time round, candidates will use not only their own popularity but also party machineries to achieve their goals.

What worked in 2005?

What worked for Rajapaksa at the 2005 presidential election? According to the pre-election poll reports (Social Indicator-CPA, 2005), people placed their confidence in the capacity of the UNP candidate, Ranil Wickremasinghe on the issues such as handling the peace process, reducing the cost of living, and Tsunami reconstruction. Masses felt that Rajapaksa is more capable in terms of preserving law and order, protecting Sri Lankan culture, safeguarding the country and protecting their religion. However, the Sinhala community placed greater trust in Rajapksa than in Wickremasinghe on all the issues including the handling of the peace process. On the contrary, the ethnic minority communities, Tamils, Muslims and Estate Tamils placed overwhelming trust in Wickremasinge on all the issues put forward to them. So, it was evident that Rajapksa was a strong preference of the Sinhala community due to his Sinhala nationalist appeal as was shown by the poll results. Hence, despite the overwhelming support of the minorities, Wickremasinghe lost the election simply due to his inability to convince majority of the Sinhala community of the country.

What would work in 2010?

First of all, a remarkable difference in the political context then and now are well recognisd by the author. The war and the LTTE, that bred the Sinhala nationalism in the South is no longer present and as a result has diminished the strength of the ethnic cleavages in mobilising electoral support in the present political context. However, although, there are attempts to revive the Sinhala Buddhist ultra nationalism (with Anti-Conversion Bills, etc) that is fast losing its currency, I do not believe that Sinhala nationalism would be a decisive factor at this election. Not only because there is no visible threat to the Sinhala Buddhists that parties can capitalise on, but even if one manages to find such a threat during the election campaign, both candidates are equally capable of tapping into such a nationalist voter base. Then there was widespread anger and disappointment over the UNF peace process and the violence of the LTTE that President Rajapaksa greatly benefited from. At present, President Rajapaksa and General Fonseka are sharing the same share of credit for destroying the LTTE and achieving what Sinhala national preferred as the best solution to the country’s ethnic conflict. More importantly, the LTTE is not there anymore to impose forced election boycott that helped Rajapaksa immensely to achieve his marginal victory over the UNP candidate, Wickremasinghe. Even if the LTTE’s so-called transnational government wanted to enforce election boycott this time, their capacity to make it an effective imposition on Tamils in Sri Lanka is highly doubtful. Therefore, famous campaign issues such as, rampant corruption, establishing democracy, fighting against dictatorship, criticism towards dynastical politics, unemployment, waste of government resources and cost of living, etc would once again gain credence in mobilising voters for or against a candidate.

People decide their party support on the basis of various factors. In a utopian world, voters are adequately informed on party and party policy and they make a rational choice in selecting their party or candidate by maximising the benefits for them. However, in reality, people hardly know much about the parties and their policies, so, they use some ideological position to distinguish them from others (us vs them). As it was shown in the pre-election poll, once they chose their electoral choice, people considered their candidate as educated, honest, experienced and gifted with good leadership skills, although sometimes quite contrary to the reality.

Hence, the million dollar question is what would be that decisive factor that people would use to decide their presidential candidate. Obviously, in the previous election they were ‘ethnicity’ and ‘national security’. If it is competition between socialist and liberal camps we could assume that ‘class factor’ would play a crucial role. However, ironically, in this election the left and the right seem to have found common grounds against the incumbent.

Conclusion

So, how does one rally voters around each candidate in this presidential election? On one hand, General Fonseka, who claimed that this country belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists seems to beckon minority voters, especially Tamils as the presidential candidate. On the other hand, President Rajapaksa, who entertained ultra-Sinhala Nationalist over four years, now claims he is expecting a mandate of the people of the North and East. So, in this context, candidates would not be able to approach neither a rational voter nor an ideology based voter to receive their support.

Thus, I can imagine only two possible scenarios. A worse case scenario would be a highly violent election that would lead to widespread election malpractices allowing certain elements to rob the vote particularly in the recently liberated North and East. The best case scenario would be that the two candidates and their parties begin a rigorous bargaining process with other smaller parties and also possibly with local representatives of the rival political camp pitching in. Especially as most parties are affected by internal defections, there is a great potential for candidates to approach certain sections of their rival parties in forging alliances. In addition, since minority parties too have shown interest in joining alliances, this option would be further tempting to the main candidates. The candidate who forms the largest alliances would be in an advantageous position to win the upcoming presidential election. So let’s wait and see how fascinating partnerships would emerge in days to come.

COURTESY:THE NATION

Executive Presidency has powers that exceed limitations of that office

By Ruana Rajapakse

The powers of the office of Executive President of Sri Lanka far exceed its limitations. Nevertheless, the office is not without some limitations which appear to be getting overlooked in the current debate.

It has been reported that the United National Party/Front has sought a pledge from the prospective "common candidate of the Opposition" to abolish the Executive Presidency within a stipulated period of being elected to that office. Twice before, when Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa were facing their respective first elections to the office of President, some political parties extracted similar pledges from them which were duly given but not carried out.

The simple fact is that the executive President has no power to abolish or even to legally modify that office. The powers and functions of the President are set out in the Constitution, and the sole power to make amendments to the Constitution lies with Parliament, subject only to the additional requirement of a referendum in respect of certain clauses. Thus those who seek to curtail the powers of the executive presidency should concentrate their energies on building up a consensus to that effect among their fellow Parliamentarians rather then extracting empty promises from the presidential candidates.

If a law is passed by a sufficient majority of parliamentarians (two-thirds of the House if it is a constitutional amendment) and certified by the Speaker of Parliament as having been duly passed, there is nothing the President can do about it. Unlike his US counterpart, the Sri Lankan President has no power to veto legislation. (In America the Congress can, however, overrule the Presidential veto by a two-thirds majority.)

Yet in actual fact, it is practically unheard of, for MPs of the President’s party to vote against his or her wishes. This de facto power of the President over his or her party members arises from two factors: Firstly, a range of governmental powers and functions allocated to the Sri Lankan Presidency that confer on the Executive arm of Government a preponderance over the Legislature; and secondly the proportional voting system that has severed the lifeline connecting the MP with his electorate, and made an MP or prospective candidate for election totally dependent on the goodwill of the party leader and party hierarchy.

The factors that ensure the predominance of the President under the present constitutional scheme may be summarized as follows: While the majority of Ministers are appointed from Parliament, the President who is not a Member of Parliament, is nevertheless the Head of the Cabinet and may assign to himself any portfolio or portfolios as he chooses. Thus, in an extreme case, the President could effectively take the government outside the supervision of Parliament.

While the President is required to appoint as Prime Minister the person who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, unlike his French counterpart, enjoys no particular primacy. He is not the head of the Cabinet, and the only concession to his office appears to be the provision that the President ‘may’ consult him in the appointment of Ministers, and ‘may’ appoint him to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the President if the latter is ill, abroad or otherwise unable to do so. However, more than one President has gone on overseas visits without making such appointment.

It will be seen that this system has created many anomalies that are hard to justify in terms of principle. Although Article 42 notionally proclaims the responsibility of the President to Parliament ‘for the due exercise, performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions’, it is hard to see how this could be enforced in practice, short of the extreme step of impeaching him. In matters of day to day governance the President is not in fact answerable to Parliament even for the conduct of his ministerial functions, and the public has often witnessed the anomalous situation of key subjects such as defense and finance being answered for in Parliament only by a Deputy Minister.

Meanwhile the constitutional power given to the President to appoint Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of non-Cabinet rank and Deputy Ministers (without any limit on their numbers) has given ample scope for patronage, enabling a President to cast his net far and wide to secure support in the legislature. Incidentally this is a situation that was prophetically foreseen by constitutional analyst Dr. A. J. Wilson who analyzed the Constitution in 1980 when there were 27 Cabinet Ministers, 24 District Ministers and 27 Deputy Ministers.

It is all these features that have made Sri Lanka’s Presidency more powerful and more political than under the French or American Constitutions. The power of patronage that the President enjoys over members of Parliament weighs heavily against a spirit of independence on the part of the legislature.

Nearly two and a half years have passed since the Select Committee of Parliament on Electoral Reforms, chaired by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, presented a report to Parliament recommending changes in the voting system to allow for the majority of MPs to be directly elected by the voters. Their proposal was to have 140 constituency MPs, i.e Members elected from demarcated territorial constituencies (electorates) throughout the Island on a first past the post system. This system was to be supplemented by 70 other MPs elected on a district proportional representation, after removing the votes polled by the 140 constituency MPs.

Thus the system was to be a mixed system with two-thirds of the MPs being directly elected and the remainder of the Parliamentary seats being given to what could roughly be termed the best losers. This latter measure was introduced expressly to ensure that significant ethnic minorities within a polling district would not go unrepresented. Thus it was intended to serve the same purpose as the multi-member constituencies of old.

Under these proposed amendments, there would be no "manape" or preference vote, and candidates of the same party would not compete against each other.

According to the published Report of this Select Committee, 21 out of the 32 members of the Select Committee had signed the Report at the time of its publication in June 2007. They comprised the Chairman Dinesh Gunawardena, P. Dayaratna, Nimal Siripala De Silva, W. D. J. Senewiratne, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Douglas Devananda, Susil Premajayantha, Karu Jayasuriya, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Milinda Moragoda, Janaka Bandara Tennekoon, Prof. Tissa Vitarana, D. E. W. Gunasekera, Prof. Wiswa Warnapala, Dullas Alahaperuma, Mano Wijeratne, Ameer Ali, Cegu Isadeen, Mahinda Amaraweera, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thero.

The Select Committee members who had not signed by the time the report was published comprised Rauff Hakeem, P. Chandrasekeran, Muthu Sivalingam, Joseph Michael Perera, John Amaratunga, Vijitha Herath, Anura Dissanayake, Bimal Ratnayake, Rajavarothiam Sampanthan and Mavai S. Senathirajah.

A system where the elected representative is ultimately answerable to his voters automatically reduces the power of the party leader. This is because the failure by the party to give nomination to a popular candidate could result in the sacked candidate coming forward as an independent and winning a seat.

Another feature that has strengthened the hand of the party leader is the introduction of the "National List" and its subsequent flagrant abuse. Introduced by the Fourteenth Amendment that also brought in the "manape", this provision allows for 29 seats in Parliament to be reserved to be filled by each recognized political party or independent group in proportion to the number of votes obtained by each such party or group nationwide.

Prior to a general election each such party or group is required to submit a list of 29 persons qualified to be elected as Members of Parliament. However when actually making the nominations after the poll, the party or group secretary is entitled to nominate persons whose names appear either in this list or in any nomination paper submitted in respect of any electoral district. It is by this provision that defeated candidates are brought into Parliament instead of the more illustrious names that are published in the ‘national list’ prior to the poll. Today even persons whose names did not appear on any list have been brought into Parliament ostensibly under this provision.

As the filling of all the seats in Parliament is in any event done on a proportional basis, it is difficult to see the need for this provision. In any event it now serves as a "carte blanche" for political parties to bring into Parliament practically anyone of their choice. This provision too has served to strengthen the hands of party leaders as against the electorate, and this includes the President as leader of the ruling party.

Full text of petition filed in courts by Sarath Fonseka against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

PETITION

In The Supreme Court Of The Democratic Socialist Republic Of Sri Lanka - S.C.F.R./ 2009

In the matters of an application under Article 126 of the Constitution.

Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka,
Army Commander’s House,
Baudhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 7

Petitioner

Vs.

1.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa,
Secretary,
Ministry of Defence,
Colombo 1

2.The Commander,
Sri Lanka Army,
Army Headquarters,
Colombo 1

3.The Inspector General of Police,
Police Headquarters,
Colombo 1

4.The Acting Chief of Defence Staff,
Office of Chief of Defence Staff,
Colombo 1

5.The Secretary to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka,
Presidential Secretariat,
Colombo 1

6.Hon. The Attorney General,
Attorney General’s Department,
Hulftsdorp,
Colombo 12

RESPONDENTS

On this 24th day of November 2009.
To Their Lordships the Chief Justice and the other Justices of the Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

The petition of the above named Petitioner, appearing by his registered attorneys-at-law ………………………………, respectfully states as follows :

Outline Of The Case

This application pertains to the drastic reduction of the personal security provided to the Petitioner, and the failure to provide the Petitioner with adequate personal security, and related matters.

Office

The Petitioner was enlisted to the Regular Force of the Sri Lanka Army, on 5th February 1970. He received his Commission as a Second Lieutenant on 1st June 1971, in terms of the Army Act. He was promoted repeatedly over the years, and eventually became the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, with the rank of Lieutenant General, on 6th December 2005. He was promoted to the rank of General (four star) in the Sri Lanka Army, on 18th May 2009. He was thus the first serving officer of the Sri Lanka Army to attain that rank. The Petitioner served as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army for 3 years and 7 months. True photo copies of relevant documents are annexed hereto collectively marked P1, and are pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

On 15th July 2009, the Petitioner was appointed Chief of Defence Staff, in terms of the Chief of Defence Staff Act No. 35 of 2009. As provided in the said Act, the Petitioner had the rank of General, and remained an officer of the regular force of the Sri Lanka Army. True photo copies of relevant documents are annexed hereto collectively marked P2, and are pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

The Petitioner sought permission to terminate his services and to retire, by his letter dated 12th November 2009. The letter was addressed to his Excellency the President of Sri Lanka, and was forwarded through the Secretary to His Excellency. A true photo copy is annexed, marked P3, and is pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

Reasons for the said letter were set out in an Annex (with enclosures.) A true photo copy is annexed, marked P4, and is pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

His Excellency the President responded, through the Secretary to the President, by a letter dated 14th November 2009 of the said Secretary. This letter stated that the Petitioner was retired from the Sri Lanka Army with immediate effect. The letter also stated that the Petitioner would consequently cease to hold office as Chief of Defence Staff with immediate effect. A true photo copy is annexed, marked P5, and is pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

As Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, the Petitioner gave direction to the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Therefore, the Petitioner was under constant danger of attack from the said organization. The Petitioner was subjected to an attempted assassination by a suicide bomber, on 25th April 2006. The Petitioner was severely wounded. The Petitioner had to undergo several surgical operations, and his life was saved. Even though the Petitioner had not fully recovered, he returned to active duty as Commander, and continued to direct the war, until its conclusion as a conventional war in May 2009.

Nevertheless, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has continued to be active abroad, and cadres of the said organization are engaged in clandestine operations within Sri Lanka. This has been revealed by investigations being carried out by the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka and abroad, and by intelligence reports received by the authorities in Sri Lanka.

The Petitioner states that the Petitioner is unwilling to declare information/contents of discussions that took place at the National Security Council meetings, but suffice it to say that the real threat against the life of the Petitioner has not subsided.

The Petitioner pleads that the last Security Council meeting he attended was on the 11th of November 2009.

Therefore, the Petitioner has been, and remains, under a high level of danger of attack by the said organization. This danger is likely to continue for the rest of his life.

In these circumstances, the Petitioner was provided with extensive personal security by the Sri Lanka Army, during his period as the Commander of the Army and during his period as the Chief of Defence Staff.

In his said letter dated 12th November 2009, the Petitioner described how the retired Chief of Army Staff of India, General A.S. Vaidya, was assassinated two years after he had retired.

In his said letter, the Petitioner stated that he now entrusted his personal security to His Excellency the President, and requested adequate personal security for the rest of the Petitioner’s life.

Responding to this, the above mentioned letter of the Secretary to His Excellency the President assured that the Petitioner would be provided with adequate security commensurate with the level of threat.

The Petitioner states that the State provided him with adequate security, until the news media alleged/speculated that he would be a Presidential Candidate opposed to His Excellency the President.

There has now been a drastic reduction in the personal security provided to the Petitioner. The Petitioner is now provided with only 62 security personnel and 3 vehicles, for his personal security. (The Petitioner was initially given only 25 infantry soldiers, and this was increased only after the Petitioner made a request.)

The Petitioner pleads that the bullet proof vehicle presently provided has done almost 50,000 kilo meters, has run its life, and the two jeeps are also old.

This may be contrasted with the following :

The recently retired Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral W.K.J. Karannagoda, has been provided 120 security personnel and 11 escort vehicles and one bullet proof vehicle, for his personal security.

Mrs. Suganthi Kadirgamar, the widow of the late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, is presently provided with approximately 31 security personnel, including commandos.

His Excellency the President is presently provided with about 2,000 security personnel.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Defence is presently provided with about 500 security personnel and about 25 vehicles.

The present Commander of the Army is provided with about 600 security personnel, including 40 commandos, and about 25 vehicles.

Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament, is provided with about 250 security personnel.
By his letter dated 16th November 2009 to the Secretary to His Excellency the President, the Petitioner made a detailed request for increased security. A true photo copy is annexed marked P6 and is pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

The Secretary to His Excellency the President replied by a letter dated 18th November 2009, permitting 10 commandos, 2 non-commissioned officers and 50 soldiers from the Sinha Regiment, one bullet proof vehicle, 2 security Land Rovers, and 4 drivers. (These were much less than those requested by the Petitioner.) A true photo copy is annexed marked P7 and is pleaded as part and parcel hereof.

In recent times, commanders of the armed forces have been permitted to remain in their official quarters for several months after retirement. (Thus, the former Commander of the Navy is still occupying his quarters, six months after retirement.) However, the said letter requires the Petitioner to vacate his official quarters with effect from 22nd November 2009.

These events are happening notwithstanding the official proposal to provide the retired commanders of the armed forces with quarters and security for the rest of their lives. Honourable the Prime Minister, speaking recently in Parliament referred to this, and stated that the matter was now before Honourable the Attorney General for legal formulation.

(The permission of Your Lordships’ Court is respectfully sought to tender the relevant portion of the Hansard.)

By retaining the deed to the land gifted to the Petitioner by the State, the 1st respondent is acting arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

In the circumstances of the grave danger in which the Petitioner is now placed, it is lawful and proper and necessary that an order be made, directing the provision of adequate personal security to the Petitioner, for the rest of his life.

In the circumstances of the grave danger in which the Petitioner is now placed, it is lawful and proper and necessary that an order be made, directing the provision of adequate and secure quarters to the Petitioner, for the rest of his life.

In the circumstances afore said, it is necessary that an interim order be made directing the provision of adequate personal security to the Petitioner, until the determination of these proceedings.

In the circumstances afore said, the provision of adequate security to the Petitioner, would require at least 600 security personnel and at least 10 escort vehicles at least two bullet proof vehicles. It is also necessary that the security personnel should have been investigated and given security clearance.

In the circumstances, it is necessary that the same security cleared personnel who were assigned to protect the Petitioner be restored to him, to continue in that assignment for the immediate future. Details of these security requirements are set out in a separate note annexed hereto marked P8 and pleaded as a part and parcel hereof.

In the circumstances afore said, it is necessary that an interim order be made directing the provision of adequate and secure quarters to the Petitioner, until the determination of these proceedings.

In this application, specific relief is sought against the 1st respondent and the State. The 2nd to 5th respondents have been made parties hereto for the purpose of giving them notice, and no relief is sought against them. The 6th respondent has been made a party, to represent the State.

The Petitioner has not previously invoked the jurisdiction or Your Lordships’ Court in respect of this matter.

The permission of Your Lordships’ Court is respectfully sought to tender further documents when they are obtained.

Wherefore the Petitioner humbly prays:

For leave to proceed with this application;

For a declaration that the 1st respondent and the State have acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, by reducing the Petitioner’s personal security, and by failing to provide the Petitioner with adequate personal security;

For a declaration that the 1st respondent and the State have acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, by failing to provide the Petitioner with adequate and secure quarters;

For a declaration that the 1st respondent and the State have acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, by retaining the deed to the land gifted to the Petitioner by the State;

For an order directing 1st respondent and his successors in office, and the State, to provide the Petitioner with adequate personal security (consisting of at least 600 security personnel and at least ten escort vehicles and at least two bullet proof vehicles) and for such other period as the Court shall deem fit.

For an order directing 1st respondent and his successors in office, and the State, to provide the Petitioner with adequate and secure quarters for the rest of his life;

For an order directing 1st respondent and his successors in office, and the State, to hand over to the Petitioner the deed to the land gifted to the Petitioner by the State;

For an interim order directing 1st respondent and his successors in office, and the State, to provide the Petitioner with adequate personal security (consisting of the same 600 security personnel last provided to him, and at least ten escort vehicles and at least two bullet proof vehicles) until the determination of these proceedings;

For an interim order directing 1st respondent and his successors in office, and the State, to provide the Petitioner with adequate and secure quarters until the determination of these proceedings;

For costs; and

For such other and further relief as to Your Lordships’ Court shall seem meet.
……………………………….
Registered Attorneys-at-Law
of Petitioner

DOCUMENTS ANNEXED
Marked “P”

At the conclusion of the war, the Commanders of the three forces were each gifted with a land by the State, and the respective deeds were executed. However, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence has retained the deed No. 532 / 2009, of the land gifted to the Petitioner. (The permission of Your Lordships’ court is respectfully sought to tender the relevant documents.)

There has been much speculation in the news media about the possibility of the Petitioner entering the field of politics.

In fact, the Petitioner intends to engage in politics.

In the circumstances, the Petitioner will have to participate frequently in public meetings, perhaps several times a day, and to engage in a considerable amount of travelling to various parts of the country.

Therefore, the Petitioner will face increased danger, and will require significantly enhanced personal security.

There was another senior army officer who entered politics after retirement. That was General Janaka Perera. He was not provided with adequate personal security. While he was at a political meeting, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber, and a number of people died with him.

The Petitioner states that all retiring Army Commanders from the time of General D.S. Attygalle were given promotion on retirement, but the Petitioner was not given such promotion.

The 1st respondent (Secretary to the Ministry of Defence) and the State are responsible for the provision of personal security to the Petitioner. The 1st respondent is particularly responsible for providing personal security to civilians.

The Petitioner pleads that the aforementioned acts took place because of the belief that the Petitioner would be a presidential candidate.

The Petitioner pleads that the 1st respondent acted without bona fides when he decided/directed that the Petitioner be not given adequate security and reduced the Petitioner’s security, because of the belief that the Petitioner would be a presidential candidate.

In the circumstances the Petitioner pleads that:

the Petitioner is entitled to adequate security that the Petitioner is not provided with adequate security

the decision not to provide the Petitioner with adequate security has been taken malafide for the reasons inter alia that the Petitioner would be a presidential candidate and/or opposing the president politically the security necessary is setout in the annexure P8 (marked below.)

By drastically reducing the personal security provided to the Petitioner, and by failing to provide adequate personal security to the Petitioner, the 1st respondent and the State are acting arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

By failing to provide the Petitioner with adequate and secure quarters, the 1st respondent and the State are acting arbitrarily and capriciously, and in breach of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to equality as enshrined in Article 12 [1] of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

November 28, 2009

In Pictures: "If it is made in Sri Lanka put it down"

Several Tamil activist groups around the globe are conducting “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigns, aimed at divestment in Sri Lanka, particularly by the garment industry.

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"If it is made in Sri Lanka put it down", is the rally cry of “The Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigns held across several states in the United States, on Nov 28, 2009.

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The organizers say that the boycott campaigns are essential as the "Government of Sri Lanka continues to defy calls for complete humanitarian access to the internment camps and human rights violations continue amidst several false promises to hoodwink the world."

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“Companies that do business with Sri Lanka are filling the government coffers to continue their mass violations against the Tamils people, freedom of press and free movement of humanitarian workers,” an attendee from the United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) said.

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"If it is made in Sri Lanka put it down", is the rally cry of “The Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigns held across several states in the United States, on Nov 28, 2009.

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“The check the labels and put it down is a powerful concept because it gives the consumer a choice.” said another attendee at the protest.

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Nov 27th - "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving day is the traditional holiday shopping kick off day in the United States.

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Nov 28th is one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season in the United States.

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The Victoria Secret store management expressed "disappointment", as this day, one of the busiest shopping days of the season, was chosen by the campaigners, according to one attendee.

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In New York City’s Herald Square, streets were packed with shoppers with no elbow room on the sidewalks at times, according to one attendee at the protest.

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A statement by the activists say boycott campaigns were held near several Victoria Secret and GAP stores in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia and New York on Nov 28th.

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Sri Lanka is home to one of biggest supplier for Limited Brands, the Ohio company that owns America's most popular intimate-apparel brand lingerie, according to The Fortune magazine.

Sarath Fonseka silent on resolving Tamil National question

Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

The JVP put forward, a four point minimum programme for the common candidate, which includes: a) Abolition of the executive Presidency, (b) Reactivate the independent commissions, a constitutional obligation under the 17th amendment (c) Restore democracy and curb corruption, (d) A programme to expedite the resettlement of IDPs and to address their concerns.

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Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, at a rally protesting the burning of Sunday Leader offices, Nov 23, 2007

The UNP has agreed with this minimum programme. Thus the JVP’s minimum programme which now becomes the basis of the programme of the common candidate deals in general with what the bourgeois identify as constitutional liberalism. The UNF argues that it is left with no other choice but to field General Sarath Fonseka who could pander into the grass roots and win their votes, in order to accomplish this common liberal agenda.

As typical for an underdeveloped bourgeois leadership the UNF leaders forget the most important aspect of a liberal democratic agenda. The liberal democracy arises in a national state. Unless a viable national state is formed by resolving the problem of nationalities, no liberal democracy could function. In Sri Lanka as well as many newly found ex -colonial states, the basic problem has been the continuation of bloody racial and nationality clashes that undermines the function of the civil society.

All other ills such as the lack of rule of law, corruption, etc arise due to this fundamental break down. It is strange that the democratic minimum programme of General Sarath does not say a word about a political solution to the national problem. Not even the implementation of the 13 plus. In that scenario, the Tamil national minority or any other minority group has no attraction to side with a candidate who consciously avoids the subject of a political solution.

General Sarath in his letter of resignation had soundly condemned the inability of the government to come out with a political solution. But the common programme that expects to propel the General into power does not have a word to resolve the Tamil national problem.

I believe this is the most important issue as far as the JVP is concerned. Their identity is to uncompromisingly oppose any plan of devolution.

This strong Sinhala chauvinist stand is the very trademark of the JVP; it is on that basis the JVP developed so quickly among the petty bourgeois Sinhala youth. In this presidential election, the JVP has managed to force their version of a common programme which specifically excludes the devolution issue, by the UNF. Wickremesinghe and others have become willing victims of the JVP following the foot steps of Chandrika and Mahinda. The tragedy of this country is that a small group of radical chauvinists have been able to defeat the liberal democratic project since the time of SWRD.

This time too the common candidate for liberal democracy has joined the orchestra carrying a violin with the main string broken. We can hear only a jarring noise instead of the violin concerto of Beethoven! In fact the hegemony of the Mahinda clan was broken by the striking workers. Mahinda was reluctant to attack the striking workers with the newly consolidated chauvinist military apparatus.

While the strikers advanced from the plantation hills to the petroleum centre in the Colombo suburbs, Mahinda was appeasing the opportunist trade union leaders. Emergency powers were used only after making offers to the striking workers. Obviously the bourgeoisie was dissatisfied with the political war hero, who cannot chop off the heads of the strike leaders. Hence they turned to the military war hero, General Fonseka.

The General had many grievances against the Mahinda regime, which included the step motherly treatment given to the armed forces in general. This grievance is beautifully combined with the dissatisfaction of the employers of the striking workers.

That was the political background that pushed the war hero to become the common candidate of the far right. Thus there is no democratic choice for the people between them. The only way out is a Left candidate, ready to carry out the pressing national democratic tasks.

Fonseka and Rajapaksa vie for Tamil votes:Who would the Tamils vote for?

by Namini Wijedasa

If you were Tamil, who would you vote for: Mahinda Rajapaksa or Sarath Fonseka? Many Tamils are already saying: “Neither”.

Every time he makes a speech of relative importance, it has become President Rajapaksa’s habit to speak a few reconciliatory sentences in Tamil. The masterstroke of a genius publicist, this little trick has regularly helped lace his otherwise nationalist utterances with a multiethnic flavour.

But President Rajapaksa will need now more than an elementary grasp of the Tamil language - and a pair of teleprompters - to scrape through the election that he chose to call two years ahead of time. With General Sarath Fonseka entering the presidential race, the Sinhala vote will be acrimoniously split, making the minorities a crucial deciding factor. Suddenly, the Tamils are important again.

Under the circumstances, neither Rajapaksa nor Fonseka is treated as a feasible choice for Tamils because of the bitterness attached to the war. The defeat of the LTTE was as much a liberation for the Tamils as it was for other communities. In the aftermath, however, no meaningful power-sharing arrangement was offered and no genuine moves at reconciliation made. In fact, the chances for a political solution appear about as dead as Velupillai Prabhakaran while reconciliation is often treated like dreary household chore.

Kanagaratnam Kanageshwara cradled his sleeping four-year-old daughter in his arms as he stood patiently at a bus stop near the Wellawatte police station. It was 11pm. There wasn’t a policeman or soldier in sight, no checking of ID cards and nobody to throw suspicious looks at the group that stared expectantly at the road for the semi-luxury bus that would take them along the A9 to Jaffna town. Six months ago, this would have been unimaginable.

A school teacher from Jaffna, Kanageshwara had come to Colombo two days before to show his daughter to an eye specialist. He took a bus to Vavuniya and a train to the capital but chose to return on the direct bus service launched by the government on November 11. By mid November, the government also said that commuters to Jaffna no longer needed defence ministry permission. Three copies of their identity cards would do.

After months of heavy pressure, some of the restrictions on movement of Tamil civilians are being lifted. But Ravi Chandran, a 27-year-old businessman who was also waiting for the bus, is not happy. “This is still not freedom,” he said, shaking the rain from his hair. “It doesn’t take so long to go to other parts of the country, why only to Jaffna?”

Chandran’s aged parents, who took the same journey the previous day, spent a gruelling16 hours on the bus. Vehicles are delayed at Irattaperiyakulam in Vavuniya, where they are checked and passengers registered. There are no stops on the A9 road as the vehicles cut rapidly across territory formerly controlled by the LTTE. The government still does not want people wandering around in places where they are deemed to have no official business.

But with the election happening on January 26, things will have to change. President Rajapaksa needs the Tamils to win because he can no longer trust the Sinhalese to vote en bloc for him.

Already some calculated measures are being taken to woo the Tamils. Suddenly, resettlement has been speeded up, as much to please the community as to secure the GSP+ from the European Union. Basil Rajapaksa has promised that all displaced persons can go home by January 31, 2010, and that the camps will be open from this week. Why now, when the same could have been done many weeks ago? The main excuse for holding them in camps was that there were Tigers among them. What type of new screening did the government implement to determine - now and not earlier - that the men, women and children they were interring aren’t members of the LTTE?

Restrictions on movement, a longstanding issue, are being eased. Roads are suddenly opening up. Checkpoints are evaporating. New bus services are being introduced to former conflict areas. Development has been expedited. President Rajapaksa even told newspaper editors last week that he decided to hold an election to allow people of the North and East to choose a president after having being deprived of voting in 2005. A lot of effort, suddenly, is being put into making the Tamils happy.

But the question is whether they will buy it. Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s former permanent representative to the United Nations feels the Tamils should vote Rajapaksa because he has a democratic background. But he thinks that, for the most part, Tamils will abstain, boycott the election or vote for a Tamil candidate if there is one.

“I think both are not good,” Chandran said, before boarding the Jaffna bus. Commenting on recent measures taken to ease some of the practical problems faced by Tamils, Chandran said, “We can be sure they are doing for the election.” He also forecast that Tamils in Jaffna will not come out to vote.

Niranjan Ganeshathasan, a law student from the Faculty of Law in Colombo, says the Tamils will swing the vote at the presidential election but he is not impressed by the small steps the government is taking to impress them. “Essentially, Sarath Fonseka and Mahinda Rajapaksa will appeal to the same Southern electorate,” he said. “So it depends on how they sell themselves to the Northern people. I wouldn’t necessarily vote for either of them. I need to see a much more genuine effort on their part.”

Niranjan wants to know if the candidates are willing to abolish the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act; whether they are seriously willing to look into the APRC process; take the genuine concerns of the Tamil community into consideration when drafting a constitution; actually implement the language policy; and offer him concrete principles. He also would like the facts on what happened during the final weeks of the war and a truth and reconciliation commission.

The resettlement of IDPs and the easing of restrictions on movement, Niranjan says, are not extraordinary measures. “These are normal things a government should be doing,” he asserts. “They put the Tamils in a disadvantageous position in the first place. Then to say that we will give you back your basic liberties is really not doing much.”

In districts such as Trincomalee, the war is over but there is still no sense of that chapter being fully closed. “There is no feeling of a natural break; that everything is starting anew in the North and East,” said Mirak Raheem, a senior researcher with the Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Tamils are grateful for the release from the LTTE and the war but may not necessarily see it in electoral terms. They are yet to regain their sense of security. A lot of land issues are cropping up. There is also a definite crisis in terms of Tamil politics and a lack of leadership at ground level.”

Many Tamils interviewed regarding their position on the 2010 election were opposed to the two candidates they have been presented with. Quite apart from the war that has left a bitter aftertaste in their mouths, they are not comfortable with such strongly Sinhala nationalist personalities.

Fonseka’s camp is also aware of this reality. His recent public statements prove that he, too, is exerting himself to convince the Tamils that he is not an ogre. Unexpectedly, Fonseka is making pronouncements on IDPs, on Tamil and minority rights, on reconciliation.

Both candidates will have to hurry up and show some substance. Mahinda Rajapaksa has more at his fingertips to achieve that goal but it is too early to predict whether Tamils will stay at home; spoil their ballot; vote for the president who ordered the war; or the general that executed it.

COURTESY: LAKBIMA NEWS

Parliament and courts must be independent of the executive presidency

by Dr. A.C. Visuvalingam

Chandrika Kumaratunga promised the people of Sri Lanka that she would abolish the Executive Presidency if elected to that position. Long after the promised deadline, she produced a draft of a new Constitution to get this done but, at the last moment, introduced certain transitional provisions designed to help her to retain indefinitely almost as much power as before. The Opposition UNP wrecked her self-serving plan but she continued as President until the end of her foreshortened second term.

It was during her period of office, in 2001, that the 17th Amendment was passed unanimously by Parliament, with a view to eliminating political interference in appointments, transfers, promotions and disciplinary matters pertaining to the Public Service and the Police; the conduct of Elections; the safeguarding of Human Rights; the Judiciary; and similar important sectors. It did not take her very long, however, to find a technical loophole to violate the 17th Amendment to justify her refusal to appoint a retired judge to be the Chairman of the Elections Commission, as recommended by the Constitutional Council, alleging that he was sympathetic to the UNP, which he denied strongly. This was the thin end of the wedge which, subsequently, has been driven in to its full depth to make a mockery of this most important constitutional amendment that Parliament has passed in its 61 years of existence.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, promised that he would get rid of the Executive Presidency on becoming President but has shown no inclination to honour his word beyond making further promises. Both Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa have taken cover for their various questionable acts behind the widely held, but erroneous, belief that, not only is a President personally immune from being hauled up before the courts while holding office but that he has "blanket immunity" that renders his acts proof against judicial examination and correction. The authentic position is quite different, and was succinctly set out by Justice Shiranee Thilakawardena in her dissenting judgment in a recent Supreme Court (SC) order. She held that the President cannot rely solely on a single Article of the Constitution to justify an act of his because he is concurrently under the same Constitutional mandate to act in accordance with the Doctrine of Public Trust. Simply stated, no Article of the Constitution may be given greater prominence than or read in isolation from another without being interpreted in accordance with the pith, substance and spirit of the entire Constitution. Inter alia, a President cannot claim that his personal immunity permits him to violate the Constitution or act unlawfully. Indeed, this issue had been cleared up sixteen years earlier by a bench of nine Supreme Court judges in Visuvalingam vs Liyanage [see (1983) 1SLR p203 onwards] but their dictum has received little public attention.

The Executive Presidency, as formulated in the present Constitution, does not include straightforward provisions for restraining a President from violating the Constitution and desecrating his oath to uphold the Law. The impeachment process that is included in the present Constitution is utterly cumbersome and totally inappropriate to deal with infractions of the Law by a President. Nor would the recent Opposition proposal to have the Executive President replaced by a figurehead President, together with an Executive Prime Minister, offer a good enough improvement, even if the 17th Amendment were to be purged of its shortcomings and otherwise strengthened. What is required is that there must be a clear and effective separation of the powers of the Legislature (Parliament), the Executive (President) and the Judiciary in order to eliminate significant conflicts of interest. Such separation is indispensable to achieve good governance and establish the Rule of Law. Both Parliament and the Judiciary must be independent of the Executive, if the Executive is to be prevented from acting illegally, inefficiently or without demonstrating proper accountability.

Generally, initiating and passing new laws is undertaken by Ministers, subject to approval by the Cabinet. Once Cabinet approval is obtained, the relevant bill is forwarded to Parliament for debate and voting. Ministers then employ the power of the party whip to make sure that Parliament will not reject the bill. Not infrequently, ill-conceived bills are rushed through without the public being given an opportunity to study and comment upon them. Similarly, the Budget is made by the Executive and is only subject to nominal debate, which, for the most part, has little to do with the soundness of the proposals made therein. Hardly a single vote is examined meaningfully, so that, for all practical purposes, Parliament ends up by acting only as a rubber stamp. There is no effective barrier to prevent Ministers subsequently diverting funds to various ends which Parliament never had in mind when voting on the Budget. All this is made possible because it is MPs who are made Ministers, keeping one foot in the Legislature and another in the Executive. Thus, it becomes impossible for Parliament to monitor, independently of the Executive, the manner in which Ministers spend the moneys voted under the various headings.

In order to rectify this unsatisfactory state of affairs, the Legislature must be freed to examine stringently bills proposed by the government or anyone else and pass laws to meet the needs of the People without being overpowered by Ministers (part of the Executive) who remain in Parliament. It is Parliament that finally votes on the merits of the policies and proposals promoted by the Executive. Hence, it has the solemn duty of controlling the manner in which State revenues are collected and disbursed by the Executive. To do this satisfactorily, it should have fully functional and effective multi-party Parliamentary Committees, preferably chaired by members of the Opposition. These Committees would monitor the work of each group of related Ministries in real time to make certain that Ministers do not embark upon projects which have not been properly studied and approved by responsibly appointed and technically proficient committees, who would ensure that project evaluation and tender procedures are carried out competently and transparently, in accordance with long-established administrative procedures. These Committees would act in a timely manner and not carry out greatly belated post-mortems like COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) or PAC (Public Accounts Committee).

The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) considers that one of the key requirements to help attain a proper separation of powers is that any MP who joins the Executive, by being given appointment as the Prime Minister, a Minister or a Deputy Minister, must resign from Parliament and be replaced by whoever had gained the next highest number of votes from the relevant district, or on some other acceptable criterion. By adopting this arrangement, the Executive would be excluded from Parliament and thus be prevented from exerting undue political pressure on the Legislature. The procedures to be adopted to get Ministers to respond to questions raised in Parliament can be worked out on lines parallel to those followed by other countries where the separation of powers is well established.

During the present highly critical election period, the public needs to press for constitutional changes on the lines indicated above if Sri Lanka is to have any hope of becoming a truly democratic, law-abiding and prosperous nation. Political parties which update their manifestos to provide for the extensive separation of powers should be supported during the elections but, more importantly, kept thereafter under the constant pressure of public opinion to deliver on their promises. Moreover, in order to help mobilise the vast pool of knowledge and interest that the public has in maintaining good governance, it is vital that the Right to Information Act is passed without any further political bluff and skulduggery. Indeed, the Chief Justice had recently emphasised the importance of this Act in the presence of the Minister of Justice, whom we call upon to take genuinely meaningful and speedy steps in this direction.

(The Writer is President of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance)

Rajapakse brothers and General Fonseka are not the real war heroes

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?” - Bertolt Brecht (Questions from a worker who reads – The Svendborg Poems)

It was a colourful spectacle, gigantic by Sri Lankan standards, mating state resources with new technology for enhanced effect. Complete with songs, dances, speeches and a short film, the November 15th SLFP Convention was a carefully choreographed event which left nothing to chance; even the moments of seeming spontaneity were well coordinated acts of drama. This gaudy extravaganza (which is believed to have cost the tax payer Rs. 9 million) had but one purpose – the creation of a new political myth, of Mahinda Rajapakse as the Leader-Hero-Saviour of the nation.

Item after item hammered home this central message. President Rajapakse did it all; President Rajapakse will do it all. It was no one but he who won the war; he is the only one who can develop the country; he is Sri Lanka and thus fidelity to him is the only true patriotism. The flowery words and the adulating comments enunciated a political idea based on the leadership principle – the leader infallible and omniscient, the leader as hero and seer, manager and saviour. This new political credo redefines Sri Lanka as a country of one nation, one people, one leader; patriotism is loyalty to the one leader who embodies the spirit of the one nation and expresses the will of the one people. It implicitly transfers the sovereignty of the nation and the people on to the leader, ‘the king who does not feel like a king’ as the introductory oration for the star item of the event, the speech by Mahinda Rajapakse, put it.


An important sub-theme of the event was the right of the Rajapakses to the leadership/ownership of the SLFP, with SWRD Bandaranaike and DA Rajapakse recast as Fidel and Raul, as the creator and the natural successor of the party. A line of descent was thus drawn from DA the father to Mahinda the son, and the principle of dynastic succession for the Rajapakses established. Thus the ‘leadership principle’ is conjoined with a belied in dynastic succession, to create the necessary fundament for the Rajapakse project of absolutist Familial Rule.

The Rajapakse project is based on a quid pro quo – majority Sinhala backing for a dynastic rule in return for winning the war and restoring Sinhala dominance over Sri Lanka. Consequently the future of not just the Rajapakse administration but also the broader Rajapakse project rested on the outcome of the war. The willingness and the ability to take on the Tigers was what made Rajapakse administration acceptable/bearable for a good part of the Southern electorate, including those who were distressed by many of its other attributes, from rampant corruption to violent intolerance. What made the Rajapakse administration sui generis was its readiness to wage a Sinhala supremacist war against Tiger fascism, at an enormous cost to civilian Tamils and to Sri Lanka’s future.

The war was won, at a cost that is still incalculable. Clearly the Rajapakses believed that the victory entitled them to limitless power (limitless in terms of time and extent), with popular backing. President Rajapakse was hailed as the High King, an assertion which implied both omnipotence and dynastic succession. The ‘King Mahinda’ refrain was begun by the state media and government politicians; the Southern masses, intoxicated by the victory over the LTTE, concurred with this elevation enthusiastically. At an official ceremony to honour war heroes, Rajapakse listened with complacency, to a song hailing him as the High King and a divine gift to the nation. The true nature and purpose of the Rajapakse project emerged in all its megalomanic nakedness in that moment of supreme triumph.

The Rajapakses seemed to have believed that defeating the LTTE would be tantamount to a blank cheque, which will give them the right to do (or not do) what they will to the country, with the full backing of the Southern masses. They seemed to have thought that by winning the war they fulfilled their side of the bargain with the electorate; that the rest would be plain sailing and the populace would allow them to do as they pleased. With such a mindset, hubris reigned supreme and excess became the norm.

But as weeks turned into months and the peace dividend so confidently expected by the Southern masses did not materialise, a sense of mild discontent began to emerge. There was as yet no political challenge, but the possibility that the public would permit economic discontent to guide their electoral decisions in the not so distant future could no longer be discounted. The regime tried to counter this ‘patriotic fatigue’ resulting from economic overdetermination in different ways. One was to maintain that the Tiger threat (including suicide bombers) still remained, as assertion totally at variance not only with reality but also with the regime’s own triumphalist claims soon after the war. The other was to have early Presidential election, before the rice and curry issues totally superseded any other concern in the South.

With a Presidential election expected in early 2010, the need to remind the public about Rajapakse’s central role in winning the war assumed a new intensity. Rajapakse needed to be casted, repeatedly, as the Hero who saved the nation from the Tiger menace and the nation needed to be reminded, repeatedly, that it owed a duty to him and to his family. Given the centrality of ‘winning the war’ claim to the very existence of the Rajapakse project, a contender in that area was totally unaffordable. As the re-enactment of the war at the SLFP convention indicated, there were the people, there were the Armed Forces and there was Mahinda Rajapakse; and that was the trinity which defeated the Tiger menace. In this official interpretation there is no room for any other individual to claim even the slightest credit for winning the war.

This was the context in which the collapse of the war time triumvirate of Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka happened. When Fonseka, irritated by the posturing of the Rajapakse brothers, staked his own claim to the role of pre-eminent hero of the Eelam War, the Family was alarmed. After all Fonseka was doing more than trumpeting his own heroism; he was challenging the very basis of the Rajapakse project, the raison d’etre for their continued existence in power. If Fonseka, and not Rajapakse, is the pre-eminent hero of the war and thus the real saviour of the nation, why keep Rajapakse in power? With a Presidential election in the offing, Fonseka’s increasingly strident dissent would have seemed extremely threatening to the Rajapakses.

This was perhaps the rational kernel of the Rajapakses’ Fonseka phobia. Ironically this overwhelming fear about Fonseka’s future choices turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since the Rajapaskes could not afford to tolerate even a potential competitor in that arena which is their sole claim to power, they looked askance at Fonseka with nary a reason and moved to clip his wings with precipitate haste. Fonseka, an impulsive man with an enormous ego, a man as intolerant of dissent and disobedience as the Rajapakses themselves, seemed to have felt insulted. Both parties therefore played into the hands of Mangala Samaraweera and the JVP, waiting in the wings, for a chance to revenge themselves on the Rajapakse brothers, who used them to win the Presidential polls and then discarded them, once they had outlived their uses.

With Fonseka as the common oppositional candidate, the Presidential election will turn into a duel between the President and the Army Commander who defeated Vellupillai Pirapaharan. Both candidates have only one real qualification – winning the war. Consequently the Presidential election campaign is likely to be turned into a series of verbal skirmishes, as the candidates try to undermine each other’s right to claim a lion share of the credit for defeating the LTTE. And with each charge and counter-charge, they will reveal that rhetoric apart, their main concern is neither country nor people, but their own advancement, at whatever cost.

This week Fonseka filed legal action, asking for extra protection and for the deed to a piece of land granted to him by the government for winning the war. The Army Spokesman accused Fonseka of keeping extra men and vehicles over and above his allotted quota. The Military Police tried to remove some of these extra vehicles in the middle of the night but left after Fonseka objected. Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka accused Fonseka of being part of a conspiracy to bring an international military force to Sri Lanka. Fonseka has also being accused to permitting his son-in-law to make money through weapons contracts, even though all military purchases were centralised by the Rajapakse administration under Lanka Logistics and Technologies Ltd (Set up in 2006 this state owned company had several ex-officio share holders – Defence Secretary and Finance Secretary with 100 shares each; the CDS, the Commanders of the three Forces and the IGP with 1 share each. Consequently if any corruption in weapons purchases happened, all share holders and the government itself are culpable, rather than one individual). Going by these indicators, the country may be in for the unedifying spectacle of the three men who led the victorious war against the LTTE squabbling like children over land, men and vehicles, and trading infantile charges.

The Fourth Eelam War was fought under cover of secrecy; using legal and extra-legal methods the government prevented stories about corruption in the armed forces and human rights violations by the armed forces from coming to light. As the Defence Secretary baldly informed some dissenting media personnel, “You are criticizing the military and its Commanders. You are attacking (Lieutenant General) Sarath Fonseka who has committed his life for the past 18 years to waging a war. He had a narrow escape (following a suicide bomb attack). When we have committed our entire lives, you are attacking us. This is no laughing matter. Tell me one thing you have done for this country compared to Lt Gen. Fonseka. He is loved by the soldiers. They can cause harm…... Don’t you understand what I am trying to say? If you don’t agree and continue with what you are doing, what has to happen to you will happen. There I no necessity to have defence columns to discuss military matters. Laws will be introduced to restrict reporting on the conduct of the military or on Commanders of the Armed Forces. The military will campaign for such laws. We can see whether the voice of the military is stronger than the campaign of the journalists…. I am definitely not threatening your lives. I am not. It will happen from where it happens. Our services are appreciated by 99 per cent of the people. They love the Army Commander (Lt. Gen. Fonseka) and the Army. Those who love us do what is required. We cannot help that” (The Sunday Times -1.6.2009).

Fonseka, the super patriot of yesteryear, is on his way to become the arch traitor, simply because he has joined the opponents of the Rajapakses. He in turn will accuse his former political leaders of the same crime, because they no longer support and indulge him. As the two sides engage in these verbal shenanigans, the electorate in general and the ‘war heroes’ on whose backs the Rajapakses and Fonseka attained their glory may realise that it was not about country and the nation but about political ambitions and personal egos. If those revelations help open the eyes of the people about the true nature of their leaders and their heroes, the democratic system will emerge the winner.

November 27, 2009

The Elders call on Sri Lankan government to protect rights of civilians displaced by conflict

by "The Elders"

The Elders – a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela – have made a direct appeal to the President of Sri Lanka to protect the rights of civilians displaced after the government’s defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May.




Six months since the end of the war, the Elders have written to President Rajapaksa to say they are “deeply worried” about the humanitarian situation faced by the largely Tamil civilian population who fled fighting in the north of the country, and warn that this could squander hopes for national reconciliation.

Chair of The Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, signed the letter on behalf of his fellow Elders, Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel and Mary Robinson.

The Elders say in their letter to the President that the continued confinement of approximately 135, 000 internally displaced people is a “clear violation of international law” and that these people are being denied basic human rights, including the right to liberty and freedom of movement.

The Elders welcome the government’s announcement that those still confined in closed camps will now be given the freedom to move in and out of the camps until they are able to return to their homes. The Elders also call for humanitarian agencies to be granted the unimpeded access to the camps required to conduct critical humanitarian and human rights work such as providing health care, legal aid, and helping to reunite families.

While the number of people released from government-run camps has increased in recent weeks, and the government has pledged to release the remaining 135,000 by the end of January, the Elders also relayed their serious concerns about the way in which the Sri Lankan government is attempting to meet its resettlement objectives. They are particularly concerned that the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross and national and international NGOs have had too limited a role in monitoring the movement of people, and have not had access to all the areas where people have been returned. Equally worrying are reports that some of those released have been placed in new, closed camps in their district of origin by local authorities. Some are reported to be facing further screening to determine whether they have any links to the LTTE.

Donors have vital role to play

The Elders have also written to Sri Lanka’s major donors, regional governments, international financial institutions, the UN Secretary-General and heads of relevant UN agencies, asking them to use their influence with the Sri Lankan government to ensure that basic conditions for equitable, inclusive and "conflict sensitive" development are put in place in the northern and eastern regions of the country.

The international community could also contribute towards the long-term stability of Sri Lanka by encouraging a credible war crimes investigation process; the disbanding of pro-government militias; a reduced role in decision-making by (and spending on) the military; the opening of space for minority parties and opposition parties; allowing the media and NGOs to operate freely; and meaningful consultation with affected populations in the north and east.

With presidential elections expected in January, donors should also use their influence to encourage the government of Sri Lanka to commit to basic democratic governance and prudent economic policy.

Elders’ chair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:

"No sustainable peace is possible without trust. Having won a military victory, the Sri Lankan government must not squander its gains. It has an obligation to serve all Sri Lanka’s citizens – including the Tamil and other minority communities.

"Sri Lanka needs wise, far-sighted and determined leadership to help end the divisions of the past and achieve genuine reconciliation, peace and dignity, to the benefit of all of Sri Lanka’s people."

Former UN envoy and member of The Elders, Lakhdar Brahimi, said:

"While we welcome the government’s recent efforts to accelerate the return of displaced people after the end of this brutal war, the returns must be conducted in a way that does not undermine prospects for a durable peace.

"Donors have a vital role to play in pressing the Sri Lankan government to not only get people out of the camps, but to do so in a way that will enhance, not undermine, stability."

Their fellow Elder and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said:

"The basic human right to move freely must be respected. Innocent people should not be detained indefinitely in closed camps. To do so is a violation of international law. The opportunity must not be lost to establish a lasting framework that protects and enhances the human rights of all Sri Lankans."

About Elders.org

1. The Elders are an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering, and promote the shared interests of humanity. (www.theElders.org)

2. The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.

3. The Elders wrote to the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, as well as the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the IMF, the President of the Asian Development Bank, the UN Secretary-General, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the UNDP Administrator.

“Operation holdfast”: The attempted coup d’etat of Jan 1962

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Coup d’etat meaning “stroke of state” in French is used to describe the overthrow or deposition of a government or head of state through illegal or unconstitutional means. A coup d’etat generally referred to as a coup is usually undertaken by officer/s of armed forces against the established government.

Recent developments in Sri Lanka have drawn attention among other things to the real or imaginary fear of a military coup.It is becoming clear that a major factor contributing to deteriorating relations between the Rajapaksa regime and General (retd) Sarath Fonseka was suspicion about a possible coup. [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

Seeman in distress: A "Tweet Tale"

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

left

Indian Tamil film director/actor Sebastian Seeman left Toronto on Nov 26th by Jet Airways flight to New Delhi via Brussels.

not permitted

Tamil Radio was wrong about Seeman flying out to USA from Toronto. He was not permitted entry into USA by authorities. He flew back to India

canceled

World Tamil Organization annual conference in USA scheduled for December 6th canceled because chief guest Sebastian Seeman could not attend

not "handcuffed"

Contrary to media reports Tamil director Sebastian Seeman was not "handcuffed" by officials in Toronto. He was only "escorted" by officials

visitors visa

Tamil Film director/actor Sebastian Seeman got a visitors visa from Canadian High Commission in New Delhi & flew into Toronto on Nov 23rd

violated

Seeman who came as a tourist violated visa conditions by speaking at meetings displaying symbols of LTTE banned as "terrorist" in Canada

pro-LTTE

Seeman delivered inflammatory, racist speech on Nov 25th at Scarborough meeting organized by pro-LTTE Student & Youth organizations

"butchered"

Seeman allegedly warned of revenge for murdered innocent Tamil civilians & said Sinhalese abroad should be "butchered" and not allowed to live

100 black tigers

Seeman allegedly warned of re-starting war in Sri Lanka & said over a100 black tigers would self-destruct in the South and cause destruction

immolated

Seeman allegedly warned that TamilNadu youths like Muthukumar who immolated themselves would now turn into human bombs&cause terrible damage

changed

Seeman allegedly said the war would have changed course if the LTTE had bombed 100 Sinhala schools for every Tamil school bombed or shelled

threatened

Seeman allegedly threatened that Tamils living in many countries would soon show the world through action what "terrorism" was all about

RCMP

Toronto & Peel region Police & RCMP officials were alerted about Seeman's speeches. They were monitored&found to be racist & inciting violence

custody

Canada Border Services Agency officers took Seeman into custody &began interrogating him.Canadian Tamils provided legal counsel for Seeman

depriving

CBSA officials said Seeman would be detained until Nov 30th thus depriving him of speaking at meetings scheduled daily for Nov 26, 27, 28 & 29th.

proceedings

Seeman was also warned that he could possibly face legal proceedings in Canada for his offensive speech and also face deportation to India

"voluntarily"

Seeman then opted to fly out "voluntarily" to the USA through which he arrived in Canada.Tamil radio said he left at 6.30pm from Toronto

an end

Let us hope that the Seeman incident will bring about an end to Tamil Nadu pro-tiger elements making provocative speeches to Canadian Tamils

Rajapaksa-Fonseka battle is blessing in disguise for Tamil speaking people

by Vasantha Rajah

The ongoing “Rajapaksa-Fonseka battle” is a blessing in disguise for the Tamil-speaking people and the Sinhalese despite its immediate appearances; because the upcoming debates are bound to change the confused Sinhala consciousness on an unprecedented scale.

The JVP’s decision to back the General as a tactical move to get rid of the utterly corrupt Rajapaksa-regime is sensible indeed, to say the least. Fonseka is a political novice, therefore, he is malleable. He is thoroughly cornered by the reactionary establishment; and therefore, his pliability is increasing by the day. That’s a positive thing. The chances of him suddenly turning into a dictator after an electoral victory is very little indeed. If he does a social revolution will be on the cards; and it’ll be the duty of the JVP to lead the people towards real democracy & real “poverty eradication” along socialist principles.

Comrade Bahu’s decision to contest, I believe, is wrong. It will confuse the Tamils and mislead the Sri Lanka’s Sri Lankan intelligentsia. And, this will only benefit the present regime to retain power. Instead, the Left should unite with the JVP to use this opportunity to educate all communities about democratic politics and socialist economics as the prelude to big changes later.

In this context, the unity established among all “Tamil-speaking people” (Tamils, Muslims & Plantation Workers) is also a positive development whatever the limitations and contradictions it has at present. [Tamil votes are going to be crucial to the outcome of the impending elections and all Tamil & Muslim parties should present common demands - a justifiable political solution before the candidates – a solution that can be easily understood by the man on the street.

It should, in my view, be essentially a Unitary Solution – a solution that is beneficial to all Tamil-speaking people living right across the island: There should be two Regional Assemblies – one for the Tamil-dominated region and one for the Sinhala-dominated region. A democratically-transformed Centre - equipped with the Highest-Level Institutions related to security and economic planning of the island as a whole – should be the centerpiece of the New Constitution. The regional Assemblies should be empowered to handle all lower-level institutions primarily related to regional cultural and economic development – in harmony with the central vision. [I see no reason why such a constitution cannot be designed for the benefit of all communities.]

However, I must add that the democratic transformation of Sri Lanka should be inseparably intertwined with an economic vision. The JVP and the SL Left should use the election campaign to expose the Rajapaksa-regime’s total submission to the imperialist economic project. Above all, the deepening gulf within the ruling class should be fully utilized to equip the masses with a democratic/socialist vision, while doing the most practical thing to get rid of the existing regime in the impending presidential election.

November 26, 2009

Suddenly, it matters what Tamils think

The power of the ballot

by THE ECONOMIST

TC1126TE.jpg

Internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamil civilians peep from over a fence at a camp for the displaced in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009.-AP pic

SHAKING the rain out of his hair, Ravi Chandran boarded a state-run bus for Jaffna in the north and looked around. It would leave Colombo soon, at 11.30pm, and he wanted to grab a good seat for what could be a 16-hour journey. Mr Chandran, a 27-year-old businessman in a rugby jersey and jeans, is among an estimated 3,500 commuters from Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority to have used the new bus service since the government eased travel restrictions earlier this month. Civilians taking public transport to Jaffna no longer need defence-ministry authorisation; just three copies of their national identity card will do.

Since the government’s victory in the long war with Tamil Tiger rebels in May, Tamils have chafed under travel and other restrictions. But an election looms, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa is lifting at least some of these. This week, he signed a proclamation authorising a presidential election in January. His main challenger is expected to be his former army commander, General Sarath Fonseka. So the loyalties of the Sinhalese majority will be split, and Tamil votes decisive.

The government has already started courting them. On November 21st, after months of intense international pressure, the government announced that those displaced by the war will be free to move from December 1st, and that all of them will be resettled by the end of January. Of nearly 300,000 people interned in camps, almost half have already been ferried back to their war-shattered villages.

Like others clambering on the Jaffna bus this week, Mr Chandran was happy that mobility between the mainly Sinhalese south and the mostly Tamil north is increasing. But what should be a simple ten-hour trip home remains dogged by delays, checkpoints and intense security.

During a meeting with newspaper editors this week, Mr Rajapaksa presented his decision to go to the polls early as a sacrifice of two years of his term rather than as a shrewd move to capitalise on victory in the war. He said he wanted to allow voters in the north and east the chance to select a president. At the latest election in 2005, in which Mr Rajapaksa squeaked home by fewer than 200,000 votes, the Tigers ordered a boycott of the poll in Tamil areas.

Still, Tamils are not likely to fall for Mr Rajapaksa’s claim, or for the small, calculated steps the government is taking to win their votes. Niranjan Ganeshathasan, a law student, agrees that Tamils will swing the vote in January but he would much rather see the repeal of draconian anti-terrorism legislation, an acceptable power-sharing arrangement, and a truth-and-reconciliation commission to investigate what happened in the last weeks of the war. Mr Rajapaksa, he insists, will have to try harder, merely to entice apathetic Tamils to vote at all. [courtesy: The Economist]

Mahinda Rajapaksa says he is the REAL Common presidential candidate

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Real Common candidate

Mahinda Rajapaksa says he is the REAL Common presidential candidate as he is supported by 28 political parties representing all ethnicities

MRTC1126.jpg

A billboard of president Mahinda Rajapaksa is seen in the background as members of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) gather during SLFP's convention in Colombo Nov. 15, 2009-AP pic

political stance

Sarath Fonseka explains his political stance. There is a majority and minority communities who must all live together as a single nation

majority and minorities

Sarath Fonseka says it is wrong to say there are no minority communities in the country. There is a majority and minorities he says

who is who?

Mahinda tells media that there is a Common candidate & "Vada" common candidate at presidential polls. Now who is who?

military dictatorship

President Rajapakse says presidential system can be changed via democratic means as well as through a military dictatorship in a "quip" at SF

in China

Sarath Fonseka reveals that he was in China from May 10th to 17th this year when the LTTE was cornered by Army in Karaithuraipatru AGA div.

Simmering discontent

UNP backs Sarath Fonseka as common presidential candidate against the wishes of many party loyalists. Simmering discontent may erupt soon

Prime Minster

Mangala Samaraweera will become Prime Minster if Sarath Fonseka is elected president as UNP & JVP will both endorse him as he is from SLFP (M)

objected

Ranil Wickremasinghe will not be caretaker Prime minister if Sarath Fonseka becomes president because JVP has objected to a PM from UNP

keeps away

Sajith Premadasa keeps away from controversial UNP meeting that endorsed Sarath Fonseka as presidential candidate instead of one from party

member revolt

Johnstone Fernando & Azad Sally lead UNP member revolt against Ranil Wickremasinghe for endorsing Sarath Fonseka as presidential candidate

heated argument

SB Dissanayake in heated argument with Ranil Wickremasinghe for abdicating UNP interests by not letting party contest nationwide prez polls

manipulated

Resentment within UNP membership against Ranil Wickremasinghe for letting party be manipulated by Mangala Samaraweera into backing Fonseka

Telephone

It looks as if Sarath Fonseka will be contesting on Telephone symbol of Mangala Samaraweera's party"Ape Jathika Peramuna"-Our National Front

Bhikku MP's

Jathika Hela Urumaya divided over presidential candidate issue. Ranawaka & Gammanoila support Mahinda while some Bhikku MP's back Gen.Fonseka

Posts & Telecommunications

Former JVP & NFF MP Nandana Gunatilleke who is now with the SLFP is appointed Posts & Telecommunications after he resigned as tourism minister

support

Ceylon Communist Party ( Maoist) will support Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne during presidential elections says party secretary Surendra

check & body search

Sarath Fonseka wants three women soldiers stationed at his residence to check & body search women visitors

refutes allegations

Army commander Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya in Kilinochchi base refutes allegations made against him by former army chief Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka

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Main speaker at Great heroes day meetings in Canada opts to leave

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

opted

Director Seeman opted to fly out to USA from Toronto Airport at 6.30pm on Nov 26 rather than face charges in Canada or be deported to India

Sebastian Seeman

Question mark over Great heroes day meetings in Canada on Nov 26th & 27th to be addressed by Seeman as Tamil film director is now detained

SSTC1125.jpg

Sebastian Seeman, at a Toronto meeting on Nov 25-pic: Pathivu

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu tiger supporters go to different countries to address Great heroes day (Nov 27th) meetings organized by Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora

see the world!

Support the LTTE and see the world! P. Nedumaran goes to Australia, Vaiko to Britain, Thirumavazhavan to Denmark & Seeman to Canada. Enjoy!!

back to USA

Tamil film director/actor Sebastian Seeman may be sent back to USA from where he entered Canada instead of being deported directly to India

demonstrate

Some Canadian Tamils planning to demonstrate in Toronto protesting against Sebastian Seeman's detention,interrogation & possible deportation

We Tamils

Film director & head of "Naam Thamizhar" (We Tamils) organization S. Seeman scheduled to be main speaker at Great Heroes meetings in Canada

inflammatory

Sebastian Seeman faces deportation from Canada for alleged inflammatory speech at meeting organized by pro-LTTE youth&student organizations.

interrogation

Indian Tamil film director/actor Sebastian Seeman detained in Toronto for interrogation into alleged inflammatory speech made in Scarborough

colourful

Sri Lanka's colourful Consul-General in Toronto,Bandula Jayasekera was really in the news on Tuesday Nov 24th.He was in both the Star & TVO

same day

Martin Regg-Cohn of focused on Bandula in his " Toronto Star"column on Nov 24th. On the same day Steve Paikin interviewed him on TVO-Agenda

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Majority and minorities must live together as one nation - Sarath Fonseka

Retired Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka in an exclusive interview with Daily Mirror online speaks about his decision to retire, the treatment he is getting from the government and his moves to enter politics.

Q: General, with regard to the incident that took place last night there were reports that the Military Police had tried to take your security personnel and vehicles away from you. Can you tell us what really happened?

When I was in service I had a contingent of 600 men for my security and about 25 vehicles. The day I retired, I was informed that it had been reduced to three vehicles and 25 men. Even the wives of politicians [who lost their lives ] like Mrs.Kairigama have about 30 security personnel. But they thought that I didn’t even need that much security.

Then when I met the President on the day I was leaving I told him: “You have to increase my security–25 men are not enough,” adding that even people like Shavindra Silva, who was only a Colonel when I was commanding the war has Commandos for his security. The present Army number two has about 15 Commandos for his security and over 50 soldiers, but that I have been given only 25 men. I asked him for Commandos for my security. The President told me: “They are still in the Army and you are a civilian. So we can’t give you the Commandos and that much security.” So they thought that from the day I decided to remove my uniform their responsibility to look after my security was over. Most probably then that is the “Api Wenuwen Api” attitude. What can a “Ranaviruwa” expect in the future?

They continued to reduce my security but the President agreed to give me 50 men and 10 Commandos and I was expected to endorse it in writing. I sent it in writing quoting our conversation, and requesting that that security was provided as agreed. However, this was not my actual requirement or what I would be satisfied with. I wanted the security that I had [previously] because my security is most important to me. Even during the war the first suicide attack was on my life. Therefore everyone in the country knows that the threat to my life is real and great. I led the Army to win the war and obviously any terrorist will take revenge on me and not from those who sat in air-conditioned rooms in Colombo giving political speeches. However, they reduced my staff to 115 men which included about 14 motorcycle riders, 15 drivers plus administrative personnel. The number of vehicles allocated to me was also brought down to 15 from 25.

Four to five days ago I was informed by the President’s secretary that I could keep this staff till I left my house [official quarters]. They gave me only six days to vacate the house. But the Navy Commander who retired six months ago is still in the neighbouring house with 120 people guarding him and 15 vehicles. The secretary also told me to keep those I had with me till I left this house. I am trying my best to leave this house but people who promised me their houses on rent have been intimidated by government thugs who had also threatened to blast their houses and assassinate their families.

Now I’m finding it difficult to get a house but I am determined to leave this place the moment I get a one. I don’t want to live at the expense of the government or be a burden to the Army like others who have been hanging on. The previous Commander before me had lived in this house for three and a half months after his retirement, until he went to Brazil as our ambassador. The previous CDS lived in his house for three and a half months till he went to Israel as our ambassador. But they told me to vacate in six days. So you can see that there is no justice here.

What they are trying to do is reduce my security so that I become a target and they are waiting to see the day I get assassinated on the road. With three vehicles, even a child in this country will know, I can’t get enough security on the road. We are very vulnerable when we are travelling in traffic. If the President still needs 2000 people for security and if the Secretary of Defence needs 500 people for his security, how do they expect me to manage with 25 men and 3 vehicles? That is not enough even to guard my house.

Finally even this allocation of security personnel and vehicles was reduced and then I was left with 15 vehicles–administrative vehicles like trucks and buses for soldiers to move about. Last night they came at 12 o’clock to my house–a Lieutenant Colonel, six officers and 50 soldiers. They tried to enter the premises. This is against the Army norms and traditions and the law of the country. We don’t send people in such a manner not even to arrest a recruit who had deserted the Army.

They said they were following instructions of the Army Commanders and the Secretary of Defence. I was also told by some persons that they have taken these decisions at the Security Council meeting held yesterday (Wednesday). Now the Security Council is trying to cut my security to get me assassinated. When I was active in the Security Council we planned to assassinate Prabahkaran and destroy the LTTE. Now you see it had taken a different turn. Therefore under these circumstances I refused them entry and asked them to get out immediately because it was the middle of the night and only my wife and I were in the house.

This morning I released the vehicles because they keep on harassing my drivers and my people who are here. They are trying to block their salaries and reporting them as absent [from duty]. Due to this harassment I released most of the personnel allocated to me and I am managing with just the minimum numbers for my security. If anything happens to me the President has to take direct responsibility. It is not only the LTTE, but there are thugs who are manipulating things for the government like those who came and misbehaved at the temple when I was there. All these people are assassins and drug addicts and may be even tasked to do some harm to me. So if something happens to me the government must take responsibility and I expect the people to understand this–I know they are following all this. This is the way they put into practice their “Api Wenuwen Api” programme.

Q: General do you feel that you life has been put at risk directly by the Government and that you have literally been made a target?

If they are not aware of the security threats to VIP’s, then why is the President having 2000 people for security? The Army Commander in Vavuniya is not even commanding an offensive operation in the war. But why is he keeping 500 people to guard him? The last Security Council State Intelligence Services Head J B Galanayaka has said that when he attended the last Security Council meeting on the 11th of November, he had come to understood that an explosive laden van had come to Colombo to target a VIP. With all that if they reduce my security, obviously they are doing it intentionally to ensure that I get blasted on the road.

Q: There are various stories circulating that your were not in the country during the last stages of the war–that is from the 10th to the 17th of May. How do you respond to such rumours?

I had got an invitation from this Chinese company from which we buy APC’s mainly. We bought about 100 armored vehicles from them. I am not the one who made the deals: it was the Secretary of Defence and the LankaLogistics company of which he is the Chairman. They do the negotiations; they do the payments; and they buy the equipment. We only do the vehicle evaluation. And that is not done by me–Brigadiers and various people we do following the usual procedure. These companies had invited me to come and inspect some armored vehicles.The invitation was two years overdue. I didn’t go out of the country for two years after I took over command. I went out only for medical treatment to Singapore. Then in 2008 I visited the Indian Army Commander, the Pakistani Army Commander and the Bangladesh Army Commander–visits I should have done two years before.

Then I had to respond to this invitation and the Secretary of Defence approved it. The date was fixed about 5 months before and if I had cancelled the tickets at the last minute it would have been a loss for the Government. And it just wasn’t me about 5 others went with me. In any case I had won the war by that time. By the 10th of May there were only five or six kilometers to go. So I got the troops to move 150 kilometres and when I was doing that, I was not sitting in Vavuniya. I was running the war with maps, communication equipment and satellite phones. That is how I monitored the war. The orders are given; whether I am in Colombo or China or in USA–I knew those commands will be followed. I knew this war would be over in the next couple of days. This trip was planned, everything was arranged and the Secretary of Defence himself approved it and told me to go.

Because I had studied the plans for the next ten days, the plans were in operation without any interruption during the period I was out, but I retuned before the war was over. The war was finally over on the 19th May so at the crucial time I was here. They can’t say that because I went out, the Army will turn back without moving forward the next five kilometers.

But I knew that during that week, certain irregular things happened. For example I had kept a special battalion in reserve. But the Secretary of Defence forced this battalion to battle without even keeping me informed. Unnecessarily that battalion lost 25 soldiers. Eighty soldiers were injured. Other than that there was no damage or delay caused and the battle went as per planned. The only mishap during my absence was the Secretary of Defence forcing this battalion to go into the battle. Otherwise the war was won exactly on the day that I planned and I was there to control the final battle.

Q: One other report that came out is that when you were in the United States recently, you were never asked to appear for an interview with the State Department. In fact Sri Lanka’s ambassador at the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohona told the Daily Mirror Hot Seat that no request was made for such an interview. What is your response to this?

There have been enough letters being sent up and down from the Government to the ambassador there. I have copies of all these letters. So the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing! These two ambassadors, that is at the UN Palitha Kohona and the American ambassador live about one and a half hours away from each other. So I don’t understand how they can coordinate a thing like this and give the same opinion and the same version?

Q: To ask you a personal question, General. The Secretary of Defence, the President and the present Army Commander are people you worked very closely with. They were essentially your friends and people you trusted. Now you have retired, how do you feel when you see them not caring about your security and almost turning on you? Further, you might be a General but yet you are human. So can you tell us how you feel emotionally?

It may be the “Api Wenuwen Api” attitude. I have the courage and guts to face similar situations. I know they can’t push me down or demoralize me and finish me or ruin me. But I feel sorry about the others who will face the same consequences one day. They might not have the same courage or the position or the status to face a situation like that; that is my concern.

But the people don’t realize who our enemy is; if Prabakaran was there, he would have realized it.

Q: Everyone is talking about your entrance into politics. If you are to contest the Presidential election, can you tell us whether you have decided under which party you are going to contest?

Any future aspirations and ambitions I will comment on at a media conference I have on Sunday.

Q: General, it is widely believed that you will run for President. If you do run for President, what is the promise you will give the people?

I believe that if anybody who wants to hold high office in this country or do politics at a higher level, considering the present circumstances, should give priority for democracy, national security, including the people in the North and East, the plight of the people who were displaced, communal harmony, justice to all communities in the country and corruption. The country is corrupt and of course the responsibility lies in the hands of political heads. There is no justice; you can see that people can’t receive justice even if they go to the police or any other place. People are not satisfied with the treatment they are getting. Then politicizing the police has weakened the system to a certain extent.

There is [the subject of] media freedom. There are a lot of allegations regarding this. People in defence circles try to point the finger at me [as been responsible] for the difficulties and the problems the media had in the past. If that is the case, they should have taken action during the time I was under them. All this pointing fingers started on the day that I retired from the Army.

What I have to say is that I had a disciplined army under me and if I did anything to the media I have got the army to do it. I can’t go with a pistol or a dagger and go and attack anybody. So if they think that the army did this then they are insulting the Army that brought the grace and respect to the whole country by wining the war. That is ungrateful and against the “Api Wenuwen Api” policies. With regards to allegations of corruption what I can say is that if they can have investigations with regard to every deal done in the defence circles I will give my fullest support. All war materials are in a gazetted list. In that list, everything has been purchased with the approval of the Secretary of Defence and the LankaLogistics Company of which the Secretary of Defence is one. We don’t do purchasing, we only do the technical evaluation. They do the negotiation of price and everything else, so if there is any corruption the Secretary of Defence, the President, and the tender board must take responsibility.

Q: You said that we need to give space for democracy. But if you run for President what will your stance be with the minorities. How will you win their support?

Forget about running for Presidency. My personal approach is that minorities in this country have lived for many years with a Sinhala majority and you can see are a lot of similarities between them. I have a lot of regard for the Tamil culture especially and the Muslim culture, although I am a Sinhala Buddhist. The cultures have a lot of similarities so I think that they can live together as one nation. Some people try to say that there are no minorities. The reality is that there are minorities and there is a majority but we must all live in one country as brothers. This is a small country and I have said that the majority must treat the minorities like their own people. - [courtesy: Daily Mirror]

Enhanced Security For Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka: Request and Response

Reproduced here are the letter sent by Gen.(Retd) Sarath Fonseka requesting enhanced security and the letter sent in response by secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga:

November 16, 2009.

Secretary to President

Request for security after retirement

Reference the discussion I had with His Excellency the President and Secretary to the President today.

1. As agreed upon by H.E., the President it is kindly requested that the following officers/soldiers and vehicles be made available for security duties.

For security duties

(a) One commando officer and 20 other ranks (Officer - Captain/Lieutenant to act as officer-in-charge of unit)

(b) Three officers of the Sinha Regiment and 20 other ranks (officers Major 01, captain/lieutenant 02. I would like to point out that the officer of the rank Major is necessary to command all the officers and other ranks.)

(c) Three women soldiers of the women's brigade (to search female visitors to the residence)

Vehicles and drivers for administrative duties.

(a) Under your verbal instructions the Army had allocated a second hand bullet proof
BMW vehicle and two jeeps but the bullet proof BMW vehicle YuHa 58944 had run 39,477 miles ( 63,163 km) and all the systems of this vehicle need to be repaired. It would take a considerable time to do a complete overhaul and even after that it would not work in the original condition.

(b) Therefore, considering the above facts I would like to request you to allocate that the vehicle I used as Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff YuHa 55220 bullet proof BMW. It has done only 18,299 kilometres already. This vehicle is also four years old.

(c) In addition I request for three Land Rover vehicles for my security officers/ soldiers, one heavy vehicle and one van for administration of the other ranks as well as a bus with 26 passenger seats for the transport of soldiers.

(d) Considering the number of vehicles to be provided I also request for 10 drivers.

Weapons and communication equipment for security duties.

(a) Ten 9mm pistols for the use of officers and commandos

(b) Mini/Ushi/HKMP5 ten weapons (for commandos and infantry soldiers).

(c ) 72 T56 weapons for other soldiers

(d) Ten hand held walkie talkie sets with one base station.

2. Further as approved by H.E., the President I seek permission to select the officers/other ranks from among those who are attached to me for security duty.

3. I also request that the present security officers and men attached to me be not withdrawn until I am provided with the above security personnel.

G.S.C.Fonseka RWP,RSP, VSV, USP, rcds, psc.
General
_____________

Presidential Secretariat

General Sarath Fonseka RWP,RSP,USP, rcds, psc

Request for security after retirement.

Reference your letter CDS/0/12 dated November 16 addressed to me when you were Chief of Defence Staff.

It has been decided to provide you with the following facilities.

(1) For security duties

a) Ten commandos

b) Two officers and 50 soldiers of the Sinha Regiment

(2) Vehicles and drivers.

a) Vehicle No.YuHa 58944 bullet proof BMW vehicle has been allocated to you.

(It has been decided to release to the present Army Commander the bullet proof BMW vehicle YUHa 55220 you had requested).

b) Two Land Rover security jeeps

c) The Sri Lanka Army will provide a suitable vehicle for administrative purposes whenever the need arises.

d) Four drivers

Weapons and communication equipment for security

The Army Commander will decide these and release to you. As H.E.the President had already informed you General's House at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, the Army Commander's Residence could be used by you up to November 22.

Lalith Weeratunga,
Secretary to President.

Copy to Lt.Gen J.Jayasuriya USP, ndu,psc.
Army Commander - for supplying the above personnel, vehicles and other facilities.
Chief of Defence Staff

Gen. Fonseka showed he has no intention of being made a puppet

BY Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

Questions were raised as to the letter of resignation sent by Gen Sarath Fonseka at a press conference on November 13th. Anticipating such questions, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had obtained a copy of the letter.

We had had several instances of subtly changed documents being circulated, obviously for political purposes. The two different versions of the Internal Self Governing Authority (ISGA) with the LTTE were foremost in my mind, given the explanation by a Sunday newspaper then of the fact that the wrong version had been sent to President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

It was suggested - and by a paper commonly associated with the Opposition - that the mistake was deliberate, and designed to precipitate the then President into an aggressive reaction that could be shown up as absurd.

The consensus at the press conference was that the circulated letter was the true one, and a cursory glance at the first page of the copy with Minister Samarasinghe suggested that this was the case. However, two days later, a Sunday newspaper produced the correct version, and also highlighted the differences between this and the copy circulated by email.

The thrust of the article was that what had happened suggested that Gen Fonseka was an unreliable ally, and pains were taken to suggest that he would not be in favour of media freedom. Indeed the article seemed to suggest that many of the criticisms made earlier of the government with regard to this issue arose from Gen Fonseka’s approach.

It also highlighted some of the reasons the General had given as to his concern for the IDPs, namely that the Government was resettling quickly because it did not want to incur expenditure on them.

While arguing that demining and the provision of infrastructure were inadequate at present, he stressed that he wanted more troops to ensure security, and that there had been insufficient checking thus far to confirm the identity of possible infiltrated terrorists amongst the displaced. The impression the article created was that Gen Fonseka wanted the IDPs kept on in the camps, with enhanced security measures.

All this is characteristic of the General as he presented himself to the public in the past, and suggests that he at least is an honest man. It is also not surprising that some of his ideas are at variance with those of his possible allies, and the arguments that will have to be used to overcome gross inconsistencies will surely prove most entertaining in the weeks ahead, if the proposed alliances go through.

What is surprising however is the emphasis on the discrepancies in a paper that seemed triumphant the previous week in asserting that the alliance had been sealed. The impression this article creates is that there are some doubts in the UNP, and in particular its leadership, about the alliance.

By changing the letter so dramatically, the General showed that he had no intention of becoming a puppet, and that he still wanted to ensure the primacy of his own approach to politics. This is entirely understandable, and that is why I was surprised at the claim in the article that the initially leaked document had been agreed upon.

I cannot for a moment conceive of the General freely agreeing to some elements in the original document, and I can also see why he needed to stress other elements if he is to put himself forward as a serious Presidential candidate running on his security credentials.

That is why the media finds the passive voice so useful. It would be interesting however to find out who had agreed upon the first document. The suggestion later that the text had been prepared in consultation with the Opposition parties also seems misleading, in that the text seems rather prepared by those Opposition parties to satisfy their own requirement of common ground.

Thus they gave their sop to Cerberus by concentrating initially on the General’s personal grievances, but planned to end with a flourish by emphasizing areas on which they could agree, and which they assumed would be electorally popular.

Obviously the UNP and the JVP could find common ground now. But since victory also needed the total support of the minorities, the plight of the IDPs had to be highlighted.

Since, contrary to earlier critiques, resettlement was proceeding apace, the joint Opposition draft stressed the need for freedom of movement for those still within the Centres. Sadly for them General Fonseka turned that on its head, ignoring that point and instead raising objections to swift resettlement, and in particular security concerns.

If the newspaper article was in any sense accurate, it would seem that those negotiating on his behalf agreed on a text that was inspired by what might be termed joint opposition concerns. He then refused to be party to subterfuges that made a nonsense of concerns he had raised previously. But I suspect there will be many more intriguing letters and dissonant declarations before this confusing game draws to a conclusion.

November 25, 2009

United National Party warned on committing political "hara-kiri

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

"hara-kiri"

United National Party warned that it could commit political "hara-kiri" by not contesting presidential elections with own party candidate

postponing

Sarath Fonseka now says he will announce decision on contesting on Nov 26th. He has been postponing D-day for several days .

enhanced

retd Gen Fonseka wants more soldiers, vehicles, patrol, riders, commandos, medical staff as enhanced security on par with other service chiefs

land

Sarath Fonseka wants courts to order Def secy Gota to hand over the deed for 25 perches of land allocated to him by state after retirement

dejavu

Sarath Fonseka filing fundamental rights petition seeking more security evokes sense of dejavu. Parakrama Pannipitiya did the same against SF

unfit

Cabinet ministers Maithripala Sirisena & Susil Premajayantha say at press briefing that ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka is unfit to be President

re-merger

President Mahinda Rajapaksa rules out future re-merger of Northern & Eastern provinces & asks Tamils not to raise issue again

discontent

Rising discontent within Democratic Peoples Front on supporting Sarath Fonseka as common candidate. Final Decision on November 26th

"Trishaw"

Negotiations on with Siritunga Jayasuriya to get his United Socialist party symbol "Trishaw"for Sarath Fonseka in Presidential elections

"silent"

Somwansa Amerasinghe & Tilvin Silva "silent" so far on JVP supporting Sarath Fonseka as common candidate for presidency. Are they "unhappy"?

symbols

Nava Sinhala Urumaya (Bow & arrow) & Ruhunu Janatha Peramuna (motor car) invite Sarath Fonseka to contest prez polls on their party symbols

Tami l& Muslim

Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne to contest Presidential elections under "Table" symbol of Left Front. Comrade Bahu expects Tami l& Muslim support

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November 24, 2009

Free All Unlawfully Detained-HRW

Respect Rights of Those Not Slated for Release

Statement by HRW

As it prepares to allow the 130,000 internally displaced persons detained in camps to decide whether to stay or leave, the Sri Lankan government should ensure that no additional persons are subject to arbitrary detentions, Human Rights Watch said today.

On November 21 the government announced that the camps would be opened by December 1. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the Sri Lankan government to release displaced civilians and to restore their full freedom of movement. Human Rights Watch said that the decision to release the people in the camps is a positive step, but also expressed concern that the authorities would step up the arbitrary detention of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suspects in violation of international law.

Human Rights Watch has learned that the authorities have been notifying some camp residents that they will be moved to other detention camps instead of being released. Additionally, the government currently detains without charge more than 11,000 persons on suspicion of LTTE involvement in so-called "rehabilitation centers." Human Rights Watch called upon the government to either bring charges against these security detainees or release them.

"The government's promise to release displaced civilians from camps is welcome, though long overdue," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government has been holding many Tamils for alleged involvement in the LTTE without providing them basic rights due under Sri Lankan and international law. The release of displaced persons should not be an excuse for another wave of arbitrary detentions."

According to information received by Human Rights Watch, the authorities have started notifying some people that they will not be able to leave the camps on December 1, but that they instead will be transferred to one of the Manik Farm detention camps, which will be designated as a "rehabilitation center."

The government has denied security detainees fundamental rights to challenge the lawfulness of their detention and to obtain legal counsel. In many cases, the government has failed to inform relatives of the whereabouts of detainees, raising fears of enforced disappearances and ill-treatment. It is unclear what criteria the government uses to determine who should be released, who should remain in "rehabilitation," and who should be prosecuted.

In an illustrative case, the authorities detained "Aanathan" together with dozens of others from a camp in Manik Farm on October 5. His wife told Human Rights Watch:

When they came to detain him on October 5, they did not tell me anything; they only said that he would be interrogated and then he would come back in a couple of days. When I did not hear anything from him, however, I went to the CID [police Criminal Investigation Department office in the camp]. I cried and I begged them to return him to me, but they only told me to leave.

Aanathan's wife only found out about her husband's whereabouts 15 days later, when she received a letter from him. By that time she had been released from Manik Farm camp and was able to visit him in the Pampaimadhu camp, where he was being held. She told Human Rights Watch:

He does not know how long he will have to stay there. They have not told him anything. When I went there the day before yesterday [mid-November, more than five weeks after his detention], he had still not been brought before a judge and he had not had access to a lawyer.

Human Rights Watch also called on the government to ensure that all displaced persons are able to return to their homes voluntarily, in safety and with dignity. People who are not able or willing to return to their home villages and towns should be able to resettle where they wish or remain in open camps.

Since August, the authorities have returned about 140,000 people to their home areas or to host families. But Human Rights Watch has received information that they often do not have any real choice in terms of where to go when they are released and at least some of the returns have been forced.

Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about continuing government restrictions on access to the return areas. While the government has granted UN agencies access to Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts, it has barred access for other international humanitarian organizations even though the infrastructure is shattered and there is a great need for basic support such as food, water, shelter and health facilities.

"By denying access of international aid organizations to those returning home, the government is putting the health and well-being of these people at additional risk," said Adams. "Donors funding reconstruction work should reject the government's attempt to isolate the returnees and insist on free access for independent observers."

Rajapakse vs. Fonseka: "The unspeakable going after the uneatable"

by Dr. Packiyasothy Saravanamuttu

The results of the national elections are now by no means certain. There is a contest and as a consequence, there is the possibility that the presidency could change hands, which in turn will have its impact on the general elections. This is attributable to the Fonseka presidential candidacy and it depriving the incumbent of claiming sole credit for the defeat of the LTTE.

Contests in themselves are good. Elections being the principal mechanism for choice and change in a functioning democracy, the lack of a contest could breed a lack of interest in elections on the part of the electorate, which in turn is not healthy for participatory and representative democracy. The Fonseka candidacy ensures that the Rajapaksa dynasty is not assured. They will have to fight and fight they will, to turn appreciation and gratitude for the defeat of the LTTE under their watch into a mandate for government into the next decade. Yet, challenging the Rajapaksas or indeed defeating them is not a guarantee for a functioning democracy in Sri Lanka, anymore than defeating the LTTE in the way in which it was done is a guarantee for lasting democratic peace, reconciliation and national unity.

The Fonseka candidacy on the face of it is in the nature of the curate’s egg – some part good in ensuring a contest and other parts bad given the stink the general brings with him on human rights protection and the essential pluralism of the peoples he wants to be president of. Moreover, what is the Sri Lanka that can be expected to emerge and evolve out of this contest, which some may characterize as one between war heroes and others as a pan Sinhala majoritarian fight fuelled by personal animosity between two individuals who should be held accountable for military excesses at least, war crimes at worst? As it stands it is not unreasonable to assume that the minority communities in the country and what remains of liberal opinion are left effectively stranded by this choice before them – between the devil and the deep blue sea or between the frying pan and the fire are some of the remarks that this choice has elicited from these constituencies. Oscar Wilde’s remarks about fox hunting – the unspeakable going after the uneatable - have also been used to describe this contest.

There is of course the possibility already identified by some, that both candidates will have to court the minorities and liberals to win the election – a pan Sinhala nationalist fight within the pan Sinhala nationalist community being insufficient to produce a clear winner. Already, there is ostensible relief for the IDPs – screening and demining notwithstanding - and the general in some public pronouncements is sounding like a determined and enthusiastic aspirant for a human rights award! Yet the ethnic conflict and bad governance in this country were not produced by promises made and kept, but by broken promises and the widening gap between promise, performance and delivery. The minorities and liberals will be voting if they do, in an act of desperation, with hope trumping experience. Can either candidate be reincarnated into being the president of all Sri Lankans?

There are those who have steadfastly maintained that Mahinda Rajapaksa in a second term would be the model of national unity and reconciliation and the architect of a new and truly plural Sri Lanka in terms of constitutional design and political culture. Pragmatist that he is, he will forge a new coalition of forces to embrace and institutionalize unity in diversity. To this is now added the argument that he is the only bulwark against the militarization of our politics.

This is yet another leap of faith and trumping of hope over experience. One need only look at the north and east, to identify the number of appointments in civilian governance that have gone to ex-military personnel. And as for embracing unity in diversity, need one look beyond the protracted farce of the APRC, the absence of proposals from the regime for a political settlement and the cunning focus of debate in this respect on the Thirteenth Amendment, thereby making Thirteenth Amendment Minus a higher probability than Plus?

And General Fonseka?

The immediate political arguments for his candidacy are that it will stop the Rajapaksas in their dynastic tracks and deliver political reform as per the agenda set out by the opposition. Fonseka is to stand as the common candidate of the opposition because they cannot field anyone from within their ranks with a ghost of a chance of defeating Rajapaksa and once elected to the executive presidency, Fonseka is to abolish that office and turn over government to the opposition, staying on however as minister of defence! Truth is stranger than fiction and even more the case in politics. Will the general agree to this? Would you?

The story about two resignation letters suggests that he has every intention of being his own man and not one subject to the conditions and priorities of the joint opposition. In any event, were he to be elected the executive president, the opposition will have no hold over him.

It is surely highly unlikely that General Fonseka will agree to be the presidential candidate who in effect will be campaigning to make Mr Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister and chief executive of the country? Even if he agrees to do so, will the electorate accept this candidacy by proxy?

In either event – on his own or on behalf of – General Fonseka, like the incumbent owes the country honest and clear explanations on the culture of impunity in respect of human rights violations and the allegations of actions that could be tantamount to war crimes.

General Fonseka in particular, needs to, if he sincerely thinks it warranted, explain his remarks to the Canadian National Post and in his Ambalangoda speech, which is cited in the US State Department Report to the US Senate Appropriations Committee. We must know what is on offer; we must know what we are getting or indeed getting into. And we must know the real difference between the two candidates.

Is there any difference between them on a vision for a future Sri Lanka, on governance, the economy, the 13th and 17th Amendments, corruption, media freedom and human rights?

It looks like the choice is increasingly going to be between the incumbent and the general. Bar some unforeseen, fortuitous and pleasant surprises, what if anything recommends this contest is the contest itself.

As such, it is important that we the peoples of this country ensure that there is a debate about the future of the country and that the result we deliver will facilitate a continuing dialogue on this most crucial of subjects beyond the contest.

However daunting the task may be, there are especially compelling arguments for effective checks and balances on the exercise of executive power in the event of either of these candidates winning the presidency

Tamil Parties Meeting in Zurich Recognize Need for Unity and Consensus for Durable Solution

Press Release

24 November 2009

After a three-day conference in Switzerland, the political parties of the Tamil speaking peoples of Sri Lanka, recognizing the need for unity and consensus, committed themselves to the engagement by all segments of society towards a just and durable political solution in the island through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process. The parties also agreed to continue the discussions.

The conference from 20 to 22 November 2009, titled “The role of the elected representatives of Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim population in a process of national reconciliation, reconstruction and reform” was jointly organized by the Tamil Information Centre (TIC), the International Working Group on Sri Lanka (IWG) and the Initiative on Conflict Prevention through Quiet Diplomacy (ICPQD) at the University of Essex. It was hosted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The following Tamil parties were represented at the conference: All Ceylon Muslim Congress, All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Ceylon Workers Congress, Democratic Peoples Front, Eelam People’s Democratic Party, Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front, Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi, Pathmanabha Eelam Peoples‘, Revolutionary Liberation Front, People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal , Tamil National Alliance, Tamil United Liberation Front and Up-Country Peoples Front.

The conference was arranged in a climate of extreme unease in Sri Lanka and abroad in relation to the future of the Tamil speaking peoples in the island. Five months have elapsed since the Sri Lanka government announced the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but despite the assurances of the government, little visible progress has been made towards addressing minority rights and grievances. Some suspect that there is no serious intention to implement meaningful reforms in the long-term and fear further erosion of minority rights. The most egregious sign of a lack of progress is the treatment of 300,000 internally displaced Tamil civilians, many of whom continue to be held against their will in miserable inhuman conditions. The political opposition, civil society and journalists who call for the protection of the IDPS or minority rights are portrayed as enemies of the state and have been silenced through assassination, violence and imprisonment or forced to flee the country.

Under these circumstances it is essential for the representatives of the Tamil speaking peoples to unite to develop an effective common programme to hold the government accountable for the protection of minorities, and to act as a serious and dependable negotiating partner representing the demands of minorities in the development of meaningful proposals for reform in Sri Lanka.

In this light, the short and long-term aims of the conference were as follows:

-To provide a safe and facilitated space for dialogue and engagement between the representatives of Sri Lanka’s main political parties of the Tamil-speaking peoples;

-To build on preparatory discussions with and between the parties aimed at bridging divides and identifying common ground on substantive issues;

-To explore the possibilities for future cooperation towards the development of a common political platform for the representation of Sri Lanka’s Tamil speaking peoples within the political framework of pre and post-election Sri Lanka;

-In the long-term, to support Sri Lanka’s Tamil speaking political parties to play a meaningful role in a process of national reconciliation and a programme of political, institutional and constitutional reform aimed at addressing their grievances and preventing a return to armed conflict.

The meeting was conducted in a spirit of openness, mutual respect and constructive debate. The representatives expressed their full commitment to unity and to a common forum to seek a just and durable political solution. The participants obtained important clarifications and achieved common understanding. They also pledged commitment to continue their discussions in the interest of achieving full respect for the rights of the Tamil-speaking peoples and to building a peaceful, dynamic and prosperous society.

Among the issues discussed were shared concerns of the long, medium and short-term. These included an in depth discussion on the evolution of an acceptable, inclusive political solution to the conflict. Also discussed were principles for and solutions to urgent matters such as the situation of internally displaced persons, Muslim IDPs, detainees and the disappeared, demilitarisation and the rule of law. Also discussed was the urgent need for the facilitation of voluntary return of all internally displaced persons to their homes and land in conditions of safety and dignity, and to expeditiously provide for their housing and livelihood requirements under competent and independent civilian supervision.

At the end of the conference, the participating political parties issued the following joint statement:

Joint Statement

We, the representatives of the political parties of the Tamil-speaking peoples unanimously:

Affirm the historic meeting enabling an exchange of views, and express a full commitment to a common forum among representatives of all Tamil-speaking peoples;

Recognize 'Tamil-speaking peoples’ comprise three distinct peoples: Tamils, Muslims, and Tamils of Indian origin;

Respect the distinct and separate identities, interests and positions of the parties;

Recognize and affirm the need for unity and consensus among the Tamil-speaking peoples while acknowledging differences with regard to some issues and the paths to pursue them;

Commit to the engagement by all segments of society towards a just and durable political solution through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process;

Agree and commit to continuing our dialogue.

Names:

Mr. Veerasingham Anandasangaree, Tamil United Liberation Front

Mr. Periyasamy Chandrasekaran, Up-Country Peoples Front

Mr. Douglas Devananda, Eelam People’s Democratic Party

Mr. Abdul Rauff Hakeem, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress

Mr. Mohamed Hizbullah, All Ceylon Muslim Congress

Mr. Mano Ganeshan, Democratic Peoples Front

Mr. Kulasekaram Mahenthiran, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation

Mr. Sivasubramaniam Nanthakumar, Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students

Mr. Gagendrakumar Ponnambalam, All Ceylon Tamil Congress

Mr. Suresh Premachandran, Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front

Mr. R. Sampathan, Tamil National Alliance

Mr. Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan, Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal

Mr. Mavai S. Senathirajah, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi

Mr. Dharmalingam Sithadthan, People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam

Mr. Thirunavukarasu Sritharan, Pathmanabha Eelam Peoples‘ Revolutionary Liberation Front

Mr. Arumugan Thondaman, Ceylon Workers Congress

JVP, LTTE and the failure of armed struggles in Sri Lankan politics

by Dayapala Thiranagama

In the early 1960’s the Great Debate in the world communist movement had a profound political effect on the Sri Lankan Left movement. It entirely changed the political outlook of our youths for many decades to come. These political legacies still form a critical element in Sri Lankan politics. China was leading those communist parties who subscribed to the armed overthrow of the existing regimes in their respective countries and the Soviet Union was leading the opposite camp of communist parties, advocating the parliamentary path to socialism.

In many countries the communist parties were divided right in the middle along this ideological and political line. The Communist Party of Sri Lanka was similarly divided. The Maoists started arguing that any delay in capturing state power was an unacceptable treachery as the parliamentary path was not achievable or it would involve a non revolutionary long march to socialism. It was argued that the parliamentary route was revisionist and a great betrayal of the aspirations the poor.

It was also important that the inspirations of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 had started making its impact on Asia, Africa and Latin America. In 1964, this writer attended a communist party (Peking wing) conference as a teenager in the belief that the only way to achieve social justice was through the armed overthrow of the Sri Lankan state and was convinced at the time that this would be possible. To this purpose, the sacrifice of your life might prove to be necessary. Rohana Wijeweera also attended this conference held in Dodanduwa, a poor fishing village on the Southern coastal belt.

The late 1960s with the emergence of an underground party, led by Rohana Wijeweera suggested that the socialist dream was going to be a reality. His underground movement had made deep inroads into the university student movement. They were also becoming pro-Sinhalese and non-inclusive of ethnic minorities. This demonstrated that the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) would not address the historical grievances of the Tamils. Some of us worked in the progressive student movement at the time had decided not to join the JVP due to their failure to address the issues faced by the Tamil community.

Our ideological and political disagreements with one of their political classes titled ‘Indian Expansionism" which threatened the very existence of the Up Country Tamil community were also equally acute. The JVP introduced an underground political culture by creating secret underground political cells. In these underground structures the membership was a very closely guarded secret and at the time it looked as if Wijeweera had cracked the code of the armed revolution and that the Sri Lankan proletariat was at the door of capturing the state power. Then the disaster struck the JVP’s undertakings. Wijeweera, the proponent of armed revolution as well as arguably one of the most effective political motivators of our generation of youths so far was assassinated by the security forces near the Kanatta Cemetery in Colombo on the night of 13 November 1989 ending the second JVP rebellion (1987-89) he had led.

The downfall of the JVP also marked the ascendancy of the LTTE in the north, a rise that ended when its leader Prabaharan, the most effective military organizer in the Tamil militancy, was killed by security forces on the Nanthikkadal Lagoon in Mulaitivu on 17 May, 2009. From the Kanatta cemetery to the Nanthikkdal Lagoon for a period of two decades the armed struggle started by the JVP appeared to have been perfected by the LTTE in their attempt to capture state power and carve out Tamil Eelam.The JVP insurrections could not go beyond the confines of the Sinhalese community as ideologically, politically and organizationally they had limited themselves to the Sinhalese youths. The LTTE had based their armed struggle on the narrow Tamil nationalism but extended the theatre of war into the Sinhalese areas. Understandably, the military projects of the JVP and the LTTE never had any collaboration. This gave a huge military advantage to the Sri Lankan state in crushing them.

This article attempts to examine the essential lessons to be drawn by their failures and the validity of the armed struggle itself in trying to achieve political change, democratic rights and social justice.

The main Sri Lanka left parties, the Lanka Samasamaja Party and the Communist Party at the beginning of the 1960s firmly adhered to the parliamentary path to socialism. However, from 1962 onwards the changes that happened in the world communist movement made irreversible changes in Sri Lankan politics. The great debate between China and then the Soviet Union with China supporting the armed overthrow of the capitalist state and the Soviet Union supporting ‘the revisionist policy of the parliamentary path’ as China put it created divisions around the world.

The Sri Lankan Communist Party was not immune. The rebels (Peking wing) were led by N Shanmugadasan and the Communist Party (Moscow) wing was headed by Peter Keuneman. The majority of the radical youths openly embraced the Peking wing and Wijeweera organized his secret cells within the party and later he formed his own underground movement by the end of the 1960 which became the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) before the armed insurrection in 1971.

By the mid 1970’s a radical student organization called the ‘Tamil Student Movement’ had emerged which in turn gave rise to the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) and Tamil Liberation Organization (TELO) in 1972.The LTTE was formed on 5 May 1976 under the leadership of Prabaharan. In 1981 there was split and Umamaheswaran formed the Peoples Liberation Organization of the Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). It was reported that there were about three dozens similar smaller groups in the Tamil community during this period but there were not more than five groups that came to full prominence in their political activism. The EPRLF and the EROS which was part of the original Tamil Student Movement also made their presence felt in the Tamil politics.

All these militant organizations had declared their ideological and political allegiance to Marxism-Leninism and were committed to the armed struggle to achieve a separate Tamil state for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. At the time in 1983 the LTTE presented itself as a Marxist oriented organization with a programme drawn up by Anton Balasingam, its ideologist, for a "Socialist Tamil Eelam".With the JVP adopting an armed revolutionary line it had made a historic departure from the existing Sri Lankan political culture and in turn it made a huge challenge to the Sri Lankan old Left parties from which they never recovered. One would argue that the JVP’s armed rebellion in 1971 made an impact on the Tamil politics as they demonstrated the possibility of employing organized armed political violence, even though they were decimated by the security forces in the 1970 and 1980’s.

The LTTE and the other armed groups’ adoption of violence had a devastating effect on Tamil society. The use of armed political violence has brought critical social and political changes into both Tamil and Sinhalese communities since the beginning of the 1970’s but these changes have not produced positive results in expanding political and democratic spaces in the country. The JVP’s re-emergence as well as its continuation of the ethnocentric political line in Sri Lankan politics is marked with the strengthening of pro Sinhala sentiments making it harder in expanding the democratic political space within the Tamil community. In fact they have been arguing for contracting the Tamil democratic political space and opposing any devolution of power to the Tamils.

For any armed political line to achieve political legitimacy and create decisive socio-economic and political change, strong mass based political structures, organized and developed in resolving their political grievances are necessary. There should be a revolutionary vanguard political party to lead the masses. The exceptions to this were the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the overthrow of Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979 by the Sandinista Army. It is also essential to demonstrate and to convince the people that the ruling classes are unable to respond to the demands made and the democratic political space is closed. When the JVP launched the 1971 insurrection there was no legitimacy for an armed uprising and the democratic political space was widely open.

There was a Left wing popular government in power elected in the previous year. In their second uprising between 1987-89 the JVP was still in the underground but there was no justification for an armed uprising as the government in power was making demands for the IPKF to withdraw from Sri Lanka.What was clear in the JVPs demand was a desire to stop devolution of power to the Tamils, and their armed violence was directed against expanding democracy and political rights under the 13th amendment to the Tamils in the North and East. They hounded and gruesomely murdered the left political and trade union activists, civil society and political leaders in the South who supported the 13th amendment to the Constitution. These displays of brutal violence were designed as warnings in themselves, a tactic also adopted by the LTTE.

The Tamil Tigers drew their legitimacy from the historical grievances the Tamils had suffered under the successive governments and the inability for the Tamil people to meet their legitimate aspirations within a united Sri Lanka. In the general election of 1977 the TULF won the elections on separatist demands and the Tamil Tigers have often reminded us that they had mass support for their military project in pursing Tamil Eelam. But their demands could have been met and the historical grievances could have been resolved by reconstituting the Sri Lankan state within a united Sri Lanka if they still pursued the democratic struggle. The Tamil Tiger’s military project had not incorporated mass political structures.

They annihilated other militant groups and the TULF leadership and emerged supreme. They also assassinated other political activist who did not wish follow their political line. They destroyed civil and political leaders as well as activists who could be in the forefront in achieving the Tamil democratic rights. They forcibly evicted the Muslims from Jaffna and attacked innocent Sinhalese in boarder villages, thus completing their journey to becoming a neo-fascist outfit. The use of division and suppression of democratic voices even within the Tamil community meant that the LTTE could never command broad democratic support. Both the JVP and the LTTE in their lack of mass base and support of the broad masses of the people had to resort to violence, propaganda and manipulation to get support, leading to the creation of an oppressive and anti-democratic political culture that could never allow any alternatives.

During 1987-89 the JVP forced people to join the processions in villages and cities and those who were disobeyed their diktat were severely punished. Similarly the LTTE during the Eelam wars forced innocent civilians to withdraw with them and finally used them as human shields. These demonstrate how easily the armed political movements could take away the rights of the masses for whom they professed to fighting for. This also shows how they would treat people once they achieve their power. Both organizations started off as left wing militant organizations.

The JVP particularly drew their inspiration from the Cuban Revolution and Che Guevara but they failed to observe Che’s fundamental advice. Che in his famous Guerrilla Warfare wrote that "where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintain at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted" (P.8).When the JVP launched their insurrection in 1971 and their second insurrection from 1987 to 89 the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not been exhausted. Similar conditions could be seen in relation to the Tamil armed project launched by the Tamil Tigers in the early 1980s.

After two major military debacles the JVP is today following the parliamentary path and this has to be welcomed. However, it has been very silent about its violent history. However, it has been very silent about its violent history due to two reasons. Firstly they mercilessly killed their political opponents. Secondly, because of its erroneous politico-military line thousands and thousands of young people were butchered by the security forces. The JVP manipulated the politically and militarily ill-equipped youths to make a frontal attack on the capitalist system and its armed forces at a politically non-opportune moment.

It is essential that they tell the people of Sri Lanka what they have learned from these tragedies and how they will avoid similar tragedies happening in the future. Are they really sorry about the murders they committed in the name of the revolution? It appears that they have neither political will nor courage to review their past mistakes The LTTE is also should apologize to people for the senseless murders they committed in the name of liberation.

Both parties would have established a one party state if they had won, states where people’s freedom would have been severely curtailed. They would have abolished civil society and this was demonstrated clearly when the Tamil Tigers established their de-facto state in the Tamil areas. Within a one party state there is no room for dissent. What we need is not a one party dictatorship but a multi- party democratic state with the guarantee of basic freedoms and a programme for social justice. We need political leaders who are trained in the democratic struggle and not those who were organizing and leading armed struggle against the state in the jungles. Such leaders would hardly understand that the needs of our people. Their ability and understanding of basic freedoms fundamental to healthy a democratic culture is non-existent.

The manner in which Prabaharan assassinated his political adversaries and the JVP’s death sentences against those who did not subscribe to their ideology demonstrate this. In killing their political adversaries both the JVP and the LTTE did not show any difference or any mercy. It is encouraging that today the JVP MPs talk about democracy and people’s freedom to have different political opinions but they must tell us why they assassinated so many activists during 1987-89 and what they will do in the future in similar situations. This will be inconvenient for the JVP but they need to have answers for these issues if they want to be a responsible political party to lead the people of Sri Lanka.

It was also noticeable that in both communities when the armed struggle was ongoing the very destructive and inhuman side of armed combatants was brought to the fore as never before in Sri Lankan politics .It was also apparent that the militant leaderships had no control over those or were in agreement with such a violent and gruesome political culture. They have demonstrated a prelude to a totalitarian dictatorship in their pathway to state power. Both the JVP and the LTTE started destroying the social fabric in the cities and the countryside when they eliminated their political adversaries.

In Sri Lanka at present there is a great need to build a well functioning civil society in both Sinhalese and Tamil communities. Without a well functioning civil society it would be difficult to fight the authoritarian tendencies of the state and ensure that people are able to enjoy their freedom. It is hoped that the Sri Lankan ruling class would endeavour to meet the democratic aspirations of its people by expanding the political space and ensuring that its citizen would be able to enjoy social justice by overcoming the acute social and economic inequalities that exist in our country. The ruling class should be politically farsighted enough to restructure the post colonial state to fulfil the aspirations of its minorities, particularly the Tamils. This is the challenge that we all face in resolving Sri Lanka’s violent history and building the foundations for a more inclusive and equal society.

The political parties or armed organizations that would follow the armed path to the state power from the very inception restrict the basic democratic rights. When a capitalist democratic states starts becomes an authoritarian or semi-authoritarian the response from revolutionary parties appears to be a totalitarian repressive state which would close the remainder of the capitalist democratic space abolishing the civil society altogether once they come to power.

The irony is that armed insurgents are fighting against an authoritarian system but their victory would be the abolition of their own freedom. At times this would be worse than the freedom enjoyed under the capitalist democracy. If a way forward is not developed to preserve the most fundamental democratic freedom people were able to enjoy under capitalist democracy, it would be criminal to the change the system. No dictatorship is acceptable in any form to govern the masses of people. If there is no creativity in convincing people that they will enjoy more than what they were able to enjoy under the capitalism, it would be hard for socialists to obtain the mass support. The most disturbing political issue living under the one party system would be the lack of basic democratic rights for its citizens. If one would not hesitate to envisage what would be the life like under such a system one has to find out the life under the Tiger totalitarianism or how the JVP was trying to manipulate people in order for them to capture power. This demonstrates that the armed combatants’ arrogant behaviours further erode people’s ability to enjoy their democratic freedoms.

When militant organizations acquire arms to effect political change, having access to arms itself creates dynamism of it own and their hesitance to use them against their own people wears thin when they want to impose their will on masses. Both the JVP and the LTTE made catastrophic political and military judgments and miscalculations sending thousands and thousand youth to death and destruction. These issues should be widely debated and provide opportunity for the people to express their views if the basic democratic rights of the people are taken seriously by the militant groups. Do we want them to create a state apparatus where dissenters are taken away after a knock on their door at midnight, never to be seen again, simply due to the possession of different political views from the ruling classes? Such regimes create legitimacy for such actions by branding their political adversaries as traitors of the authoritarian state should be toppled because they do not respect peoples’ right to dissent and life and enjoy democratic freedoms how can we tolerate such repressive measures against the people from a so called ‘socialist’ state? Under such states even the minimum democratic safeguards that capitalist democracy offers would not exist.

The failed armed insurrections of the JVP and the LTTE and the tragic evidence of their abuse of the people through their activities present a critical opportunity to discuss these issues. These debates should open up new vistas in relation to the basic democratic rights of the people and the future of Sri Lanka.

Neelambari Perumal plays journalist in debut whodunit "Bombay Mittai"

BY Soyesh. H. Rawther

Neelambari Perumal is no stranger to social issues. In fact, she has experienced the trauma that a committed social worker’s family faces while pursuing a genuine cause. Life can’t be different for the daughter of former chief minister of North East Provincial Council in Sri Lanka and Tamil leader Varadaraja Perumal who had to spend a major part of his life in exile fearing the guns of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

NPTC1124.jpeg

Neelambari Perumal

The actor-dancer daughter of Mr. Perumal is now all set to portray the role of a television journalist in an upcoming Malayalam movie, ‘Bombay Mittai’.

It was after a stage play she performed at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, that U. Pradeep, the producer of ‘Bombay Mittai’, approached her with a role in the movie. She liked ‘Bombay Mittai’s' story line and agreed.

The actor believes Malayalam films always come out with socially relevant subjects. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be part of the Malayalam film industry,” She also thinks Malayalam film makers still have a long way to go to satisfy the mass audience even though they produce quality movies. ‘Bombay Mittai’, being directed by Ummer Karikkad, revolves around the life of two youth struggling to eke out a living. “Ummer’s is an attempt to present the social realities without ignoring the essential ingredients of commercial cinema, “says a confident Neelambari.

Neelambari’s family had moved to Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh during her early childhood because of the security threat her family was facing. There were no schools for her to attend. “A tutor used to come to teach us and I learned my Hindi lessons from him”. The family again had to move for the same reasons to Rajasthan. There Neelambari attended Sophia school. ”We were the centre of attraction there because of the security cover we had even while attending the class”. She received her first lessons of Bharatanatyam from her aunt and learned Kathak from Guruji Manekchand. The silent, shy girl was slowly evolving into an artist. Finally, after the many journeys to find a secure home with her family, she settled in Delhi, completed her LLB, and is actively involved in theatre.

'Bombay Mittai’s' story takes an interesting turn when a young journalist who lives in north India decides to go back to her home town in South India to uncover the mystery behind a murder. Neelambari plays the scribe. “We had no doubts in our minds. Her character at the stage play in Delhi as a journalist was very powerful. She gave it a perfect touch, we believe it will happen in ‘Bombay Mittai’ too, “says the producer.

Though this is her first film, as far as acting is concerned, she is crystal clear. “I have been acting in plays in Delhi. I am also part of an NGO, which uses theater as a medium for social awareness,” explains Neelambari.

Social commitment and artistic background, as Nizam Rawther, the script writer of the movie puts it, ‘gives Neelambari an edge over others for the type of role that we envisage for a socially relevant movie.”With a rich cast including Bala, Vinu Mohan, Harisree Ashokan and Netaji fame Sachin Khedekar, and a pool of young talent of ‘Bombay Mittai’, Neelambari Perumal sets off on her journey here. With a strong performance, she could script a new chapter in success and social commitment. [courtesy: The Hindu]

Agencies raise concerns over IDP care once resettled

by IRIN News

The release of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps in Sri Lanka's north is welcome, but the government must now ensure they are properly cared for, the UN and NGOs say.

The Sri Lankan government, under international pressure for months over camp conditions and the pace of resettlement, last week announced that more than half the IDPs had been released.

It also announced the "total freedom of movement from 1 December" for remaining IDPs. Until now, the movement of IDPs from the heavily guarded camps has been restricted, earning criticism from the UN, human rights groups and NGOs.

"The decision was taken as part of government moves to improve the rights and privileges of internally displaced people," said a statement posted on the government's website.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcements, but also called for support for the IDPs. The government is urged "to improve the quality of the returns process, including through consultation with the IDPs themselves, and to ensure the best possible assistance and services to returnees", said Ban in a statement on 21 November.

Rene De Vries, country director for Oxfam in Sri Lanka, said allowing freedom of movement was a "good step forward from closed camps", but it was unclear to what extent the IDPs would move freely.

"We'll just have to see how far this will be implemented ... As far as we understand now, it's not total freedom," De Vries told IRIN. "It will be a pass system where people will be allowed to leave for a fixed period of time ... but then will have to return to the camp."

Support gaps

In Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, where the heaviest fighting took place, people are being returned to their houses with very little infrastructure in place, said De Vries.

"They are left to fend for themselves and we believe that NGOs can have a different attitude and approach to help them start up their lives again," he said.

A confidential report by local civil society organizations, which visited resettlement areas in Mannar and Kilinochchi in recent weeks, said situations varied.

"In Thunukkai [a village in Kilinochchi], one of the positive aspects I noticed was that people still have a standing house. Many returnees appreciated the fact that they have come back to their original homes from the barbed wire camp," states the report, a copy of which was obtained by IRIN.

"However, their freedom of movement is still in question," it says. "IDPs living in Menik Farm are given special ID cards and their movement, even after the return, has been carefully monitored," it said, referring to the largest camp.

In resettlement areas south and north of Mannar, IDPs resettled months ago are still living in open huts with poor infrastructure, and schools and hospitals far away, it said.

"Without any basic facilities [proper shelter, hospitals, transport, schools, drinking water, electricity and access to any form of livelihood activities] and basic right to freedom of movement, one has to wonder what it means to these IDPs to come back home," it said.

Consultation

John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the accelerated resettlement programme but said the returns process could be improved, and reiterated UN concerns about the lack of a consultative process with the IDPs.

"People need to be consulted as much as possible on where they are going, the status of their homes, their livelihoods," he told reporters on 19 November, at the end of a three-day visit.

Neil Buhne, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sri Lanka, said the returns had been completed in the east, and since mid-October, more than 46,000 people had been returned in the north.

"We have pretty good access to the returnees, and so far, it has been satisfactory," he told IRIN.

IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but its services are editorially independent.

Australian Labor’s refugee detention regime triggers Christmas Island riot

By Mike Head

Fears of imminent deportations, aggravated by increasing over-crowding, triggered a riot on Saturday night inside the Australian government’s refugee detention centre on the tiny outpost of Christmas Island, about 800 kilometres off the Western Australian coast.

Several detainees were seriously injured in the disturbance, which revealed the mounting tensions produced by the appalling conditions on the remote Indian Ocean island. At the time, 969 asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq, were being held in prison-style units without any legal rights. Another 157 people were detained in demountable buildings at a former construction site on the island, and a further 46 housed at another camp, known as Phosphate Hill, with 14 in so-called community housing.

According to the initial information released by immigration department officials on Sunday, a brawl broke out between about 150 Afghan and Sri Lankan men. Broken pool cues, tree branches and broom handles were reportedly used as weapons in a fight that was attributed to acrimony between the two groups over the different treatment of their refugee status applications.

At least 37 detainees required medical treatment, and a further 10 needed hospitalisation. Three men were transferred to Perth for medical treatment, suffering a broken nose, leg and jaw. Refugees alleged rough treatment by guards, several of whom were reported injured. No property was damaged.

While declaring that a joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police and Serco, the private operator of the facility, was underway, the Labor government’s immediate response was to threaten criminal charges and denials of refugee visas against detainees, and to ramp up security measures inside the institution.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Evans told parliament that detainees involved in the riot could be stopped from getting visas if they were found to have committed a serious offence. Rudd reiterated his government’s determination to maintain the mandatory detention regime on Christmas Island, declaring “That will be our policy into the future.”

Evans earlier conceded that there was general anxiety among Sri Lankan detainees because of recent removals of asylum seekers to Colombo and possible further deportations. “There's been some tensions growing among a certain group of the detainees concerned about possible return to Sri Lanka,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “That may well have been at the heart of some of the tensions in the centre.”

Tamil asylum-seekers are also alarmed because the Labor government is directly collaborating with the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapakse—the very government persecuting them—in deciding whether to grant refugee status.

Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, told the Australian that Tamil claims were being stalled. “The problem is the Australian government is using the Sri Lankan embassy for security checks and identity checks,” she said. “The Sri Lankan embassy are spitting bile about the Tamils. This is the way they can get at them: they go in slow, they don’t release the information.”

To allow the government from which they are fleeing to run security and ID checks on asylum seekers flouts the fundamental principle of the 1951 International Refugee Convention, which prohibits signatory countries like Australia from returning (“refouling”) refugees to face the danger of political, ethnic or religious persecution.

The Sri Lankan embassy’s involvement is not only facilitating the removal of asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka, but also fingering them and their relatives for ongoing retribution. This is no idle threat. Tamils are continuing to be killed or to “disappear” at the hands of pro-government militias, as has been the case for the past three decades.

As far as the Rajapakse regime is concerned, there are no genuine refugees fleeing Sri Lanka; on the contrary all Tamils are suspected “terrorists”—members or sympathisers of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Having illegally detained more than a quarter of a million Tamils without trial since its military victory over the LTTE in May, the Rajapakse government is now preparing to “release” them to live under strict military supervision and control.

This year so far, out of more than 2,100 arrivals, only 931 visas have been granted from Christmas Island, with just 73 to Sri Lankans. This month, more than two thirds of a group of 50 Sri Lankans who arrived by boat in April were sent back. Ten were forcibly removed, including six protesting Sinhalese fishermen who were physically escorted by guards onto a charter jet. This was the largest group deportation since 62 Indonesian men were removed on October 2.

Frustrations have also been growing among the asylum seekers due to over-crowding. Recreational space has been lost inside the centre as extra beds have been installed where there used to be billiards tables, and recently Serco began rationing teabags to two a day. There is also antagonism over access to the small number of Internet-access computers, the use of which is limited to 40 minutes a day.

The Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was originally commissioned by the former Howard government to house 400 detainees, with provision for up to 800 for limited periods. Under the Labor government, the IDC is now operating on a “surge” capacity of up to 1,200, involving placing inmates in makeshift dormitories in former recreation areas, without any privacy.

As more refugees flee repression in Sri Lanka and the stepped-up US-led offensive in Afghanistan, the over-crowding will only worsen. On October 31, the Rudd government announced it would double the capacity of the island to cope with up to 2,200 detainees before the end of the year. Demountable buildings are already being erected.

Despite the government’s reactionary efforts to sub-contract to Indonesia the burden of intercepting and detaining asylum seekers, 45 boats have made it to Australian territorial waters this year, only to be seized by naval or customs ships and taken to Christmas Island.

Labor opened the island’s newly-completed IDC in December 2008, overriding a recommendation from the official human rights agency, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), not to do so. Earlier this year, both the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights endorsed the AHRC’s call. Labor flatly rejected their recommendations as well.

In a further report last month, following a July visit to the island, the AHRC reiterated its concerns, including that the “high security detention centre that looks like a prison” is “not appropriate for detaining asylum seekers, particularly those with a background of torture or trauma”.

The AHRC observed: “The IDC is surrounded by a series of high wire fences. Within the facility, each compound is enclosed by another high fence, and many of the walkways into the compounds are enclosed within cage-like structures. Most areas of the facility are under CCTV surveillance. Within the compounds, officers’ stations are situated within metal-reinforced booths behind security screens.… The bedrooms in the accommodation compounds are small, dim and claustrophobic.”

Despite the government’s promises to reduce detention time to around 90 days, the AHRC found that of the 733 detainees on Christmas Island in July 2009, 114 (16 percent) had been there for more than three months, and 15 had been there for six months or longer. Of the 82 detained children, 16 of them (20 percent) had been there for more than three months, including seven children under 10 years of age. One 17-year-old boy had been there for more than six months.

The AHRC opposed the continued “excision” of Australia’s offshore islands from the country’s migration zone, which strips the detainees of all rights under Australian law and any access to the courts. All arrivals are detained without any trial or hearing, the so-called refugee status determination system on Christmas Island has no legally binding guidelines, and protection visas are granted only by Ministerial discretion.

The Migration Act also bars detainees from challenging the lawfulness of their detention in Australian courts. This is another breach of the Refugee Convention, which requires “free access to the courts of law”. The Labor government is perpetuating the system that saw the mentally ill Cornelia Rau, the disabled Vivian Solon and more than 200 other people wrongfully detained, and in some cases deported, between 2001 and 2005.

Last year, the government dropped an election promise to restore public management of detention facilities, despite a series of official reports that private operators had imposed unacceptably harsh conditions, such as solitary confinement and deprivation of medical and mental health care. In July this year, the government awarded a $A370 million ($US340 million) five-year contract to run the Christmas Island facilities, plus the onshore detention centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin, to Serco, a British-based conglomerate that also specialises in operating jails.


By incarcerating asylum seekers in the oppressive legal black hole on Christmas Island, the Rudd government is violating basic legal rights, and international law.

Between 1999 and 2003, asylum seekers, mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, conducted long and dangerous hunger strikes in desert detention centres on the Australian mainland at Woomera and Port Hedland, as well as at the Howard government’s offshore camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

When Labor unveiled a modified detention policy, centred on Christmas Island, in mid-2008, minister Evans said the regime of razor wire detention had caused public “outrage” and “done enormous damage to our international reputation”. The brutal logic of Labor’s “Fortress Australia” program means that nothing of any significance has changed. [courtesy: WSWS.org]

IMF Loan Will Not Benefit Sri Lankan People or Help Resurrect Crisis Ridden Economy

Media Release by Centre for Social Democracy

Statement on IMF – HRW correspondence on SL economy and Human Rights

We, as the Centre for Social Democracy (CSD), take it as our bounden responsibility to respond to the written dialogue between the HRW, Asia Division Executive Director, Brad Adams and the IMF Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which is now in public domain, on the issue of the IMF emergency support loan provided to the SL government, basically to prevent the Sri Lankan economy from collapse, as stressed by the IMF.

On Thursday 19 November, Caroline Atkinson, the Director of the External Relations Department at the IMF speaking to the media on these correspondences, further confirmed Strauss-Kahn's position of not giving credence to HRW allegations, saying its a bit of a “misleading premise” adding that, "usually the most vulnerable are most hurt by any economic collapse".

The CSD does accept the Sri Lankan economy is certainly in crisis but does also accept that it is not the sole responsibility of this government alone. It is a responsibility that both the World Bank and the IMF has to share, for their role in framing economic policy for under developed and developing nations and for sustaining those policies through numerous aid and loans backed by equally destructive programmes. All Sri Lankan governments have been towing these policies over the past few decades, while in Asia, there were countries that defied the WB – IMF recommendations and grew with strong economies.

The CSD would discuss on that responsibility of the IMF later in this response, but to begin with, first notes very clearly that the CSD does share all concerns raised by the HRW regarding war devastated Tamil civilians still kept in restricted, military controlled refugee camps in and around Vavuniya. The CSD does have concerns and reservations, as to how they are hurriedly sent out to other transit sites and camped in schools, churches and public buildings with even less facilities, on the pretext of resettlement.

The CSD is concerned too that no set policy has been outlined on and a resettlement and rehabilitation programme with measures for social reconciliation for Tamil IDPs, has yet been brought to parliament and discussed for approval and adoption, as a responsible government should do.

Finally, the CSD is concerned very much that to date, free access has not been given to civil organisations and the media, to monitor developments on what the SL government says and the IMF accepts, as improvements to IDP living conditions in camps and their resettlement.

Thereafter, the CSD also agrees in principle with the IMF and its MD Strauss-Kahn that the SL economy should not be allowed to collapse. For, as in all collapsed economies, it would be the poor, the socially marginallised and the vulnerable that would suffer most and is often left uncared for.

Therefore, one issue the CSD wishes to raise and stress very much, is the issue of transparency in negotiations, so that all stakeholders and beneficiaries here in SL, the citizens of SL, would have the right to know what conditions are negotiated and what they are strapped to, in accepting a foreign loan.

With that fundamental right of the citizens stressed, the CSD wishes to raise reservations and concerns in how the IMF interprets its case in providing the SL government with an emergency support loan and its second tranche of US $ 2.6 billion.

The letter written by Strauss-Kahn as MD of IMF explains,

1. an emergency support loan was provided explicitly to prevent the collapse of the SL economy,

2. the loan as a programme contributes to reconstruction efforts and sustain social spending aimed at protecting the poor

3. the IMF has no issue putting in place necessary "safeguards needed to ensure that the resources provide are used correctly.

4. the government has committed to creating a social safety net for the displaced as quickly as possible.

5. program includes considerable reduction in military spending in the 2010-2011 period, and these savings will be used to finance expenditure that will help the most vulnerable people.

6. The IMF is certain/assured the government has begun redeploying resources previously allocated to military spending toward reconstruction efforts in the north, such as de-mining, basic infrastructure and other activities essential for the reintegration of the Tamil people as spelt out in the initial letter of intent signed by the government.

The "initial" letter of intent was duly signed in July 2009, before the first tranche of US $ 322 million was provided to the SL government. Therefore the CSD wishes to stress here, had the IMF monitored properly, it would have to accept the accusation of the HRW that the SL government, continued to disregard the rights of the displaced, in violation of its own letter of intent.

Almost 04 months after signing the letter of intent in July, there is no “safety net” for the displaced, no programme to sustain social spending aimed at protecting the poor apart from the already existing Samurdhi programme, that during 12 years in existence had not been able to alleviate poverty in any way and no “safeguards” the IMF has put in place since the first tranche of the loan was provided in July, to ensure the right use of its loan provided, as mentioned by Strauss-Kahn in his letter to BradAdams of HRW.

Very plainly, by 09th October this year, this government has shredded its 2009 budget approved in parliament, with over LKR 77 billion borrowed to cover heavy overspending by numerous ministries, through 23 supplementary estimates subsequently brought to parliament. The highest over spending had been in the army, navy and the air force, for which supplementary borrowings has totalled a sum of LKR 29.8 billion.

Such irresponsible public finance management all through its tenure left this government in a balance of payments crisis that was faced with a LKR 200 billion worth of currency printing, approved by the IMF itself and thus is proof that this government is in no position to honour any that is included in its letter of intent.

This is also reason why the government was unable to budget as it should, for year 2010 and all promises for reduced military spending and diverting them for reconstruction efforts in the North, as Strauss-Kahn wants others to believe, holds no water.

Thus the government has avoided its total inability to spell out its development programme and income sources in a detailed annual budget for 2010 and instead presented a “Vote on Account” which is only an expenditure sheet for the first quarter of 2010. Yet the government's very abstract explanation that, “In order to ensure this strong fiscal performance continues in the run-up to Parliamentary elections due by April, we have opted to pursue a vote-on-account budget covering the first four months of 2010, limiting our spending during this period to about one-third of 2009 approved budgetary expenditures."

(Letter of intent – 30 Oct. 2009) has been accepted by the IMF without comment.

The government has thus proved it has absolutely no sense of what it had written into its own “letter of intent” sent on 16 July, 2009 to the IMF addressed to its MD, Strauss-Kahn and also that it had no capacity what so ever to honour any of those that Strauss-Kahn says the government is now doing or intends to do.

The CSD therefore wants every one to take note, that this emergency support loan provided by the IMF for relief and reconstruction especially in the North, with very vague understandings between the GoSL and the IMF to channel “savings” to social spending with supposed “safety nets” and “safeguards”, will not in any way avert the economic crisis Sri Lanka is facing, although Strauss-Kahn makes that his strongest argument for ignoring human rights concerns.

For any real resurgence of the SL economy, it needs a paradigm shift in its total approach in development planning with all democratic institutions given their full life to rid corruption, waste and inefficiency. People of SL needs to have full access to the governing processes at every level of social life and space for participation, with the State restructured for plurality and inclusivity. What has been provided by the IMF does not address any of these fundamental necessities and is no answer for any economic revival.

This also proves that the prescriptions written by the WB-IMF combination for the underdeveloped and developing nations have absolutely no relevance to the ground situations. That they have thus not been able to assist any country to emerge with sustainable growth.

The CSD would therefore take up the issue of responsibility now, that was left for later explanations, holding both the WB and the IMF as equally culpable for most conflicts in our development hemisphere.

It is common knowledge, the WB and the IMF work in tandem and have been fashioning economic policy for development in poor countries and providing assistance for restructuring of their economies and for supposed stability. The WB policy in all their interventions had been to date, in pruning down

State expenditure and promoting privatising of State owned businesses, within a neo-liberal market economy. The IMF has always stepped in to sustain such policy, with their own financial programmes.

The CSD is convinced such policy compelled governments in these poor countries to fall prey to vested interests, become more and more dependent on WB and IMF dictates in terms of both policy and financial aid, while having to face continued economic crises. This neo liberal model of (non)development has also given legitimacy to governments in poor countries to adopt stringent measures in curbing democratic structures that would provide space for people's agitations for economic benefits and continued State welfare.

Thus, right across the globe, local conflicts that challenged such States on different political platforms emerged and grew, all at the end wanting either to move out of the State for not respecting the people they thought they have a right to represent or, wanting to oust the ruling regime to take control of the

State into their hands. Conflicts that thus grew into extremism of different shades and types, resulting in socio-political instability at a heavy cost on democracy and human life.

It is also common for the WB and the IMF to return thereafter, with new packages of solutions, but not different either, except in rhetoric. This is reason why Strauss-Kahn on behalf of the IMF does not want to accept a return to democracy and he spells it out thus. “The Sri Lankan economy is facing a serious crisis and regardless of one’s opinion of the human rights situation in that country, the collapse of the economy cannot be considered a reasonable outcome.”

Therefore the “reasonable outcome” of the IMF intervention by way of a two tranche emergency loan would be, to see this government bailed out for now, despite its role in curbing democracy, violating human rights and moving ahead without any commitment for accountability and transparency and with no adequate plan(s) for development that would yet again create instability in society. Instability that would require the government to further suppress the democratic life of the people, whom the IMF claims to save from a collapsing economy.

The CSD therefore takes this opportunity to say, all these interventions by the IMF that leave concerns about human rights violations and re-democratisation of society on the wayside, will not be interventions on behalf of the people, but simply, strategic interventions to have their continued authority over a government that continuously struggles to be in power, at what ever cost to the people the government claims, elected them to power.

In conclusion, the CSD wishes to stress with responsibility that any form of intervention in Sri Lanka that does not provide improved and more space for democratic life of the people, will not bring any benefit to the people and therefore this IMF loan in two tranches will not help resurrect the SL economy in crisis. It would only push the crisis into the future and would certainly help this government to tide over difficult times, till the speculated elections in April 2010 could be over.

Sgd / Kusal Perera

Sgd/ Mahinda Ratnayake

On behalf of
Centre for Social Democracy

November 23, 2009

Promise to free displaced must be followed by concrete action-Amnesty International

Media release by Amnesty International

Amnesty International welcomes the government of Sri Lanka’s promise to lift by 1 December any restrictions on movement of at least 130,000 people displaced by the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam.

“Now the Sri Lankan government needs to demonstrate that it will provide the displaced with necessary assistance such as shelter, food and security as they re-establish their homes,” said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific deputy director.

Hundreds and thousands of Tamils who escaped the war have been detained in camps under military control for the past six months, deprived of their freedom of movement. Many of them survived months of difficult conditions as they were forced to travel with retreating LTTE forces who forcibly recruited civilians, including children, and in some instances used civilians as human shields.

The Sri Lankan government has agreed to give people a choice about whether to remain in camps to seek alternative accommodations or attempt to return home.

“For months vulnerable people have been held in inadequate conditions in camps lacking adequate sanitation facilities and clean drinking water. If the Sri Lankan government follows through on its promise to allow thousands of people to return home, it would be the first step in the long struggle ahead for people rebuilding their devastated lives,” said Madhu Malhotra.

Amnesty International stresses the continued need to protect the rights of internally displaced people both within and outside the camps.

The organisation also urges the Sri Lankan authorities to abide by the principles of International humanitarian law and ensure that displaced people are supported to make voluntary and informed decisions about their future.

“Humanitarian and human rights organizations should be given unimpeded access to displaced people and those attempting to resettle to monitor their safety and wellbeing and ensure their needs are being met, including that they are protected against further human rights violations,” said Madhu Malhotra.

Background

Since the war ended in May, an estimated 12,000 displaced people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arbitrarily arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings.

Amnesty International is concerned about lack of transparency and accountability in that process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework and the increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado.

Persons arrested on suspicion of links to the LTTE and accused of crimes should be charged with legitimate offences, tried and prosecuted in accordance with the law.

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Sign at Rally in New York in front of the UN-On September 22, 2009.

UN concerned at how Tamils are being returned

"There are concerns about the quality of the returns process,” says Mr. John Holmes, UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator in a UN News Centre media release while commenting on the "resettlement" methods of the Govt. of Sri Lanka.

Also, he has raised questions over the amount of notice and preparation time given to IDPs and UN agencies on the ground before authorities direct the movement of people.

Report by UN News Centre:

The top United Nations humanitarian official, who just returned from a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, today praised the swift discharge in recent weeks of many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been confined to makeshift camps for several months.

By the time the Government declared an end to its military operations against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, over 300,000 IDPs were in camps in northern Sri Lanka.

“When I was in Menik Farm [the largest IDP camp] at the end of last week, the number of people there was less than half of what it had been at the end of the hostilities,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in New York

Mr. Holmes said that less than 135,000 IDPs now remain in that camp, with up to 3,000 people leaving every day and another 30,000 slated to return to Kilinochchi district – a former LTTE stronghold – on 1 December.

He said Government officials had confirmed that all the camps will be emptied by the end of January, and from the beginning of next month IDPs will be granted freedom to move in and out of the camps.

“Nevertheless, there are concerns about the quality of the returns process,” said Mr. Holmes, who also serves as the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

He raised questions over the amount of notice and preparation time given to IDPs and UN agencies on the ground before authorities direct the movement of people. There are also concerns over the speed of landmine clearance and quality of basic services in the areas where IDPs are returning.

The Government provides a cash payment of around $220, which is set to double, as well as roofing materials to help IDPs re-establish their lives and rebuild destroyed housing, “but there is not doubt it will be a difficult process,” he stated.

On his visit to Sri Lanka, Mr. Holmes spent two days visiting IDP camps in Jaffna and Vavuniya before heading to Colombo to meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other Government officials, as well as a delegation from the Tamil National Alliance.

Amnesty International Chief Blasts Australia's 'Panic' Over Asylum Seekers

The head of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, says the Australian government should close its immigration detention center on Christmas Island.

IKTC1123.jpg

Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International (File Photo)- by AP

The head of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, says the Australian government should close its immigration detention center on Christmas Island. On a visit to Australia, Khan accuses the conservative opposition of exploiting voters' fears about asylum seekers for political gain.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan says that holding asylum seekers at the Christmas Island processing center will not deter the flow of boat people heading to Australia.

On a visit to Canberra this week, Khan urged the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to close the camp in the Indian Ocean, about 2,600 kilometers northwest of Perth.

The facility opened last year and houses asylum seekers recently picked up by the Australian navy.

A surge of unauthorized arrivals by boat has put the issue of immigration back in the public spotlight in Australia. Khan says the debate here has often been xenophobic.

The Amnesty International chief blames conservative politicians for whipping up public hysteria.

"I think it is unscrupulous politicians and populist media," Khan said. "There has been a lot of fuss being made about the boat arrivals when actually the numbers arriving by air are much higher. There seems to be a sense of panic when what is really needed here is to handle a humanitarian problem with regard to international standards."

She says the number of boat arrivals in Australia is small compared those arriving in Europe.

Khan, however, calls the Rudd government's immigration policies an improvement on those of the previous conservative administration. She points out Mr. Rudd's decision to grant permanent residency rather than temporary protection visas to those deemed to be genuine refugees and the closure of the outback Woomera detention center and offshore processing facilities in the South Pacific.

Amnesty International says a multilateral approach is needed to deal with the asylum problem.

The Australian government says the surge of migrants arriving by boat is the result of conflicts in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as well as the global economic crisis.

Australia accepts more than 10,000 refugees a year who are processed through non-governmental agencies in other countries. [VOA News]

November 22, 2009

An island of secrecy: Indian High Commission in Colombo

By P K Balachandran

In a foreign country, your own mission is an island of familiarity. In Colombo, the Indian High Commission is an island all right, it’s just that no one, not even the Indian media, is welcome.

It was reasonably transparent in its dealings with resident Indian correspondents till the advent of Gopal Gandhi, more so under Nirupama Rao. Under Shivshankar Menon, there was hardly any restriction, though often anonymity was requested.

Though Gopal Gandhi was hospitable he gave little hard information.

But no visit from New Delhi was kept secret. With Nirupama Rao, the rot set in. Her craze for sunshine stories and her extreme sensitivity to criticism or adverse reporting, however factual, affected her relations with the Indian and local media. She expected the Indian media to be an unofficial voice of officialdom.

Things became truly unbearable when Alok Prasad took over. Prasad not only did not interact with the media but was openly hostile to them. The mission kept the visits of Indian officials to discuss projects of importance in the context of China’s build-up in Sri Lanka shrouded in secrecy. Two Indian demining teams are working in the north, but their work is kept under wraps for reasons best known to the mission. Indian doctors did great work in two India-built hospitals in the north and east during the war, but no Indian correspondent was allowed to visit them and write about them.

The recent visit of 10 Tamil Nadu MPs was kept under the wraps right through. From the way the MPs behaved (cutting off the line when an unfamiliar Colombo number showed up on their mobiles) it was apparent that South Block mandarins had told them not to talk to the press. Even more embarrassingly, the visit of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would have come as a total surprise but for a chance meeting with new high commissioner Ashok Kanth.

While other foreign missions always arrange a press conference when their ministers and high officials visit Colombo, the Indian mission rarely or never does so. Sri Lankans attribute this to a Big Brotherly arrogance or a hidden agenda. [courtesy: The Indian Express]

The Indian & Chinese models and the Maoist surge in South Asia today

by Dayan Jayatilleka

South Asia has witnessed more significant anti-systemic ideological conflicts than most areas of the world outside of East Asia and Latin America. Sri Lanka was the site of two Southern upheavals, in 1971 and 1986-90, from within the majority ethnic community, led by the ultra-left xenophobic Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Bangladesh experienced the rather more romantic radical left led military mutiny of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) in the mid 1970s. While the most successful has been the Nepali Maoist struggle, which briefly assumed power in a narrative that is as yet unfolding, the most portentous, if only because of its location, is India’s Maoist insurgency which as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently noted, has a forty year history and has seen a contemporary resurgence.

The radical insurgency has been shocking because of its persistence or renewal, but more so because India is the new model for the global South, combining high growth with secular democracy and quasi federalism. It is regarded as a template for the politics of unity in diversity. According to theory, a radical revolutionary insurgency should not persist, still less expand in the face of high growth and democracy. As we shall examine later in this paper, the insurgency actually serves as an early warning sign of (social) systemic stress.

In Nepal, the situation is opaque, with a Maoist party that is paradoxically far more sophisticated than those of the politically infinitely more evolved India, is biding its time for a renewed surge which may be political, military or both. What happens in Nepal has strategic consequences far beyond its borders, most obviously in the ripple effects of example it holds for the Maoist insurgency in India.

The intra-state anti-systemic conflicts in the region, again most dramatically exemplified by the Sri Lankan far-left insurgencies of 1971 and the late 1980s, are in decline or dormant with the important exceptions of the complicated dynamics in Nepal and the recrudescent and proliferating Maoist insurgency in India.

Nepal

Unlike the JVP and the LTTE of Sri Lanka, the Maoists of Nepal knew when to switch from armed struggle to negotiation, mass struggle and parliamentary politics. In short they were Leninists, had correctly calculated the conjuncture and changing correlation of forces, and mastered “all forms of struggle”. Had the JVP and LTTE possessed a leadership with this same political literacy, education, clarity and maturity, neither Wijeweera nor Prabhakaran would be ignominiously dead, with their leadership core, military cadre, and armed rebellions decimated.

Nepal today is reminiscent of Portugal in 1975-6, a situation of virtual dual power which could go either way. In Portugal the revolutionaries were divided and not themselves armed, but their allies in the armed forces were. In Nepal, the armed forces have few revolutionary sympathizers if any, but the revolutionary forces are themselves armed to some degree, despite the demilitarization. The advance of the radical left in Portugal was thwarted by the revived power of the Social democratic Left led by Mario Soares and the ambiguity of the pro-Moscow Communists led by Alvaro Cunhal. The revolutionary was itself a congeries of armed radical groupuscules or focus. In Nepal however, though the Left is divided there is a cohesive vanguard party with a national leader, Pushpakumar Dayal; there is no strong social democratic intermediary and one doubts whether the unarmed Left is able to play such a role. Above all, the relatively unchanged character of the land tenure systems provides purchase for the Maoists. At the moment the situation is characterized by what Antonio Gramsci called catastrophic equilibrium – an equilibrium of forces tending towards catastrophe.

The Maoists seem readier to take the initiative, and one given the seemingly zero sum nature of the issue in dispute, the character of the armed forces and control over them, it may be impossible to avoid another bout of armed or politico-military conflict in which Pushpakumar Dayal may return to his nom de guerre Comrade Prachanda ( comrade Violence). Compromise arrangements regarding the armed forces during transitions in Latin America, for instance Nicaragua when the Sandinistas were vacating the seats of power in 1990 should be urgently studied for possible solutions to this impending conflict at the heart of which is of course the question of whether the assumption of power by the Maoists has a teleological inevitability as they seem to believe, or not, and whether the only route will be that of elections and respect for the democratic institutional and state order. To gain acceptability and legitimacy though, that order, which has not yet crystallized, will have to be thoroughly negotiated and agreed upon by consensus, with neither side, the revolutionaries nor the Establishment politicians and classes, attempting a unilateral push forward or roll back, i.e. an insurrection or a putsch, using armed force. At the moment, the prospects for such a peaceful resolution are few and will remain so unless there is sustained South Asian engagement.

India

The issue of resolving India’s growing Maoist insurgency brings us to a cluster of crucial problems and debates, not least is a comparison of the Indian and Chinese development miracles, their respective futures, the prospects of each to function as a model, and the potential global role of each of these emergent Asian powers. Those who bet on India hold that the Indian political system, its combination of multiparty democracy and quasi federalism provides greater long term sustainability and a guarantee of success for the Indian model, while China’s regulated, regimented or closed political system constitutes an Achilles’ heel in terms of the management of contradictions. The contrary view holds that it is precisely China’s political system that permits the management of social and political contradictions in a manner that contains fissiparous tendencies and makes for long term stability while India’s multiple contradictions could smolder and ignite into Naipaul’s ‘million mutinies’.

While the jury will remain out for quite some time on this debate, the reactivation and rapid proliferation of India’s Maoist insurgency does shed light on the weak link of India’s development. That weak link or the weakest of those links is not in Kashmir or the Northeast, but in the Indian socioeconomic formation itself. Asymmetric warfare in India follows the fault-lines and fissures of India’s asymmetric development. Those fault-lines are social or socioeconomic and stem from the problem of the extremely uneven development of India’s capitalism.

60 years after the founding of the Peoples Republic, it is possible to discern the most important continuities between the Maoist and post Maoist periods. This is not only the obvious one of the continuing rule of the Communist party, but a deeper, less apparent one. I refer to the fact that the massive radical agrarian revolution of Mao has laid the foundation for successful industrialization – some might say capitalist development – of China. This is perhaps the longer term strength of the Chinese model, just as its non-revolutionary, even counter-revolutionary variant has been a key to the South East Asian success stories of South Korea and Taiwan. India by contrast, has experienced a development miracle while not having resolved the agrarian question, the question of archaic systems of land tenure; the question of the persistence of a class of large landowners who engage in coercive social control; and the related question of caste oppression or the peculiar combination of class and caste.

If one were to use the schema of the bourgeois democratic revolution, be it in its Marxian version or that of Barrington Moore, it is possible to conclude that both India and China have fulfilled the tasks of national unification, though that is not without its challenges at their peripheries. However, while India has set up a democratic republic in the political sphere, which is one of the tasks and targets of the so-called bourgeois revolutions, it has not completed its agrarian or rural accompaniment. China on the other hand has, though it has obviously eschewed the setting up of a bourgeois democratic republic. Thus India has completed the political but not the social aspect of the classic bourgeois democratic revolution while it is arguably the other way round in the case of China. India’s capitalist development more closely approximates the path of Tsarist Russia or the Prussian path, rather than the American path, if one may use the typology pioneered by the young Lenin in his The Development of Capitalism in Russia. It is India’s advanced political system that has prevented a system-wide crisis resulting from this socioeconomic unevenness. However, that political system has been unable to prevent the persistence and progress of the Maoist rural insurgency.

A scenario of the countrywide or even state wide seizure of power by the Indian Maoists is wildly improbable. India is heavily industrial and modern while the insurgency is not. The maximum it may be able to achieve is the combination of a rural spread with urban guerrilla attacks such during the Naxalite insurgency of the late 1960s and early 1970s or the Peruvian Shining Path guerrilla experience. The very existence of a strong electoral democratic system and a trade unionist Left, the CPI-M and the CPI, guarantee the failure of the Maoist insurgency in terms of its ultimate objective. However, the problems that it feeds off, namely rural backwardness and caste oppression, coupled with the radical insurgency that these fuel, and the escalating costs of counter-insurgency could have a cumulative and growing drag effect on the Indian economic miracle. Given the vastness of the Indian population, that drag effect could cause system-wide dissonance if it slows down India’s growth over time.

The prospects for conflict resolution in India depend on the readiness of its political class to engage in sweeping agrarian reforms which would in turn mean a realignment of socio political forces in the countryside. Already where the BJP is strong, the landlord classes feel freer to engage in violence against the poorer peasantry and subaltern castes, which in turn triggers a response from the Maoists. The challenge is before the Congress as to whether it can spearhead a thoroughgoing reform and modernization of India’s rural social and ideological relations. The hope and the irony is that India already has the ideas and concepts necessary for the task, Amartya Sen being only the best known to argue for the necessity and feasibility of combining growth, equity and democracy.

[Excerpted from the paper on Prospects for Conflict Resolutions in South Asia presented by Dr Dayan Jayatilleka at the 5th International Conference on South Asia organized by the Institute for South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore.]

AI writes President Barack Obama to secure ICRC access to LTTE suspects

As India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh becomes US President Barack Obama's first state guest during a three-day visit to Washington beginning November 23, Amnesty International has written to President Barack Obama to "candidly address human rights concerns," on several matters with him.

The concerns raised by Amnesty International includes matters pertaining to the internment camps for the internally displaced Tamils and the detention of those suspected of links to LTTE.

Amnesty International has urged President Barack Obama to discuss India's International role and to urge India to use its close relationships with Sri Lanka to follow up on the Colombo government promises.

Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International has urged President Barack Obama in an open letter to, secure access to an estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE who have been detained by Sri Lanka, and said that they have been denied access to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and legal counsel.

Full text of letter by Amnesty International as follows:

November 18, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama,
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of Amnesty International USA, I urge you to candidly address human rights concerns in India during your upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and to press him to make substantive improvements. Prime Minister Singh will be the first leader to receive a state visit at the White House after you became the President. While you are honoring him with this state visit, Amnesty International urges you not to forget the plight of women, men and children who are facing numerous human rights abuses in India and to make public statements emphasizing that human rights are central to US-India relations.

Your meeting with Prime Minister Singh in the White House represents an opportunity for you to directly communicate your concerns about human rights in India. While you discuss economic cooperation and civilian nuclear partnership with the Indian Prime Minister, it is vital that you also raise human rights concerns affecting millions of Indian citizens. Amnesty International strongly urges you to include human rights concerns in India in your joint communiqué with the Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh and to address human rights concerns during your joint press conference with Prime Minister Singh.

Even though India is the world's largest democracy, serious and disturbing human rights abuses are ongoing, including rape, extrajudicial executions, deaths in police and military custody, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, and dowry deaths. The Government of India not only fails to prevent these abuses, but also shelters members of security forces from facing justice. People living in several of the northeastern states of India and in Kashmir, religious minorities, those belonging to the lowest social order called "Dalits", and indigenous communities called "adivasis" face the brunt of these abuses. Other socially and economically marginalized groups including women face discrimination at the hands of the police and criminal justice system. Although laws were passed to address some of these human rights abuses, serious concerns remain about the implementation of such laws.

Some of the specific contexts in which mass abuses were or continue to be committed include:

Mass killings of Sikhs: Over three thousand Sikhs were massacred when the governing Congress Party incited mob violence targeting Sikh civilians in reaction to the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Scores of women were gang raped and some were burnt alive. After two decades, a judicial commission concluded that members of the governing Congress Party were involved. Twenty five years have passed since the massacre, but only a few have been brought to justice for this mass killing.

Mass killings of Muslims: In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in Gujarat as a reaction to a train fire that killed 59 Hindus. This train fire was blamed on Muslims. Hindu mobs allegedly incited by state Bharatiya Janata Party members went on a killing spree targeting Muslims. Several hundred Muslim women and girls were gang raped and some were burnt alive. Pregnant women and children were also targeted. After nine years, very few individuals have been brought to justice.

Bhopal tragedy: Several thousand people have died and many more continue to die from a 1984 gas leak at Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1984. Twenty five years have passed since the leak occurred, but the plant site has not been cleaned up and toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and ground water. Tens of thousands continue to live with debilitating illnesses. Despite numerous efforts, survivors continue to be denied adequate compensation, medical help, rehabilitation, and justice.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958: The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 has remained in effect in "disturbed areas," including Kashmir and large parts of the northeastern states of India for over forty years. This act is a major contributor to mass human rights abuses in these areas of India. This law protects Indian security forces from prosecution by requiring permission to prosecute from India's Central Government--permission which is rarely given. As a result, security forces often take the law into their own hands and commit mass human rights abuses against the civilians. This law has facilitated grave human rights abuses, including "disappearances," rapes, extrajudicial executions, and deaths resulting from torture.

Northeastern States: One of the areas "hidden" from international attention is the region of northeast India. Numerous abuses are taking place in this area, largely facilitated by the above-mentioned Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958. Security forces kill, rape, "disappear" and commit other gross human rights abuses with virtual impunity.

Kashmir: The Indian side of Kashmir is another area where Indian Security forces commit mass human rights abuses with impunity. Once again, the abuses are facilitated by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 and other similar laws. The civilian population of Kashmir has paid a high price for the conflict. Thousands have disappeared over the years.

Abuses against "Dalits": India's caste system involves a social hierarchy in which individuals are considered to be born into a particular caste in which they remain throughout their lives. Outside these caste categories are the "untouchables", now commonly known as "Dalits", whose occupations -- sweepers, tanners, sanitation workers, etc -- are viewed as "polluting" the community. Nearly 200 million people in India belong to this category. This system has been called India's "hidden apartheid." Abuses against "dalits" are numerous and take many different forms, including: parading of naked Dalit women through the streets, socioeconomic discrimination, killings, arson-burning of Dalit communities, gang rape, bonded labor, denial of land rights, and many more. The police and the criminal justice system also discriminate against Dalits. Though important strides have been made, much remains to be done.

Abuses against "Adivasis": The indigenous communities called adivasis face immense pressure from dam and mining development projects and settlements. Adivasis face socioeconomic discrimination as well as discrimination by the police and the criminal justice system.

Mr. President, Amnesty International urges you to secure a meaningful commitment from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to improve India's human rights situation. It is essential that human rights be treated as an important issue like trade and civilian nuclear partnership.

At a minimum, we urge you to press Prime Minister Singh to take the following steps:

Chhattisgarh: Ensure protection of civilians in ongoing and proposed military actions against Maoists-Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and other states. Stop harassing and arresting human rights defenders. Maoists must also end their violence against civilians.

Kashmir/Manipur: End impunity and make armed forces personnel accountable for human rights violations. In particular repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur and other parts of the North Eastern States and Kashmir where imposed. Ensure that any replacement act is in line with international human rights standards.

Justice: Bring to justice those involved in the mass killings of Sikhs and Muslims.

Bhopal: Ensure establishment of the promised empowered Commission on Bhopal for the rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas victims, with adequate resources and capacity. In conjunction with the companies involved (including US based Dow Chemical), the Government of India should ensure effective measures to address the long-term impacts of the Bhopal gas leak, including proper clean-up and remediation of the factory site, medical care, regular supply of adequate safe water for the affected communities, and economic rehabilitation.

And with regard to India's foreign policy:

Mr. President, we also urge you to discuss India's International role and to urge India to use its close relationships with Burma and Sri Lanka to:

Burma: Urge Prime Minister Singh to engage with the Burmese authorities to end serious and systematic human rights violations and to release over 2,100 political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sri Lanka: Urge Prime Minister Singh to follow up on the promise made by the Sri Lanka Government to India that it would release the IDP's within six months. Six months have passed, but still there are tens of thousands of civilians detained in military run internment camps. Secure access to an estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE who have been detained. They have been denied access to ICRC and legal counsel.

Mr. President, we urge you not to miss this opportunity to speak for those whose rights have been violated in India. They need your help.

Sincerely,

Larry Cox
Executive Director

Related news in Tamil

AlJazeera video: Tamils risk all to flee Sri Lanka

Hundreds of thousands of Tamils' have been displaced in the fighting and are now living in hastily put together refugee camps that have been largely shut off from the outside world.

More and more Tamils have been risking their lives - spending weeks on the oceans - in the hopes of reaching Australia.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, in Valaichchenai, Sri Lanka, reports that a new group of asylum-seekers are said to be preparing to board boats on the island's southeastern coast and sail directly to Australia's Christmas Island:

AlJazeera video

November 20, 2009

In Pictures: End of 180 day period promised for the release of interned Tamils

The end of the 180 day period promised by Sri Lankan President Rajapakse to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on May 23, 2009 for the release of 300,000 Tamils detained in internment camps in Sri Lanka was marked by Tamils and friends of Tamils from United States and Canada in Washington DC on Nov 20, 2009.

A spokesperson for the organizers of the event, The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) commenting on the continuing internment of Internally Displaced Tamils said:

“These people are being subjected to collective punishment for their demands for political, social and cultural rights in their own traditional homeland. We support all efforts to allow these innocents to return freely and with dignity to their homes in a secure environment.”

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Dr. Ellyn Shander of USTPAC spoke at the event urging for the release and freedom of movement of all Tamils detained in internment camps in Vavuniya and other smaller camps in North and East.

A media release by USTPAC pointed out that two thirds of these Tamils continue to be detained in poor conditions without accountability, family reunification or a timetable for release.

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As Sri Lanka and even some United Nations press releases trumpet “resettlement” of Internally Displaced Tamils, there have been reports such as from The Washington Post that verify many civilians are being re-detained.

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Emily Wax wrote on Nov11th in The Washington Post that, “many civilians have merely been shuffled from the large camps to smaller transit ones and are being held against their will. Others have been released, only to be taken from their homes days later with no indication of where they have gone”.

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Participants expressed concern that the Tamil Internally Displaced Persons are being forced to relocate away from their original homes and in the process being denied of their livelihood and dignity by the govt. of Sri Lanka.

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Several reports of allegations have been published recently about state sponsored colonization in areas where Tamils fled during the war

The USTPAC event also honored the selflessness and perseverance three young men from Toronto, Canada who walked to Washington, DC through Chicago, IL to ‘Break the Silence’ about abuses against Tamils in Sri Lanka during and after the war.

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Two of the walkers, Kannan Sreekantha and Vijay Sivaneswaran walked through the heartland of America

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Tamils also observed the 194th day of the Continuous Tamil Awareness Rally taking place at near Washington DC on this day.

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The rally began with march from Upper Senate Park to the Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

USTPAC media release sights UNHCR and other sources, that many people "supposedly being released" are "simply being moved to more dispersed detention centers. Many of those actually released are left on the streets without resources or the right to return to their homes".

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Tamil Canadians too continue to take part in the "non-stop" awareness rally, taking place opposite The White House

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Rally attendees carried placards on Sri Lankan officials allegedly committing "war crimes".

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an independent international investigation of possible violations of the laws of war in Sri Lanka, after US State Department issued a report on Sri Lanka situation on October 22, 2009

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Mounted Police of Washington DC on this sunny fall day

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Tamils and friends of Tamils from USA and Canada attended the rally on Nov 20th

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The White House vicinity was decorated with flags of America and India, welcoming the visit of Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh to meet President Barack Obama on Nov 24th.

Why Mahinda may have to face presidential polls first

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Throw a stone into placid waters and you get a big splash followed by numerous ripples. The ripple effect caused by the Fonseka factor continues to excite the contemporary Sri Lankan political scene.

The Presidential stakes earlier was a predictable one-horse race. With the anticipated entry of an old warhorse, an element of uncertainty has been introduced.

This sudden turn of events in the political scenario is certainly due to one man-Lt.Gen Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka! [click here to read in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Tamil women, children behind bars in Indonesia

Ten Sri Lankan women and children who came off the Oceanic Viking yesterday say they are locked up and unable to leave an Australian-funded detention centre in Indonesia.

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Behind bars: the women say they are sad and want to go to Australia. (Reuters: Vivek Prakash)

mp3 audio-ABC

Holding their young children up to the bars of the facility called a temporary holding room, the women say they are unable to come and go as they please, contradicting claims made by Australian officials.

The Federal Government said there would be a special arrangement for the women and children - that they would not be housed in the detention centre but in a facility nearby.

But the ABC's Indonesia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, says the nearby facility - which has also been referred to as a quarantine area - is no better than the detention centre itself.

Thompson is in Tanjung Pinang and says the women have told him they are sad and want to go to Australia.

"They are outside the wire in the sense that there is this detention centre, built with Australian help, it's a big building right next to it, obviously part of the same structure, but technically with no razor wire around it," he said.

"There is this holding cell where the women and children are but the same bars are on the windows and I don't believe that the conditions inside are any more luxurious than they are inside the main detention centre."

The Federal Government says the accommodation of the asylum seekers is a matter for Indonesian authorities.

But Thompson says Indonesia's patience with Australia is running out.

"We heard very clearly last night from Dr Sujatmiko - the chief negotiator here - that this is the first time and the last time something like this has happened, and frankly I think Indonesia thinks that these people are now in detention," he said.

"That's where they will be until they say Australia honours its promise to get them out of Indonesia within a month or no longer than three months."

On average, asylum seekers remain in detention in Indonesia for 52 weeks, but Thompson says he has met some who have spent nearly 10 years behind bars.

"I've also met asylum seekers who've spent five or six years and they know people who've been here for nine years before they resettled," he said.

The Indonesian government expects the Oceanic Viking asylum seekers to be out of Indonesia within four to 12 weeks, based on promises made by the Australian Government.

"[The asylum seekers] are very glad to disembark from the vessel, hoping that Australia keep the promise to come to Australia," Dr Sujatmiko said.

"This is their expectation and the Indonesian government expectation.

"[They will go to] Australia or other countries. We'll come back to Australia to keep the promise. After the deadline, out from Indonesia."

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans says there is no guarantee the asylum seekers will come to Australia and it will be up to the UNHCR to decide how many of the group do come. [COURTESY: http://www.abc.net.au]

November 19, 2009

AI: Open letter to Heads of Government attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Sri Lanka: Open letter to Heads of Government attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, November 23-26 2009, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

Dear Heads of Government

On the occasion of the forthcoming meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government, Amnesty International would like to draw your attention to recent developments in Sri Lanka, and urge you to raise concerns regarding the human rights situation in that country with your Sri Lankan counterparts. In particular, we wish to alert you to continuing serious problems affecting the safety and dignity of Sri Lankans displaced by armed conflict. We also ask you to support our calls for greater accountability for abuses of human rights and humanitarian law suffered by Sri Lankan civilians.

Releases from Sri Lanka’s camps for internally displaced persons have accelerated, but six months after the end of the war, Sri Lanka continues to confine people who fled fighting in closed displacement camps in uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous conditions. Camp shelters have deteriorated as Sri Lanka has entered the rainy season, and the UN reports that funds for shelter repair are running out. Amnesty International has a global campaign, “Unlock the Camps”, (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/unlock-camps-sri-lanka-20090807), calling on the Sri Lankan government to end its policy of forcibly confining people to camps, which amounts to arbitrary detention.

RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Some 150,000 people displaced by war and living in government camps in Northern Sri Lanka are denied their basic human rights including liberty and freedom of movement. The camps remain military in nature. The military controls all decision-making related to management of the camps and the fate of displaced people in those camps; the military severely restricts the residents from leaving the premises even to seek medical care, and denies the displaced population basic legal safeguards.

While the government has widely publicised recent releases from the camps, Amnesty International has received reports that displaced people have been subjected to rescreening by local authorities to determine whether they had links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). There are also reports that some people who have been released, have been denied necessary documents to ensure that they are safe from re-arrest.

The government has not alerted displaced people about impending releases or conditions in their places of origin that would enable them to make plans about their futures. Nor has the government given the displaced people clear information about their rights and obligations, their legal status or procedures for tracing family members. Displaced people have been given no voice in decisions regarding their release, return or resettlement. There is inadequate monitoring of the conditions of release, and of alleged return or resettlement.

The Sri Lankan government has prevented humanitarian organizations from talking to displaced persons, and obstructed their ability to conduct crucial human rights protections activities, such as providing legal aid or assisting with family reunification.

CONCERNS ABOUT SCREENING AND PROTECTION OF THE DISPLACED

The Sri Lankan government has legitimate security concerns, and there is a need to bring to justice members of both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces who engaged in abuse of civilians. Sri Lanka’s displaced civilians suffered enormous physical danger and material deprivation during the war. As discussed below, both sides were accused of humanitarian law violations against these civilians, who were forced to remain at risk in the conflict zone by the LTTE, which used them as human shields against the approaching army. Adults and children were subjected to forced conscription.

Amnesty International stresses the need to ensure that in all cases, accountability is pursued through proper legal processes. Since the war ended in May 2009, many thousands of people detained in camps have been subjected to 'screening' by the security forces in an attempt to root out LTTE members. An estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings. Amnesty International has received repeated, credible reports from humanitarian workers about the lack of transparency and accountability in the screening process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework and the increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado. While screening is appropriate to ensure that LTTE combatants are not housed with the general camp population, proper procedures should be followed, and the screening process must not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.

The government denies independent monitors access to sites in the north housing adult LTTE suspects. Detainees have not been charged with any offense, and have been denied legal counsel and due process. Many are held incommunicado. UNICEF has access to former child soldiers detained in specialized “rehabilitation” camps for children, but there remains a need to verify that no children remain in facilities with adult detainees.

WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Sri Lanka has recently emerged from more than twenty-five years of armed conflict between government forces and the LTTE. In the course of fighting, both sides violated humanitarian law. The LTTE forcibly conscripted adults and children, and forced civilians to travel with its retreating forces and to serve as a buffer against the approaching Sri Lankan army. Thousands of these civilians died when government forces fired artillery into areas densely populated with civilians who were forced to remain at risk in the conflict zone. The LTTE reportedly fired at and killed civilians who attempted to escape.

Impunity for violations of human rights and humanitarian law has been the rule rather than the exception in Sri Lanka. On 26 October, the Sri Lankan government announced the appointment of a committee of experts to investigate alleged humanitarian law violations committed during the war. The Sri Lankan government has a poor record of providing genuine accountability through similar mechanisms: it has often appointed ad hoc Commissions of Inquiry in the past when it received adverse publicity for serious violations of human rights, but none of these has advanced justice. The President’s most recent proposal appears to be yet another attempt to deflect attention from repeated calls for an independent international investigation – calls supported by Amnesty International and many other international and domestic human rights organizations, and strengthened by the recently released report of the US Department of State’s Office of War Crimes.

ATTACKS ON CRITICS AND CONTINUED RELIANCE ON SPECIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION

The Sri Lankan government continues to justify its abusive policies and silencing of dissent, under the pretext of countering the threat of terrorism. Special security legislation, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the Public Security Ordinance and its accompanying emergency regulations (intended for states of national emergency, but imposed almost continuously for decades), remains in place and grants extraordinary powers to the authorities to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals almost indefinitely.

In September 2009, journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was sentenced to twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for writing articles that criticized the Sri Lankan government’s treatment of Tamil civilians during military operations in the East.

In addition to these restrictive laws and regulations, there is a pattern of regular threats and unchecked attacks against journalists (15 have been killed because of their reporting since 2004 and at least 11 have fled the country between June 2008 and June 2009), lawyers, witnesses against state forces, and human rights defenders by unidentified attackers presumed to have links to the state. The cumulative effect has eroded public faith in the justice system, and has also had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and association.

TIME TO ACT NOW

Your government could make a valuable contribution to improving the situation for Sri Lanka’s war displaced and other Sri Lankans by raising these critical issues with your Sri Lankan counterparts during the course of the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting and in subsequent communications.

Amnesty International welcomes your upcoming meeting as an important opportunity to urge the government of Sri Lanka to address, in particular, these urgent concerns:

Restore the rights of Sri Lanka’s displaced people to liberty and freedom of movement, ensuring that those held in Sri Lankan displacement camps are there voluntarily;

Ensure independent access to, and monitoring of camps housing internally displaced people to protect them against human rights abuse, and ensure that their humanitarian needs are being met;

Institute a consultative process with displaced people that allows them to make informed and voluntary decisions about return and resettlement;

End arbitrary detention; ensuring that all “screening” and detention practices associated with the displaced population are transparent, and are carried out in accordance with legal safeguards and international human rights standards. Individuals affiliated with the LTTE arrested and accused of crimes, should be charged with legitimate offences, tried and prosecuted in accordance with the law and without recourse to the death penalty;

Ensure accountability for abuses to guarantee effective investigations, due process and swift prosecution of all perpetrators, including those enjoying political influence and high social status;

End reliance on legislation intended for emergencies that curtail enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms and subvert due process.

To accomplish the needed reforms and improvements, an independent field monitoring presence is required with a strong mandate to conduct investigations and assist the national institutions to deliver justice in relation to grave violations of human rights. To ensure independence, such a body must be empowered by an international mandate, not a presidential mandate.

Controversy about his politics hurdles house hunting in Colombo for Sarath Fonseka

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

reluctant

Sarath Fonseka unable to get a new Colombo residence so far due to controversy about his politics. Owners reluctant to rent houses to him

permitted

Sarath Fonseka permitted to stay at Army chief official residence on Bullers rd until he finds suitable accommodation elsewhere

vacate

Retired army & CDS chief Sarath Fonseka requested to vacate his official residence within army headquarters precincts by Sunday November 22nd

transferred

Senior military officers who served under ex- Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka have been transferred out.Some names are in TWEETS below

Brigadier G.S. Padumadasa who served under Fonseka as the War Secretary in Chief of Defence staff secretariat as Director Coordination Work.

Director General (Strategy and Training) Brigadier Maithri Dias transferred to the Wanni Command Base as Staff Service Brigadier

Sarath Fonseka's Coordinating Secretary Brigadier Wimal Dias transferred to Mullaithivu Command Base as Brigadier (administration)

Operations director Brig.Dampath Fernando transferred to MaduruOya Military Training school.War Asst Brig Athula Silva new Amparai Commander

Senior Security Coordinator for CDS Brigadier H. Kulathunge transferred to the Trincomalee transition camp as Commanding Officer

Security Coordinator for CDS Brig. Janaka Mohotti transferred to the Jaffna Command Base as Service Coordinator for the 55th division.

Senior Security Coordinator for CDS Office Brigadier U.T.A. Hennadige transferred @ appointed as Commander of the 232 brigade Poonanai

Colonel Kapila Udulapola attached to CDS office now transferred to Oddusuddaan as the Staff Colonel of 4th Special Task Force

Bullet-proof BMW car used by Sarath Fonseka to be used by new Army commander Jagath Jayasuriya.SF will be given new BMW

Sarath Fonseka can select his own personal security contingent.Defence ministry instructs current Army chief to release requested personnel

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Govt. removes northern travel restrictions to avoid judicial intervention

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

avoid

Govt removes security clearance travel requirement for North to avoid judicial intervention & claims it was a confidence building measure

challenging

All Ceylon Tamil Congress president Appathurai Vinayagamoorthy files fundamental rights (FR) petition in SC challenging travel restrictions

respondents

FR petition on travel restrictions cites Palaly Army commanding officer, Army Commander, Defense Secretary & Attorney General as respondents

proceed

Supreme court bench comprising Judges Saleem Marsoof. P.A. Ratnayake and SI Imam examine petition & grant leave to proceed further

trial

Supreme court allows FR application filed against the restriction of movement for Tamil civilians to be taken up for trial on Jan 18th 2010

revoked

Mandatory security clearance requirement for Northern province civilians wanting to travel by land routes revoked by Govt from November 18th

preempts

Govt preempts Supreme courts by removing security clearance requirement for Northern Tamil civilians to travel out of Jaffna by land

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Tamil anthology "Eelam: Pain of silence" released in Chennai

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Tamil anthology comprising 100 poems titled "Eelam:Mounathin Vali"(EElam:Pain of silence) was released on November 14th in ChennaiTamil Nadu

The book has poems written on the Eelam issue by Tamil Nadu cinema artistes. The first one is by Kamal Hasan and the last one by Rajnikanth

Song writers Vairamuthu, Tamarai, Pa.Vijay, Kapilan, Arivumathi, Metha, Na. Muthkuma r& Tamilachi Thangapandiyan have also written poems in the book

Other"poets"are actors Sathyaraj, Suriya, Sivakumar, AR Rahman, Prakashraj and directors Bala, Ameer, Cheran, Lingusamy, KV Anand, Mysskin, Vasanth etc

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November 18, 2009

Re-Settlement of IDP's in North: An Eye-Witness Account

Last week a group of us got very rare access to some of the resettled areas in Mannar and Killinochchi. I also visited the different zones in Manik Farm (used to be called Manikkam Pannai). As we get to Vavuniya something that strikes me was the number of vehicles (buses and lorries) moving about with IOM stickers. IOM is the only agency that is allowed to shuttle the IDPs from Manik Farm to either to Vavuniya Urban Council (UC) ground or to the resettlement areas or to yet another transit center for further screening.

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Children Near the Karukkakulum School

We reached Vavuniya around 10.30 pm on Saturday. It was raining heavily and we witnessed IDPs, who have been brought from Manik Farm to be sent to their homes, taking shelter in Vavuniya UC ground (a transitional centre) under the stadium roof. My Vavuniya colleague got excited every time he saw either Ceylon transport services buses with IOM stickers or some bundled up stuff or gunny bags on the road side. He was anxious to introduce us to newly released IDPs. But it was not easy for us to talk to any of them since they were heavily guarded by the military. We could only talk to the ones who were released sometime back and are living with their relatives (host families) in Vavuniya.

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A damaged Kovil on the Uyilaunkulum Road (north on Mannar Mainland)

I met about 13 released IDPs mostly women and they have all had at least one family member either killed during the war (or before) or have disappeared in various screening process. Only two women were able to lodge complaints with ICRC. One woman had seen her sister (a former LTTE combatant) only once in Vavuniya Pambai Madhu rehabilitation centre and when she visited the centre a second time she was told that her sister had been transferred and the officer in charge there did not give her any details. Another women’s husband was taken when she was in Zone 04 in Manik Farm and she is five months pregnant and has three kids. At the time of our meeting she wanted to move to her original home which is Vattakachchi (Killinochchi) but since she has come to live with her relations in Vavuniya on her own will, she fears that she will not be able to go back home through the government resettlement program that now considers only IDPs living in Manik Farm.

TC1118A.jpg

A damaged school building closer to Adampan

In Thunukkai (Mullaitheevu) one of the positive aspects I noticed was that people still have a standing house. Many returnees appreciated the fact that they have come back to their original homes from the barbed wire camp. However their freedom of movement is still in question. IDPs living in Manik Farm are given special ID cards and their movement, even after the return, has been carefully monitored. When we visited Thunukkai there were 1,200 families that have been resettled and they have been given Rs. 5,000 cash and dry ration for a few months. We were told that Rs. 20,000 will be deposited to their bank account by the divisional secretariat office.

When we further probed the government assistance given to these returnees we were told that this relief of Rs. 25,000 comes through UNHCR rehabilitation program through resettlement ministry and the dry ration is provided by World Food Program through Divisional Secretariat. It is vital here to highlight that this Rs. 25,000 bench-mark of resettlement allowance was fixed in 2001 as the resettlement incentive by the North East Community Organization for Restoration Development (NECORD) program funded by Asian Development Bank to put up a temporary huts for returning IDPs when there was a little relaxation of war in the north. Despite inflation eight years later same amount was given to IDPs. From the information we gathered it is clear that all the direct assistances to the IDPs so far have come either from UN agencies or IOM. We were also told by Mannar NGOs that they are not allowed to do any resettlement and relief work until they get special approval from the Presidential Task Force. However we noticed that the local NGOs are undertaking relief work in Manik Farm.

TC1118B.jpg

IDPs under a trees in adampan road

IDPs we met in Zone 4, 6 and 7 said that they will not leave the camps unless they are taken to their original homes and that they have heard a lot about sufferings of people who have opted to go and live with their relatives. I have visited Manik Farm twice before but this time I felt people approached us boldly irrespective of being watched. I also noticed it was women who most often narrated their stories and they repeatedly told us that the only thing they want is to go back to their original homes and do not want to live in any transitional shelters. For them it is either Manik Farm or their homes.

There were many complaints of inmates (mostly young men) being taken away for investigation and not returned back. A group of women wrote down the names of men who went missing and told us to check in the rehabilitation centres in Vavuniya. They also told us that there are 14 such centres in the vicinity. A local NGO representative told me not to take the list since we will get into trouble at the exit point of the camp. When I inquired about complaining the disappearance and arbitrary arrest cases to international agencies I was told that even ICRC did not have access to Manik Farm and the detention (rehabilitation) centres since July.

On our entry to Mannar we experienced a unique security system that I have not seen in the past 12 years of my work in the north and east. All our national identity cards were taken at the police check point at the entrance of Mannar Island and a temporary pass (laminated ones!) were given to us. Apparently this is applicable only to non-resident of Mannar Island and the pass indicates the number of days one wants to stay in the Island . We were asked the address of our stay there and the reason for coming to the island.

At the check point we witnessed people trying to explain reason for their stay in Mannar Island and the military not understanding it properly. We witnessed a woman who overstayed and was unable obtained her ID card back due to her pass being connected to the number of days that was given by her at the time of entry. A colleague of mine had to intervene and sort out the problem. The officers knew few Tamil words but when it came to things that are not so routine they could not understand the cases and the reasons. A woman was shouted at in Sinhala in front of us for not checking her pass promptly even though it was the officer’s mistake of issuing her the wrong pass.

When we reached our contact in Mannar we were told none of the government officers would want to talk to us since there has been some recent incident that has created tension between the civil administrators and the military man in command. We were given a copy of a letter (dated 28th July 2009) sent by Mannar Government Agent (GA) to all the NGOs and INGOs including the UN. The summery of the letter is that any organization that is involved in resettlement and development work in the north has to get approval from the Presidential Task Force (PTF), any ongoing programs of development and resettlement should be stopped with immediate effect, proper approval should be sought and the approval copy has to be sent to the GA with the program plan and report. We were told that there were some instances where this rule was not strictly adhered and the competent authority (the military commander in charge of resettlement in Mannar) has warned the government officers of favoring the NGOs and INGOs.

This came as a major issue when we met with many local NGO representatives and they looked absolutely puzzled and expressed their hopeless position of not being able to assist IDPs who are in desperate need of basic assistance. Even though they have the resource to help these returnees and IDPs who are living with relatives, local NGOs are barred from helping them. A pregnant woman walked into the church premises where we were having the meeting and told us “when we were in Manik Farm at least we got something to eat and now we are forced to starve here”. She asked us how long we thought that their relations can feed them and why no one is helping them. We spoke informally to some south-based organizations and UN staff members who have obtained PTF approval to work in Mannar with IDPs. They told us that there is no statistics on IDPs who are living with host families therefore they don’t know the whereabouts of these IDPs and are unable undertake any relief activities targeting them. Local NGOs and religious bodies have some resources and much needed expertise while the IDPs and host families are approaching them. However they are unable to undertake any visible or systematic steps to provide assistance yet to these neglected but released IDPs.

We also visited Musali (south of Mannar Main land) and Adamban (north of Mannr main land) where resettlements have been taking place. In Musali 651 Tamil families and over 700 Muslim families have returned. We visited the villages of Veppenkulum, Pariya Pottkurny, Musali village and Manakkulum, Bandaraweli, Kulangkulum mostly inhabited by Muslims who have returned mainly from Puttalum. We saw people putting up 16x12 square feet temporary huts using the 15 tin sheets, some logs and a building toolkit provided by IOM. They have to cut tree branches and use the logs to erect these huts and then Rs. 5000 and 5 bags of cement will be given to lay the floor. We saw bags of cement in front of few huts. These huts don’t have any walls around and we noticed old cloths, palmyrah leaves and sarees being used to create some private space.

Musali resettlement officially started in April 2009 and these IDPs have returned in July and August and they are still living in these open huts. Women complained that since they don’t have a toilet or private place to bath they have to go to the jungle in the night despite the fear of being harmed by snakes and elephants. The only solid concrete structure one could see is the new military barracks built in between these villages. Children have to walk many miles to get to school and we did not see any hospital in the vicinity. We were told that they have to go to Murungan hospital which is an hour drive from the resettlement villages we visited. A good road has been constructed for about 6km but all of a sudden it stops. Then the road gets bad to worse and muddy at the end we give up our three-wheeler and walked. Apparently the road was constructed when the first model resettlement was done in Saveriyarpuram on 30th April 2009. Government official web site (http://www.priu.gov.lk/) claims 90% of the Musali population being resettled and Rs. 800 million being allocated.

On our way back to Mannar we saw a group of IDPs being screened in the Kallimodai camp (one of the first internment camp that was set up to detain fleeing Vanni Tamil youth from LTTE recruitment but other Vanni IDPs were also placed there by the authorities). We stopped at a nearby shop in Kallimodai and had an opportunity to talk to someone connected to the buses that were stationed opposite to Kallimodai camp. What we heard was appalling. We were told that there were two Tamil speaking persons in civilian cloths screening the people.

We asked whether any of the IOM officers were present at the scene since the convoy of buses and lorries had IOM stickers. With a funny grin on his face the guy replied “No”. Latter we saw a young woman refusing to get on to the bus and others consoling her and helping her to get in. The guy turned and told us “you know why IOM officers are not here!” When I narrated this story to a local NGO worker she said that IDPs have been screened at different points and they have got complaints that people are being abducted or detained at these points.

Adampan is yet another new resettlement area in the north of mainland Mannar. But unlike Thunukkai these places (south and north of mainland Mannar) have been not inhabited by people for a very long time and we hardly saw any inhabitable buildings. People were put in public buildings which too were surrounded by jungle and did not have proper roof. Few of them were in tents and others were taking shelter under the trees (during our four day stay in Mannar there was heavy rain in the evenings). There were landmine sign along the Uyilankulum Road that took us to Adampan and we saw de-miners from MAG and SSD in action. We also saw children walking to Karukkakulum School which has been renovated to a functional level.

Once again we saw IOM tin-sheets and building toolkits and returnees trying to erect their 16x12 huts. We saw many single women with infants on their hand and few kids running around. They looked lost as to what was happening around them. There was one mother who was standing on top of these piled up tin-sheets and trying to tie a knot onto the near by tree branch with a long piece of cloth to make a cradle for her baby so that she can venture into the jungle to gather some materials for her hut.

With many families not having their able men and women who have being either killed during the war (or before), or being forcibly taken and detained, return to these IDPs is not as pleasant as one would want to see. We also witnessed many families reduced to women, very young children and old people. Without any basic facilities (proper shelter, hospitals, transport, schools, drinking water, electricity and access to any form of livelihood activities) and basic right to freedom of movement, one has to wonder what it means to these IDPs to come back home.

Well-wishers mount efforts to avert Rajapakse - Fonseka showdown

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

avert

Intense efforts by mutual well-wishers on to make President Rajapakse & Sarath Fonseka reconcile & avert political showdown. Will moves succeed?

unsuccessful

Opposition moves to make Sarath Fonseka toe their line unsuccessful so far as ex-army chief remains fiercely independent in political stance

revolt

Grassroots revolt among UNP & JVP members against their parties extending support to Sarath Fonseka as common opposition candidate

4 conditions

United National Front (UNF) & Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) submit 4 conditions each to Sarath Fonseka for supporting him as common prez candidate

correct

Sarath Fonseka correct in saying India was asked by President Rajapakse to send troops if necessary to quell suspected military coup in SL

incorrect

Indian dep-foreign minister Shashi Tharoor incorrect in denying Indian troops were not placed on alert on October 15th to "intervene" in SL

other retired

Sarath Fonseka gets more security than given other retired army chiefs. 70 commando personnel,7 escort vehicles& one bullet -proof BMW car

official bungalow

Sarath Fonseka request for enhanced security & permission to remain in official bungalow till he finds a new home granted by Prez Rajapakse

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After Fonseka plunge into politics Sri Lankan democracy will never be the same again

By M. Bhadrakumar

When a tea sapling was brought into Ceylon -- present-day Sri Lanka in 1824 from China and planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens, the British had no commercial interests in mind. It took another forty years before a plucky Scotsman planted the first seedling, which blossomed into the famous Ceylon Tea and became today's unshakeable pillar of Sri Lanka's economy.

The 'Emerald Island' has obscure tales to tell. That is why when a swash-buckling army chief by the improbable name Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka abruptly discards the uniform and plunges into the country's steamy politics, it becomes no simple matter. Sri Lankan democracy may never be the same again.

Bonapartism isn't altogether new to the region. Pakistan's Ayub Khan showed the way back in the 1950s. Bangladesh followed twenty years later. Now Sri Lanka, an entrenched democracy, seems fatally attracted to it.

There is nothing necessarily fatal if a soldier develops a passion for politics. An Indian commentator pointed out that, after all, there is the precedent of Dwight Eisenhower. But then, the nagging worry remains whether in the South Asian clime, like the sapling brought in from distant China, Fonseka, a US Green Card holder, may blossom and outgrow the botanical garden that Sri Lankan democracy used to be.

On the face of it, there is nothing ingenious in the choice by the Sri Lankan Opposition parties led by the United National Party to field Fonseka as their common candidate against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse who will be contesting the election for a second term for the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance.

Tapping into Sinhala nationalism

The Opposition is blatantly tapping into the reservoir of Sinhala chauvanism and triumphalism and contesting Rajapakse's monopoly claim about vanquishing the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the recently concluded war.

Actually, there is no fundamental difference between the UNP and the ruling alliance in their approach toward the Tamil problem. The UNP was never lagging behind in supporting the war against the LTTE or the draconian emergency regulations prevailing in the country. The UNP sees it primarily as tactical that Rajapakse can be possibly trumped if a 'war hero' is pitted against him.

Fonseka, former chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces's defence staff, fits the bill. He has no qualms about stoking the fires of Sinhala nationalism and is easily recognisable in local folklore as the warrior who hunted down the Tamil Tigers.

Unsurprisingly, Fonseka is a man of many parts. He hails from the Karava community, which dominates economic activities and comprises the new bourgeosie and is estimated to account for over one-third of the Sinhala population. Although caste controversy is never explicitly expressed in Sinhalese politics, there has been dialectic at work involving the land owning Goyigamas (who account for half the Sinhala population) and the merchant capitalist Karavas.

Though milder than its Indian counterpart and lacking in the stratifying ideology, caste organisations or caste endogamy of Hinduism, the Sinhalese caste system plays a role in politics, as most Sinhala people see caste as a positive principle of affiliation -- although like Hindus in neighbouring India, they fight shy of admitting it.

An achievement-oriented national elite based on education (knowledge of English) has accrued over time, but local elites continue to be dominated by powerful castes like the Goyigama and Karava.

Karavas are concentrated in the southern coastal towns like Moratuwa, Panadura, Ambalangoda (Fonseka's hometown), Kalutara, Galle, etc. Therefore, Rajapakse (who hails from Hambantota to the east of Galle) can no longer hope to trade on southern provincialism.

Fonseka brings into the Opposition presidential ticket a formidable caste combination insofar as the UNP already enjoys a strong Goyigama base. To boot it, Rajapakse hails from the upper caste landed gentry and is not part of the English-educated elite of Colombo, the capital.

With the mounting economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the support for the Rajapakse government has been fading as the recent provincial council elections signaled. Many factors -- Rajapakse's autocratic methods, austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund, unrest among salaried class and wage earners, price of cash crops -- have generated fluidity in the public mood that may result in a political backlash as the economic and social crisis deepens.

Meanwhile, the Tamil problem festers. No worthwhile initiative has been taken to address the root problems leading to Tamil separatism. Tamil detainees herded into camps ('welfare villages') -- numbering 255,551 according to the United Nations -- live in appalling conditions. Entry into the camps is barred to the media and aid organisations operate under severe restrictions.

A visionary army general

In short, Fonseka's candidature can gain traction. For a fleeting moment, it seems Sri Lankan democracy may be the gainer. However, Fonseka introduces a dangerous streak. Consider his resignation letter dated November 12 addressed to Rajapakse. He wrote:

"I would not be exaggerating to state that I was instrumental in leading the Army to this historic victory (over the LTTE), of course, with Your Excellency's political support, which helped to materialise this heroic action. Though the field commanders, men and all members of the Army worked towards this common goal, it is with my vision, command and leadership that this yeoman task was achieved.'

Fonseka went on to allege that Rajapakse dishonoured the Sri Lankan army's reputation by encouraging cronyism, which has 'already led to a deterioration of the high standards I (Fonseka) was capable of introducing to the army.' With an eye on the growing disaffection within the officer corps, Fonseka taunted Rajapakse:

'Your Excellency has commenced mistrusting your own loyal Army which attained the unimaginable victory just a week ago... the same army which gained victory for the Nation was suspected of staging a coup and thereby alerting the Government of India once again on the 15th of October 2009, unnecessarily placing the Indian troops on high alert. This action did tarnish the image and reputation gained by the Sri Lanka Army as a competent and professional organisation... in the eyes of the World. This suspicion would have been due to the loyalty of the Sri Lanka Army towards me as its past Commander who led the Army to the historic victory.'

'(The) Army which I toiled to transform into a highly professional outfit is now losing its way. Increased desertions…disciplinary problems... indicate an unprofessional organization in the offing. During the last two months, the members (who) deserted are higher than the recruitment.'

Surely, he didn't fail to accuse the president of gross all-round misgovernance -- neglecting the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Tamil refugees displaced during the war; mismanaging the economy, promoting 'waste and corruption', curtailing 'media freedom and other democratic rights', etc.

What explains it all? Fonseka only recently derided Indian politicians as 'a bunch of jokers'. Temperamentally and by reputation, he is not cut out for politics. In his resignation letter, Fonseka listed out his post-retirement benefits:

'Your Excellency would be kind enough to grant me sufficient security which includes trained combat soldiers, a suitable vehicle with sufficient protection (bullet proof) and escort vehicles for my conveyances... I wish to bring to Your Excellency's kind notice that over 100 men, six escort vehicles and a bullet proof vehicle have been placed at the convenience of the former Commander of the Navy... I presume that such arrangements would be made available to me...'

Indian Ocean geopolitics

No aspiring politician ever likes to be seen as self-seeking. Indeed, what prompts someone like Fonseka to dive into the dangerous depths of politics? Is he acting on own volition? If so, what is his agenda? If not, who is promoting him?

The geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region does seem to provide the backdrop to the engrossing power play. The UNP, which props him up, is traditionally right-leaning and favors neo-liberal market-oriented policies. It consistently toed a pro-Western (pro-US) orientation in foreign policy. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe enjoyed close equations with the George W Bush administration.

The US has been stepping up pressure on the ruling circles in Colombo, especially on Defence Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaske, the president's brother (who is a US citizen), as to any involvement in policy matters that constituted human rights violations in the conduct of the war against the LTTE.

The Rajapakse government is deeply concerned that Fonseka, who is a US Green Card holder, has darkly hinted he is privy to 'very highly sensitive' issues related to the final stages of the war that are known only to a handful in the top echelons of the defence establishment. Indeed, the last phase of a brutal war can never stand the scrutiny of covenants regarding Prisoner Of Wars.

The US agenda goes beyond concerns over war crimes and human rights abuses. Washington has been feeling uneasy about Rajapakse's growing economic and political ties with China. A malleable power structure in Colombo is crucial for US geo-strategic interests in the Indian Ocean that connects the Persian Gulf with the South China Sea.

A Bonapartist may just be the crowbar Washington needs to rudely tear apart the social contract on which Rajapakse based his political fortunes brilliantly so far.

(M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat who has served as Political secretary in Sri Lanka)

November 17, 2009

Will "uncommon" General Fonseka become "common" candidate sponsored by decrepit politicians?

by S.L. Gunasekera

T he serial loser Wickremasinghe, we are told, has recently announced a set of conditions to which General Sarath Fonseka must agree if he is to be nominated for the Presidency by his party. A few days earlier the serial loser’s side-kick Mano Ganeshan M.P. is said to have sent to General Fonseka a questionnaire to enable him (Ganeshan) to decide whether or not to support the candidature of General Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency of this land. The icing on the cake appeared in this morning’s Island (12/11/2009) which reported that Lakshman Kirialla MP, who said not long ago that any fool could fight a war, added his ‘two cents worth’ to Wicremasinghe’s conditions confirming them!!

What this motley bunch of ‘wannabe’ rulers of this country appears to seek to project is the wholly ridiculous notion that General Sarath Fonseka is a supplicant going behind them seeking the favour of nomination for the forthcoming Presidential elections, while they are the Lords and the Masters preparing to make a decision as to whether to throw to the ‘supplicant’ General Fonseka, the ‘crumb’ of nomination.

That is their fantasy: Let us now look at cold reality. Clearly not one of those poseurs who purport to be ‘leaders’ of National political parties and constitute the ‘leadership’ of the newly formed ‘alliance of political opportunists’ is capable of either defeating President Rajapaksa or even coming a close second to him in the coming Presidential election. It is only General Fonseka who could save them from total ignominy by acquiring a reasonable quantum of votes.

Thus, it is the likes of Wickremesinghe, Ganeshan and Samaraweera who are the supplicants. They who, by their conduct, claim to be the possessors of patronage who are ready to bestow their largesse on General Fonseka if he fulfills their conditions, are in fact the supplicants or the beggars – for General Fonseka is their only hope of political survival. They realize that if any one of the motley bunch of purported leaders of National political parties in that comical Alliance (even with the backing of JVP whose leader Rohana Wijeweera was murdered by the UNP – albeit to the rightful delight of the Nation), decides to contest the Presidential Election, so resounding will be the defeat that that candidate will suffer that none of the parties of this Alliance would have the chance of a ‘snowball in hell’ of acquiring any appreciable number of seats at the forthcoming General Election.

Thus, General Fonseka is their only hope of survival, and the fact that they want to ride on the back of General Fonseka and then discard him like a cigarette butt was made evident by the conditions put forward by Wickremasinghe and confirmed by Kiriella Those conditions demand of General Fonseka that immediately upon victory, he will announce the abolition of the Executive Presidency (thereby rendering himself impotent), and establish a ‘Caretaker’ Government with Wickremasinghe as the Prime Minister, giving important portfolios to both the JVP and the lackeys of the LTTE (called the TNA) which General Fonseka fought so valiantly for so many years. Wickremasinghe and his hanger-on Kiriella clearly envision no role for General Fonseka other than facing the election, facing all the trouble and risks incumbent upon doing so, and handing over the fruits of victory to Wickremasinghe and his cohorts and fading away if he happens to win In short, they want to use General Fonseka to aquire power for themselves and then dump him in the dustbin.

These are matters on which Sarath Fonseka, the victorious and most ‘uncommon’ General must ponder upon before deciding whether to be a ‘common’ candidate sponsored by a bunch of decrepit politicians whose ambitions bear an inverse proportion to their performance and ability.

One of the most important matters to which General Fonseka should give his mind is the undeniable fact that he commands and commands rightly the respect and affection of the entire Nation which is something that neither the serial loser Wickremasinghe, nor any of his side-kicks like Ganeshan Kiriella or Samaraweera, nor the colossal idiots in their Alliance such as the one who obviously believed that Elephant Pass was in Pamankade and Kilinochchi in Madawachchi; the other who thinks that any fool can fight a war and the third who thinks that General Sarath Fonseka is not fit to lead even the Salvation Army, commands or can ever comand.

What this bunch of opportunistic politicians with an unquenchable of thirst of power seek to do is to use that respect and affection the People have for General Fonseka to acquire power for themselves who command no such respect or affection but only the contempt of the People to foist themselves on the people of the Country as their rulers.

Nothing in what I have said means that I believe that President Rajapaksa is a perfect President. He is certainly is not. There is much that is wrong with him and his governance, and in particular, much that is wrong and almost nothing good in the ‘hangers on’ around him. What I do say is that whatever his faults may be, the alternative of the serial loser and his cohorts acquiring power is much worse.

This fact is made manifest by the circumstance that the serial looser and his cohorts in their unseemly quest for power have the impudence to invite General Fonseka to sacrifice the respect and affection the people have for him in order to help them to achieve their ambitions which they cannot achieve on their own. One can well visualize from this what type of governance this bunch of charlatans would give this country if given a chance

Sri Lanka Needs an Intellectual Leader Grown out of Democratic Politics

By Kusal Perera

While President Rajapaksa left the issue of elections steaming hot on the plate without any forks or spoons for popular consumption, the main opposition the UNP has been left grinding their teeth, with Gen Fonseka, their prize catch, breaking away on his own, in deciding his reasons for retirement. He has apparently changed the agreed draft of his retirement letter, prepared in consultation with key players of the opposition alliance, before handing it over to the President's Secretary.

As reported in the Sunday Times (of 15 Nov), what most of us had therefore been commenting on as Gen SF's retirement papers are those drafted by these opposition power brokers and not that which was actually handed over. Gen SF had thus proved to the UNF and all those who want him to be the “common” candidate to abolish the executive presidency, that the final decision is with him and with no body else. (Gen. SF's passion for power was analysed by me in a previous article). He showed he would not have all the niceties about media freedom and democracy, in sending out his own edited version of the letter to the President, requesting his retirement.

Despite what the opposition wanted, he the “Tiger wiping” General, stood by what he said earlier. The media is an “unpatriotic media”. (2008 Jan 02/Dinamina interview). So, he did not want to talk of “those who stage protests with unshaven beards, long hairs and wearing costumes like in fancy dress competitions (they) are not scribes who are clamouring for media freedom, but a gang of thugs.” His perception on democracy and that of media freedom is a “Sangakkarian” simple. “These so called media guys are not responsible to the people and they are not entitled to such media freedom.” (for more, -http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20080721_05)

He proved his consistency in being anti democratic and a ruthless decision maker, of his own making. For those who wish to see this country as one that re-emerges as a democratic country with an assurance for future development, as one that affords equal opportunity for all in a secular, inclusive State, the General proves he is no “common” candidate. Therefore the issue at hand is to move out of dichotomies – support war or be a traitor / support SF or you support MR – conventional petty thinking and search for a new alternative that would be valid for long term democracy and development.

Unfortunately the UNP as the major opposition that any would expect to come up with a futuristic programme for holistic development in a new democracy, with an alternative to the MR regime (that without doubt needs replacement) lives in shambles. Both organisationally and in intellectual thinking.

After successive defeats, it has fractured during the past few years to the extent the SLFP was, during 1990-92, when the brother and sister were washing their dirty linen in public and the mother was indifferent to all crisis, happy she ousted the party general secretary to install her pet in that seat. The UNP is now a similar “collective of conspiring groups” than a formally functioning party.

The JVP has lost their popular mass base to President Rajapaksa, they once thought they were leading from the Sinhala, “Unitary” State platform, campaigning for war against “separatist Tigers”. They are now left with their usual cadre based trade union and student fronts, battling their way out for a loud presence, on street protests and pickets.

Together the UNP and the JVP now have only one common aspiration and that is to save face if an election is thrust upon them. They are proving they are only interested in grabbing power and not in development programmes. As such, on their own they cannot face elections, as alternatives to this MR regime. Their strategy therefore is to work on the same Sinhala psyche that MR and his “Unitary” platform of Sinhala extremists developed for the war and is still considered the popular platform. They could only face that challenge now, through a Sinhala “common candidate” against Rajapaksa, if it is a presidential election.

This alliance nevertheless can not sit together on a common platform to feel strong, for long perceived antagonistic politics. The UNP as a political entity is yet uncertain what their development programme could be, other than talk proud of pioneering free economic policies three decades ago, in Sri Lanka. Wickramasinghe has also not talked about any new approaches in development even after the 'global slump' and seems still confident, he could revive the economy on World Bank / IMF economic packages.

This may hold true for a short period of time, once some sanity is brought to financial management, cut back on huge waste and corruption and with some investor confidence. Yet it is now proved, the “neo liberal” market policies have failed, equally badly as the former “Soviet”model. None holds hope for the future.

The JVP too has not deviated from its “old fashion” socialist thinking, although their '71 insurgency veteran, Amarasinghe, vowed on a private TV discussion, they believe in a strong combination of a “private – public partnership”. This has nevertheless not rid them of their anti-capitalist, anti imperialist rhetoric and their old socialist mindset in cementing a rigidly regimented cadre.

While neither is certain what their parametres are in development politics, where these two divergent political entities could meet at least temporarily is, “for democracy” in principle. That democracy has also been wholly reduced to the slogan of abolishing the Executive Presidency, hyping it as the only malady in the country. Thus it is one slogan that could conveniently put together an alliance between the UNF and the JVP in search of their “common” Sinhala candidate. For there is also some truth in it that makes the slogan somewhat marketable, for want of a better democratic governing system.

The type of executive presidency created by the Jayawardne leadership has provided total immunity to the person who sits with those powers, even after the person relinquishes the post. Jayawardne did not include any safeguards to even check constitutional arrogance of a president elect. That immunity is what makes the presidency an all powerful executive office.

Why Jayawardne wanted such a powerful, unquestionable executive presidency in 1978 and how he was able to reason it out, was on the basis that the parliamentary system with a Prime Minister had been ineffective and incapable in developing the country for 30 years since independence, under 05 comparatively capable Prime Ministers.

He therefore argued for a stronger national leadership with executive powers to achieve development that the parliament and the PM failed to deliver, even with change of governments in 1956, 1965 and then again in 1970 with a two thirds majority. Failed thereafter from 1972 with a republican constitution that reduced the bi-cameral parliament into a single chamber, thus claiming people's sovereignty in full.

After that 30 year failure with a pro parliamentary system with a PM, the failure in developing this country as a conflict free, democratic country, continued during the next 30 years too, with Jayawardne's executive presidency. His presidency turned the governing system into a new malady of power conflicts. It is not what it was told, it would be. With every change of person as elected President, except for Wijetunge the substitute, the presidency has become too savagely problematic with its attached immunity alone making the person irresponsible and arrogant to all constitutional and legal authority, other than with what he or she decides to abide by.

Thus today, while accepting that this is too powerful a presidency to allow Generals with a passion for authoritarian rule to sit on, getting back to a parliament with a PM heading it, would not be a new answer, having experienced that model as inefficient in delivering to the people.

After all these mistakes over 61 years, it is now common sense, that this country needs to see beyond dichotomies. This country now needs to talk alternatives with a comprehensive socio development programme and that does not include a “common” candidate of Sinhala popularity.

This society has to think of alternatives to re-democratise the governing structures and remove all immunity afforded to the presidency, thus holding the person elected to this high office constitutionally binding to answer to an independent high profile constitutional forum (or a similar provision). It should now be the understanding that just a powerful PM with a parliament is not what this country needs, but an intellectually strong national leadership which accepts and provides a provincial governing structure to the provinces. Provincial power even for the South that has been left out as a poor rural society all these 61 years, to decide on their own development and accommodate their local political aspirations within a single, national constitution.

This UNF leadership it is certain, is not heading that way. It lives in dichotomies and sees no third aspect in solutions. Sloganised and camouflaged programmes have always been fakes and they are never seriously discussed in society. President Rajapaksa's hesitancy in deciding on an early presidential election at least provides the UNF with time for a social discourse on an alternate programme, if they so desire.

But if its power they want to grab at any cost, then even an incorrigible General out of uniform would not be tall enough, against a President who works for power on a popular Sinhala platform. Surmounting popular Sinhala sentiment that's fashioned by unbridled State power under this executive presidency, from a similar Sinhala platform, is one that would never materialise. 'Duplicates' even in Panchikawatte is priced low.

This crisis can only be challenged by convincing the people on a rational social democratic programme for development. One that would bring about an economic development with State guidance and intervention on a market economy, with due consideration given to the now emerging Asian economies. For Sri Lanka, the model could be a more functional democracy than even India, if a serious discussion is begun. But all that needs more than a popular leader. Needs an intellectual leader, grown out of democratic politics.

Pity this thrice blessed country by Lord Buddha, that has three wheeler autos and rickety private buses displaying 'stickers' claiming this land belongs to “Gauthama Buddha”, but sadly lacking any credible leader for its future development. Over the last few decades, the society as a whole has degenerated in social values, conduct and intellect and lacks collective thinking that now, it could only produce leaders with neither hindsight nor foresight.

This society is one that can not therefore even feel comfortable saying “hindsight is better than foresight”.

Attack on Tamil prisoners protested

Report by BBC Sandeshaya

Relatives of Tamil political prisoners and civil rights activists in Sri Lanka have called on the authorities to either to produce the detainees before courts or to release them.

They protested in front of Magazine prison in Colombo against a recent attack, on 13 November, allegedly by jail guards on Tamil prisoners arrested on suspicion of being former LTTE members.

The protest, organised by Civil Monitoring Committee on Tuesday, called on the authorities to take immediate action against the jail guards.

Kumara Guruparan, Western Peoples Front (WPF) provincial councillor, told BBC Sandeshaya that the attack indicates the state of human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Prisoner speaks

A prisoner speaking on condition of anonymity with BBC Sinhala service described what happened.

"When we asked the officers why they beat us, we were told, now your bosses are dead and gone, you are not free to do as you please."

He said that Tamil prisoners who are unable to speak in Sinhala were specifically targeted.

22 prisoners sustained injuries; seven of them seriously, he added. The prisoner said that they were attacked with wickets, bats and firewood.

'Discrimination'

Tamil prisoners around the country launched a hunger strike in protest on Monday.

On Tuesday, Rajalakshmi from Ragala told journalist KS Udayakumar that her son is being detained by the authorities for over one and a half years.

Parameshwari Thirunavukarasu, another relative of a prisoner, said that visiting Sinhala and Tamil people are treated differently by prison officers.

Tamil people are also Sri Lankans, she said, and they should get the same rights as Sinhala people. [courtesy: BBC Sandeshaya]

Tamil rebels face doubtful future

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

Tamil Tiger supporters
Tamil Tigers relied on their supporters abroad

It is six months since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka but Tamil Tiger rebels and their supporters are yet to recover from the dramatic military defeat by security forces earlier this year.

The recent attempts by remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) abroad to revive the movement have not succeeded so far.

Now questions are being raised over the future of its international network and millions of dollars worth of assets spread across continents.

It is a dramatic reversal of fortune for the LTTE, once described as one of the most powerful guerrilla movements in the world which almost had a de facto state and its own naval and air wings.

More than 10,000 suspected Tamil Tigers and their supporters, arrested in the aftermath of the offensive, are detained in military-run camps in the island's north.

The Sri Lankan government says it wants to hold special trials for LTTE fighters, especially for the leaders, now under detention.

Tamil hopes

In the absence of an active presence inside Sri Lanka, many Tamils believe rebel leaders living abroad can play a role in reinvigorating the group. But their hopes seem to be fading away.

"The LTTE's overseas network is in a state of flux. The structures remain but it no longer appears cohesive or centrally controlled," says Canada-based Sri Lankan analyst DBS Jeyaraj.

Velupillai Prabhakaran
The elusive and feared Prabhakaran was the heart and soul of the rebels

The group's leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his senior aides were killed in the final military assault on their stronghold in north-eastern Sri Lanka in May this year.

Under the present circumstances, very few people believe that the group can revive militarily within Sri Lanka in the near future.

Although the Tamil Tigers suffered a crushing blow within Sri Lanka their international network has largely remained intact. Until May, the structure was directly controlled by senior leaders based in northern Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tiger supporters hoped that rebels living abroad could revive the organisation and continue with their activities, at least in foreign countries.

But the dramatic arrest of their new leader, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, from a south-east Asian nation in August dealt a severe blow to their hopes.

Soon after his arrest, the Sri Lankan defence ministry said intelligence agencies in several countries were looking for a number of high-profile Tamil Tiger operatives.

Fearing that Mr Pathmanathan may reveal their names, many senior leaders of the LTTE living abroad have either gone underground or are lying low for fear of being arrested and taken to Sri Lanka.

Transnational government

On the other hand, a section of the LTTE leaders and supporters based in North America and western Europe have been trying to form a government in exile to press for their political demands.

Tamil Tiger supporters
Tamil Tiger supporters want rivalry within the movement to stop

For any such effort to succeed, the support of the LTTE's overseas network is considered crucial. For years, it provided much needed financial resources and carried its propaganda through well-oiled media machinery.

This overseas network was instrumental in collecting funds, managing investments, buying sophisticated arms and clandestinely transporting them to Tamil Tiger-held areas in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tiger investments overseas are said to range from grocery shops to real estate, from petrol stations to Hindu temples, from commercial shipping to financing movies in India.

Tamil Tigers are also believed to own commercial centres in many cities including Toronto, London and Paris.

We can see that a lot of divisive tendencies are growing amongst the LTTE leaders overseas
Sri Lankan analyst DBS Jeyaraj

In addition, they were collecting money every month from their supporters and sympathisers abroad, many of whom paid through direct debit from their bank accounts.

But most of these activities were carried out under false names, as the rebels were banned in many countries around the world.

The estimates about the LTTE's assets and investments range from $500m to $1bn.

Infighting

Now there are reports of intra-factional rivalry within the LTTE to wrest control of the organisation as well its assets. This has led to disenchantment and confusion among LTTE supporters.

"When the rebels were collecting money earlier they had a purpose. Now Tamils are questioning what they will do with the money. They also want the two competing groups to come together to highlight the Tamil cause," says Shan Thavaraja, an exiled Tamil journalist based in Switzerland.

Also, there have been reports that some LTTE sympathisers and activists living abroad whose names were used to own businesses and buildings for the movement are slowly taking control of those businesses for their own benefit.

Tamil civilians
Hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians are still in camps

Many Tamils living abroad are worried this trend is likely to increase as overall knowledge about rebel assets was restricted to very few leaders, most of whom were killed during the conflict.

Although regular monthly contributions from ordinary individuals have decreased, many die-hard supporters are still willing to make donations.

Some LTTE sympathisers say prominent rebel supporters, who are lying low at the moment, will not hesitate to revive the organisation if the conditions become viable. They say it all depends on developments back in Sri Lanka.

Tamils living abroad believe that only a concerted global campaign can put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to allow the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced during the war to return to their homes. The civilians are now confined in government-run camps in northern Sri Lanka.

They want the LTTE to regroup if only to launch massive campaigns in Western capitals highlighting the plight of war-displaced Tamil civilians. But the in-fighting seems to have dented their hopes.

"We can see that a lot of divisive tendencies are growing among LTTE leaders overseas. As a result, the chances of the LTTE gradually disintegrating are high," says Mr Jeyaraj. [courtesy: bbc.co.uk]

Gen. Fonseka Letter to President Only Brings out his Ego and Pique

by B.Raman

The Khalistani terrorism in India and the terrorism of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka are two unique instances in the history of terrorism where the State prevailed over the terrorists without conceding their demands.

The threat faced by Sri Lanka was more complex and difficult to handle than the threat faced by India. Sri Lanka was confronted with a ruthless mix of a full-blown insurgency seeking territorial control and terrorism seeking to intimidate the civil society. The Khalistani terrorism was a purely terrorist movement with no mix of an insurgency.

The situation, which Sri Lanka faced, was similar to that faced by the US and other NATO forces and the Afghan National Army in Afghanistan. They have not yet been able to find an effective answer to the complex mix of insurgent and terrorist tactics used by the Neo Taliban.

It goes to the credit of the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism machinery of Sri Lanka that after having struggled against the LTTE for nearly 23 years till 2006, they were able to fashion an appropriate mix of tactics to prevail over the LTTE.

This mix had a number of components. The political component, which was handled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, focussed on giving the security forces and the intelligence agencies the resources and capacities needed by them to prevail over the LTTE and at the same time, ensuring that the counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations of the security forces did not drive more Tamils into the arms of the LTTE.

The diplomatic component, which was handled by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, ensured the diplomatic isolation of the LTTE. In fact, it was the success of the Sri Lankan diplomacy in getting the LTTE declared as a terrorist organisation by the European Union countries and in persuading the US, the EU countries and the Governments in South-East Asia to act energetically against the flow of money and weapons to the LTTE, which laid the foundation for the ultimate success of the Army on the ground.

If Sri Lankan diplomacy had not acted as energetically as it did in getting the sources of weapons supply to the LTTE choked off, the LTTE might not have collapsed as completely as it did.

It also goes to the credit of Rajapaksa and his Foreign Office that they realised the importance of India in any effective strategy to defeat the LTTE. China and Pakistan might have supplied arms and ammunition to the SL security forces, but what really helped the security forces was the assistance rendered by the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and intelligence to their SL counterparts in ensuring that the LTTE was not able to smuggle in fresh stocks of weapons from abroad. Another contribution made by the Government of India was in the handling of any political fall-out in Tamil Nadu to prevent any backlash against the Sri Lankan operations in Indian territory.

It is the political and diplomatic handling of the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaign by Rajapaksa and his political aides such as his Foreign Minister and professional aides such as his brother Gothbaya Rajapaksa, who as the Defence Secretary was the Chief Co-ordinator, that paved the way for the ultimate success of the armed forces.

The Armed Forces fought bravely. The credit for working out a ground strategy, which will prevail against the LTTE, should go to Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the chief of the Army, who subsequently became the Chief of the Defence Staff after the victory over the LTTE. The victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces over the LTTE was even more remarkable than that of the Indian security forces over the Khalistani terrorists, who were as ruthless as the LTTE.

We were not able to neutralise the command and control and leadership of the Khalistani terrorists as completely as the Sri Lankan Armed Forces under the leadership of Fonseka were able to do in respect of the LTTE. In any history of counter-terrorism, the way the entire Sri Lankan counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency machinery under Rajapaksa fought against the LTTE and prevailed over it would form an important chapter.

In his newly-assumed post of the Chief of the Defence Staff, Fonseka would have been able to do a retrospective analysis of the entire evolution of the LTTE and the way different SL Governments had handled the threat in order to draw lessons for the future. Such an exercise would have been of immense benefit to his own country as well as to India and others who face similar problems.

Instead of doing so, he has allowed his pique over perceived slights by the Government to get the better of him and has resigned from his post as the CDS after making a series of allegations against the Government. A perusal of his letter to Rajapaksa does not speak well of his intellectual maturity as an individual. He was a brilliant professional, but professionalism alone does not make a good leader.

Media reports say that he has developed political ambitions of contesting the next Presidential elections against Rajapaksa. He has every right to do so as a Sri Lankan citizen. Unfortunately, his letter to Rajapaksa does not bring out any latent political acumen in him. They only bring out his huge ego and his pique. The message which comes out of the letter is: " I am the super hero of the success against the LTTE. My role in the triumph has not been sufficiently recognised."

As one reads his letter, one's mind goes back to our triumph against Khalistani terrorism. The success was achieved when K.P.S.Gill was the Director-General of Police of Punjab. He has never projected himself as the super hero of the success. He is always the first to admit that the success of the Punjab Police under his leadership would not have been possible without the political leadership and guidance of Narasimha Rao as the Prime Minister and Beant Singh as the Chief Minister of Punjab, without the team work put in by the police, the armed forces, the intelligence agencies and the Foreign Office and without the co-operation of foreign intelligence agencies which gave a lot of valuable intelligence.

Punjab is the most important of our successes against terrorism and insurgency, but not the only one. We have had other successes in Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Kashmir.The professionals--- whether from the Armed Forces, the police or the intelligence agencies--- who were instrumental in making those successes possible, did not go around projecting themselves as super heroes. They recognised the role of others and maintained their sense of balance.

By failing to maintain his sense of balance and by allowing his pique to get the better of him, Fonseka has only devalued himself. The political forces in Sri Lanka which are exploiting his pique as a stick to beat Rajapaksa with are playing an unwise game. They may end up by diluting the professionalism of the SL Army.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

November 16, 2009

UNP faithfuls want own candidate

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Discontent

Discontent in UNP ranks about supporting Sarath Fonseka as common presidential candidate. Party faithfuls want their own candidate

confound

Mahinda the Medamulana Machiavelli will confound everyone by conducting Presidential elections before Parliamentary polls say Govt circles

MRBALOONTC1116.jpg

A woman carries balloons printed with images of Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa before his speech at his political party convention in Colombo, November 15, 2009.-Reuters pic.

different

Tamil National Alliance undecided about supporting Sarath Fonseka. Three different schools of thought within TNA

decide

Contrary to news reports Mano Ganesan's Democratic Peoples Front is yet to decide on supporting Sarath Fonseka as Presidential candidate

formal

SriLanka's most successful Army chief Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka bade formal farewell to the military on Monday November 16th.He's a civilian now

absent

Army.navy, Air Force chiefs conspicuously absent at farewell ceremony to Sarath Fonseka. Were they debarred by the government from attending?

prevented

Media unable to cover SarathFonseka's final farewell to Army because they were prevented from entering Army premises until ceremony was over

thought

Sarath Fonseka in "civvy street". He will announce his political plans within 48 hours after deep thought and consultations with supporters

pays

Sarath Fonseka pays homage to fallen war heroes after bidding farewell to Army. Declines to comment to media about his plans wearing uniform

announces

Army commander Lt.Gen Jagath Jayasuriya announces that all soldiers will get increased salary & additional allowance with effect from November

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Sarath Fonseka Must be Told This Land Belongs to All- Mano Ganesan

By Thava Sajitharan

Democratic Peoples Front leader Mano Ganeshan first wanted to leave the recently formed United National Front (UNF) if they were going to nominate General Sarath Fonseka as the presidential candidate of the UNF. But, later Ganeshan decided to support him.

Excerpts of the interview are as follows:

You have reportedly expressed a willingness to support Gen. Sarath Fonseka in the event the latter is placed as the presidential candidate by the United National Alliance (UNA) of which your party is an ally. It would mean that you are supporting the very same person who led the war which you spoke highly critical of a few months ago. What is the rationale behind your stance...?

My party, DPF is a component of UNF. Neither DPF nor the UNF have made any official announcements. Fonseka has just submitted papers for retirement. Has he officially said that he is contesting? We are only looking at all available options. Fonseka would be also an option. Anyway, I as the leader of my party commenced some discussion with Sarath Fonseka. We have discussions with Tamil and Muslim parties. We are discussing with the parties within UNF. I think this is the sign of a functioning party within the democratic radius.

Some of the minority parties are said to be of the view that support could be offered to Gen Fonseka on the condition that he should abolish the executive presidency. Nonetheless, all the Presidents in the past two decades promised to do away with the existing system but none of them did it in reality. Besides, Gen Fonseka in September 2008 reportedly said `I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese’. He also reportedly said that ‘minorities must not demand undue things’. What makes you think that he would act differently or that he would heed to the minority parties?

Minority parties, you mean the Tamil and Muslim parties? More than the Tamil and Muslim parties, today UNP, SLFP (M) and JVP are asking for the abolishment of the Executive Presidency. Until recently minorities thought that the Executive Presidency is advantageous to the minority interests. Today Parliament has been weakened very much and the real government is run from the Presidential palace. There is a new class of ‘President’s men’ who has arrived in this country today. Pathetic are the cabinet Ministers within the Parliament. It is because they are not in the know of the running of the government. Now within the UNF our party and SLMC have also come to the position for abolishment. I think we as minorities can never go to Presidential palace but only to the Parliament.

Therefore, we cannot just be idle when our Parliament is slowly becoming a mere talk show assembly. Yes, CBK and the incumbent President agreed for the abolishment but did not adhere to the agreements. We need two third numbers in the Parliament and a friendly President who agrees for abolishment. So we are trying all the available avenues. What is the democratic alternative for us? If all the democratic avenues are unsuccessful then it will be an invitation to revolt. People may take to streets. Last part of your question refers to Sarath Fonseka’s comments made in 2008. We can never accept that stand. This country belongs to all of us. Let Sarath Fonseka be told.

But, these types of comments have been made by many in the major parties. If you ask me, I will tell you that a sizable number of politicians harbor such ideas within themselves. Not only in JHU and NFF but there are such persons in SLFP, UNP and JVP. There are Sinhala politicians while in government had said worst things. Some had gone to the level of eating the Tamil flesh. On other hand there had been Tamil counterparts too. Certain Tamil politicians wanted to swim in the Sinhala blood. It is the pathetic reality of our common motherland. We need to rebuild our common motherland for the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims and Buddhists, Hindus, Islamists and Christians. Please let me tell you loudly that the Common motherland is more important than a common candidate. We have to work through to achieve. If you have an alternative tell me. The pundits who criticize never come out with any successful alternatives.

A few weeks ago, you stated that you had communicated with a representative of Gen. Fonseka. Is it confirmed that he will be nominated by the UNA as their Presidential candidate?

A representative of Fonseka met me in Colombo. I said that some time before.

It has not been countered. So you know it is correct information. It is not only UNF in the scene but also JVP. This is on one hand. And Tamil and Muslim parties on the other hand. Let the announcement for the Presidential elections come. There will be more surprises for the government. I cannot comment further.

How do you interpret the letter sent to the President by Gen. Fonseka. Does it indicate that he would contest the Presidential elections?

Sarath Fonseka has already removed his uniform unofficially. I think it has a political meaning. He means business. Isn’t he? This is my guess.

The TNA has not ruled out the possibility of fielding a Tamil Presidential candidate. In that event who would you support?

Yes, it is one of the options. Not only the TNA but we as DPF have too pronounced this. President Mahinda, Common Opposition candidate, Common Tamil candidate and boycott are the four options we have. Last time Tamils in the North and East were told to boycott by LTTE. Today it is history. Boycott is the worst. It is against democratic engagement. And also we cannot simply leave it to the people’s private decisions. All Tamil and Muslim parties are to give leadership directions to our peoples.

The government has said that it would allow the opposition Parliamentarians to visit the IDP camps in the future? What is your comment about this new development? Are you planning to visit the IDPs?

Why the sudden announcements after six months? Is it GSP phobia? It is coming after allowing Indian MPs. Yes, we will visit independently. Visiting the camps is just one element of our struggle. We want our people to go home. Their rights to their ancestral land are supreme.

As a human rights campaigner, what are your observations about the resettlement process which is said to have been expedited..?

More than the conditions of the camps, the violation of the rights is my concern. They are being kept there against their will. The barbed wire and military security surrounding the camps are not for the protection against any external invasion. They are to prevent people from going out.

The people should have been given the right to stay with their relatives and friends of their choice long before. In the name of demining and screening, you can’t keep the women, children, sick and aged for months behind barbed wire. Government is expediting the process due to our pressures. Anyway this is what is expected out of a government. They can’t demand credit for this. We legislators have to visit and make our own independent assessment.

We need to know the total numbers of people arrived since May and settled and the numbers that remain. They can’t put them into another transit camp and call it resettlement. The people need to go to their very own villages. Until then this is going be the top priority for us.

COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

VOA Editorial: Sri Lanka - Post Conflict Recovery

Voice of America Editorial, Nov 15, 2009:

It's been 6 months since Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war ended, but for many of those who were displaced by the fighting, a chance to get back to normal life has been a long time coming.

mp3 audio: VOA

Having waged a secessionist war against the Government of Sri Lanka for the nearly 3 decades, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, an insurgent group designated as terrorist by the United States and 31 other countries, finally surrendered on May 17th of this year.

According to the United Nations, the conflict cost upwards of 100,000 lives, while 274,000 people were internally displaced and living in government relief camps. And although the Sri Lankan government has pledged to get most of the displaced out of the camps by the end of the year, the going has been slow. Despite a significant acceleration of the release program in October, only about one third of the refugees have been allowed to go home, leaving some 163,000 people still interned in camps.

The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, is one of many governmental and international organizations providing aid and support for Sri Lanka's Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs. To help rehabilitate the war-torn Northeast, USAID is partnering with local businesses to rebuild Sri Lanka's infrastructure, help the government create jobs, and train at-risk youth, including former combatants. USAID recently launched a 2-year pilot program that will help as many as one thousand former fighters reintegrate into society by providing them with supplies and equipment to start their own small businesses.

"This project will play an important role in helping post-conflict communities return to normalcy by creating opportunities for former fighters to get the training and support they need to start new lives and build secure futures," said USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn. “With this support, these men and women have the chance to change their lives, set new goals, and dream new dreams."

The United States firmly believes that the rapid release and safe and voluntary return of all IDPs is a critical element of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We will look for additional ways to support the Government of Sri Lanka in this critical effort.

Amnesty International takes action for Sri Lanka displaced

by Amnesty International

Activists and supporters of Amnesty International will launch a week of action on Monday highlighting the continued detention of thousands of displaced civilians in government camps in Sri Lanka.

Activists in more than 10 countries will take action as part of the Unlock the Camps campaign. Events include a ‘Circle of Hope’ in Canada, a street march and signature campaign in Nepal, a poetry reading in Switzerland and solidarity actions in France, Germany, Mauritius and the United States.

Throughout the week, Amnesty International activists based in London and participating sections will write blogs about the events taking place across the world..

Six months after the end of the war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka continues to confine people who fled fighting in the north to closed displacement camps in uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous conditions.

Releases from the camps have increased in recent weeks. However, camp shelters have deteriorated as Sri Lanka has entered the rainy season, with funds for shelter repair running out.

This week John Holmes, lead advisor on humanitarian affairs to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, travels to Sri Lanka to assess the situation of the people in the camps.

TRAPPED

Around 150,000 displaced people living in government camps in northern Sri Lanka are still being denied their basic human rights including freedom of movement. The military control whether the displaced can leave camp premises - even to seek medical care - and they are denied basic legal protections.

The government has widely publicised recent releases but Amnesty International has received reports that many people have been held by local authorities to determine whether they had links to the LTTE.

VOICELESS

Displaced people have been given no voice in decisions regarding their release, return or resettlement.

Families have received no warning about impending releases or been informed of conditions in their former homes. They have not been given clear information about their rights and obligations, legal status or procedures for tracing family members.

Humanitarian organizations have been prevented from talking to displaced people in the camps, obstructing their ability to conduct crucial human rights work such as providing legal aid or assisting with family reunification. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not had access to the camps since July.

UNPROTECTED

Since the war ended in May 2009, many thousands of people detained in camps have been subjected to 'screening' by the security forces in an attempt to root out LTTE members.

An estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings.

Amnesty International has received repeated, credible reports from humanitarian workers about the lack of transparency and accountability in the screening process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework. There are also increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado.
While screening is appropriate to ensure that LTTE combatants are not housed with the general camp population, proper procedures should be followed and the screening process must not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.

Independent monitors (including the ICRC) continue to be denied access to sites housing adult LTTE suspects. Detainees have not been charged with any offence, and have been denied legal counsel and due process. Many are held incommunicado.

Amnesty International has called on the Sri Lankan government to respect and protect the human rights of displaced people, including the rights to liberty and freedom of movement

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Af-Pak: The stakes & options in Afghanistan

by Dayan Jayatilleka

[What follows is an extract from a 10,000 word paper on Prospects for Conflict Resolutions in South Asia presented by Dr Dayan Jayatilleka at the 5th International Conference on South Asia organized by the Institute for South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore. Paper presenters included Sartaj Aziz former Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, and Mani Shanker Iyer former Minister of Rural Local Self-Government of India.]

From a global point of view there can be little doubt the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India triangle is the most decisive in South Asia, for the obvious reason that two of these three states are nuclear armed. It is true that the Indo-Pak relationship has been relatively stable and that this stability has been mightily assisted by diplomacy of the United States during moments of tension such as the Kargil crisis. This diplomatic adhesive has been strengthened by the new style and approach of President Barack Obama. It is no less true that the Indo-Pakistani nuclear equation has not achieved the degree of depth and stability that the US-USSR relationship had acquired during the Cold war, and one may envisage a scenario in which more ideologically charged governments come into office in both Pakistan and India, perhaps in reaction to one another, and set off an escalation of tensions which bring the two states to the brink. However, since this is not an imminent prospect I shall not dwell on it and prefer to move onto the more strikingly sensitive current theatre, the so-called Af-Pak area.

As an entry point let me use an old question which has assumed the status of a cliché: is Afghanistan, which was Russia’s Vietnam, going to be America’s second Vietnam? Is the USA going to suffer the same fate as Russia in Afghanistan?

At one level the answer is clearly no. The USSR was already suffering serious internal stagnation and decay, and while the USA is in grave economic difficulty, there is no evidence of any weakness which can result in systemic implosion. When the USSR entered Afghanistan it had long lost its ideological vitality while the USA under President Obama has clearly regained its own. The USA was able to create a quagmire for the USSR by securing the support of a wide coalition of disparate forces, ranging from China to Saudi Arabia, and most importantly, Pakistan. It provided the Afghan insurgents the means – Stinger missiles--to neutralize Soviet airpower. By contrast, the only coalition that exists today, however skimpy, is one supportive of the USA. There is no state, neighboring or further afield, that supports the insurgency. Even a regime with which the USA has serious contradictions, Iran, does not seek to undermine US policy in Afghanistan.

Perhaps most importantly there are the twin factors of the nature of the insurgent leadership itself and the period of history in which the struggle takes place. The Vietnamese were led by Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communist party, a tough minded and brilliant leadership capable of the most sophisticated understanding of the world and possessed of a mastery of strategy and tactics ranging from small unit and large scale battles to the negotiations in Paris. The Taliban simply is not in the same class. At its most starkly personal, Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan were more than a match for Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon while Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden is hardly the intellectual equal still less superior, of Barack Obama. While North Vietnam was itself a state which functioned as a rear base for the Southern guerrillas and later, conventional units operating in the South, the Vietnamese Communists were able to count on the support of either the USSR or the PRC, using their rivalry to secure support from both or at least one. The Taliban has no state which constitutes a rear base. The Vietnamese fought their war when Communism or socialism was a truly global contender, while the Taliban’s brand of radical Islam is not a truly global contender in that this ideology is culturally circumscribed and is not universalist in its appeal. By contrast the Vietnamese had tens of thousands of youngsters in the West, educated at the best of western universities, chanting slogans in favor of the Viet Cong and waving portraits of Uncle Ho, while it is unthinkable that Osama Bin laden or Mullah Omar would have such a resonance within western societies.

Still there are disturbing possibilities that the experience of the USA in Afghanistan could resemble its experience in Vietnam. On the ground, the war is not being won. The US economy may be unable to risk an escalation of American commitment in terms of far more troops for a far longer period. US public opinion may well flag. If so, the Taliban which is unable to beat the US on the battlefield and score anything like a Dien Bien Phu or even a Tet offensive, may be able to secure the same result as in Vietnam: a US withdrawal through sheer fatigue. If so the consequences are incalculable. Perhaps as in the case of Vietnam the dominoes will not fall and the fallout will be absorbable. Or perhaps the opposite will be at least partially true and Islamic radicals, whatever their sectarian differences, will feel emboldened by their victory considering it evidence of the weakening of the moral fiber of liberal democracies and the decline of the sole superpower the USA, signaling God-given sanction for endless jihad. This may in turn undermine the political fortunes of liberalism in the West, especially in the USA and aid the recovery of the Right, with all the polarizing consequences this holds for world politics. Whichever way it goes, failure in Afghanistan may impact upon the future of the Obama presidency. If so it may have a knock on effect on US relations with the rest of the world, which have improved dramatically under the Obama presidency. Yet, how is one to define failure? Is it withdrawal or a continued stay in a quagmire? More importantly how will the US electorate, or the majority of it, define failure?

How will victory and defeat each impact on Pakistan and Indian Kashmir? The surge of force levels, drone strikes and casualties inflicted on the Taliban in the event of victory could either stabilize or radicalize areas and social sectors of Pakistan. Conversely, an American military failure in Afghanistan could have the impact of further motivating and emboldening militancy in that state, and in Indian Kashmir, heightening threat perceptions in India.

What then are the prospects of conflict resolution? President Obama has so far seen the Afghan war, in contradistinction to the one in Iraq, as a necessary war, in an echo of Machiavelli’s dictum that the only just war is a necessary war. It would perhaps be prudent on his part to avoid the main mistake of Donald Rumsfeld which was the under commitment of troops, and to observe the fundaments of the Powell doctrine of deploying sufficiently large force levels if a particular war is deemed a necessary one.

Militarily the situation necessitates a pincer action from the Afghan and Pakistani fronts, with a degree of coordination that has yet to be witnessed, the political consequences if not managed, could be counter-productive. While the recent military offensive by the Pakistani army in the Swat valley has been a relative success with little visible political blowback, and the handling of the internally displaced has been vastly better than that in Sri Lanka, public opinion polls reveal that at the level of the Pakistani people, a broad consensus must be constructed. How to involve and yet insulate Pakistan is the dilemma. The stabilization of the Pakistani factor requires drawing in the two major Pakistani political formations led by the two pre-eminent figures, President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. Given the zero-sum nature of politics in South Asia (outside, arguably of India), this seems as impossible as it is imperative. Perhaps it is the Obama administration that can play a productive role here, but US involvement may make the process radioactive on the Pakistani street.

This makes it impossible for me to resist the temptation to make two suggestions, one out-of-the-box, and the other, possibly heretical, as how the situation in Afghanistan may be stabilized and possibly turned around.

The first is that the Obama administration should take a second look at and seek to bolster SAARC (the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) as a rearguard and counterweight to the spread of extremism, and a regional body which, in augmented form, may be able to play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan. An active US role may be able to better manage and balance off the structural asymmetries of SAARC which have had a dysfunctional, even debilitating effect.

The second suggested step, the heretical one, derives from my perception of the essential problem which seems to me to be the thinness of the human resource base of the state. The state lacks qualified cadre. The irony is that there are pools of potential cadre who are educated and professionally trained, share the same ideals of the education of women and broad social modernization as the US administration, and, more dramatically, have a proven resistance to the siren song of radical Islamic militancy. These are the scattered, exiled cadre of the PDPA, the party of the Afghan revolution of 1978, with its notorious fratricidal factions the Khalq and the Parcham, whose internecine strife probably cost them state power. These cadres are scattered in parts of the former Soviet space, in India and even Pakistan. They are in no shape to attempt any political adventures, now that the Cold War is over, global socialism has collapsed, the USSR is no more, History has moved on and their very existence would depend on US power. They are far more likely to be Obama fans than anything else! I am not arguing for their re-instatement in power but for their reincorporation and re-integration into the Afghan state and society in what Enrico Berlinguer the father of Euro-communism used to call a “compromesso storico”, a “historic compromise”. With many, even less savory precedents in the post World War II period, this strategy is a low risk, (potentially) high yield one, which can “thicken” the state with trained, educated, middle class professionals, expanding the core of an anti-Taliban modernizing coalition.

This is but a domestic corollary– may I say, the missing domestic corollary - and concomitant of President Obama’s regionalized approach to the Afghan crisis and his attempt at broadening the international alliance supporting the anti-Al Qaeda/Taliban effort.

While I am not unmindful of the possible blowback, I would still maintain that if carefully handled, the move I suggest here can be a “game-changer” in a positive sense.

Undergirding my suggestion is the hypothesis that in the longer view of history, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan may be seen not only as an ideological or strategic move, defensive, pre-emptive, or offensive, by the USSR in a Cold War context, but as a battle by a form of modernity against a resurgence of the pre-modern or archaic. In that sense the Soviet and US efforts can be seen as part of a (civilisational?) continuum. Of course this presupposes that the Cold war itself is understood at least in part, as a fratricidal civil war within modernity; between two alternative projects, one of which won.

Let me conclude this section of my paper by signaling alarm about an “outlier”, a factor which can upset many equations. I refer to a possible Israeli attack on Iran. I believe that it is unlikely that there will be a US strike, but I also fear that Israel will launch an attack, not least with the hope of upsetting the political equation in the USA and limiting President Obama to a single term. The new Israeli administration may calculate that an attack on Iran and a retaliatory Iranian strike could create a situation in which President Obama can be pressurized to act for fear of being outflanked by the Republican Right. If this takes place, there will be ripple effects throughout the Islamic world, irrespective of which sect or tendency of Islam each society preponderantly belongs to. The USA will also find a practical problem of overstretch which will affect its ability to function in Afghanistan. This in turn may be the Black Swan event that provides the Taliban and Al Qaeda with their moment. Thus all bets are off, in the event of an attack on Iran. Will the first Black President of the United States be undone by a Black Swan event?

November 15, 2009

Sarath Fonseka refused President's offer of reconciliation

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

offered

President Rajapakse offered Sarath Fonseka Prime Minister and/or Defence secretary post to reconcile but SF refused as he wanted to do politics

changes

Opposition parties draft letter& annexure for Sarath Fonseka but ex-army chief changes contents before submitting them to President Rajapakse

informs

Defence Ministry informs Sarath Fonseka that he has to vacate official bungalow in Colombo as he is no longer serving in the Army

unfairly

Disgraced "conqueror of East" Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya who was victimised unfairly by Sarath Fonseka is re-instated & restored to grace

refuse

Sarath Fonseka son in law Dhanuka's brother assaulted in club brawl by bodyguards of Gen Shavendra Silva. Police refuse to record complaint

hated

Ex- Navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda hated by Sarath Fonseka may be appointed Chief of Defence staff by Rajapakse regime to "spite" the Lt.Gen

suddenly

DIG police Cecil Perera transferred suddenly to Vavuniya. His son Thulitha Perera is fiance of Sarath Fonseka's younger daughter Aparna

plans

Sarath Fonseka had plans for settling families of 100,000 soldiers in ten "cantonment" townships in Wanni before re-settling civilians

What

Sarath Fonseka reluctant to firmly guarantee media freedom even before contesting elections. What will state of media be under "prez SF"?

acting

Sarath Fonseka demonstrates to opposition parties backing him that he will not be their "puppet" by acting independently in resigning

assures

Indian leaders "concerned"about Sarath Fonseka trying for Sri Lankan Presidency.Ranil Wickremasinghe assures them SF is "a true democrat"

fails

Ranil Wickremasinghe fails to meet PM Manmohan Singh during Indian trip. RW has long telephone talk with nationalsecurity adviser MK Narayanan

meets

Ranil Wickremasinghe meets Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram,External Affairs Minister SM Krishna in New Delhi

tells

President Rajapakse tells National Freedom Front (NFF) delegation led by Wimal Weerawansa that Presidential elections will be held FIRST

invite

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)may invite Sarath Fonseka to contest Presidential elections.United National Alliance (UNA) to endorse the call

trying

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress(SLMC) trying to"persuade"Tamil National Alliance(TNA) to support Sarath Fonseka as common presidential candidate

ASK Munasinghe

Senior supdt of Police & Ministerial Security division director ASK Munasinghe transferred suddenly to the Tourist Police

served

Senior Supdt of Police ASK Munasinghe is the elder brother of Sarath Fonseka's wife Anoma.Munasinghe had served as MSD director for 11 years

out

Twelve officers including Sarath Fonseka's brother in law were transferred out of Ministerial security division. Orders of Def secy Gotabhaya

same

Sarath Fonseka given same security given to ex-army commanders. Platoon comprising 34 soldiers & 1 officer. 2 escort jeeps & 1bullet-proof BMW car.

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A Hero’s Resignation: Triumph, Tragedy and Farce

by Rajan Philips

First there was triumph – of the army over the LTTE. Then came the tragedy - the encampment of 300,000 people. And now the farce – an establishment divided, the resignation of a war hero, and all but the announcement of a premature presidential race.

SFTC1115S.jpg

Chief of Defense Staff Sarath Fonseka (L) inspects army soldiers at the army headquarters in Colombo July 23, 2009-Reuters pic.

The outgoing General Sarath Fonseka’s letter of resignation, written with military license, is perfectly professional in tone and duly submissive to his civilian authority. The sting is in the tail annexed to the letter. Thirteen – someone is going to be unlucky here – of the sixteen points of contention, or reasons for resignation, are concerned with military organization and the rapid changes thereto so soon after victory. At this point, it is only one side of the story, but a man will not end his career and plan a future in so public a manner if what he is giving as reasons is less than true. But the thirteen reasons are not all factually verifiable, as some of them are perceptions and therefore contestable.

The fatal perception appears to have been about Sarath Fonseka becoming too big for his boots and posing a threat to the present political establishment. The perception of this threat led to paranoia of a military coup, not once but twice. First, the non-existent – according to Sarath Fonseka – coup threat was dealt with by the changing of guards in key areas of the military and state establishments. The second time, as was also independently known, the non-existent coup threat had morphed into an irrational coup fear, and India was asked to be at the ready for any eventuality. Whether there was any truth to these coup threats, we will not know unless those whom General Fonseka is accusing begin to tell their side of the story,

Whether there was some basis for the coup threat, and fear, or it was just a ruse created to clip the wings of a war hero is also not known, at least to those of us who are at a safe distance from the clashes of ego and the struggles for prominence that seem to have become the be all and end all of our politics. There is no politics without ego, but what is problematic about Sri Lankan politics now is that it has become so vulnerable to the power of personalities and their contending egos. This is a new development.

The battles of the past, outside the parliamentary arena, the 1953 Hartal, the 1961 Satyagraha, the 1962 coup, the JVP insurrections and even the LTTE phenomenon were extensions of political struggles and involved social and political forces that had lost patience with formal processes. Although challenged and woefully imperfect, the parliamentary system prevailed until it was vitiated by the current presidential system.

Now there is no political process, parliamentary or otherwise, only a farcical clash of two titans. The two have not been thrown up by contending social forces. Instead, the search is on for voting blocs to be brought into alignment with the clashing egos of two ambitious men. The presidential system has spawned a whole industry devoted to making and breaking coalitions and alignments for prize presidential candidates. Six years is too long for them to wait, so an election has to happen any time after four years when the stars are in order and the voters are in the mood. J.R. Jayewardene may have had a method in amending the Constitution even as he was writing it, but he may not have foreseen that after him there was going to be only madness and no method.

The twelfth of the 16 annex points in General Fonseka’s resignation letter is an interesting one. He was hurt by the failure of the government to appoint an acting Chief of Defense Staff during his recent and much publicized sojourn in the US. His point is that the CDS position is a no-status position and he had been ungratefully shoved into it so soon after he had run aground the LTTE. The good General should have known better. There is no provision in our constitution or convention for an acting President or a Vice President. What is good for the presidency should be good enough for a military office.

The last three points in the annex veer from the military into the political. There is the concern for the displaced people, anxiety over the failure to reach a political solution after the military victory, and criticism for the failure to capitalize on the peace dividend due to corruption and maladministration. Whether these are enough to make a convincing manifesto, it is too early to say. In any event, General Fonseka is in office till November 30, and it is illegal to speculate on a political future for him until then.

In contrast, the President appears to be all ready for such speculations. Contrary to paralegal pettifogging about ‘what if’ the President does not accept the General’s signature – the President has promptly accepted the General’s resignation. He has accepted the challenge for the parody of a presidential fight.

The fight is sure to feed everyone’s morbid curiosity more than serve anyone’s political interest. Amidst all the fun and excitement, it is necessary to point out that a new track in Sri Lankan politics has been opened. The army is going to be directly in the political frame from now on. The government may have thought that by sidelining Sarath Fonseka it was preventing a coup that was never going to happen. In so doing, the government may have handed the opposition a presidential candidate it would not have ever dreamed of having. A General scorned may not be enough to cause a political upset, but he can sure militarize the polity just as his detractors are politicizing the military.

Thirteen theses: Lanka's lessons for the world

by Dayan Jayatilleka

[“Will Sri Lanka win the peace?” was a question posed by Singapore’s Minister of Law, K Chanmugam, opening the 5th International Conference on South Asia organized by the Institute for South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore last week. The President of Singapore, SR Nathan closed the proceedings, launching South Asia Link, a hub for networking the 30 million strong worldwide South Asian Diaspora.

Paper presenters included Sartaj Aziz former Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, and Mani Shanker Iyer former Minister of Rural Local Self-Government of India. The paper on Prospects for Conflict Resolutions in South Asia was presented by Dr Dayan Jayatilleka. What follows is a brief extract from that 10,000 word paper which covered contemporary India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.]

The second part of this paper is devoted to the Sri Lankan experience of, and further prospects for, conflict resolution in my country. It is subdivided into two parts. The first part deals with Sri Lanka’s experiences in conflict resolution, and the second part with the future prospects. I offer Sri Lanka’s experiences not because I am unmindful that the thrust of this conference and the expectation from my paper is a forward looking one, but because I think that Sri Lanka’s conflict was so high profile and complex that our experience could, if correctly comprehended, impact upon other states in South Asia, in the twin senses that a repetition of our errors could retard prospects for conflict resolution, while the adoption of our successes – if only where relevant and adaptable – could enhance and accelerate prospects for resolving and transforming conflicts.

The Sri Lankan effort at conflict resolution involved successive administrations of varying ideological persuasions, centre-right and centre-left. It also involved at various times, a major regional player, India and a European small power, Norway. (Both attempts failed due to perceptions of partiality, and should be closely scrutinized as case-studies so as to enhance the theory and practice of third party efforts at conflict resolution). Sri Lanka’s conflict entailed policies ranging from a pure military approach to a ceasefire and extensive concessions, through various mixes which gave predominance to either the military or the political. Finally the conflict in its armed form was terminated by classical military means. However, the underlying ethno-regional tensions and contradictions remain, unaddressed in some parts, heightened in others, and modified by the war in still other parts of the problem. This can lead to the recrudescence of the conflict, not so much in its armed form, which can be easily handled by the Sri Lankan armed forces whatever its intensity, but by civic conflict, which cannot be handled by such means without risk of permanent strife. This is not to dilute the enormous achievement of the Sri Lankan state, society and armed forces in crushing a terrorist armed force which was one of the best known brand names in the business. What is required is, among other things, an understanding of the specificity of the Sri Lankan achievement and the limits of its relevance and possible application. Its adoption will require considerable local adaptation.

When the insurgency was at the stage that it might have been split and undermined by reforms, the obduracy of political parties and leaders claiming to speak for the Sinhala majority, forestalled such reform. At a subsequent stage, the insurgency had grown to the point that it was dominated and then violently monopolized by the most extremist and fanatical organization. This became the main factor that precluded any serious reform, though by then the state was “walking on two legs” as Chairman Mao would have it, striving to combine political reform with military offensives. In the third stage, the administration adopted a policy of unilateral concessions which its opponents within the State and without, denounced as a policy of appeasement. Even such a policy failed to thaw the insurgent movement, which was unwilling to settle for anything less than de-facto separation and that too as a halfway house to de jure independence, openly proclaiming and inwardly believing that it could beat the state forces in any confrontation while deterring any significant external support for the state. In its final phase, the separatist insurgency having grown to the level of a contending armed force but without the undergirding, organic support structures necessary for a guerrilla force to move to stage three of the Mao-Giap schema. This provided the Sri Lankan state with the opportunity of a full-on multi-front military offensive and to defeat the Tigers in a classic denouement.

The main lessons then are, in the form of thirteen theses, the following:

Thesis I

Early reforms may undercut the momentum of an insurgency; delayed ones will not

Thesis II

The success of efforts at conflict resolution depends crucially on the intrinsic character of the armed non-state actor in question. One size does not fit all.

Thesis III

Distinctions must be drawn between terrorist movements and armed resistance movements as well as between rational albeit extremist/radical organizations and non-rational, fanatical or fundamentalist ones.

Thesis IV

Further differentiations must be made with regard to the stage of growth of the armed struggle and the character of the organization that exercises fluid or entrenched hegemony or monopoly within that struggle.

Thesis V

Military action must not be the first resort or the main aspect of policy in the first instance, though a security component may be needed to effect and safeguard reforms.

Thesis VI

However, if the armed struggle is monopolized by a fanatical organization which violates humanitarian norms and resorts persistently to terrorism (defined as the intentional or witting targeting of noncombatants), then the military factor in the state’s response must perforce acquire greater importance.

Thesis VII

The political, social and military tracks of a multi-track strategy must not undermine each other; they must demonstrate policy coherence and converge on a clear strategic goal.

Thesis VIII

In the case of an armed struggle that has grown to the point of large unit conventional or semi-conventional combat, it must be recognized as a war and must be fought as such.

Thesis IX

The objective of such a war could either be the defeat of the enemy or driving it to a negotiated settlement that is balanced, mutual, reciprocal and verifiable, rather than a breathing space for rearming, regrouping and renewal of the insurgency.

Thesis X

Third party efforts at conflict resolution must not depend solely or primarily on those states which have ethnic constituencies, indigenous or immigrant, drawn from only one of the belligerents. Though such states may be the ones to be automatically drawn in, and therefore most strongly motivated to play a role with its attendant risks, such embedded lobbies of co-ethnics in a zero sum situation will vitiate attempts at conflict resolution because the intermediary will not be perceived as a neutral umpire, and there will be a backlash. Ideally the mediating/intervening state should have, in its make-up, no correlative reflecting the conflict, or should fairly evenly represent all the belligerent communities, or should be a regional coalition which collectively neutralizes the profile of unevenness in the composition of any one state.

Thesis XI

In the extreme case of an insurgency that is dominated or monopolized by a terrorist and or fanatical organization and has grown to the level of a war, the objective of state policy must, indeed can, be nothing other than the military defeat of the enemy, the destruction of its military apparatus, the neutralization of its leadership and the recovery of all terrain lost to it, in short “the annihilation of the living forces of the enemy” as the world’s greatest living strategist, Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap, put it.

Thesis XII

Such a war must not be punctuated by ceasefires and negotiations which debilitate the morale of the armed forces.

Thesis XIII

In the case of an outcome of the decisive military defeat of the enemy, socio-political reforms could parallel but must at least follow the military victory and do so swiftly. If not there could either be a reactivation of the insurgency or the permanent alienation of a section of the citizenry which either supported or came under the influence of the armed struggle or belong to the same social constituency from which it sprang and share the insurgents’ sense of collective grievance.

Prospects

The most intense and high profile aspect of the Sri Lankan conflict has just been resolved: the deadly conflict; the mid-intensity war. What remains is the postwar crisis, the delay or inability to reap the peace dividend by making the transition to a stable and just framework for durable peace and successful nation building.

Sri Lanka now has a second chance. It is as if we have obtained a second Independence, when we were ahead of the game in the rest of Asia but we then blew it. Let’s hope we do not blow it yet again.

November 14, 2009

Rajapakse regime and the Fonseka phenomenon: Genesis of current crisis

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Notwithstanding desperate denials to the contrary, current developments have clearly demonstrated the deep divisions existing between the ruling Rajapakse regime and former Army commander Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka.

In a controversial turn of events General Fonseka has submitted his resignation from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post held by him. It has been promptly accepted by President Rajapakse and is expected to come into effect from December 1st 2009.

It is widely believed that Sarath Fonseka after official retirement would plunge into politics and would contest against President Mahinda Rajapakse in the forthcoming presidential election. [click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

'Rajapakse has better equation with Indian leadership'

Comments on Gen Fonseka’s Resignation

By Col R Hariharan

General Sarath Fonseka, Chief of Defence Staff, and national war hero submitted his resignation letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 12. Later the Information department of the government announced the President had accepted the resignation with immediate effect.

Although the General was to retire from service from 1 December 2009, his resignation before that was not unexpected. In fact it is the successful culmination of efforts of the opposition parties to put up the General as their candidate to oppose President Rajapaksa in the presidential election likely to be held in early 2010. They had been relentlessly trying cash in on his steadily deteriorating relationship with the President ever since the war ended. The confirmation of Fonseka's political ambitions would be when he files his nomination paper for the presidential poll. This is probably only a matter of detail now as his resignation has been accepted by the President.

The General’s anguish over the treatment meted out to him is brought out the resignation letter [copy of the letter]. It clearly lists out the reasons for his decision.

Here are my comments on his resignation in response to specific questions raised by the media:

General Fonseka has spoken about the government alerting the Government of India on its suspicion about the Sri Lank army staging a coup. What do you think of it?

Yes, this was also reported in the Colombo media. I think after the war the huge size of the army – around 200,000 –built up for the war (General Fonseka was talking of expanding it to 300,000), coupled with the President's growing differences with the General, made the government nervous. It was more a reflection on the worsening relationship of the General with the President than on the credibility of the army.

Do you think India would have positively responded to Sri Lanka’s request for troops to control a possible coup attempt?

India has always had close relations with Sri Lanka. In the past India had responded to Sri Lanka’s requests for military support to avert possible coups. When massive protest was building up in Colombo after the signing of India-Sri Lanka Agreement in 1987, President JR Jayawardane feared the possibility of an army coup to topple him. To avert this he sought Indian assistance. India promptly sent two warships to Colombo with troops stationed on board presumably to discourage such an attempt.

President Rajapaksa has built close relations with Indian leadership. Probably he made no major move that would impact India's strategic relations with his country without consulting India. However, this is not at all unusual in view of the strong bonds of friendship that exists between the two countries, Sri Lanka leaders have always made it a point to keep India on the information loop. Definitely India would not have been happy if the armed forces toppled the elected government of Rapaksa. Though I am not privy to the decisions of India’s Ministry of Defence, in all probablility India would have responded positively to any request for assistance from the Sri Lankan President.

What do you think of Indian reaction to General Fonseka’s resignation?

I am sure the news of his resignation would have come as no surprise to the Indian government. Thre are regular briefings between the two countries on key issues. Moreover, Indian leadership was probably briefed on such a possibility by Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the main opposition party the United National Party (UNP), during his recent visit to New Delhi.

After his resignation, General Fonseka is likely to be pitched against President Rajapaksa in the presidential elections. What is your comment on this?

I think the development is good for the country’s democratic polity. President Rajapaksa’s is immensely popular and wields enormous political clout. He is at present in an unassailable position. Perhaps the General is the only person who can give him a run for the money when the country goes to the presidential poll. And that could make the President to critically look back at his record rather than taking people's support for granted.

Both the President and Fonseka have been responsible in their own spheres for the success in the Eelam War. So when these two powerful candidates contest for presidency vital issues (other than the military achievement) that were ignored earlier are likely to be discussed and debated. These issues include the Tamil demand for autonomy, ethnic equity, growing unemployment and high cost of living due to inflation. This is a healthy development for the growth of democracy.

There is a fear in some quarters about military commanders occupying the highest offices in the government. What is your view on this?

I think this fear is unfounded. There are generals like Eisenhower who served the country well. On the other hand we have generals in South America, who have turned their country into dictatorships after their election. So I think it depends upon the individual leader than on his military background. We should not forget a military leader brings in qualities unique to his profession like a structured way of thinking, abilities in problem solving, hard work and refusing to be browbeaten. These are great assets in any national leader.

Lastly, in our own country we have the example of General Khanduri whose excellent performance in improving national road infrastructure as a minister in Vajapayee’s government is yet to be equaled. Later he successfully headed the Himachal government as chief minister.

What would be India’s preference between Rajapaksa and Fonseka as president of Sri Lanka?

I think Rajapaksa has a better equation with Indian leadership. He is a seasoned politician who has cultivated the Indian leaders over the years. On Tamil autonomy issue he has no great differences with India, although he has pushed it down in his list of priorities for political reasons.

General Fonseka has his networking more with Indian military leadership than with political leaders. His strong views smacking of Sinhala nationalism rather than Sri Lanka nationalism makes Government of India uncomfortable. On the other hand, the UNP - his main supporter in the presidential election - has good rapport with New Delhi. In particular, the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has the ear of New Delhi and that could be an advantage for the General in putting India at ease.

But there are also political compulsions of New Delhi that condition its Sri Lanka policy. The ruling coalition’s partners from Tamil Nadu, particularly the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi, always have a say in shaping it. Tamil Nadu political leaders will not be happy to see Fonseka as the president. That would be an advantage for Rajapaksa by default. So overall, India would probably prefer Rajapaksa to continue as president.

Ministers shocked to hear President approved rude demonstration

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

shocked

Cabinet ministers who criticised Mervyn for staging rude demonstration against Sarath Fonseka shocked to know it was approved by president

instructions

Mervyn Silva claims he organized vulgar demonstration against Sarath Fonseka at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara on instructions of the President

Gahanava

Mervyn Silva threatens Sarath Fonseka directly - Naginna Epaa Kunu Bakkivalata. Api Gahanava (Do not get onto garbage buckets. We will attack).

offered

President Rajapakse offered Sarath Fonseka Prime Minister and/or Defence secretary post to reconcile but SF refused as he wanted to do politics

DISAPPOINTED

Mahinda Rajapakse DISAPPOINTED by Sarath Fonseka spurning"olive branch"extended by president on Nov11 at private meeting in"Temple Trees"

rejected

Sarath Fonseka request to serve till Dec 1st rejected by President Rajapakse. Chief of Defence Staff may have to bid "adieu" on Nov 15th

vacate

Sarath Fonseka ordered by President Rajapakse to vacate Chief of Defence staff post with immediate effect and not from December 1st.

aghast

Civilised world aghast at "International Pariah" dictator Gen. Than Shwe, being afforded state welcome to Sri Lanka by Rajapakse regime

"Butcher of Burma"

Majority of Buddhists in Sri Lanka horrified at Than Shwe "Butcher of Burma" who killed 142 Buddhist priests visiting Country as state guest

attacked

93 Tamil detenues in Magazine prison attacked by Sinhala prisoners & Prison guards. 22 injured with 8 cases serious. Injured treated within jail

instigated

Newly appointed Sinhala prison guards verbally abused & instigated brutal attack on Tamil detenues held in Magazine jail. No deaths reported

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General Fonseka Cannot Claim He has Unstained,Clean Pair of Hands

By Kusal Perera

After weeks of media speculation on the prospective “Common Candidate”, to every one’s relief, confirmed news about General Sarath Fonseka’s decision to retire from military service with effect from 01st December, 2009, came on 12th Thursday afternoon. It would in reality mean his retirement from the extended service in the army. Yet it is also taken as his retirement from his new post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), as well.

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Sri Lanka's top general, General Sarath Fonseka, prays at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara before announcing his resignation in Colombo November 12, 2009-Reuters pic.

Those who respected him as a “Sinhala hero” for defeating the LTTE and Prabhakaran, probably sighed in relief, that his retirement, was accepted by the President without any fuss and hesitation. For those who want him as the next President and to contest as the “common candidate” but feared he would be holed in by the President in denying his release from service, were also relieved, when it was clear the President would not stoop that low.

Then came the letter itself by Friday afternoon, accompanied by an annexure “A”. The letter was titled “Request to retire from the regular service from the army”. The 16 point annexure “A” was titled, “Factors affecting my retirement from the Regular force of the army”.

In normal circumstances, any retirement is based on reaching the maximum age approved for service and in special cases come the issue of health. Both those reasons don’t necessitate a special annexure to the letter requesting retirement, titled “Factors affecting my retirement from ……..”. Therefore, General Fonseka’s letter of retirement along with this “annexure A” is special and certainly deserves public scrutiny.

The most glaring info any one could have from even the first brief glance of General Fonseka’s letter, is that his only reason for this hasty retirement is a “very personal power feud” between the two most powerful “Rajapaksa brothers” and him. It had evolved, according to the letter, immediately after the war was declared over.

Listed as number “4” in his letter, he says, “Considering the facts mentioned in the Annex and more, which I am privy to withhold, I am compelled to believe that Your Excellency and the Government has lost your trust and faith bestowed upon me for reasons best known to Your Excellency.” Thus we are told, the Annexure “A” by itself does not reveal all things that had gone into his decision. Thereafter he says, “Hence as the senior most serving military officer in the Country with 40 years of service, such a situation does not warrant a continuation of my duties any longer,….” Therefore his request, to be permitted to terminate his services and retire from 01st December 2009.

While there are other reasons the General is “privy to withhold” (from the public ?) the most important reasons to assume, President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya R had in fact been certain, they don’t need the General any more after the war, are included in his annexure “A”, quite in detail.

Numbered as ‘6’ in the annexure, he says [quote] Your Excellency, you too made a statement at the very first security council soon after the 18 May, 2009 when the battle was declared over, that “no further recruitment was necessary” and “a strong public opinion is in the making, stating that the country is in possession of a too powerful army…..” [unquote]

The General says, or rather subtly accuses the President, for making the same statement, even after the General handed over the command of the army. Explaining this statement by the President at the Security Council, the General assumes, [quote] I personally felt that Your Excellency has commenced mistrusting your own loyal Army which attained the unimaginable victory just a week ago [unquote]

The General goes on to say that the Defence Secretary “was bold enough” to state in a service commanders’ meeting that it would be dangerous if, “operational control of all three services is granted to the CDS” (No. 5 in annexure) after General Fonseka was appointed to the post of CDS.

What does all these statements adduced to the two most politically powerful Rajapaksas in this country, mean between lines, if not directly ? The war had allowed the growth of a powerful large army, and as General Fonseka claims, it was with his (General Fonseka’s) “vision, command and leadership that this yeomen task was achieved.” Thus, the “loyalty of the Sri Lanka Army towards me (the General) as its past Commander who led the Army to the historic victory.” (No. 8 in the annexure) left no command access even to the vociferous Secretary Defence.

On the flip side of this understatement(s) by the General and not touched upon by him, is the fact that all during the war period, which he says stretched to 03 years and 07 months, he was also allowed to project himself as a political leader of the war. Or, he was powerful enough to play a political role, that the Head of State and the Defence Secretary could not stop him from, while the war was being waged.

His political statements to the media, both locally and internationally, were never contradicted by the political leaders of this regime. The political role General Fonseka played during that heady period, narrowed the gap between the Executive power which is a civil power and the defence establishment. Most political decisions interpreted in terms of “security” that effected civil life drastically, was certainly influenced by the defence establishment and General Fonseka was there as its head. He cannot therefore claim he has an unstained, clean pair of hands.

The unwritten statement(s) in this ‘two part’ retirement request is that the General who was himself a political (Sinhala) ideologist too, did want to continue in command at the head of this powerful army which he was also instrumental in instilling with a Sinhala Buddhist ideology by all his public statements. He wanted continued command with increased numbers too.

That is why General Fonseka was disturbed when President Rajapaksa decided, that “no further recruitment was necessary” after the war was victoriously concluded. That is also why General Fonseka says, he “was mislead on the authority vested with the CDS.”

He wanted “more command responsibilities and authority than earlier” and he thought he was going to have such powers as the CDS. So he laments, he was mislead and complaints, with his appointment as CDS, he was served with “a letter by the Strategic Affairs Adviser to the Secretary Defence indicated that my appointment was purely to coordinate the services and not that of overall command.” (No. 4 in annexure)

What more. He notes quite frankly, “Such actions clearly defines Your Excellency’s and the government’s unwillingness to grant me with command responsibilities…” The rest of the annexure is used in providing reasons to the claim(s) the General makes about the decline of professionalism in the army, after he was moved out of command responsibility.

Such a mindset with a will to further increase numbers in thousands, as we have heard, perhaps made the Rajapaksa regime paranoid about their own status in power. An insecurity the Head of State would have felt and perhaps the reason to hastily move the General out into a senior position, with a ceremonial flavour than with command responsibility.

Whether moving General SF out of overall command so fast is right or wrong, the fact remains, he was passionate about being in overall Command of the army for a longer period than he was allowed. Thus the issue now is whether the UNF and its allies are willing to hand over the all powerful Executive Presidency that could even move out a battle hardened, 40 year serviceman, to such a power loving, power needy General.

This UNF and its allies are gelled together on the singularly hyped slogan of abolishing the powerful presidency. This presidency had been promised to be done away with, during all elections since 1994 August. Promised by civilians who aspired to the presidency, who thereafter forgot they had promised so. Promised by political leaders who had a social binding to the people, more direct than any other, who had only been trained and disciplined to wield regimented power.

Thus all the pious talk that would hereafter ensue by one who has quite a heavy load of dirty and smelly baggage, will be within the regimented discipline of wielding absolute power.

Everything else that has suddenly popped up including that of the “plight of the IDPs” as a “point of great concern” and the sentence included in the annexure that they should be allowed to stay with their friends and relatives till de-mining is complete, though high sounding, would be within his very consistent Sinhala-Buddhist ideology of believing that Sri Lanka belongs to the 75% Sinhalese and that minorities “can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things”. (Canadian National Post - 23 September 2008). What is undue for these Tamil IDPs of course, would thus be decided by this Sinhala regimented mindset.

Therefore this country can never ever have any guarantee of a return to better democratic and inclusive, civilian life from one who tenders his resignation solely because the power he wanted was not afforded to him. From one who had never been experiencing democratic traditions in decision making and implementing and lived a ‘Musharaffian’ life.

Where this country would thus be led by the Opposition UNF and its allies, will therefore be far chilling and dangerous than by any corrupt, politically insincere, nepotistic Sinhala Don Quixote.

November 13, 2009

Sri Lanka: Uncertain future despite the costly military victory

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

The focus of the Sri Lankan government soon after annihilating the LTTE in mid-May 2009 has been on provincial and local government elections. Now it is on the forthcoming parliamentary and Presidential elections. The latter is not due until November 2011 but the Constitution permits it to be held any time after the incumbent completes 4 years in office. There are many provisions in the present Constitution that serve narrow political and the personal objectives of those in power. Although there is widespread recognition for the need to reform the inapt constitution, short-term political interests have prevented this. The weaknesses in the system are allowed to continue for exploitation by self-seeking political leaders.

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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa gestures as his brother and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, wearing spectacles, looks on during the National War Heroes Day celebration in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, June 7, 2009-AP pic

The Daily Mirror editorial 9 November gives a clear idea of the muddled state of Sri Lanka just a few months after the government declared the dawn of peace following the crushing defeat of the LTTE, branded as terrorists by many countries including the USA, India, Canada and the EU. The power struggle that has replaced the ‘war on terror’ is useless from the standpoint of improving the welfare of the people and the country. Both sides to this post-war conflict have been blamed; “one for its self-centric politics, nepotism and attempts to claim ownership for military victory and the other for putting the lives of 20 million people at risk just to come into power”.

In this regard, the following editorial comment is also noteworthy. “If hubris or excessive pride in oneself is the cause for one’s downfall, chances are there for both to fall or one, with less pride, to be left with a limp. And the fate of those who triggered the mess, no one would know. What one only knows is that the establishment would try all the tricks in the book to ensure that the new entrant to politics would not have a smooth sailing. There will be legal and political blockages setting off a wave of disillusionment among military and a large section of voters at the turn of events. The obvious knee-jerk reactions including visits to camps and sudden army pay hikes have been viewed with disdain and the changes in the security arrangements would not be to the liking of the Sinha regiment. On the other hand many hold the opposition, the creator of the imminent calamity for playing with fire and putting the lives of everyone including their own in jeopardy”.

According to this editorial, the prospect of “a violent clash between the country’s political and military leadership” has emerged recently. What it has failed to mention is the neglect of the apt move to transform the military victory into real peace that does not give opportunities for power hungry political leaders to exploit the ethnic, religious, regional and other divisions in the society for seizing power. The suspicion and fear of the different ethnic communities would have also vanished, if the peace was genuine and believed by all to be durable. The key to this lies in the realization of unity in diversity. Had meaningful peace been achieved in this manner, the triumph of the military would have been really beneficial to the present and future generations, besides giving a pride of place to the security forces in the annals of the post-war island nation. Disappointingly, the government’s actions and inaction are in conflict with these noble aims.

In fact, there is no action plan for achieving lasting peace, progress and prosperity for all citizens. The government has been concerned particularly about sustaining the popularity gained from defeating the LTTE, with no inclination to shift the emphasis from militarism to political reforms needed to prevent internal conflicts. But this popularity is not going to last long, despite the posturing as the people expect significant improvement in their living standard awfully affected by the dire conditions caused directly and indirectly by the prolonged war. The losses and sufferings have been extensive not only in terms of destruction of human lives and property but also lack of improvement in social and economic welfare. The annual economic growth has been much lower (by about 3%) than achievable under normal conditions. Not only Tamils but also many Sinhalese had emigrated because of the poor conditions in their motherland. Surprisingly, there are some top Sinhalese officials in the present government with dual nationalities.

Continuing deceptions

The undisclosed ways the resounding military victory was achieved have now become contentious and hindrance to the government in proceeding with its hidden political agenda. Basically, the intent of the present leadership is to keep the present unitary structure which ensures Sinhala majority rule over the entire island and institute some superficial changes to show off that all citizens regardless of their distinct ethnic, religious and regional identities have equal rights and security. Soon after the military victory, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared from now on there are no minorities in Sri Lanka! He did not elaborate how the majority-minority division that dominated the political scene since independence has or will vanish.

The fierce war waged by the military against the heavily armed Tamil Tigers was also said to be a humanitarian operation to free the trapped people from the clutches of the ruthless Tamil Tigers, who had killed many civilians and politicians in the democratic mainstream and forcibly recruited children to boost the strength of their armed cadre. The stories narrated recently by the ex-child soldiers reveal the nature and extent of their bitter experiences during the war. The claim that the government acted from a humanitarian consideration has proved to be untrue from the forced detention of civilians in prison-like camps. They were in desperate need of liberation from their oppressed and tormented life in Vanni. The need to sustain the fear of possible resurgence of the terrorizing Tigers is also for gaining political mileage.

The government with the successful conclusion of the separatist war synonymous with ‘war on terror’ claims peace has now dawned in Sri Lanka and it is the duty of both the government and all peace loving people to safeguard this hard earned peace. According to the government leaders, the root cause of war was the demand for independent Tamil Eelam and the ruthless LTTE’s armed struggle for achieving this goal. Both the Eelam goal and its diehard violent seekers, who sought to achieve it by intimidating and killing the opponents, have been thoroughly defeated. In short, the government’s perception of the national problem is this violent conflict. But this is not the view of the moderate Sri Lankans as well as the international community including those members who supported the government’s military campaign against the LTTE. They have all made a clear distinction between the ethnic problem and LTTE’s Eelam war.

On May 23, soon after the end of the war, the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Secretary-General Ban issued a joint statement that promised there would be credible national investigations on human rights violations. But the government did not take any step to open an investigation until recently following the release of the US State Department damning report. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also issued a statement on October 23 calling for an independent international investigation. A spokesperson for the office told reporters: "We still believe that something like the Gaza fact-finding mission is certainly warranted given the widespread concerns about the conduct of the war in Sri Lanka." Following international pressure, President Rajapaksa announced on 26 October that he would appoint a committee of experts to "examine carefully" allegations of violations of the laws of war. Given the past dismal record of such domestic investigations, many are not convinced of the real usefulness of the proposed committee. Recently Brad Adams, Executive Director, Asia division Human Rights Watch said: "The government's committee is merely an effort to buy time and hope the world will forget the bloodbath that civilians suffered at the end of the war". He also said. "Pretending that this is a serious attempt to investigate would betray the memory of the victims of war crimes and other abuses."

It is the failure to fulfil the promises given to the international community on the political settlement of the ethnic problem that has led to the surge in international pressure on the Rajapaksa regime. Actually, the alleged war crimes would not have become a major issue, if the government had proceeded swiftly with the move towards an equitable power-sharing and devolution reform within a national structure that protects the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. The climate for this change was favourable soon after the war. Real peace must come from the unity of all ethnic, religious and regional groups, which in turn depends on the sincere feeling of the majority of the members in all the diverse groups that there is no racial discrimination by the State with regard to political and human rights, safety, security, justice, regional development and opportunities to prosper. Sadly, the government did not act compassionately even after destroying the LTTE leadership.

It is the total neglect of the basic principle of equality of all citizens regardless of their diverse ethnic origin by successive governments since independence that caused internal disturbances and ultimately the breakup of the nation. The useful role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in uniting the bitterly divided South Africa because of apartheid is noteworthy. The country was fortunate to have had Nelson Mandela as the first post-apartheid leader. The forthcoming Presidential election in Sri Lanka too focuses on internal power struggle and not on the pressing national issues. The political factors that caused the division and the violent struggle that destroyed many lives and damaged terribly the nation’s culture need to be addressed early. Recent horrid post-war incidents illustrate the culture of inhumanity that has evolved along with the culture of impunity that grew as a result of the abuse of power by egoistic political leaders. Another outcome of the excessive politicisation of the administration is the uncontrolled rise in widespread corruption. Thus, the general Sri Lankan culture which had close links to civil and religious principles has degraded terribly because of dirty politics.

Disturbing cultural change

The editorial in the Sunday Island 8 November on the Bambalapitiya beach horror has said that “this seeming indifference to brutality among the general citizenry is in itself troubling and a subject worthy of further scrutiny and study. Violence is so deeply entrenched in the life of the people that it deadens the conscience on the one hand and erodes the will to be virtuous and conscientious, on the other. The end result could be an alarmingly dehumanized people. This tragic trend needs to be arrested immediately. It is a matter over which all need to agonize. What compounds our sense of disquiet is the seeming religiosity of our people. Is religion also impotent in the face of this crisis?”

According to the popular Tamil magazine ‘Ananda Vikatan’ published in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Mr. T. Velupillai (76) and Mrs. Parvathiammal (71), parents of the LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran have been detained in the notorious "Fourth Floor" of the detention centre of the army and police in Colombo. The old couple were picked up from the now well known Manik Farm internment camp after the death of their son who believed blindly in the violent way of achieving political goals and taken to the dreaded detention centre in Colombo, where they are being kept in separate cells for the last 4 months. The magazine has explained the disapproval of the father, who was a government servant when his son Prabhakaran took up arms for the Eelam cause at the age of 17. He had no influence over his son and there are no reports that he had any role in encouraging his son to embrace violence.

In the final phase of the war, when the distressed Vanni residents moved into army controlled areas, Prabhakaran's parents also moved out and stayed in Manik Farm. When the army was searching for them, the two came forward and surrendered. The magazine also said, “contrary to the convention that those above 60 should be allowed to have a care-giver, the army refused to allow any relative to be with them even when their health deteriorated. It even denied them medical care”. The reason for mentioning specifically the harsh way of treating innocent Tamils just because they happen to have lived in the LTTE-controlled areas and in the case of the medical doctors who were forced to act and speak as instructed by the LTTE leadership is to point to the rancorous way the government treated non-combatants who lived under a repressive rule. If honourable peace was the goal sought after the military victory as is normally the case even in fiercely fought wars, the victors try to win the hearts and minds of the distressed people through compassion and magnanimity. This is very much in line with Buddhist philosophy. It is unfair to assume all Tamils even those who were forcibly recruited by the hardcore Tiger cadres as criminals or willingly acted violently. It is unclear whether the harsh collective punishment is revenge or for portraying the victor as formidable power capable of crushing any future Tamil uprising.

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Sri Lankan prison guards escort ethnic Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam out of the High Court premises in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Aug. 31, 2009-AP pic.

The August 31 verdict of the Colombo magistrate court sentencing the veteran journalist and columnist J.S. Tissainayagam to 20 years rigorous imprisonment under the anti-terror law has raised concerns across the world on the state of freedoms in Sri Lanka. Tissainayagam, an ethnic Tamil who wrote in English and a regular Sunday Times columnist was arrested by an anti-terrorism division of police in March 2008. He was not formally charged or produced in court until August 2008, when he was indicted under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The Indian daily ‘The Hindu’ in its editorial 9 September 2009 opined: “The court made a determination that his column (North-Eastern monthly magazine), which was a mere expression of opinion on the government strategy in the war against terror, was intended to cause racial or communal disharmony. His raising money to run his magazine was construed as raising funds for the promotion of terrorism. The shock over the judgment is understandable as it is the first case in which a journalist had been charged and convicted under the PTA of 1979 and has come in the post-Prabakaran Sri Lanka that eagerly awaits reconciliation, after the military defeat of the LTTE in May this year”. The use of PTA to curtail media freedom is also one factor that is inhibiting the extension of GSP+.

The editorial in Sri Lanka Guardian 1 November has also highlighted the terrible happenings in the name of combating terrorism. It has opined, “State terror is substituting the terror of the Tigers!” The following comment is very apposite.

“A country that is embedded in the just preaching of Lord Buddha failed to follow his guidance of truthfulness, love and non-violent conduct and sunk into irredeemable guilt that will haunt the country for decades. Whatever the compulsion for an all out war, the forces should have mitigated themselves from prosecuting an unjust battle on the section of people, leaving aside the brutal LTTE. They should have been guided by the Buddhist Dharma, the rules of the Kurukshtra War of Mahabaratha and also by giving some respect for the modern international covenants Sri Lanka has subscribed to. Brutality inflicted on the innocent civilians and surrendering enemies horrifies the conscience of the right thinking people who want Sri Lanka to be a self respecting nation giving credence to values”.

International dissent

The post-war acts of commission and omission of the government have also raised many crucial questions about Sri Lanka’s political future. Now the war is over, is there a real need to sustain the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act? On 7 November French Ambassador for Human Rights, Francois Zimeray asked Sri Lanka to end its state of emergency and probe war crimes ahead of a key European Union ruling on the extension of trade concessions under the GSP+ to Sri Lanka. "Ending of the emergency should have been the first consequence of ending the war", he is reported to have said at the end of three-days of talks with key Sri Lankan leaders on the island's human rights situation. Both the ER and PTA now serve to safeguard the political power of the government.

The absolute military victory was possible mainly because of the extreme methods like those used habitually by the ruthless Tamil Tigers, disregarding the safety of civilians. Many Sri Lankans have not realised that this victory has been secured at a price that is now hurting the government and the people. The fact is both sides used harsh methods that violated international laws, particularly during the final stages of the war. For instance, the safety zone was established to provide temporary shelter to the civilians fleeing from the fighting areas. The safety zone too came under attack after the rebel fighters moved there. The civilians were used throughout as human shields by the Tigers. Without an independent Truth Commission it is difficult to establish what exactly happened during the final stages of the war, particularly January – May 2009.

Despite the efforts to conceal the hideous happenings, some official statements have exposed the violation of accepted rules of warfare. For example, the Tamil Tigers who went to surrender carrying white flags were mercilessly shot and killed. Many violations by the Tamil Tigers were done openly disregarding the condemnations by human rights organizations and foreign governments. The rebel leaders responsible for the violent crimes that breached international laws were not immune to prosecution. What plan the LTTE leader had to evade retribution is not known. The violation of the internationally acknowledged rights of children is also a grave crime. Moreover this is unethical not permitted in any civilised society. There is no doubt their rights have been blatantly violated since the beginning of the Eelam war. But the government leadership conscious of the adverse international reaction to indiscriminate attacks had planned in advance to conceal its violations, which the Western bloc based on their own assessments considers them as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On the international front, the emergence of two reports, almost simultaneously has caused much concern to the Government. One is the report submitted in October by the US State Department to the Congress on the disturbing incidents that occurred during the (Eelam IV) war in Sri Lanka. This report is not biased as both the warring parties are alleged to have committed war crimes. The other is the European Union report based on the findings of an independent expert team set up for "the investigation with respect to the implementation of certain human rights conventions in Sri Lanka." The EU probe has found Sri Lanka in breach of international human rights laws. The findings are in the way of getting an extension of the preferential trade scheme known as GSP+ which benefits immensely Sri Lanka’s garment exports to EU member states.

In respect of the US report, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry hurriedly ruled in a statement that it "appears to be unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence." The Ministry announced, "There is a track record of vested interests endeavouring to bring the Government of Sri Lanka into disrepute, through fabricated allegations and concocted stories…." On the other hand the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa responded in the customary way, He has set up an expert committee to look into the allegations in the US report. The recent inconclusive record of the outcome of Presidential Commissions and Expert Committees is widely known and the aim here too is to give the impression that the Sri Lankan government is not rejecting the damning offhand but taking it seriously.

The US House of Representatives on November 4 urged the Sri Lankan government to guarantee the safety and quick release of the Tamils currently held in camps. By an overwhelming 421-1 vote, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution that called on the authorities in Colombo to help the detainees in “the tightly guarded camps return to their homes”. The Sri Lankan government was urged to turn over the operation of the camps to civilians, and allow day-to-day access to the camps for the Red Cross, non-governmental groups, and others who care for internally displaced people (IDPs). It also called on the government to allow an independent assessment of charges of large numbers of deaths, rampant disease, poor sanitation and poor health care in the camps and a plan to remedy the issues. The proposal urges the Tamil people "to continue to be patient while the government re-establishes normalcy" and calls on the government to make headway on political reforms to address the Tamils' "political concerns." (Source: AFP report 5 November 2009).

Government supporters have used the international dissent to spread the notion of conspiracy being hatched against the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The intent is to gain popular sympathy and support for the latter in its determination to resist foreign intimidations in the same way the military success boosted its popularity.

The way the government has reacted to queries and requests by concerned foreign governments and the UN has reinforced the perception that there have been some nasty happenings in the targeted areas that the government wants to conceal. The latest is in respect of the pre-arranged ‘voluntary meeting’ of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka with the officials in the Department of Homeland Security in Oklahoma, United States for clarifying certain issues relating to the ‘war on terror’ in Sri Lanka. On this matter, Minister Keheliya Rambukkwella is reported to have told Lankapuvath November 02 that “this is nothing but a despicable plot being hatched at the expense of the entire country”. The General is a US ‘green card’ holder and has permanent resident status in America. The purpose of his visit was to renew the green card, which is a precursor to US citizenship.

The problem with dual citizenship

The Sunday Times 8 November in its political column has given a detailed account of the General’s visit to the US, the drama there and the arrangement made with the US authorities by Sri Lanka for his return to Colombo without attending the ‘voluntary meeting’ on November 4 at the Department of Homeland Security. His private trip to renew the Green card was “linked together with official engagements arranged at the Sri Lanka Defence Ministry's request by the US Government. The official invitations were later withdrawn, days ahead of his departure. This was in the light of the 'war crimes' report by the US Department of State to the Congress. The US Government officials said it would be untenable to host him in the light of that report. That changed the character of the trip to an entirely private one. ... He has a residence in Oklahoma where his two daughters and son-in-law live. Sri Lanka Army commandos protect them there”.

As stated by D. B. S. Jeyaraj in his ‘Twitter pages’, US officials have every right to question persons having US citizenship & permanent residency. Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a US citizen and the voluntary interview arranged with General Sarath Fonseka present Chief of Defence Staff and former Army commander was reported as for finding the exact role of the Defence Secretary in the conduct of the war. Two pertinent questions raised in connection with the alleged war crimes are: (i) If no war crimes were committed by Sri Lanka in the war against LTTE then why panic about US quizzing the US green card holder Gen. Sarath Fonseka? (ii) If zero civilian casualty policy had been followed as claimed then by Sri Lanka, why bother about the allegations in the 68-page report submitted to the Congress by the US State Department? According to latest information, General Sarath Fonseka who returned to Sri Lanka on 5 November without being questioned by the officials of the US Department of Homeland Security submitted his resignation as Chief of Defence Staff on 12 November. The vacation of post is effective from the end of November.

The full letter setting out the reasons for retirement is in ‘Lanka Truth’ 13 November. One reason given is – “The peace dividend the whole country expected at the conclusion of the war has yet to materialize. The economic hardships faced by the people have increased while waste and corruption have reached endemic proportions; media freedom and other democratic rights continue to be curtailed. The many sacrifices the army made to end the war would not have been in vain, if we can usher in a new era of peace and prosperity to our motherland”.
Samantha Vidyaratne MP told parliament on November 4: "In the same way this brave soldier rid the country of terrorism, he is now on his way home without betraying the nation." JVP Kurunegala MP Bimal Ratnayake told Parliament the same day that President Rajapaksa’s two brothers Basil and Gotabhaya must give up their US citizenship in the interest of their motherland, The former is an appointed (non-elected) MP and senior adviser to the President.

According to the aforementioned Sunday Times report, “the Defence Secretary is already in receipt of a letter from the US asking him if he, as a US citizen is involved in any policy matters that compromise with Human Rights violations in any other country. This same letter has been received by his brother, Basil Rajapaksa and current Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda, both US citizens as well. They have also been asked if they wished to pursue with their US citizenship, to which all of them have answered in the affirmative as far as is known, and they have received a formal response that they can continue with their US citizenship”.

The Sunday Times of 8 November in its editorial has opined that “questions have been justifiably raised whether it is even proper for people who have dual-citizenship to sit in Cabinet - or hope to sit in a future Cabinet and to decide on the state policy of one nation. One day, the concept of national sovereignty may be a thing of the past; but that day is not today, yet”. A Sri Lankan acquiring citizenship of a foreign country is committed to be loyal and act in the interest of that country. In fact he or she must take a solemn of oath of loyalty to qualify for citizenship. The conflict of interest comes in when a dual citizenship holder returns to function as a Cabinet Minister or an influential government official in his/her motherland.

No true national leaders

Whoever is the next head of State he must be one capable of leading the country sensibly from a wide national (not just the Sinhala but all inclusive nation) and long-term perspective for Sri Lanka to re-emerge as a peaceful and promising nation.

Rienzie T Wijetilleke, chairman of Hatton National Bank is reported to have told senior corporate leaders at the recent LBR-LBO CEO Forum in Colombo that Sri Lanka’s political leadership has been a failure. He said: “Sri Lanka should consider importing people with proven track records to run government as native leaders have consistently failed to deliver and develop the country after independence”. Wijetilleke also told the managers: "I told this, 10 years ago and even endorse that proposal now. That's what's required in this country as all leaders from independence have failed us." He also said that he had “even suggested getting Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or Nelson Mandela from South Africa and giving them the power to govern the country for 10 years with parliamentary sovereignty. Sri Lanka was a stable country, ahead of most of Asia, when it got independence from Britain in 1948. But today it is lagging behind other nations, though it has made some progress after the economy was re-opened in 1977. ....Mandela took South Africa from a white-run government to a black-run government but did not oppress the minority. In sharp contrast neighbouring Zimbabwe collapsed under money printing and state action against its white minority.” There is now a move to impose further trade sanctions on Zimbabwe because of extensive human rights violations.

The extent of the disappointment of the distinguished entrepreneur on the failures of Sri Lanka’s political leaders is evident from his extreme suggestion to find a proven foreign political leader to pull Sri Lanka out of the deep hole and guide the country towards stability and prosperity. Although this is not realistic, the message is clear. The intrinsic problem lies in the national politics of Sri Lanka. It is not national at all in the true all inclusive sense. To some Sinhala nationalists, the island is a Sinhala nation because of the sheer size of the ethnic Sinhala majority compared with other ethnic minorities. The latter should not place undue demands but must live amicably with whatever granted benevolently by the ethnic majority Sinhalese.

The fundamental reason for the many problems confronting Sri Lanka is politics has focused unduly on gaining and retaining power to rule rather than on serving all the people and the country usefully. Short-term political gains were sought at the expense of long-term benefits to the people and the country as a whole. This is precisely the case now after the costly military victory. The high level of corruption and the abuse of power for personal or immediate political advantage reflect the lack of true commitment to the progress and well-being of all the people. Patriotic slogans have a politically slanted meaning useful in the muddled political environment to deceive the people for achieving the narrow aims of the power-hungry politicians. Unless there is a new beginning with broad forward-thinking approach in national politics, the future of Sri Lanka will remain uncertain.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

'Govt. has no clear policy to win the hearts and minds of Tamil people' - Sarath Fonseka

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Govt.

Sarath Fonseka charges Rajapakse Govt of not having a clear policy to win the hearts & minds of the Tamil people despite the army winning war

peace

Sarath Fonseka tells president in letter that Govt is yet to win the peace though the army under his (SF) leadership won the war against LTTE

KVSFTC114.jpg

Sri Lanka's top general, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, holding a tray with flowers, attends a religious ceremony at The Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009-AP pic.

transformation!

Sarath Fonseka NOW says in letter to president that "The plight of the IDPs is also a point of great concern to me".What a transformation!

elsewhere

Sarath Fonseka says IDP's in camps must be given choice to live with relatives & friends elsewhere until their villages are de-mined & cleared

improper

Sarath Fonseka says the IDP's rescued from LTTE by army are living under appalling conditions in camps due to improper planning by the Govt

dropped

Sarath Fonseka says army morale & standards have dropped after his removal. Recruitment has declined by 50% & desertions outnumber new recruits

divided

Sarath Fonseka charges that "Gajaba" regiment replaced "Sinha" regiment as security for ministry of defence showing divided "loyalty" in army

reduced

Sarath Fonseka charges that troops from "Sinha"regiment were reduced in numbers & Armoured corps men were brought in for security at army hdqrs

acted

Sarath Fonseka points out that no one acted for him when he was abroad thereby indicating that chief of defence staff post was insignificant

India

Sarath Fonseka faults govt for alerting India about a coup by the army in Sri Lanka and getting India to place troops on alert on Oct 15th

signals

Sarath Fonseka alleges that new Army commander upon taking over had sent wrong signals by transferring out loyal senior & junior officers

disgusted

Sarath Fonseka says he is disgusted with Prez Rajapakse for mistrusting his own loyal army that had won an unimaginable victory over LTTE

control

Sarath says Gotabhaya refused to give operational control over 3 services to him as chief of defence staff as it would be dangerous

deceived

Sarath Fonseka says he was deceived into thinking that Chief of Defence staff post had full powers & accepted & found it had limited powers only

2 ?

Sarath Fonseka alleges that he was asked to quit as army chief by defence secretary 2 weeks after defeating LTTE. He was given 2 months to quit

recommendation

Sarath Fonseka complains that his recommendation to appoint Gen Chandrasiri as his successor was rejected and Gen Jayasooiya made army chief

misled

Sarath Fonseka says Govt was misled into suspecting he was planning a military coup & removed him as army commander before 60th anniversary

revenge

Sarath Fonseka cites case of retired gen AS Vaidya being killed in revenge for operation bluestar & says he does not want to suffer same fate

same

Sarath Fonseka wants same level of security given to ex-navy head Wasantha Karannagoda - Over 100 personnel, 6 escort & 1bullet proof vehicles

lost

Sarath Fonseka says President&govt have lost trust & faith bestowed upon him & situation does not warrant continuation of his duties any longer

of course

Sarath Fonseka tells prez "I was instrumental in leading Army to this historic victory, of course with Your Excellency’s political support"

my..my..my

What Sarath Fonseka says in letter about victory over LTTE "it is with my vision, command and leadership that this yeomen task was achieved"

immediate

President Rajapakse decrees that Sarath Fonseka's resignation should come into immediate effect.SF wanted it with effect from December 1st

plea

Sarath Fonseka security slashed to 25 personnel from 400.Vehicles reduced from 25 to 2 jeeps1 bullet proof BMW car.More security plea denied

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Full Text: Sarath Fonseka letter of resignation and confidential annexure

His Excellency the President
Through the Secretary, Ministry of Defence,
Public Security, Law and Order
Presidential Secretariat
COLOMBO

12 November 2009

Your Excellency

REQUEST TO RETIRE FROM THE REGULAR FORCE OF THE SRI LANKA ARMY

1. I, General G S C Fonseka RWP RSP VSV USP rcds psc presently serving as the Chief of Defence Staff, was enlisted to the Ceylon Army on 05th Feb 1970 and was commissioned on the 01st June 1971. On the 6th Dec 2005 due to the trust and confidence placed on me, Your Excellency was kind enough to promote me to the rank of Lieutenant General and appoint me as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army in an era when the Country was embroiled with the menace of terrorism and was in a stalemate state after having toiled for a solution politically or otherwise for over 25 years without a success.

2. During my command of 3 years and 7 months, the Sri Lanka Army managed to eradicate the terrorist movement having apprehended an unbelievable stock of arms and munitions and decisively defeating the LTTE and its murderous leadership which Your Excellency is obviously aware of. I would not be exaggerating to state that I was instrumental in leading the Army to this historic victory, of course with Your Excellency's political support, which helped to materialize this heroic action. Though the field commanders, men and all members of the Army worked towards this common goal, it is with my vision, command and leadership that this yeomen task was achieved. I was determined to achieve this victory as I wanted to ensure that there is permanent peace and security for the future generation of the motherland.

3. I do appreciate the fact that the Country and Your Excellency did recognize my services which led to me being promoted to the first ever serving four star general to command the Army, nevertheless the courses of action which initiated subsequently greatly depressed me which I have enumerated in the Annex hereto.

4. Considering the facts mentioned in the Annex and more which I am privy to withhold, I am compelled to believe that Your Excellency and the Government has lost your trust and faith bestowed upon me for reasons only known to Your Excellency. Hence as the senior most serving military officer in the Country with 40 years of service, such a situation does not warrant a continuation of my duties any longer, thereby I have the honour to request that I be permitted to retire from the Regular Force of the Army with effect from 01st December 2009.

5. Furthermore I have the honour to request that on retirement Your Excellency would be kind enough to grant me sufficient security which includes trained combat soldiers, a suitable vehicle with sufficient protection (Bullet proof), escort vehicles and dummy vehicles for my conveyances due to the fact that I am considered as one of the highest priority targets by the LTTE, which they are yet capable of achieving. Also, I wish to bring to Your Excellency's kind notice that over 100 men, six escort vehicles and a bullet proof vehicle have been placed at the convenience of the former Commander of the Navy who recently retired. Your Excellency, I do further request that a suitable protected government resident be made available for me to live in. Also it is requested that approval be granted for me to continue occupation of the present official residence of the Commander of the Army - "The General's House" in Bahudhaloka Mawatha until I am provided with a suitable married quarter. I presume that such arrangements would be made available to me, considering the threat factor I am facing, which Your Excellency is well aware of.

6. I would also wish to quote an example in the case of the former Indian Chief of Army Staff General A S Vadiya, instrumental in leading the Indian Army in Operation Blue Star against the Sheiks at the Golden Temple, Amristar in 1984, was assassinated whilst on retirement in 1986 purely in revenge of his victories achieved. I do not wish to experience a similar incident as I have already sustained serious injuries after the attempt on my life by a suicide cadre of the LTTE, in spite of I being injured twice previously during military operations. Though during the operations I conducted myself in a daring manner disregarding threats to my life, on conclusion of the war I have absolutely no intention to endanger my life. Thereby, I am compelled to entrust you with my security which is requested for life.

7. Furthermore, I would like to emphasis on a statement made by me during my tenure as the Commander of the Army. In that, I mentioned my dislike to be in command forever and also I would ensure that my successor would not be burdened with the task of fighting the same war, which I abided with. Hence, as I have already overstayed my retirement date by 4 years, I wish to proceed on retirement without further delays.

8. Forwarded for Your Excellency's kind consideration please.

I have the honour to be

Your Excellency's
Obedient Servant
General
G S C FONSEKA RWP RSP VSV USP rcds psc

Chief of Defence Staff

ANNEX 'A' TO
LETTER CDS/1

DATED
12h NOVEMBER 2009

FACTORS AFFECTING MY RETIREMENT FROM THE REGULAR FORCE OF THE ARMY

1. Various agencies misleading Your Excellency by stating a possible coup immediately after the victory over the LTTE which obviously led to a change of command in spite of my request to be in command until the Army celebrated its 60th Anniversary. This fear psychosis of a coup is well known among the defence circle.

2. Appointing an officer pending a disciplinary inquiry who performed duties only as a holding formation commander in the final battle as my successor, disregarding my recommendations to appoint Major General G A Chandrasiri as the Commander of the Army who was the then Chief of Staff and an officer with an exemplary service as the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna for over 3 years. This has already led to a deterioration of the high standards I was capable of introducing to the Army, to my bitter disappointment.

3. Appointing me as the Chief of Defence Staff, though a senior appointment to that of a service commander, with basically no authority, except for mere coordinating responsibilities in a manner which mislead the general public of the country and most members of the Armed Forces. In that the Secretary Defence pushing me to vacate the post of the Commander in just two weeks after the victory and Your Excellency insisting me to hand over duties in less than two months depriving me of my moral obligations in revamping the welfare and providing a sound administration to the men who fought a gallant battle. Due to this action you also denied me of my desire to streamline the career planning of Common Stream Officers whom I wanted to ensure that they are given with career prospects of becoming experts/specialist in their fields.

4. Further, prior to my appointment I was misled on the authority vested with the CDS. I was made to understand that the appointment carried more command responsibilities and authority than earlier over all three services, but subsequent to my appointment a letter by the Strategic Affairs Adviser to the Secretary Defence indicated that my appointment was purely to coordinate the services and not that of overall operational command. The letter is attached herewith for Your Excellency's information. Such actions clearly defines Your Excellency's and the Governments unwillingness to grant me with command responsibilities which leads to believe in a strong mistrust in me, which is most depressing after all what was performed by me to achieve war victory.

5. During a subsequent Service Commanders Meeting, the Secretary Defence was bold enough to state an unethical and uncalled statement by mentioning that "if operational control of all three services is granted to the CDS it would be very dangerous", which indeed was a loss of face to me in the presences of subordinate services commanders.

6. Your Excellency, you too made a statement at the very first security council soon after the 18th of May 09 when the battled was declared over, to the extent that "a strong public opinion is in the making to say that the Country is in possession of a too powerful army, which will lead Sri Lanka to another State like that of Myanmar". It was surprising to hear such a comment from Your Excellency in spite of your repeated praise and boast of the war victory brought about by the same Army. I personally felt that Your Excellency has commenced mistrusting your own loyal Army which attained the unimaginable victory just a week ago. You again repeated the same statement even after I handed over the command. Over these comments I felt disgusted as these comments indirectly insulted those who made the supreme sacrifice during the war victory.

7. The present Army Commander immediately on assuming duties commenced transferring senior officers who immensely contributed to the war effort during my command tenure including those junior officers working with my wife at the Seva Vanitha Army Branch which was involved in looking after the welfare of the troops, was clearly to challenge the loyalty of officers and most discouraging to the officer corps of the Army, with a wrong signal being transmitted on my authority.

8. Your Excellency, I wish to remind you that whilst the Eelam War IV was being fought I repeatedly requested to increase the compensation paid to those Next of Kin of the officers and men killed in action from Rs.150,000.00 which was the amount sanctioned in year 1985, to Rs.500,000.00 as the approved amount is grossly insufficient in the present context. This request was not considered favourably thereby I feel extremely guilty that the Army and the Government at large has not looked into the welfare of those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

9. With a pain of mind it was noted that the same Army which gained victory for the Nation was suspected of staging a coup and thereby alerting the Government of India once again on the 15th of October 2009, unnecessarily placing the Indian Troops on high alert. This action did tarnish the image and reputation gained by the Sri Lanka Army as a competent and professional organization who was capable of defeating a terrorist group after the Malayan Emergency, in the eyes of the World. This suspicion would have been due to the loyalty of the Sri Lanka Army towards me as its past Commander who led the Army to the historic victory.

10. During my absences from the Country (23 Oct 2009 to 5 Nov 2009) being on overseas leave, the Army Headquarters was bold enough to change the security personnel deployed at the AHQ Main Entrance and the Ministry of Defence emphasizing the withdrawal of the Sinha Regiment troops who were attached to me, as you are aware is my parent regiment and supplementing them with other regimental personnel. The Sinha Regiment troops were good enough to provide security to the Ministry of Defence for 4 years and it is surprising to note how the combat efficiency of the said troops supposed to have dropped overnight as per Secretary Defence's opinion.

Further the Sinha Regiment troops numbering a mere 4, non combatants, deployed for vehicle checking duties at the AHQ Main Entrance, were replaced by 14 armed Armoured Corps personnel, whilst a further two platoons were brought in to prevent the 4 non combat Sinha Regiment personnel performing duties, creating a mockery to the general public. This clearly indicates a questionable loyalty of troops good enough for duties for over four years purely due to the fact that the troops were from my Regiment. This also indirectly reflects mistrust on me or an indication that the persons concern wish to keep a tab on my movements and visitors to my HQ/residence which is a clear display of suspicion created on me.

11. Further on instructions of the Secretary Defence, troops from the Gajaba Regiment was brought in to the MOD complex to remove the Sinha Regiment troops which indicated the creation of divided loyalty within the Army and reasons to believe that the Army now being politicized. This is being encouraged by the Army Commander too who thinks that the Armoured Corp troops should over power Sinha Regiment troops again in the Army HQ complex which includes my office and residence.

12. Instigating malicious and detrimental news items and rumors by interested parties including several senior government politicians which led to identify me as a traitor in spite of my personal contribution of the government to change the history of our country.

13. It is with pain of mind that I note that the ordinary Army which I toiled to transform into a highly professional outfit is now losing its way. Increased desertions, lack of enthusiasm to enlist (A drop in enlistment rate by 50% is recorded), disciplinary problems on advocating divided commands indicates an unprofessional organization in the offing. During the last two months the members deserted are higher than the recruitment.

14. Resettlement process of the IDPs was also a point of concern. The IDPs are resettled in an ad hoc manner without proper infrastructure facilities to the dismay of most inmates. The Government has resorted to this course of action merely refusing to incur an additional expense for the betterment of the IDPs. This is indeed a short term remedy to get rid of the IDP issue. I strongly advocated that the resettlement should commence only after proper demining, providing necessary infrastructure facilities and on confirming of the identity of any infiltrated terrorists, thereby ensuring 100% safety and security to the younger generations among IDPs.

15. The conditions in the IDP centers is also a point of great concern to me. Thousands of valiant soldiers including members of the Navy, Air Force, Police and the Civil Defence Force sacrificed their valuable lives to liberate these unfortunate civilians from the brutality and tyranny of the LTTE in order that they could live in an environment of freedom and democracy. Yet, today many of them are continuing to live in appalling conditions due to the lack of proper planning and the reluctance to incur expenditure on the part of the Government.

16. The troop requirement for the resettlement is grossly insufficient and cannot sustain the demanding needs in the resettled areas, thus placing the innocent people in turmoil. Your Excellency's government is yet to win the peace in spite of the fact that the Army under my leadership won the war. There is no clear policy to ensure the security of the Tamil people thereby leaving room to ruin the victory attained, paving the way for yet another uprising in the future due to lack of security arrangements in the resettled areas.

17. Sri Lanka Army ensured the safe custody of approximately 10,000 surrendered LTTE cadres. But it is regrettably noted that so far no constructive action has been taken to methodically rehabilitate them in order to ensure that they get back to the society as properly rehabilitated law abiding citizens.

Both Gotabhaya Rajapakase and Sarath Fonseka are men of integrity

by Gamini Gunawardane(Rtd. Snr. DIG.Police)

The rarest commodity under the free market economy in this country today appears to be integrity. Not only in this country but in the whole world, judging by what is happening around the world including in the British Parliament.

Not only in public life, but even in personal life. It appears as if almost nobody could be trusted particularly with power, authority, money or property or even with love. We are told, "trust in God, but tie the camel". It no longer seems to be a cherished value in human relationships. It may be that it is not in vogue anymore; so much so that when one comes across integrity, it is looked upon as an embarrassment, an inconvenience, an irritant and a "pain in the neck".

A politician of today would regard the integrity of a public servant as insolence, non co-operation and /or a saboteur and the latest, ‘conspirators’, kumanthrana karayas!

I have come across young people who genuinely ask you, ‘what really is wrong in paying a bribe if that is the way to get something done?’ What’s the fuss? Then we are told by the younger generation, with a twinkle in the eye, of krama saha vidhi to open doors which seem closed according to rules and regulations. After all what matters is getting things done? It appears that in the new environment, the place of integrity has been usurped by expediency.

We have heard that C.W.W. Kannangara in his day had many powerful forces that opposed his free education project. But they could not stop him. In today’s terms, a thumping bribe deposited in a bank account abroad in his name would have settled the issue once and for all, for him to live the rest of his life comfortably. But they could not. And Mr. Kannangara lost his parliamentary seat and died a pauper.

But it is not even possible to realize fully today, the magnitude of the revolution his project achieved for our country in this era. Same with T. B. Illangaratne, who went ahead resolutely with nationalizing the foreign owned oil companies and insurance companies. And today, we have two great milking cows for the ‘robber barons’ to milk freely and get way with it. Those who tried to punish the miscreants are found fault with, for not following procedure.

Prior to 1977, we heard but rarely of a chink in the armour of our judiciary. Today we hear troubling stories regarding the integrity at the highest temples of justice. It seems they are ready to barter their integrity for surprisingly low incentives. I still hope all this is untrue.
This entire preamble was said, to focus on a silver lining in a dark cloud. A little spoken of important factor that contributed to the devastating success in the final Eelam war, was in my view, the integrity of the defence establishment.

It will be recalled that the bane of the all three previous attempts at war were the allegations of corruption, both in the purchase of military hardware at the top level and at the other levels of the military, even to the extent of illicit timber racketeering and thievery in every sphere of activity. The ‘war correspondents’ of the time were filling the newspaper columns with the gory accounts of these transactions. So was the grapevine. In fact a few military persons both big and small were charged with fraud, but hardly anyone was convicted. Yet some others are said to have acquired condominium complexes in Australia. The offspring of some highly placed officials were alleged to have been acting as local agents of foreign military equipment suppliers. Some said, probably mischievously, that the one reason for boom in the local stock market at that time was the unconscionable monies made by the arms dealers out of such shady transactions.

There are some others who are now unable to enjoy their ill-gotten commissions deposited in foreign banks owing to the money laundering laws now operating at both ends. In short, it was finally made out that this war could never be won due to this mass scale corruption. The war was called by the cynics, a hingannage thuwalaya, a beggars’ wound. It was believed by the public for this reason that both the governments of the time and the military too did not want to end the war which was a hen that laid the golden eggs, for some people, while some other people lost their life and limb in the battle field. The Island editor referred to such people in passing, in his editorial of October 14, "……..the failed military commanders of yore who enjoyed the perks of office, marked their time and retired leaving the war unfinished…." The "perks" included the filthy lucre that some of them made.

All these murky details had to be re-visited in brief in order to highlight the importance of the role of integrity of the current defence establishment as a key factor of success. Defence Secretary Gothabhaya Rajapaksa, who set about his task before a disbelieving public of his genuine intention of finishing the war, probably identified the integrity of the defence establishment, as a cardinal precondition. Perhaps, his experience as a serving officer in the army in his time helped him to gain this insight. And he may have realized that the allegations of corruption in the purchase of military hardware as the bane of a genuine military campaign. In order to put this right he apparently got the government to agree to the setting up of a state purchasing agency, a company owned by the Secretaries of Treasury and Defence Ministry, Chief of Defence Staff, the three service commanders and the IGP, under the Defence Ministry, named Lanka Logistics. The person who became its CEO was Jayantha Wickremasinghe, a little known self- effacing man yet of high integrity who was too simple a man that could be bought over for a high price. He operated from his unostentatious little office in the rear of the BMICH. He drove his own car unescorted by security crews, so attracted no threat.

This organization cut off the role for local commission agents of foreign arms dealers. The company directly dealt with the government agencies who supplied military equipment that the Services needed. So there was no role for the intermediaries. Thus, the government military purchases became transparent to that extent where the users had a direct role to play in the purchasing and selecting what their men required to prosecute the war successfully. They could not turn around later to say that what was supplied was not what they wanted or that what they ordered failed to deliver, on the battle field. They were accountable to themselves.

Another significant measure of corruption elimination undertaken by Defence Secretary had been the standardization of military equipment bought, to be reduced to three sources, thus cutting out complicated purchasing and promoting economizing. This had needed some heavy- handed measures by the Secy.

I think the 1970 ULF government had similar intentions when they vested the importation of food and provisions in the CWE. This effort failed mainly because of the corrupt, politically- selected officialdom that was appointed by the government, which was perhaps one of the reasons for its eventual downfall. Provisions lorries unloaded their goods in the stores of private dealers of Pettah instead of the Multi Purpose Co-op Union stores in Hanguranketha. Thus, the very people whom the government wanted to serve were starving while the black market thrived.

The rank and file was happy because they found the military equipment they required were available to them at the right time at the right place. And the ammunition did fire! Approvals came back sooner than they were asked. Hence they believed in the military establishment. That in turn raised their morale. This is special, in view of what we read in the newspapers these days regarding allegations of the many millions of US $ funneled into Pakistan by the US government to fight the terrorists, not being used on the military but diverted elsewhere. It was reported that Pakistan at war with Taliban had only a single serviceable helicopter on the battle front. Thus, fighting a losing battle.

There were, however, allegations in the newspapers on the MIG 27s that were bought for the Air Force. The defence establishment explained on their website the reasons why they were bought and what the advantages there were for buying them in the way it was done. These allegations were not countered by further facts by the accusers. Of course, it is not known whether they were made to shut up by any ‘extra judicial methods’. But we know that one such newspaper was taken to courts by the Defence Secretary, against it making spurious allegations and did not want to settle the matter outside court as offered by the respondents. It is difficult to imagine a person taking such a firm stand unless he was sure that his hands were clean. There have been only a few people in this country who have dared to challenge such newspaper accusers, because the newspapers always have the final say. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It was the same ‘controverted’ aircraft that successfully performed all the precision bombings and all the other heroics that we saw, particularly in the final phase of the war. Also pertinent is the fact that none of these aircraft either crashed or failed under operational conditions, unlike the previous purchases.

In the meantime, Lt. Gen, Sarath Fonseka, in his heavy- handed ruthless style, is reported to have minimized the corruption within the army, and driven hard the field commanders who had the daring, towards their goals. He was uncompromising in his approach. As a result of these dual strategies, at the height of the war, the energies of the defence establishment were not squandered in fighting the media, the political opposition of the government and the rumour machines churning out corruption charges. It left them with little room for allegations. We saw the disgraceful levels to which the opposition descended in scraping the barrel for allegations to make. Some ‘war correspondents’ probably went out of business. Thus, the defence establishment became free to concentrate on the battle field strategies, with less distractions.

Of course, Gothabhaya had a huge advantage on his side, which a normal public servant would not have had. He had as his brother, the President of the country who had unreserved confidence in him. He gave him a free hand. On the other hand, Gothabhaya on his part, never abused his position or over- played his hand, unlike say, Sanjay Gandhi. This indeed is integrity. He passed down all that insulation to the three Services. In fact, he did unto the armed services what the 17th amendment was intended to do to the public service and the police etc. Why he did not give the same insulation to the police which was under the same ministry, is not known.

During the far and apart media interviews they gave, both Gothabhaya and Sarath Fonseka scrupulously refused to be drawn into controversial issues with political overtones, despite cajoling by the shameless Wandibhattas of the state electronic media who coined such cheap expressions of self-praise, such as, Wishvayama wismitha kala Wijayagrahanaya, "the victory that astounded the entire universe". Such was the depths to which the professionalism in journalism descended in their desperate attempts to please the political bosses. Both these gentlemen steered clear of such despicable temptations of praise offered to them, to entice them into traps of vulgarity. It was indeed a tribute to the professional integrity of both who refused to be drawn into such vulgarities. Gen. Fonseka was particularly impressive with his sharp & crisp replies strictly observing the norms of professional integrity of a military man. Indeed he seemed to be conscious that he, as a service commander, enjoyed less freedom of expression, compared to the Secy. Defence.

This was not the only occasion when Gen. Fonseka displayed high integrity. It may be recalled that when he was Jaffna Commander during the infamous Ceasefire Agreement, Norway, pressed by the LTTE wanted the then government, to remove the High Security Zone around the Palaly Camp. This was the time that the LTTE cardres/ sympathizers were showing their posteriors to and also urinating in front of army camps and guard posts in order to provoke the soldiers to react. Gen. Fonseka took a firm stand refusing to agree to the suggestion with a very professional report, leaked to the press too. Ranil Wickremesinghe the then PM was disappointed and angry at this reaction, as this was the only officer who stood up against his great desire to please the LTTE. By today’s standards what is usual is, do as ordered and qualify for the next promotion. One does not need battlefield skills to do this. Hence, the great opportunities for mediocrites.

He thus, won the admiration of the whole nation for his courage in this instance.

Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda too took a similar bold stand in regard to Trincomalee Harbour High Security Zone when the Wickremesinghe government tried to deny the presence of LTTE artillery positions within striking distance of the Trincomalee naval area. This revelation turned out to be crucial when Eelam IV began from the Eastern Province.

This is not to say that these two people or even the other commanders are impeccable characters. They may be having their personal weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Who does not? Nidos kenek mediyatha ipadenne netha - ‘There are no perfect people born in this world’. The only exception may be the mythical characters of Mahaoushadha Panditha in the Jathaka Tales and Arjuna in the Mahabharatha. Hence none of them could be assessed on what they are not. We assess people not on their failings but on their achievements. In this case, on their integrity in relation to their cause – ridding this country of the scourge of terrorism.

The test of integrity is how one behaves in a crisis. It is also the best situation where a person’s integrity is on display, when his very survival is challenged. Perhaps, Gen. Fonseka has not developed the skills of dealing with the hostile political environment in peace times. He may be finding the political mine fields far more mind- boggling than those that he encountered in the battlefield. This is evident from the manner he behaved in the latest political whirlpool that he fell into. In this unfamiliar field, he adopted a natural defence: Tunhi bhavo "noble silence". He refused to be enticed by civilian/ political office with which he is unfamiliar. He spoke as less as possible. But in this vicious political environment even silence, however noble it may be, is still dangerous because it gives the media and other political minions to go to town with their own mischievous interpretations.

One could not envy President Rajapaksa who has to deal with this on a daily basis.

Perhaps, Gen. Fonseka is not alone in this predicament. I believe, Gen. Patton and even Douglas McArthur experienced the same once the WW II was over. The government did not know what to do with them. Of course, the only difference was that both of them had the knack of shooting their tongues without thinking at times. However, McArthur was later entrusted with the task of helping in re-building Japan –possibly a way of keeping him happy and also away from the main theatre of post- war United States. Only Gen. Dwight Eisenhower the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, who perhaps had ‘on the job training’ managing the politics among all those great and difficult generals - Montgomery inclusive and also perhaps Sir Winston Churchill - was able to graduate to the position of US President, after the war.

The corrosive flames of politicization have already consumed the citadels of public service, police and the judiciary. It is fast reaching out to the defence establishment too. It may not be saved. What Gothabhaya had said when asked of assuming political power, is elegant: " I was trained to defend the country in a different capacity and I believe I have done my part. The war is over and the country is free." He said he had no interest in politics and nothing made him feel better than being in sarong, breathing the fresh air of his native village. (The Island Oct.19). With their mission accomplished, people with professional integrity must renounce (abhikkama) in time, before being contaminated with intoxication of power. The Buddha describes such conditions, as hino, gammo, anario, pothajjaniko – vile, vulgar, ignoble and (too) worldly. For, intoxication with political power, is the worst of them all.

PS.
Rather than eulogizing personalities as such, one purpose of writing this essay is to illustrate how even a few people could make a huge difference with a modicum of integrity in a fleeting situation despite flourishing corruption, which could produce such astounding achievements for a nation. Let such fleeting moments be more frequent and let there be more people of such courage.

Mob attack on suburban church needs to be unequivocally condemned

by Lynn Ockersz

A mob attack on a place of religious worship in a Colombo suburb recently, while drawing public attention to the simmering fires of religious intolerance in some quarters in this country, provokes a reexamination of unresolved issues at the heart of Sri Lanka’s citizenship question.

The attack on the place of worship needs to be unequivocally condemned by all, including, of course, the state. Rather than withdraw into a state of self-induced inner paralysis, the wanton attack should be condemned by the right-thinking, not only in the name of religious harmony and unity but also in recognition of the need to defend and uphold the Rule of Law.

If the laws of the land have been violated by anyone associated with the place of worship in question, he should be subjected immediately to the due process of the law and punished by the relevant organs of the state. Under no circumstances should he be allowed to be a victim of murderous mob violence. In this instance no persons were harmed but the place of worship was vandalized, which is equally violative of the law. Apparently, the ‘long arm of the law’ was completely inoperative when the acts of lawlessness were unleashed. This amounts to undermining the Rule of Law and giving criminality and lawlessness a further boost.

It was only the other day that a man who was described as mentally-ill was done to death by persons who were identified as law-enforcers in the seas off Bambalapitiya, in an unsettling reminder of the degree to which the Rule of Law has crumbled. If this deleterious trend goes unchecked, brutality could very well become institutionalized.

It would amount to labouring the obvious if it is stated that it would be none other than Sri Lanka which would suffer the ill consequences if the Rule of Law is thus relentlessly undermined. One of the tragedies of our times is that brutality is being seen by some as synonymous with heroism, and conscience and reason are being interpreted as signs of weakness. A terrible blight has indeed been born.

The state has a lot of explaining to do in this latest instance of destructive violence which has apparently been unleashed with impunity, because a representative of a minor party in the UPFA has been quoted as having justified the attack on the centre of worship. If this is so, some sections of the ruling alliance stand accused of fostering lawlessness. The government is obliged to put the record straight and bring all wrong-doers in this incident to justice, if it intends taking governance seriously. Besides, the state must ensure that incendiary observations by its alliance partners, which have a destructive impact on national unity, are henceforth put an end to.

Since then we have had a statement from the National Bhikku Front, which, among other things, draws attention to the mutually- reinforcing nature of ‘fundamentalisms’. This is a timely perception which should not go unnoticed and unappreciated. There is no disputing that fundamentalisms of all kinds militate against the democratic health of a country.

What is equal in importance to this gamut of issues relating to law and order, are the implications, some statements issued in the wake of the attack on the place of worship by hard line nationalist opinion, have, for fostering an equal citizenship in Sri Lanka and consequently, for generating social peace.

Apparently, the opinion was voiced by the above sections that Sri Lanka ‘belongs’ to only those who profess the majority religion and so, practitioners of other religions cannot be accommodated in the Lankan fold. Implicit in such narrow sentiments is the opinion that one’s identification with the majority religion, culture and ethnic group is a ‘must’ for being signified as a Sri Lankan. In other words, those who do not possess these labels of identification are to be considered ‘aliens’; in most cases, in the land of their birth.

Therefore, decades after the enactment of the infamous Citizenship Acts of 1948, which resulted in tens of thousands of plantation workers of Indian origin losing their citizenship of Sri Lanka, the myths of who constitute Lankan citizens, are stonily present, preventing the establishment of an inclusive Sri Lanka and precluding the possibility of the expeditious founding of a united country.

Viewed superficially, Sri Lanka’s citizenship laws could be described as, more or less, equitable in the sense that they do not allow for any distinctions once Lankan citizenship is acquired by a person ‘by descent or by virtue of registration’. In fact Article 26(1) of the Lankan constitution states that, ‘There shall be one status of citizenship known as "the status of a citizen of Sri Lanka"’.

Moreover, Article 12(2) of the constitution states that, ‘No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any one such grounds,’.

However, the truth is that discrimination against citizens on a number of grounds, flourishes in some state institutions. Not all functionaries of the state regard the above constitutional provision as sacrosanct; this, this writer knows for a fact. The 30 year war in Sri Lanka, growing out of the ethnic issue, was proof of the inadequacy of these constitutional provisions, if not their near total impotence.

Apparently, Sri Lanka needs to greatly expand on its constitutional provisions regarding citizenship and also ensure their stringent implementation. What we need are constitutional provisions that clearly acknowledge and spell out the plural character of the Lankan state. Citizenship needs to be defined as encompassing all the ethnic and cultural groups of the land and should cease to be seen as the sole preserve of this or that ethnic or cultural group. The current provisions on citizenship fall short of these standards by being too general in nature. By lacking specificity, they fail to meet the country’s concrete requirements as regards minority rights.

Besides, and equally importantly, minority safeguards should be emphatically incorporated into the constitution. In fact, the state should seriously consider incorporating in the constitution and rigorously implementing, measures that could contribute towards the empowerment of minority communities, as is done in India, for instance.

It could be seen that plenty of awareness-raising needs to be done on the above and related issues by the state and other sections who need to evince a keen interest in them. If the groundwork in this direction is laid, the appeal of the current ‘fundamentalisms’ could be greatly blunted and democratic development ushered in.

November 12, 2009

Video: Film on Tamil gang violence opens at Toronto Woodside Cinema

1999: Film on Tamil gang violence in Scarborough ~ screened at Vancouver film festival, opens on Nov 13th at Woodside Cinema in Scarborough:

Audio CD release

Trailer I

Trailer II

Read more: 1999:New film on Tamil gang violence in Scarborough screens at Vancouver film festival

Rajapakse & Fonseka: Simmering feud out in the open

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

accepts

Sarath Fonseka resigns & Mahinda Rajapakse accepts. Simmering feud out in the open. UNP-JVP led opposition will back SF against MR at prez

What

What will happen if Mahinda Rajapakse does NOT have early presidential poll as opposition expects? Sarath Fonseka can't be "common"candidate?

Nov 15

What will President Rajapakse announce on Nov15? Will he have presidential or Parliamentary polls first? Or have both polls simultaneously?

threat

Sarath Fonseka requests same level of security as now even after he "retires" and enters politics saying high level of LTTE threat remains

vow

Mangala Samaraweera has special pooja at Kelaniya vihare on Nov11to fulfill "vow" obligation. Sarath Fonseka goes to same Vihare on Nov 12

mob

“kudu"mervyn goondas mob Sarath Fonseka at Kelaniya temple. Security personnel clear way for SF convoy to leave. Mervyn's mob hoots & jeers SF

worshipped

"Dutu"Mervin Silva organizes "mob" to block Sarath Fonseka at gates while leaving after the Lt.Gen worshipped at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihare

mum

Asked by media about his earlier announcement that he wont enter politics, Sarath Fonseka resplies circumstances have changed now &keeps mum

dressed

Sarath Fonseka goes to Kelaniya Raja maha vihare dressed in white & talks to media.Refuses to talk"politics" till he is "retired"in December

announce

Ravi Karunanayake first to announce that Sarath Fonseka had resigned.The UNP, SLMC,DPF&SLFP(M)decided on Nov 6th to back SF in prez polls

loss

Sarath Fonseka submits 3 page letter outlining 17 reasons for his decision to resign. Chief among them is alleged loss of "confidence & trust"

return

President Rajapakse tells Lt.Gen Fonseka that he would be defeated in polls if SF contested & says SF can always return to him after losing

told

President told Sarath Fonseka on Nov11th that his resignation would be accepted. SF tendered it on Nov12th. It becomes effective from Dec 1st

intention

Mahinda Rajapakse&Sarath Fonseka had one to one meeting at "Temple Trees" on Nov 11th where SF told MR of his intention to quit & contest

December 1

President Mahinda Rajapakse accepts Sarath Fonseka resignation. He will be "retired" from military service effective from December 1st 2009

auspicious

Sarath Fonseka's resignation as chief of defence staff handed over to presidential secretariat at auspicious time of 1.28 pm on November12th

New Delhi

Sarath Fonseka submits resignation after Ranil Wickremasinghe returned from New Delhi trip on Nov 12th to brief Indian leaders on situation

MyanmarSLTC1113.jpg

Myanmar student monks hold placards at a protest held to commemorate the annual memorial day of the Saffron Revolution in front of the Myanmar embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, September 26, 2008. The Saffron Revolution is a series of protests that began in Myanmar in 2007 and is led by Buddhist monks. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe

restricted

Burmese dissident clergy & laity in Colombo restricted "movement" to prevent them demonstrating against visiting brutal dictator Than Shwe

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Sri Lanka Military Chief Resigns

By Steve Herman

Government officials in Colombo confirm the chief of Sri Lanka's armed forces has quit his post, but are not commenting on speculation he is poised to challenge the island nation's president in an upcoming election. The war hero would give popular incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa a serious challenge

Army General Sarath Fonseka's resignation follows weeks of speculation he was contemplating taking on his commander-in-chief as candidate of an opposition coalition.

Political analysts say President Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to call an election soon to take advantage of his popularity following the military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Following this year's defeat of the Tamil rebels, ending a quarter-century civil war, the president promoted his top general.

The head of the independent National Peace Council in Colombo, Jehan Perera, says that was a move General Fonseka appeared to resent.

"He wished to stay longer as the Army commander having defeated the LTTE," Perera said. "This was not granted to him as he was promoted to a position which seems to have left him with little power."

Opposition parties have been lacking a viable candidate to challenge Mr. Rajapaksa, whose has achieved cult-like status. Billboards around the capital, which sprouted following the end of the war, tout him as "king" and "savior."

But Perera notes, the leader of the Army, which crushed the rebels has also seen his stature greatly elevated since the military campaign concluded six months ago.

"He has become like a folk hero to many people, especially those belonging to the ethnic majority who constitute 75 percent of the population," Perera said.

Sri Lanka faces international criticism of its treatment of the minority Tamils during the final months of combat and for its slow resettlement of those displaced by the fighting.

The government and military have said they still need time to separate civilians from the surviving Tamil rebels who have blended into the general population.

General Fonseka was in the United States this month, but departed when the Department of Homeland Security asked to question him. Sri Lankan officials say they believe American investigators wanted to use the general as a source for a probe of alleged war crimes, which is said to target the president's brother, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

The years of fighting were brutal. International organizations estimate up to 100,000 people died and hundreds of thousands more, mostly Tamils, were displaced.

The rebels wanted an ethnic-Tamil homeland and in addition to fighting a guerilla war they assassinated Sinhalese and Tamil politicians, as well as carrying out suicide bombings that killed civilians. [Voice of America News]

Mano Ganeshan Must Go Beyond engaging those who "worship" Sarath Fonseka

A response to Mano Ganeshan

by Kusal Perera

Once in a way, in this sad little Republic as Mano Ganeshan aptly calls Sri Lanka, there happens discussions, worth following up on. So thank you Mano, for following up on my previous article to respond positively and I take it from you to develop this discussion further, leaving space for you especially and any other to join in.

Let me first take on a few issues that Ganeshan had raised in his response, before taking up the larger, more important issues.

First is that, I did not base my article as Ganeshan tends to feel, on media speculations, though there are too many these weeks. All my arguments instead, were based on quotes from Ganeshan and their sources credited at all times. Therefore Mano Ganeshan, please note that my whole article was based on the assumption that you and your political party the DPF, has already decided to back “even if it is” General SF, while trying to find out more about his politics.

The quote from Ganeshan in the Sunday Times of 08 November, was pretty clear, although now he says, he and his party has not decided on any candidate for a presidential election. That it would be disclosed when time comes. The ST quoted Ganeshan directly as saying, “We are supportive of a common candidate, even if it is Sarath Fonseka”(emphasis added). I presume, Ganeshan would have assumed same as me on the above quote if any one else had said it, as long as it is not contradicted.

Now that he says, there are four other options for the Tamil leaders, let me assume Ganeshan is still undecided on a presidential candidate, even if its SF. But on the questionnaire issue, I maintain my position as right. The first is, who SF is and what his politics is, something that needs no more query. At least for some one of Ganeshan’s political standing. That is clear as a hard line Sinhala Buddhist position without compromise.

The second is, I am yet to hear anything direct from General SF on his availability or non availability as a presidential candidate, whether common or not. As Ganeshan had noted in his response to my article, all of it is sheer media speculation and unknown (to the public) manipulations, God knows among whom. But Ganeshan thinks it is logical to send a political questionnaire to SF. He says very bluntly, “We have discussions with Sarath Fonseka” in his response to me. What for ? Why on earth should any politician ask political questions from a serving Army Officer in the highest ranks, unless there is some wheeler dealer negotiations ?

As for me, all of it leaves Ganeshan in a very suspect political arena, despite his claims for innocence, as regards General SF’s candidature.

Getting into the larger arena of national politics, let me say that Ganeshan’s claim of engaging with General SF is best explained in his quote, “Kusal fails to understand that there are millions of people in this country who consider Sarath Fonseka as the god sent hero. You cannot simply dismiss this worshippers as communalists. We have to engage with them because we are living with them by sharing the one same country.” (Ganeshan in response to my article)

Yes, Mano Ganeshan, there are those few millions who think he is a saviour of their Sinhala “right”, whether God sent or not. Yes, I do also agree, that one has to politically engage with them. But how ? Is it by accepting SF as a presidential candidate ? Is it by sending a personal questionnaire that the society only gets to know by “media leaks” ? This my friend is not political leadership.

Don’t forget that leaving the Tamil vote that did not express themselves at the November 2005 presidential elections, there were 4.7 million Sinhala and Muslim people who voted with Ranil W and his “United Country” slogan, despite the most rabid racist Sinhala platform ever put up at any elections since independence in 1948, that campaigned for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency on a Sinhala “Unitary“ State. Thus there are a few million who do not accept General SF that way as a “God sent“ gift. One has to engage with them as well. Can Mano Ganeshan engage with them by accepting General SF as a presidential candidate ? Or by sending in a questionnaire to General SF ?

This talk of engaging with the racist Sinhala position my friend Mano Ganeshan, is only an escape route for easy and comfortable populist politics. That has nothing to do with seeking answers to the most burning issue of this country.

That issue is, how do we, after 61 years of political stupidity and failure in forging a pluralistic, inclusive State to develop this country, challenge and defeat this racist ideology to develop this country. The political necessity is to present to this society an alternative progressive ideology to unite and forge a Sri Lankan nation that would accommodate every citizen of this little “sad Republic” as equal to all others, to harness our social capital for development.

The Sinhala constituency has been taken on a ride on a Sinhala “merry go round” and they have not gained anything from this Sinhala racist politics and its “Unitary“ State, both under a Prime Minister and under the Executive Presidency. Therefore this slogan of abolishing the executive presidency is not the major issue, though that provides an excuse for all bankrupt political leaders including the JVP to evade the serious political challenge this country is faced with, since independence. The challenge of achieving national development within a pluralistic, inclusive nation State.

The Census and Statistics Department (CSD) in a survey on “Poverty in SL - Issues and Options” carried out in 2006, says, very clearly, “…..in certain districts outside the Western Province, such as Hambantota, Badulla, Moneragala, Ratnapura and Kegalle, the percentage of population under poverty has remained more than 30 percent during the 12 year period, covered by the three surveys.” [page 14] The situation perhaps and probably is far worse now in those and other districts. (for any politician, who wish to know who their voters are, it would be worth reading the full report)

What does it mean ? Five districts in the South has not seen any worthy development, not only during those 12 years surveyed, but even before. Not that other Southern districts are any better.

Therefore my friend, if you are very keen and convinced that you have a right to share this country, which I most certainly do without doubt and without any question, then unification and development of this country, is your responsibility as any other politician’s what ever the political label you carry. That responsibility does not allow any one to engage General SF, simply because he could be a war hero of a million Sinhala biased voters.

The moment Ganeshan says that he is also trying to engage those Sinhala voters through General SF without any concrete programme for ethnic reconciliation, democratisation of the society that should also include repeal of the PTA, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment at least for the present and the implementation of the 17th Amendment, he falls short of what he tries to say, he is politically standing for.

I have already in my previous article explained, what such non-programme sans politics with SF as a presidential candidate would bring forth in terms of power politics around an executive presidency.

That can be extremely dangerous even after SF hangs his uniform in his grand old cupboard at home and Ganeshan’s argument of engaging the SF worshipers, thus falls short of any credible logic for the future.

Yet, if present is what matters for my friend Ganeshan in establishing his own political empire, then, I would not disturb him, hereafter.

Is there a "role" in Sri Lankan politics for Sarath Fonseka?

by Lionel Bopage

"For the development of the country, for the security of the country if there are any steps that need be taken, I believe that it our duty as citizens to take these steps. It is important to pay attention to what will happen in the future rather than spend our days living in a joyful mindset.”*

Sage words indeed from General Sarath Fonseka. Now that the euphoria of winning the war against the LTTE is over, our minds must turn to the complex issues facing the country, such as wining the peace; post-war reconstruction; the bourgeoning economic crisis; the settlement of the displaced people; and dealing with the national question.

Sri Lanka, with all its flaws, still maintains the appearance of a democracy. There is a demarcation in Sri Lanka, though often blurred between its Presidency, parliament, judiciary and the armed forces. No matter which of the two bourgeois parties have ruled the country, in alliances or by themselves, their leaders and senior cabinet members for all their flaws and virtues, have been civilians. The civilian authority over the armed forces has never been effectively challenged, although some of these civilian directions can be construed as self serving.

History is littered with the good intentions of Generals who have come to power through military and democratic means. Many have been motivated by patriotism and the genuine desire to solve the intractable problems in their societies created by corrupt and inefficient regimes. However, the end result was, of course, a distinguished soldier with a tarnished reputation and a country and society in an even deeper morass than it was in before.

Recent experience in Nigeria, where an ex military commander taking power through democratic election, has not been a successful one. After a long period of disastrous military rule General Olusegun Obasanjo came to power democratically in 1999 in Nigeria, with the specific aim of getting the country out of the economic and political morass it had found itself in.

Nigeria like many developing countries found itself beset by unfair terms of trade, a ballooning public debt, communal unrest, huge disparities in income and corruption. General Obasanjo came to power with the express aim of tackling and alleviating these problems. Yet when he retired as President in 2007 these problems still plagued the country and inter-communal harmony, for example, were in an even more perilous state.

This breakdown of Nigeria’s economic and social structures was not because General Obasanjo was an untalented person. But his skills were those of a military man. As a result, he sought solutions to complex cultural, political and economic problems in simple, clinical and logistical terms. Dealing with complex problems of economic disparity and inter-communal harmony requires not only a leader of vision and goodwill, but also the political and intuitive skills to negotiate political goals. Namely, the willingness to listen, compromise and have the background to take all the people in the country through the changes that are necessary. These are not the qualities we expect of Generals.

This is the reality civil l society in Sri Lanka and General Foneska as an individual need to be cognisant of at this juncture in the country’s history.

Compounding the issue, of course, are the individuals and political groupings that are pushing General Fonseka’s candidature for the top political job in the country. Nationalist groups see the General as personage who would push their hard line agenda once in power. This would be a disaster and open the wounds of communal disharmony once again. For these groups issues of economics, corruption, democracy and communal fairness are subsumed in attaining their nationalist goals. To unchain their political fantasies would bring to reality a truism that f General Fonseka himself has recognized in his recent speech at a Buddhist Temple in Washington DC. ‘In the beginning there was no Prabhakaran, he was created thirty years ago'.

This seems an open admission that the Tamil nationalist militancy came into being as a response to the nationalist and discriminatory policies, strategies and tactics of successive Sri Lankan governments. One must not ignore the fact that such nationalist and discriminatory policies were imposed upon non-Sinhala communities in Sri Lanka through violent campaigns carried out by mobs and allegedly by the security forces at the behest of the prevailing regimes.

Furthermore, the security forces and its commanders have been the main props governments in Sri Lanka relied upon repeatedly to carry out short term political manoeuvres leading to the creation of militant youth struggles not only in the north but also in the south.

The youth demanded justice, fairness and equity of opportunity to the issues that were affecting them, their families and their future. Rather than addressing such issues, and ensuring the democratic right of people to protest, successive governments resorted to repressing such demands militarily leading to the death of nearly 150,000 young Sri Lankans.

There is no doubt that security forces and their commanders were actively involved in these campaigns; they have openly admitted to learning from the military experiences of forces that fought against the liberation war in Vietnam in destroying those who rebelled against the unjust actions of a corrupt, nepotistic South Vietnamese regime. As General Fonseka himself has allegedly admitted in his speech, he had been instrumental in preventing the implementation of certain decisions of previous governments in bringing relief to certain sections of people in Sri Lanka.

The policies spelt out thus far by General Fonseka in solving some of the complex issues facing Sri Lanka today lack clarity, whether they be of the economy, unemployment, protection of human and democratic rights, bribery and corruption, abolishing the executive presidency etc. etc.. Despite the alleged support for his candidature by many parties, any discussion or clarification on any of these issues is yet to see the light of day.

Coalitions of many hues have come and gone in Sri Lanka, promising many things to many sections of the communities in Sri Lanka, from the abolition of presidency to an open economy with a human face. Have we learnt anything from these experiences?

On the contrary, issues have spiralled upwards with increased economic, social and political burdens heaped on people not to mention increasing levels of bribery, corruption and discrimination.

Under the circumstances, what guarantee is there whatever bourgeois democratic characteristics that remain in Sri Lanka will not be brought to an end by an army general elected as President of the country? Would not one want to remain President for life once elected? What are the safeguards that could be applied in such circumstances? I have not seen any discussion of such issues.

There is a role for retired war heroes and Generals who have served their countries admirably and with distinction. Their prestige, bravery, tenacity and skills of command are best put to use on specific nation building projects, not on solving the complex social and political issues for which they have shown no aptitude in the past.
We need to be mindful of this when we weigh and balance General Fonseka’s candidature at this crucial juncture in the nation’s history.

* All quotes are from the English translation of General Sarath Fonseka’s speech made at a Buddhist Temple in Washington D. C. on the 25th of October 2009

November 11, 2009

Rajapakse extends "Olive branch" to Sarath Fonseka

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

lunch

Mahinda Rajapakse extends "Olive branch" to Sarath Fonseka. Prez has private meeting & lunch with CDS at "Temple Trees" on wednesday. What happened?

attends

Chief of Defence Staff Lt.Gen SarathFonseka attends national security council meeting. President tries to resolve problems with ex-army chief

"probe"

Govt may have "probe" into Sarath Fonseka "war crimes" to prevent contesting polls.Those probed cant quit service. Those serving cant contest

payrise

Rajapakse Govt rattled by support for Sarath Fonseka in army rank & file announce pay rise for soldiers. Troops see through & say "Fonseka payrise"

low price

Rajapakse regime perturbed by Sarath Fonseka phenomenon lowers prices for 10 essential items.People see through&call it "Fonseka low price".

worship

Nirupama Rajapakse & husband Nadesan worship at Trichy Uchchipilaiyar temple & Srirangam Ranganathar temple. Over 30 waving black flags arrested

Buddhist shrines

Military dictator General Than Shwe whose govt killed, tortured & jailed Buddhist priests in Burma is touring Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka

exploring

Burma's ruthless dictator Gen. Than Shwe & ruling military junta exploring avenues of investing their ill-gotten wealth in Sri Lanka

"our Lady of Madhu"

Pope Benedict wants all IDP's to return home & ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka.Seeks blessings of "our Lady of Madhu" on Island nation

Shantha Fernando

Shantha Fernando,executive secretary of the National Christian Council who was arrested on March 27th at KIA released on bail on Nov 11th

unjustly

Human rights activist Shantha Fernando (64) of NCC who was unjustly arrested & detained has now been released on bail with certain conditions

250 days

Shantha Fernando arrested by NIB at KIA & detained by TID for 250 days given bail. His"Offence"was taking a disc with IDP details to India

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Interview with Vavuniya Government Agent P. S. M. Charles on IDP camps, returns

by IRIN News

One of the more contentious issues in Sri Lanka this year has been the plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the north.

More than 280,000 were in closed camps after hostilities between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended, and in recent months senior UN humanitarian and human rights officials have repeatedly voiced strong concern about conditions there.

IRINVGA1111A.jpg

Vavuniya Government Agent PSM Charles-IRIN pic

In an interview with IRIN, Government Agent and District Secretary for Vavuniya PSM Charles - the most senior government official in Vavuniya, where the bulk of the displaced now stay - shared her take on the current return process, conditions inside the camps, and her government’s plans to return thousands to their homes.

More than 100,000 have returned already, she said, a number she hopes will increase in the weeks and months ahead.

Question: How would you describe conditions inside the camps at the moment?

Answer: People are happy since they know that the resettlement process is being expedited to the best of our ability. The IDP population at present [10 November] at the transitional relief villages is around 135,392 people.

Q: How many IDPs have been resettled so far - with families, in their previous homes, and with others?

A: Around 104,500 to date [10 November]. They are being sent to Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Killinochchi and Vavuniya districts in the north and Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara in the east.

We have designated an area in Zone 5 [an area within the Menik Farm IDP camp] which serves as the point where those to be resettled are gathered. Once the formalities are dealt with, we transport them from there to their place of resettlement.

According to the assessment made by UNICEF [the UN Children’s Fund], 65,000 IDPs had to be relocated from the welfare camps before the onset of the monsoons but we have resettled more than half the IDP population housed in the various welfare zones set up in Vavuniya District.

Q: Why are these people being sent to the east?

A: There are many IDPs who are from the east. They came to the north to visit family, relatives, to attend weddings, and some to attend to official work, and some for various other reasons.

They were trapped in the conflict areas when fighting began and could not leave. They wanted to go back to their homes in the east and we have allowed them to go back. In fact some were permanent residents of Vavuniya as well.

Resettlement plans

Q: What are your plans to resettle the rest of the IDPs?

A: Two divisional secretariats - Manthai West and Mannar town in the Mannar District - have been demined. This covers the Giant Tank area as this tank irrigates around 45,000 acres of paddy cultivation. We will be relocating around 5,000 people in these areas. We also hope to send a fair number to Killinochchi, Kanagapuram, Jayanthipuram, Uruthirapuram and Kudhumurippu Grama Niladhari divisions and [the] north part of Vavuniya, some areas in Mullaitivu and Pooneri - all in the north - no sooner the demining is over. I am waiting for the green light. These are the areas where they originally came from.

Q: What about those IDPs who wish to stay with family members in the area?

A: Relatives and friends who wish to accommodate IDPs have to make a written application providing relevant details to the government agent through the `grama niladhari’ [local area officer], and the divisional secretary or government agent. We then process the applications and verify their authenticity. I have approved over 6,500 applications received so far and am waiting for security clearance.

Once clearance is given we hope to send around 6,500 families to stay with their friends and relatives, some in Jaffna and Vavuniya in the north, and Batticaloa in the east. I expect the approval soon.

We have had a few applications to accommodate IDPs from friends and relatives in Colombo as well. We ensure that all the necessary facilities are available for the IDPs prior to permitting them to be resettled. The rest have to remain till the demining is completed.

Camp facilities

Q: There have been reports that basic facilities inside the camps are still lacking. What steps are being taken to overcome this situation?

A: Originally we provided all basic facilities for around 275,000 people. All along we have been doing our best to upgrade these facilities with the resources we had. [However,] now that the population is decreasing, the same facilities there, are for a much [smaller] number of people. Therefore, in my view, the present facilities should suffice.

Demining, infrastructure improvements

Q: The government says that demining is being carried out. Could you say where this exercise is being done and could you give a time frame for its completion? How habitable would these areas be?

A: The Sri Lanka army and other agencies are engaged in this process. Their capacities have been improved as well. Machinery was also brought in from China for demining. Many areas in the north have been mined. Financial assistance for demining is given to agencies according to the resettlement plan.

Meanwhile, we are also getting roads constructed, tanks for irrigation renovated and clearing highlands and paddy lands that had belonged to the IDPs. The government allocated Rs.1,750 million [US$15.28 million] for the Vavuniya District to build and develop roads, infrastructure, renovate big, medium and small tanks, schools, hospitals, places of all religious worship, rural electrification amongst many other areas, to facilitate the resettlement of IDPs in Vavuniya. The objective of the 180 days programme is to have all the necessary facilities ready and available for the IDPs by end December 2009. Around 70 percent of the work in the district has been completed.

Some IDPs have been displaced for over 20 years, especially from the Mannar and Vavuniya districts. Their lands have been overgrown and now look like jungles. In Vavuniya, around 4,000 acres [1,619 hectares] of paddy land will be cultivated from lands that belong to the IDPs and had been abandoned for a very long time.

Assistance

Q: What sort of assistance are other agencies giving at this point in time?

A: Local and international NGOs, UN agencies and local authorities are working towards supplying water, sanitation, medical health, food, education and community capacity-building.

I have visited camps for displaced people in other parts of the world. In two such camps affected by earthquakes the victims were provided with only accommodation, and they had to fend for themselves, otherwise. In one place the people had to walk two miles [3.2km] for water. There were no education or medical facilities provided. But in Sri Lanka, displaced children have sat national examinations.

I must add that WFP provides rice, sugar, dhal, oil, and in some instances, canned fish too.

In addition, with the coordinated efforts of the government and NGOs, complementary food items worth Rs.5,000 [US$43] are provided to a family of five, every month.

We also have special feeding programmes supported by WFP and Médicins Sans Frontières for malnourished, pregnant and lactating mothers, infants and the elderly. UNICEF provides a midday meal for schoolchildren in Grade 9 and under.

Health

We have a special hospital to keep patients with communicable diseases. There are dedicated areas for the elderly and mothers after childbirth. Those who have grave injuries - for example a spinal injury - are given special treatment that includes daily physiotherapy at the Pampaimadu Hospital in Vavuniya.

Q: When do you believe all the IDPs will ultimately be able to return to their homes?

A: I am unable to give a specific date but the government has strengthened all necessary facilities to expedite the process of resettlement. What is important is the demining process which is not that simple.

Every precaution is being taken to ensure that the mined areas are totally cleared so as to make it absolutely safe. We cannot take any chances on that. Therefore, I have to repeat that it is not possible to give a specific date or time frame. But I would like to add that hopefully, it will be soon.

IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but its services are editorially independent. Its reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations and its agencies, nor its member states.

A tale of two "fatwas": Vandemataram song and taking oaths in Hindi

by Suhasini Haider

Intolerance, like the animals off Noah's ark seems to come in twos. Probably why the past week saw two distinctly different expressions of it - in two distinctly different places that only underscored just how similar practitioners of extremist thought are.

First there was the congregation of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind in Deoband's Dar-Ul-Uloom seminary - a conclave of thousands of Islamic scholars and clerics from across the country - that produced a slew of resolutions against terror, education (allowing girls to continue studies beyond 10 years but strictly veiled following Sharia laws), politics (rejecting 33 per cent reservations for women in legislatures as "bringing women into the mainstream would cause social problems"), entertainment (calling on youth to shun television and cinema), and AIDS (condoms are the root cause of sexual anarchy, said the resolution).

Of course, it was the endorsement of a 3-year-old fatwa by the Dar-ul-Uloom against the Vande Mataram that got the most coverage. While the reasons for the skew could be debated at a different point, it would be interesting to know just what prompted the entirely gratuitous dredging up of a decade-old debate on the National Song.

After all, forcing anyone to sing a song of any sort at gunpoint is not just ridiculous, it's quite obviously illegal. Stopping anyone from singing it - let alone sending out a rider against it to 140 million people in our country seems equally so.

The Ulema might well have avoided the controversy at this Jamiat, if for no other reason but to spare Home Minister P Chidambaram his blushes the next day, when he came to address the congregation. (Another debate on another day on whether the first Home Minister to attend the Jamiat will also follow this up with other multi-faith engagements, and even whether he should.)

But to return to the most ridiculous part of the Vande Mataram debate - banning all Muslims from singing a song that already had the objectionable stanzas, the overt incantations to Durga etc taken out SIXTY years ago. It was left to Minority Affairs minister Salman Khursheed to put matters in perspective - "During the freedom movement," he said "all national leaders, including leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind Hind sat together and resolved that some stanzas of Vande Mataram would be treated as the national song and would be sung voluntarily - why is the issue being reopened now? Does this nation not have enough problems that it needs old ones recreated?"

Then again, re-creating problems tends to be recreational for many of our learned and most wise leaders- and decade after decade, the Vande Mataram controversy rears its head in some form or the other, and a song that is at the end of the day, a song, becomes a polarising ping-pong ball. (Does journalistic full disclosure mean I have to mention my name figures in one of the non-objectionable stanzas?)

At one point - the ridiculous even became the sublime - when the clerics had to choose between endorsing Baba Ramdev who charmed the congregation with his six-pack abs-breathing technique, and having to remind those attending his camps to hold their breath when the Vande Mataram is sung.

The rest of the pageant played to script - within 24 hours we had statements from Pravin Togadia ("denouncing the Vande Mataram is an act of treason"), Praful Goradia said "The real problem was that Islam was anti-woman", so had Vande Mataram been err...Vande Pitaram there would be no problem. The Thackeray Father, Son and Wholly-predictable nephew had their say too - decrying the Maulanas for forcing people not to sing a revered song, a national song.

So if abandoning a National Song makes one "Anti-National", Mr. Thackeray, what does banning a National Language in the State Assembly do? Clearly it was time for the other animal to come out of Noah's ark - in what is now being called the "Maha-Shame of Maharashtra". Newly-elected MLAs pushing, shoving, and abusing a colleague who adamantly (some even accuse Abu Azmi of doing it provocatively) insisted on taking oath in the Maharashtra Assembly in Hindi.

The nation may have been ashamed by the pictures of the attack, but the MLAs are unrepentant, their leader Raj Thackeray unabashed. Within a day the MNS was bolstered by the Shiv Sena, whose stalwarts swarmed Colaba and vandalized Azmi's shoe-store. The less said the better. (And if you live in Mumbai these days, clearly the less said in any language but Marathi, the better).

What makes it even more shameful - that the ruling Congress-NCP government, fresh from a win in the Assembly polls is still as helpless in protecting its citizens (admittedly Abu Azmi's SP workers seem quite capable of protecting him too), as it was when Raj Thackeray's men were thrashing taxi-drivers on the streets of Mumbai some months ago. Four MNS MLAs may have been suspended, but why were they not expelled, and why are leaders openly calling for violence not arrested?

The Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray had a startling solution last week - those who refuse to let others sing the Vande Mataram, he says, must be sent to Pakistan. I wonder if he has any equally convenient destinations for those who refuse to allow others to speak Hindi as well.

Query to Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka on "Sinhalese numerical majority"

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Three queries to Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka:

Query no 1 to Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka: Do you still think that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese because they are the numerical majority?

Query no2 to LtGen Sarath Fonseka:Do you still think that the minority communities in SriLanka cannot make what you think are"undue"demands?

Query no3 to Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka:You said in Washington that "terrorists"in IDP camps must be identified and destroyed.How will you do it?

equal

Rauff Hakeem tells SLMC members that recent developments have changed presidential polls from being "asymmetrical" to an "equal contest".

unity

Rauff Hakeem tells SLMC members that he is continuing with efforts to forge unity among Muslims, Sri Lankan Tamils&Indian Tamils &form front

four principles

Lukewarm response for efforts to evolve common Tamil political front on the basis of four principles enunciated at Thimphu, Bhutan in 1985.

"Mahinda's sister"

TamilNadu media refer to Nirupama wrongly as Mahinda's sister. She is his niece being daughter of George Rajapakse the first cousin of MR

Madurai Meenakshi

Nirupama Rajapakse&husband Nadesan worship at famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. 8 including lawyer arrested for protesting against both

penance

T'nadu reporters ask Nirupama& Nadesan whether pooja is conducted as penance for the sin of killing Tamils in Sri Lanka by Rajapakse regime

special

Nirupama Rajapakse&husband Nadesan conduct special pooja at Rameshwaram Shiva temple in T'nadu.20 arrested for demonstrating against couple

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In Sri Lanka, anger over detainees' fate

Many languishing in camps months after war's end

By Emily Wax

TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA -- Six months after Sri Lanka's decades-old civil war ended with a final assault, about 200,000 people remain trapped in overcrowded government-run camps that were once safe havens for those fleeing the conflict.

Facing pressure from the Obama administration and the European Union, the Sri Lankan government last month launched a campaign to resettle tens of thousands of the minority Tamil detainees. But interviews in the country's war-ravaged north reveal that many civilians have merely been shuffled from the large camps to smaller transit ones and are being held against their will. Others have been released, only to be taken from their homes days later with no indication of where they have gone.

After the army defeated the Tamil rebels in May, top government officials paraded their success on the streets of Colombo, the capital, and the country's leaders made noble promises about ensuring national harmony. Now analysts say the real test of Sri Lanka's success in building a stable, post-conflict society lies in the fate of these scores of thousands of detainees.

Human rights groups say the government is lying about its resettlement efforts; authorities concede they are using the camps as a tool to uncover any remaining Tamil militants but deny they are deliberately stalling civilians' return home.

"We thought this war was over. But for Tamils, it's like going from the frying pan and into the fire," said Devander Kumar, whose brother was released, only to be taken away by police without explanation, one of 30 men in this seaside city who have disappeared soon after their homecoming. "Do we Tamils have to prove every second of the day that we are not terrorists?"

Tamil leaders worry that if civilians end up languishing in the camps indefinitely, the situation will only breed more resentments and risk spawning another generation of rebels. But the government says it needs more time to de-mine vast stretches of land in the north, as well as to repair infrastructure damaged by war. Authorities also say they continue to root out rebels who have blended into the civilian population.

"History will prove us right," said Basil Rajapaksa, who is leading the resettlement process. Rajapaksa is a U.S. citizen and an adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother.

"We need the transit camps to weed out any underground rebels. The Tamil people have had a lot of hardship," he said. "So the last thing we want is to sacrifice their security for the sake of risking even one more sleeper cell or one more attack."

After a fierce military offensive in May, the government declared victory over the rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a well-funded militia that for 26 years fought for a separate homeland in northern Sri Lanka. The United States and other governments have labeled the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organization. The group pioneered the use of suicide bombings and is said to have orchestrated bombings that killed a Sri Lankan president, six cabinet ministers and, in 1991, former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The U.S. State Department has called for an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by both sides during the war's final days. After the fighting stopped, the president commissioned patriotic pop songs extolling the virtues of a prosperous Sri Lanka united under one flag. In the new Sri Lanka, he said, the Sinhalese Buddhist majority would embrace its Tamil compatriots, who are mostly Hindu and make up 15 percent of the nation's 20 million people.

But there is growing frustration among Tamils over the camps, ringed by razor-wire fencing and patrolled by armed guards. There is also anger over the unexplained arrests of military-age men.

On a recent day at a camp set up inside a school here, soldiers held back a group of weeping women who rushed to the gates to greet family members they had not seen in more than a year because they had gotten separated during the fighting.

"The most worrying part of the transit camps is that nobody is allowed to even meet them inside, not even religious leaders or desperate relatives," said V. Kalaichelvan, head of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies in Trincomalee. "It's like a wound on the psyche of the already damaged Tamil community."

Mano Ganesan, a Tamil member of Parliament, has filed a lawsuit against the government to allow him and other Tamil leaders to visit both the transit and the relief camps.

"Tamils feel like inmates in their own country. . . . The irony is that the root causes of this conflict are being ignored yet again. That can only mean more Tigers in the future," Ganesan said.

On a 10-hour trip by car from the capital to Trincomalee, one encounters frequent checkpoints, abandoned villages and fields of weeds where once rice and cashew were grown. The transit camps appear overcrowded, with families spread out under trees.

"In the last few weeks, there has been a sincere effort to release more people from the detention camps," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect diplomatic efforts. "But we have so far been unable to track where exactly they are going. We are hoping to see evidence soon that they have actually been resettled."

Sri Lankan officials say the government has begun relocating nearly 42,000 people from the camps. The government also says it will dedicate a large amount of development money to the Tamil-dominated north.

But mistrust prevails. In one village, residents said police had taken away several of their neighbors, who they said were innocent. "One of the major problems with the camps is that the government is not telling people when or why they are arresting relatives," said Gordon Weiss, a spokesman for the United Nations in Sri Lanka. "In a country with a long history of disappearances, just snatching people creates an incredible atmosphere of fear. At the same time, the sinister nature of this war was that so many civilians were militarized, which legitimized them as targets by the other side. That is the tragedy of this conflict." [courtesy: The Washington Post]

November 10, 2009

The Democratic Peoples Front and Sarath Fonseka:Response to Kusal Perera

By Mano Ganesan

My friend Kusal’s article and the messages he tries to convey are well noted. There are plenty of media opinions running around. Some are projected as my opinions. Our party’s official position in view of particularly on General Sarath Fonseka and generally on the presidential elections, if announced will be known only after the announcement. Presidium of our party has already come to a consensus position. We have more than one strategy. They will be discussed later next week in our politburo and finalized. Therefore as a party we have not made our any positions public yet.

MGTC1110.jpg

Mano Ganesan MP-file pic.

But yes, there are many discussions going on. I do not try to cover up anything. Some of the details are kept secret. We are a small entity here. May be I am as the leader of DPF doing beyond my size as and when other Tamil parties and leaders are maintaining silence. May be they are waiting for the opportune time.

This subject of Sarath Fonseka should not be considered as an isolated issue.

Sri Lanka is a sad Republic today as the main democratic opposition party/alliance is unable to find/propose a professional political candidate within from the opposition democratic establishment. It is shameful. But it is the naked truth. A candidate who is with all if not, sizable credentials such as being a member/leader of a major party, party cadre support, countrywide popular support, policy of accommodation towards Tamil speaking minorities, acceptance among the minorities, commitments to good governance and media freedom, clean record in view of corruption and human rights, brainy, brave, experience and necessarily a Sinhala Buddhist.

Let us start from me. I very confidently believe that I have THE eligibilities to perform as the president of this country. I can vouch I would be a better president than many who live with such presidential dreams. But alas, I am not a Sinhala Buddhist. There ends my dream.

I am not heading a standard NGO in practical sense. (Though a political party is also a NGO) I lead a functioning political party and all the associated organizations. Our party is not one of those major parties but it is also not a so called ‘three wheeler party’. Besides when I talk I not only talk on behalf of our party but also for the vast sections of the Tamil populace of this country. This ‘spokesperson of the Tamils’ tag did not drop from the sky yesterday with the Sarath Fonseka factor. We earned it by our hard, courageous and risky works. It is also due to our unbending stances.

Yes, Kusal is correct, I have a role in national movement for the protection of democracy, media freedom etc. We have performed in solidarity with almost all the national movements for media freedom, democracy, good governance etc. We have taken to roads on these issues than many of the so called ‘major party politicians’.

But we are mainly a party which represents the oppressed Tamil minorities. Not by label but by spirit. Therefore we have to maintain dialogues with all sources. We cannot be always be very ambitious and rigid. We will be wiped off if we refuse to answer all the calls we receive.

We cannot be another LTTE. We value engagements. It is a process. It is the sign of a functioning party. There are some comrades who complain. But they are complaining on everything on earth. But for decades they failed to change even a single street let alone the country.

On the other hand, there are many number of Tamil political parties and many number of Tamil leaders who were ‘brave spokespersons of Tamils’ once upon a time. Today nobody is talking. There are no exchange of opinions. No debates at all. A deadly silence is maintained by all Tamil leaders. Total silence since Sarath Fonseka’s name was proposed initially until now that he is ‘considered’ as the common opposition candidate. But we spoke at the appropriate time and initiated a national dialogue in the media, street corners, households, offices, among the political parties etc. A national dialogue on ‘Sarath Fonseka and Tamil people’.

But (therefore) it seems that my ‘mistakes’ here are ‘talking and discussing’.

We have discussions with Sarath Fonseka. We have sent him a set of questions. We will await responses from Sarath Fonseka. We will then decide. Until then we will say that if his answers satisfy us we will decide positively. It is logical. Isn’t it? First let him answer. We are also discussing with the main opposition for alternative candidates. We are also discussing among the Tamil and Muslim parties. There are some efforts made from the government side too for some discussions with me.

It is very unfair to say that I ‘knew’ the answers of Sarath Fonseka even ‘before’ I sent him the questions. We have to go by the rules. This is what you call a dialogue. Kusal virtually demands that I should not even engage in a discussion with Sarath Fonseka. This is way he claims that Kusal and me and many of us ‘know’ the man Sarath Fonseka. Therefore don’t ask questions. That is what he means by saying that I ‘know’ the answers. This is his logic.

Kusal fails to understand that there are millions of people in this country who consider Sarath Fonseka as the god sent hero. You cannot simply dismiss this worshippers as communalists. We have to engage with them because we are living with them by sharing the one same country.

Don’t ask questions or engage with him. This is Kusal’s position. Strangely Kusal has company. Please note that there are others too who find fault in me for putting questions to Sarath Fonseka. (plenty of web comments such as, How dare this Mano Ganesan? How can he question our Hero?). They are finding fault in me for different reasons.

I reject both positions.

We as a party, (in or out of alliance) would make the appropriate decision at the right time if the presidential elections are announced. We while maintaining our positions keep the options open. Tamils have four options today in respect of the presidential elections. The options are (a) UPFA candidate (b) Common or otherwise opposition candidate (c) A common Tamil candidate (d) Boycott.

We will cross the bridge when it comes. Until then we will engage and discuss.

Trouble at the top in Sri Lanka?

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (C) and Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka (L) look at weapons captured from Tamil Tiger rebels in the capital Colombo on October 3, 2009.
Gen Fonseka (left) is said to be at odds with President Rajapaksa (right)
Speculation continues to grow in Sri Lanka that there is a rift at the top of the country's establishment.

It is said to pit the armed forces chief, Gen Sarath Fonseka, against two ultra-powerful brothers, the president and the defence secretary, Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

One apparently contentious issue is who should take the credit for the government's all-out victory last May against the Tamil Tigers.

The government says there is no spat. But, fuelled by remarks and events, the speculation continues.

Since he was promoted from army chief to armed forces chief in July, there have been reports that Gen Sarath Fonseka was being sidelined.

Some observers saw the newly created post of chief of staff as a ceremonial sinecure, although the government denies this.

The speculation increased when the news emerged that he had been offered the job of secretary to the sports ministry, but had rejected it. It was not seen as a prestigious offer.

Last month the military spokesman said allegations of differences between the government and the general were "not true" and that to report otherwise was "illegal".

Yet days earlier, the government broadcasters and websites had all ignored a speech Gen Fonseka gave to the army for its 60th anniversary, in which he stressed his own role in the military victory.

Presidential candidate?

There is no open quarrel. But each side's comments do seem telling.

In a speech two weeks ago, Gen Fonseka said that people in Colombo who "hold responsibilities" had forgotten the importance of the army in the war victory.

But government ministers and deputies have been making pointed remarks of a different kind - for instance, that in Sri Lankan history it was kings, not soldiers, that won wars; or that military rule in Pakistan (a close friend of Sri Lanka) had left that country "in a total mess".

That is relevant because there are growing indications that the general may seek to enter politics as a presidential candidate against Mahinda Rajapaksa after quitting his military post. The election is due before April.

This would be an intriguing prospect. Gen Fonseka is a strong Sinhalese nationalist, who in a Canadian newspaper interview last year was quoted as saying that "this country belongs to the [majority] Sinhalese" although minorities must also be treated "like our people".

Yet a Tamil politician in the newly formed opposition coalition, Mano Ganesan, has told the BBC that opposition parties may support Gen Fonseka as a candidate for a limited term as they cannot see any other way of ousting Mr Rajapaksa - also widely regarded as a Sinhalese nationalist.


The opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, says he has set out preconditions for the general to be acceptable as a candidate. These would include giving government portfolios to the Tamil National Alliance, a pro-Tamil Tiger parliamentary group.

To many, such a possibility seems scarcely credible.

Sri Lankan men read a newspaper in Colombo on November 5, 2009
There were reports that Gen Fonseka was to be quizzed in the US

There was a further twist last week when the Sri Lankan government alleged that the US government had sought to use Gen Fonseka to testify against the defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, over war crimes allegations.

The Americans declined to comment but the government hurriedly called a news conference to say the general was not allowed to divulge privileged information to third parties.

Asked by the BBC whether there was a split between the general and the defence secretary, Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, said "I don't think so" but did not elaborate.

President Rajapaksa has not commented directly on the possibility of having Gen Fonseka as an electoral rival. Speaking on state television this week, he said the general was "a military officer under my command - the most senior" and he had nothing further to say.

His brother Gotabhaya said in the same broadcast that the public must not engage in acts that would "divide the military".

'Suicidal move'

Some government supporters are getting anxious, with newspaper columnists urging the general not to stand and Buddhist religious organisations telling him not to "fall prey to national and international conspirators".

An ultra-nationalist politician, Wimal Weerawansa, said the general should not "make any suicidal move that would tarnish his image".

It has not been possible to speak to the general recently. It is unclear exactly what his own thinking is, although opposition politicians say his associates have been in contact with them.

If he does stand, the opposition would be trying to meet the government on its own territory - contesting the election with the war victory as a central issue, rather than other everyday issues which do seem to be gaining in importance.

It would be mainly a battle for the Sinhalese vote, with many members of minorities left with the option of casting some kind of protest vote or not voting at all.

The question is how well such a contest would go down with the voters - whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or any other. [courtesy: BBC: co.uk]

India unhappy about pro-Pakistan Sarath Fonseka

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

postpone

Sarath Fonseka may postpone his CDS resignation handover till Ranil Wickremasinghe return from India after consultations in New Delhi

unhappy

India is unhappy about pro-Pakistan Sarath Fonseka being backed as presidential candidate by combined opposition including anti-Indian JVP

caretaker

If opposition backed Sarath Fonseka is elected president then Ranil Wickremasinghe will become prime minister of a caretaker government

‘Sangha Agna’

Sections of Buddhist clergy plan to stop Sarath Fonseka contesting prez polls by getting Mahanayaka Theras issue a ‘Sangha Agna’ Decree

DON’T

Patriotic National Movement, Patriotic Bikkhu Front, Jana Vijaya Foundation, Jayagrahana Lanka Foundation – DON’T want Sarath Fonseka to contest

"Satyagraha"

Ven.Medagama Dhammanada Thero to organize"Satyagraha"of 10-15,000 Buddhist priests urging that Sarath Fonseka should not contest prez polls

"face"

Posters&hoardings with Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka's "face" to be removed from all highways& roads

chief of staff

"Thoppigala Veeraya"Maj-Gen Parakrama Pannipitiya who was penalised unjustly by Sarath Fonseka may be re-instated & appointed chief of staff

abroad

Army Chief of Staff Maj-General Mendaka Samarasinghe regarded as Sarath Fonseka loyalist may be "retired" soon& given diplomatic post abroad

meetings

Army Commander Lt.General Jagath Jayasuriya is conducting series of meetings with security force personnel to explain current "happenings"

possible

Tourism minister Nandana Gunatilleke warns of a possible military coup in Sri Lanka.Formerly of JVP& NFF Nandana will join SLFP soon

“Yagna”

MP and presidential niece Nirupama Rajapakse & husband Thirukumar Nadesan were in Tiruchenthoor, Tamil Nadu over the week-end to conduct a “Yagna”

Thiruchenthoor

Nirupama Rajapakse & husband conducted a 2 day “Yagna” at Lower chariot street, Kottaru Chettiymadam of famous Murugan temple in Thiruchenthoor

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Letter from IMF Managing Director to Human Rights Watch

November 5, 2009

Mr. Brad Adams
Executive Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
250, Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10118-3299

Dear Mr. Adams:

Thank you for your letter dated October 14, 2009 in which you outlined your concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka and the support that the IMF is providing to the economy of this country. The IMF shares your concerns about the humanitarian situation and before addressing a number of detailed issues, I would first like to provide a broader consideration about the general context.

The Sri Lankan economy is facing a serious crisis and regardless of one’s opinion of the human rights situation in that country, the collapse of the economy cannot be considered a reasonable outcome. The people of Sri Lanka—and especially those who are most vulnerable—cannot be held responsible for the current situation. Our role now—as set out in the Articles of Agreement which govern the IMF—is to do everything possible to prevent a collapse, the effects of which would be catastrophic for the people, and especially for the poorest parts of the population.

Like you, I share the distress of the refugees. The image of those suffering children and of those families set adrift is to me intolerable. The fact is, however, that the economic crisis would only worsen their situation.

The aim of our support, therefore, is to provide the resources necessary to prevent a full-blown economic crisis, contribute to reconstruction efforts, and sustain social spending aimed at protecting the poor. In addition, this program also provides the necessary framework without which international donors would be unable to provide assistance in the areas of infrastructure, roads, hospitals, and schools.

This in no way prevents us from putting in place the safeguards needed to ensure that the resources we provide are used correctly. The government has therefore committed to creating a social safety net for the displaced as quickly as possible. The program includes a considerable reduction in military spending in the 2010-2011 period, and these savings will be used to finance expenditure that will help the country’s most vulnerable people. The government has begun redeploying resources previously allocated to military spending toward reconstruction efforts in the north, such as de-mining, basic infrastructure, and other activities essential for the reintegration of the Tamil people. These commitments are spelt out in the initial letter of intent signed by the government.

Following our in-depth discussions, the authorities have reiterated in their most recent letter of intent their commitment to make rapid progress in addressing the grave humanitarian problems, the situation of displaced persons who must be able to return home, and the reconstruction of basic infrastructure. The IMF will continue to monitor progress in these areas and we look forward to continuing to receive feedback from HRW as well as others.

Sincerely yours,

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Managing Director


IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Public Affairs Media Relations
Phone: 202-623-7300 Phone: 202-623-7100
Fax: 202-623-6278 Fax: 202-623-6772

Source: http://www.imf.org/external/np/vc/2009/110509.htm

Poll plots thicken

by Col. R. Hariharan

General elections in South Asia have all the makings of a Bollywood pot boiler. Being the largest country, India takes the cake where general elections run into many episodes like an afternoon soap.

Sri Lanka, though small, is no less if past experience is any guide. And the plot is thickening there as the main opposition parties the United National Party (UNP) and the Left wing Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) appear to be coming together in achieving a single aim: defeating President Mahinda Rajapaksa's re-election as president. To ensure that, they appear to be keen to put up General Sarath Fonseka, the hero of the victorious war against the Tamil Tigers, as their candidate. The reluctant General is probably facing a dilemma of Shakespearean proportions before he makes up his mind to contest.

The Eelam war against the Tamil Tigers has thrown up a lot of heroes– President Rajapaksa, his brothers Basil and Gotabaya, and General Fonseka. Similarly there is a dearth of villains because the war had killed the ‘villains’ who ruled the roost for three decades – Prabhakaran and his lieutenants.

So, political pundits are busy trying to find villains among heroes. Some of them have the essential skill sets for elections - arm chair plotting and alliance management. And rumour mills have been working overtime. International actions are adding their pennies’ worth to muddy the waters further. Given this setting, the General appears to be paying the price for his popularity. His trip to the U.S. to renew his green card status turned into a problematic one, finally graduating into full blown international issue.

Even if the opposition cobble up an alliance for presidential poll it is at best a marriage of inconvenience. Their cheese and chalk differences in ideology, goals, style and ambitions would ensure its break up when they go to parliamentary polls in the first quarter of 2010 after the presidential election. Of course which election would be held first is still the sixty four dollar question.

UNP’S CONDITIONS

The UNP appears to have a lot of reservations in allying itself with the JVP and in putting up the General as common candidate. So it is not surprising that the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has spelled out the conditions under which the party would agree to go along with the JVP and support the General. As per his interview to Sudar Oli, published in the Island, the conditions are as follows (own comments are given in brackets in italics):

Common candidacy: The UNP, JVP and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have to agree to field a common candidate. [Will TNA agree to the General, essentially a military man who established his reputation by routing the LTTE, as the common candidate? Can the JVP and TNA see eye to eye? Of course in politics anything can happen.]

Abolition of executive presidency: He expected the common candidate to pledge on abolishing the executive presidency. [If executive presidency is abolished the extensive powers enjoyed by the president would be reduced; it could cramp the General’s aggressive style of action.]

Caretaker government: The General has to appoint a caretaker government with Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister. He should make a prior announcement that important portfolios in the caretaker government would be given to the JVP and the TNA. [Can the General feel comfortable in working with Wickremesinghe as the prime minister and TNA ministers when he has major differences with their political views?]

Attitude to Tamil issues: General Fonseka has to clarify certain issues concerning the Tamil people. [These ‘issues’ probably relate to the General’s articulated view on Tamil autonomy and Sri Lanka as the country for the majority Sinhala people.] The UNP leader says the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) should endorse General Fonseka’s clarifications as acceptable to the Tamils. Wickremesinghe also expected the TNA and JVP to have an understanding on this issue. [This is probably to provide a face saving way for the TNA to join the UNP combine and also to ensure the UNP’s Tamil votes are not alienated when it agrees to support the General.]

PRESIDENT’S REACTION

While a political leader might accept these conditions, the General’s political ambitions will have to overwhelm his strong personal views to accept the conditions spelled out by the UNP leader. That is the moot point. Though General Fonseka is still not on cards as a contestant, the President is watchful of the developments. The General is one person who could spoil Rajapaksa’s cake walk victory. So Rajapaksa has become extremely cautious on the issue; he has refused to comment on the General’s political ambitions. To strengthen his alliance, the President is likely to strive hard in closing some understanding, if not alliance, with TNA. To make the job easier, he might offer the TNA an acceptable political package to accommodate Tamil political aspirations as the carrot. The impending SLFP convention could clarify these issues.

The media had been discussing a whole range of structural subterfuges the government can use to dissuade or prevent Fonseka from contesting. But there is problem in believing what the media says.

South Asian elections usually have lots of intrigues, whispers in the corridors, broken promises and some broken hearts, bags of money passing hands, guns and gangsters, fast cars and, I am sure lots of pretty girls, thrown in as incentive to the foot soldiers. And Sri Lanka is no exception. How General Fonseka, the disciplined soldier, would compromise his strong perceptions on what he believes as right and wrong for political support is a question waiting to be answered.

With the election pot boiling pulse rate of politicians have gone up and the anxiety of candidates would also increase when clarity emerges. .However it is the public who will decide it finally when the happy ending comes. Of course it depends partly upon the political script they understand, and to be frank, how much money the winners and losers spend.

Tailpiece: In my update “Importance of being Fonseka” I had said that Gen Fonseka had recommended Lt General Jagat Jayasuriya to become the army commander, superseding seven other generals. Many well informed readers have pointed out that I was wrong. I thank them and apologise for the unintentional error.

Outrageous treatment being meted out by govt. to Sarath Fonseka

by Karu Jayasuriya

Recent attempts by the government to belittle the security forces and former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka in particular calls for condemnation from all sections of civilized society. Many say that we are a nation that has a very short memory span. Yet even the most ardent of the government’s critics could not have predicted how little time it took for the present Administration, which has very little to show for its four years in power other than the military victory, to start ridiculing and sidelining the very same individuals who delivered it to them.

The manner in which government ministers and the state owned media have been waging a smear campaign against General Sarath Fonseka, the chief architect of the war against the LTTE is simply appalling. We in the UNP believe that certain issues are above politics. They are not issues that can be used to merely gain political mileage or make a tiny sound bite in the public sphere. It is due to these reasons that I decided to support the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the time it was fighting the LTTE.

We intended to give it the political support required for the military campaign. It was not a blank cheque of impunity but an expression of support for a national cause that went beyond the realm of politics or personal agenda. We believed that it was our national duty to support the troops at that decisive time in our history, irrespective of party politics. It is in this same sprit that the United National Party has come forward to offer any assistance needed for the Government to safeguard the GSP + concession scheme, since losing these concessions, albeit due to the callous disregard of fundamental human rights by this government, would only result in the suffering of the people of our country. Therefore we have demonstrated in deed rather than word that national interest far outweighs our political interests.

It is in this light that we call upon the government to stop playing politics with the men and women who sacrificed life and limb to safeguard our motherland. We as a nation would descend to the nadir of ingratitude if we treat our war heroes any other way than with the honour they deserve. The current administration has demonstrated it is incapable of this basic tenant that differentiates a civilized nation from that which is not. It is with a sense of dismay that the Sri Lankan people are witnessing the outrageous treatment meted out currently to General Sarath Fonseka. Many government henchmen have jumped on the bandwagon to slander the former army commander. They who belittle him now are singing to the tunes of their political masters. The Ministry of Defence has even announced that it would be in violation of the Emergency Regulations to mention the name of military personnel in the media. It is this kind of suppressive measures carried out to silence not only the military and the media but the whole of society that has landed Sri Lanka amongst the worst violators of fundamental rights. Such measures have contributed in no small way for us to come to the brink of losing the GSP + scheme.

We believe that the government has grossly miscalculated the situation this time. In the hearts of the people, the military led by General Sarath Fonseka takes pride of place as the true heroes of this achievement. These heroes will never die; they will never fade away, whether it is General Fonseka, the architect of this victory or the young corporal who died defending his line in the ditches of the Wanni, the people will keep their memory alive forever.

At the news that Gen. Fonseka is disillusioned and determined to leave office in the near future, I feel like everyone else in this country today – utterly devastated. It is a bitter pill for this nation to swallow, to watch Gen. Fonseka who was so instrumental in the defeat of the LTTE being treated in such an abominable way. The people recall how he survived a deadly suicide attack and returned to work, more determined than ever to finish the job. They kept faith with Gen. Fonseka and his men, as they inched ever nearer the final strongholds of the LTTE.

For many years this administration has called anyone who opposed its line of thinking as traitors. The opposition has taken a brunt of this attack. Yet today the government calls the very architects of the military campaign mere followers of their military strategy. Just as the Opposition wore the cap of “traitor” as a badge of honour we call on General Fonseka and all those who fought for our motherland to consider these insults now hurled at them with a sense of pride, for those who call us names will be judged by the people of this country who will finally differentiate between traitor and hero.

General Fonseka is a product of Ananda College and need not be given lessons in patriotism. As an Anandian, I can say that we were moulded to love our country. That was the first lesson. It is in this sprit of patriotism that we call upon all our citizens to help to undo this great injustice to our valiant heroes. Let us now allow a group of short sighted politicians to define who the true heroes of our time are.

If they say those who fought for the motherland in the ditches of the Wanni and faced the attacks of the suicide bombers are not heroes, so be it, if they say those who ask that a quarter of a million of our own people be released from internment camps are not heroes, so be it, If they say that those who call for the freedom of expression, the freedom to live without fear in equality and have the right to decide on one’s own destiny are not heroes, so be it.

It is far better being in the camp labelled ‘traitors’ than with a few self proclaimed heroes who cannot comprehend the meanings of these words. I am reluctantly compelled to make this observation as an Ex Commissioned Officer of the Sri Lanka Army during the period 1965 to 1972. My party and I join the raised voices of the majority of our people to demand that the government does right by those who have served this country loyally and delivered it from the clutches of the LTTE.

Karu Jayasuriya is Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP)

November 09, 2009

Sri Lanka’s top general emerges as possible presidential candidate

By Sarath Kumara and K. Ratnayake

With the prospect of a presidential election early next year, Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka, is emerging as the likely common candidate of the opposition parties to challenge President Mahinda Rajapakse. The backing for Fonseka underscores the degree to which the entire political establishment in Colombo depends on the military.

President Rajapakse has been exploiting the army’s defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May to whip up an atmosphere of triumphalism and communalism in order to deflect attention from the country’s worsening economic crisis, the continuing deterioration of living standards and the government’s gross abuse of democratic rights. About 250,000 Tamil civilians are still being held illegally in squalid military-run detention centres as virtual prisoners of war.

Clearly concerned about mounting popular discontent, Rajapakse has hinted that he is considering holding the presidential election, which is not due until November 2011, early next year. It is possible that he may even call the presidential poll before general parliamentary elections due to be held before next March. The government has already tested the waters with a series of provincial council elections since May.

The main opposition parties—the right-wing United National Party (UNP) and Sinhala extremist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)—have no fundamental disagreements with the government. Both parties backed the communal war against the LTTE, support the incarceration of Tamil civilians, regularly vote for the continuation of draconian emergency regulations and, for all their populist criticisms of the government’s “waste and corruption”, agree with its regressive economic policies.

Far from opposing the government’s policies, the UNP and JVP hope that they can outdo Rajapakse by promoting the country’s top general as the “war hero” responsible for defeating the LTTE. At the same time, it would allow the UNP and JVP to come together to support a common candidate without having to form an electoral alliance.

The JVP has publicly declared that it would back Fonseka as a common candidate. After persistent media rumours of private talks between the general and UNP leaders, the Sunday Times reported yesterday that the newly-formed United National Front (UNF) reached a consensus last week to support Fonseka. The UNF is an alliance led by the UNP, with nine smaller parties.

Whether or not Fonseka becomes the opposition candidate, there are clear signs that he has fallen out with Rajapakse. In one of his first actions as president, Rajapakse appointed Fonseka as army commander in December 2005 after forcing his predecessor to resign. The installation of a general known for his ruthless military methods was part of Rajapakse’s preparations to break the 2002 ceasefire with the LTTE and plunge the country back to war in mid-2006.

Fonseka was part of the close-knit cabal surrounding President Rajapakse that prosecuted the war, trampled on democratic rights and was directly responsible for numerous war crimes. In the final months of the war, Fonseka directed operations that included the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians trapped in a so-called “no fire zone” in the remaining pocket of LTTE-held territory. According to UN estimates, at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the period from January to May.

During the course of the 26-year civil war, the Sri Lankan military has vastly expanded and every aspect of society has been increasingly militarised. Defence expenditure rose from 1.5 percent of GDP in 1978 to 4.5 percent in 2008. The strength of the armed forces is about 300,000, making it one of the largest, per capita, in the world.

Reflecting the military’s growing role in politics, Fonseka repeatedly made statements to the media. Bluntly stating the Sinhala supremacism that imbues the entire Colombo establishment, he told the Canadian-based National Post last year: “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese.” Other communities “can live in this country with us,” he added. “But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

The reasons for Fonseka falling out with Rajapakse are not yet clear. He has not declared himself a possible presidential candidate or spoken publicly about his disagreements. Reflecting broader disgruntlement in the officer corps, the general undoubtedly resents the grandstanding by the president and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the defence secretary, as the architects of the LTTE’s defeat.

At the army’s 60th anniversary last month, Fonseka declared: “It was not just due to luck that the Sri Lanka army wiped out the LTTE, ending a 30-year-old war, surprising the international community. The army had to make lots of sacrifices and service to achieve this… My overall plans and supervision and the dedication of the officers and soldiers were the most significant reason.”

President Rajapakse, acutely aware of the political danger posed by Fonseka, has been attempting to sideline the general. Fonseka was appointed Chief of Defence Staff in June and the powers over the post were extended by a special parliamentary act. However, the promotion also removed the general from any direct connection with the powerful army.

In the state-owned media, Fonseka has been effectively removed from the pantheon of those responsible for the military victory.

Labour Minister Mervyn Silva recently told a public meeting that only the president and the defence secretary “deserved credit for the military victory, and that only these two names which would go down in history”. As signs of disagreement emerged, the defence ministry issued a press order last month prohibiting articles about serving military commanders and threatening prosecution.

Another indication of the differences emerged last week when Fonseka visited the US to renew his immigration green card. The US Department of Homeland Security asked Fonseka to attend a voluntary interview, reportedly to question him over war crimes. The US State Department had issued a report just two weeks previously, cataloguing a long list of military attacks on civilian targets, including hospitals, in the final months of the war.

The news prompted a furious response from the Sri Lankan government, which pulled out all stops to block the Homeland Security interview. Foreign Minister Rohita Bogallagama contacted the US ambassador in Colombo to urge the US to desist from any attempt to interview the general. He told a press conference that any information acquired by Fonseka in the course of his official duties was “privileged” and could not be shared with third parties. Finally, the government urged the US to return Fonseka to Sri Lanka on urgent matters. He returned on Thursday.

According to a lengthy report in yesterday’s Sunday Times, the main target of the interview was not to be Fonseka, but the president’s brother. Apparently the US had already written to Gotabhaya Rajapakse, along with another brother Basil and Justice Minister Milanda Moragida, asking them if they as US citizens had been involved in policy matters that constituted human rights violations. All three hold dual US-Sri Lankan citizenship.

Clearly the government was deeply concerned that Fonseka would provide evidence of its crimes. The newspaper reported that in a recent discussion with government parliamentarians, Fonseka had referred to what he described as “very highly sensitive” issues related to the final stages of the war, known to only a handful in the top echelons of the defence establishment. Fonseka would, however, only provide such information to the US if he could be guaranteed immunity himself.

The US decision to target Gotabhaya Rajapakse, rather than Fonseka, points to its underlying motivations. These have nothing to do with concern about war crimes and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, but rather are aimed at pressuring the Rajapakse government over its growing economic and political ties with US rivals, particularly China.

By undermining the Rajapakse brothers, Washington possibly hopes to install a government more amenable to its interests. The UNP in particular is noted for its close alignment with the US in the past.

Within Sri Lanka, both the UNP and JVP have indicated that they will campaign in the election for the abolition of the powerful executive presidency. Currently the president has sweeping constitutional powers. Rajapakse, who is also defence minister and finance minister, can issue presidential decrees and, under emergency regulations, abrogate basic democratic rights.

The campaign against the executive presidency is not about defending the democratic rights of working people. Sections of the Colombo political establishment have become concerned that Rajapakse’s increasingly autocratic methods of rule will provoke a popular backlash, particularly under conditions of deepening economic and social crisis.

During the war, Rajapakse repeatedly demanded that working people sacrifice for the military effort. Since the end of the war, the global recession has hit the economy, which was already burdened by huge defence spending. The government is now implementing harsh austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

Already a series of struggles have erupted since the end of the war, particularly over pay and conditions, which have been seriously eroded by soaring inflation over the past three years.

All the pre-election manoeuvring points to intense behind-the-scenes preparations by the Colombo ruling elite for a confrontation with the working class. The very same establishment layers that have been critical of Rajapakse’s cabal would not hesitate to employ the police-state apparatus built up during a quarter century of war to suppress any social eruption. That would certainly be the case if Fonseka were at the helm as the country’s president

COURTESY:WSWS

Mano Ganesan and Sarath Fonseka: Whither principled politics?

by Kusal Perera

It was no surprise in any way to read that Mano Ganeshan, Colombo district MP, leader of the Democratic People's Front (DPF), Chairman of the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC) and the leader of the Democratic Workers' Congress (DWC), as his e-mail signature reveals and my good friend in politics above all, has finally decided to back the former army commander and present Chief of Defence Staff, Sarath Fonseka.

Wickramasinghe has himself acknowledged Fonseka as the “Common Candidate” of their newly formed United National Front (UNF). I personally have no grievance in any politician changing shades and positions, as they too grow wiser with age. But it is rather astounding and bewildering to see Ganeshan 'age' this fast and change positions, even faster.

It was only 18 days ago, Ganeshan said he would not be in the emerging political front, if Fonseka is decided upon as a “Common” candidate. He and his party did not want to have anything in “common” with Sarath Fonseka.

“Democratic People’s Front leader Mano Ganeshan said today that his party would withdraw from the UNP-led alliance if the former Army Commander and current Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Sarath Fonseka was made the common candidate for the Presidential Election.” reported the DM on 21 October, 2009.

His position was made much more clearer in an e-mail statement issued from his office, that I believe was on news websites. This statement issued on 21 October, concluded by saying, “Tamil speaking people of this country do not have anything in common with General Fonseka, for him to be our common candidate.”

Having said so and quite bluntly too, Ganeshan was also a signatory, just 14 days later on 03 November at the parliamentary complex, for the latest Opposition front, the UNF, led by the UNP and its leader Ranil Wickramasinghe. Thereafter, more nights than days in Colombo, witnessed jockeying for the “common candidate” and the mellowing of Ganeshan's stand against Fonseka. Media in SL claimed a representative of Fonseka had met with Ganeshan to iron out differences. Grown wiser by the day, Ganeshan freaked out of his earlier position to send Fonseka a questionnaire, in a sure attempt to compromise. Perhaps he knew the answers before he framed his questions.

He thus told Daily Mirror online that “he has submitted a questionnaire to a representative of Fonseka’s, which revolves around four main national issues. Ganeshan explained that he wishes to know the General’s stance of the issue of the IDP situation in the North, his political views on the ‘ethnic question’, his views on abolishing the current presidential system and his plan to tackle bribery and corruption. Ganeshan added that his party’s initial refusal to support Fonseka as a common candidate for the UNF was due to the fact that Ganeshan and his party had little knowledge of the Generals political experience.” [DM – 07 November, 2009].

Ganeshan's excuse that he and his party did not know of “General's political experience”, is perhaps too naked to be thrown public. It is common knowledge that a serving Army Officer can not have any political experience.

Yet, if what he meant was General's political outlook or vision, then it would have been better for Ganeshan to refer back to General Fonseka's gem of an interview with the Canadian journal, “National Post” of 23 September, 2008, than send Fonseka a questionnaire.

That clear statement on unparalleled, uncompromising Sinhala hegemony, on how he expects the minorities to live in a Sinhala Buddhist majority nation, was never an isolated statement by Fonseka. As Army Commander, he had unrestricted permission from the Rajapaksa regime to make similar political statements to local and international media, in support of the ideology that was hyped for the escalation of the war. He was not only militarily heading the war against the LTTE for this Rajapaksa regime, but was also representing its Sinhala-Buddhist ideology, very openly.

That was plain enough for any common man to understand how a ruthless regime was brought forth in the name of “patriotism”. It was also plain enough for politicians like Ganeshan, handling “rights” issues, to understand how insecure the life was under that rule.

It was for such reasons that “Mano Ganeshan, the leader of (then) Western People's Front(WPF) and Colombo district parliamentarian speaking to media said that he has decided to leave Sri Lanka, due to security reasons” [TamilNet 30 Dec, 2007].

Does Ganeshan and his party need any more knowledge on General Fonseka's politics? Ganeshan should then read loud, his own submission to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Louise Arbour, at the UN office in Colombo, on Thursday, 11 October, 2007, where he said, and very rightly then, [quote]

"Most of the sufferers are members of the Tamil community. We are faced with following brutal challenges to the right to our physical existences in this country;

Enforced Disappearances, Extra-judicial killings, Aerial and Artillery bombardments, Death due to torture in custody, Torture, Extortions, Enforced eviction from places of residences, Arbitrary arrests, Arrest and detention without proper legal process, Poor custodial prison conditions, Judicial process not being followed during arrests and detentions, Killings of over 35 humanitarian aid workers, Harassment of humanitarian aid workers, Displacement of persons over 300,000 internally and over one million externally, Forced and arbitrary resettlement of people, Curtailment of media freedom and Intimidation, Killings of Journalists.....” [unquote - Mano Ganeshan, MP and Chairman, Civil Monitoring Committee]

That Fonseka can not change, merely because he has run into a personality clash with the “owners” of this regime, or because he is tipped as the most formidable candidate against his now jilted partner(s). Does Ganeshan think such a hard line racist position would and could change overnight, the way he became the leader of DPF, shunning the WPF?

It seems, Ganeshan has got the answer he wanted from Fonseka for his questionnaire and 18 days after his blunt refusal to accept Fonseka as a “commoner” with the Tamil people, he tells Sunday Times, “We are supportive of a common candidate, even if it is Sarath Fonseka.” He thereafter tries to qualify that statement by saying, “We will publicly campaign to abolish the Executive Presidency, resettle IDPs, eliminate rampant corruption, and pledge to resolve problems of all communities. Earlier we took a different stance if Gen Fonseka was to be the common candidate, but if he agrees to the above we will accept him.” [08 October, 2009]

Ganeshan is apparently leaving his Tamil constituency now, or disregarding them, or insulting their already wounded dignity, or all of it. Why accept Fonseka now, whom he says has nothing in common with the Tamil people and accused of waging a brutal war, of ruthlessly violating rights and committed crimes against Tamil people ? Ganeshan campaigned against Fonseka's war, made representations to the UNHCHR and refused to accept Fonseka as a presidential common candidate. How did Fonseka become the ideal democratic candidate against Rajapaksa now ?

The only reason that Ganeshan has so far spelled out is, Fonseka is expected to lead their campaign for the “abolishing of the Executive Presidency, resettle IDPs, eliminate rampant corruption” while giving a “pledge to resolve problems of all communities.”

But my question is, can not Wickramasinghe, as the leader of the UNF lead a campaign to abolish the executive presidency ? Can not Wickramasinghe resettle IDPs if voted to power ? Can not Wickramasinghe eliminate rampant corruption in a UNF government ? Can not Wickramasinghe resolve problems of all communities ? Is Fonseka the only person capable of doing all that, sans any political experience ? Or else, why is Fonseka canvassed as a “common” presidential candidate ?

None of it, for sure and Ganeshan is no political babe, not to know the reason. It is once again, plain Sinhala hegemony in establishing a government, which is the only reason to pin faith on Fonseka, the war hero. Fonseka is the only peg on which the major Sinhala opposition could hang the JVP for its Sinhala vote base. If the JVP swings in too, it is Fonseka who could best challenge Rajapaksa on a pure Sinhala platform and all other talk, are mere fancy rhetoric.

In this Sri Lankan society, dominated by Sinhala Buddhist ideology for which Fonseka stands, the Executive Presidency is the most ideal power tool created and left by late JRJ for the Sinhala majority rule. Any power sharing compromised to the provinces can be reigned in once again to the “Centre” by this Executive Power, as proved with the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. As with every other times before, the call to abolish it would only ring loud during elections and not thereafter. Thereafter, it would be a Sinhala Buddhist who would hold that power for the Sinhala Buddhists.

Fonseka is no different. What ever the UNF says during its campaign, they would avoid all talk on human rights violations, on accusations about heavy civilian casualties during war, on accusations levelled with war crimes and about establishing a ruthless regime through the war that Fonseka personally led, which he would glorify to his credit.

Thus Fonseka would be absolved of all crimes he was thus far accused of by those like Ganeshan. With such Sinhala ideology once again justified, from a man who never knew what democratic politics is, and never wanted to accept that in a nation State which is diverse and plural, minorities too have equal share in living a democratic life, there is no guarantee what so ever, the promises on campaign platforms would be abided with, as Ganeshan claims, or wants others to believe.

A Sinhala platform once again created as for Rajapaksa in 2005 November, this time for General Fonseka, would only rally Sinhala patriotic forces and it is them, Fonseka would first satisfy and be loyal to. It would thus be too late then for Ganeshan to say he was betrayed, for he had by then betrayed not only the Tamil people, but all democratic forces too. Unfortunately for Ganeshan, he too seems to want power, not on a political programme, but power like any other Tamil leader aspired for, in all past governments.

I would therefore bid good bye, wishing Ganeshan all the luck, that Rajapaksa would eventually fall short of the 50% he needs, a tough chance though.

Response by Mano Ganesan: The Democratic Peoples Front and Sarath Fonseka:Response to Kusal Perera

Former Toronto Gang Member is Spokesman For Tamil Asylum seekers

By Stephen Fitzpatrick

FORMER Toronto gang member Sanjeev Kuhendrarajah is heavily tattooed, has a criminal record for death threats and firearms possession that got him deported from Canada six years ago, and is now, perhaps improbably, the articulate and thoughtful spokesman for a boatload of Tamil asylum-seekers trying to get to Christmas Island.

A Canadian immigration department assessment refers to chronic alcohol and drug abuse in his youth, persistent anger management issues and a "love-hate relationship" with his mother.

But the 27-year-old adamantly denies he is a people-smuggler.

Kuhendrarajah, otherwise known as Alex - a pseudonym he said he had used for years and which he goes by on the social networking site Facebook - has finally spoken about his past after the Sri Lankan government accused him and a brother of being involved in the human trafficking business. Because of his excellent English, Kuhendrarajah became the voice of the boatload of nearly 250 Sri Lankan refugees tied up at Merak dock, in western Java, after it was intercepted by the Indonesian navy on an Australian intelligence tip-off early last month.

But now, fearful for the safety in Sri Lanka of his wife and three young children, who are trying desperately to also escape the country after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebellion was put down several months ago, he says he regrets having taken such a prominent role in the affair.

He has also admitted concealing facts about his life.

Kuhendrarajah agreed to speak out on the condition that his immediate family not be identified. The Australian has, however, spoken to Kuhendrarajah's wife in Sri Lanka , where she is awaiting travel documents she hopes will be organised within days.

"The Sri Lankan government is out to get me, they are going to try to crucify me, and they will do that by any means necessary," he said.

"The reason I'm speaking up against these allegations is to prove to the world that this government is cruel, that it has no mercy. They will do anything to try to discredit me and to ruin my family. If anything happens to my wife, if anything happens to my children, I will hold the Australian government and the Indonesian government responsible for their murders."

Kuhendrarajah said he grew up in Canada , after his family fled Sri Lanka following anti-Tamil riots in 1983. Arriving in Toronto via London - where his father remained after separating from Kuhendrarajah's mother, and is now a prosperous gold trader - the family joined relatives who had been in the multicultural city for more than two decades.

By his own admission, Kuhendrarajah's life went off the rails early, and at the age of 12 he became a ward of the state after running away from home and accusing his mother of abuse.

He says he eventually fell in with a Tamil street gang at the height of a Toronto turf war that left several people dead.

"The criminal conviction that had me deported was because as a child I made some very bad mistakes, and those mistakes cost me my entire life," he said.

Kuhendrarajah was, for about three years until his arrest in September 2000, a member of the A.K. Kannan gang, one of two major Tamil criminal organisations responsible for a reign of terror on Toronto 's streets. An uncle was also a senior leader of the gang.

"There were many fights, and these fights got bigger with each year," he said. "First people started fighting with their hands, and then people started fighting with small knives and then larger knives. It just escalated."

A.K. Kannan had started out as a small heroin-trading franchise but the conflict quickly exploded with its main rival, the VVT gang, named for the town of Valvettithurai in northern Sri Lanka where its leader originated.

Reports have linked VVT to funding for the Tamil Tigers, although Kuhendrarajah was adamant the battles, while originating in homeland discontents, were mainly about local issues.

More than a dozen tit-for-tat fatal shootings in the late 1990s forced authorities to act, rounding up for deportation several dozen gang members in late 2001.

By that time Kuhendrarajah, one of those identified for forced removal under a special organised crime section of the country's immigration act, had already spent a year in jail on the firearms and death-threat convictions, and was due for release.

"And that is the point where I learnt I wasn't a citizen," Kuhendrarajah said, revealing as he has done so many times in his short life a combination of acute intelligence and blind naivety.

"Growing up from the age of five, singing the national anthem every day of my life, at that point, at the age of 19, I thought I was a (Canadian) citizen. I just totally couldn't believe I wasn't - because my grandmother was a citizen, and my mother is a citizen, my uncles, my aunts are citizens, my grandfather was a citizen. And I just didn't understand how I could not be a citizen. But my mother had applied for citizenship while I was under the care of the Children's Aid Society, when I was 14, because I had run away from home, so I didn't receive it."

Canadian immigration department documents obtained by The Australian cite the view of a department panel in 2002 that it was "not persuaded the prospect (of rehabilitation) are good or even fair", after the incident for which he was arrested, and confirming his deportation order.

The documents show Kuhendrarajah was seized by police with a sawn-off .22 calibre semi-automatic handgun loaded with seven rounds, after having threatened to kill an opponent.

Kuhendrarajah described himself and his former gangmates yesterday as "spoilt brats who didn't have a mind to think for themselves", and claimed they were "used" by the gang leaders to wage power struggles in the city.

The court documents, however, describe him as living in a basement squat with other friends who were linked to kidnappings and assaults, and contain Kuhendrarajah's own admission that he had been involved in "petty crimes with friends" and fights in bars.

Kuhendrarajah was deported in 2003 to Sri Lanka , where he had no family but plenty of money from his wealthy relatives in Canada and London.

There he met his wife, with whom he moved in 2006 to Chennai in India , fearful of ongoing anti-Tamil violence in Sri Lanka .

"Eventually I did start a small business (in Chennai), and I think this is where the Sri Lankan government got the idea that I'm a people-smuggler," he said.

"I did not have an office, but I started a small business where for tours, or anybody that needed a vehicle to rent, I just rented out mine. And whilst doing this I started working in a call centre, because of my good command of English and my knowledge of American lifestyle and American culture. In the call centre in Chennai they loved me, and they were willing to pay me a lot of money. So as time went by I became very well off in India and I had a good life there."

On the understanding that his removal order from Canada lasted only five years, Kuhendrarajah began making plans last year to obtain Sri Lankan passports for his children - his wife gave birth to their third daughter just weeks ago, while he was hiding in Malaysia waiting to board the Lestari Jaya 5, the ill-fated boat that brought him to Australia's attention - and try again to make a North American home.

On their return from India to organise the passports, however, he said he was arrested by Sri Lankan authorities on suspicion of being a Tigers supporter and detained without charge for months.

After being released, he said, and brimming with frustration, he leapt at the opportunity a friend was offering to sail from Malaysia to Australia .

"The plan was for me to get out of the country immediately, and then as soon as my child was born, for them to follow however they could," he said. "I was determined that if I was able to get on to Christmas Island, that I would be able to tell the truth to the UNHCR, and they would be able to understand my situation, understand that I made mistakes when I was young, and it has been years since I left (Canada). My life has changed a lot since then.

"But I am not a Tiger, and I am not a people smuggler. I want to put these people (people smugglers) away as much as anyone does. They may now have cost me my family and my life."

COURTESY:THE AUSTRALIAN

Sri Lanka and Myanmar: Civilizational sisterhood

by Dr. Hema Goonatilake

One of the countries with a continuous memory of warm relations with Sri Lanka is Myanmar. These connections span over one thousand years. The best illustration of this is in the ruins of Bagan, the ancient capital of Myanmar and the cradle of its culture and civilization since the 11th century.

Bagan is a wonderful city which every Sri Lankan should visit. Its Buddhist monuments are great feats of construction in the ancient world, much greater than the construction of all (repeat all) the cathedrals of Europe whose erection had however been spread over nearly seven centuries - not the 150 years that the Bagan feat took.

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Myinkaba Kubyauk-gyi Temple

Sri Lanka’s contribution towards the consolidation of the Bagan Empire in terms of religion, culture and civilization is attested to in the Myanamar historical chronicles, inscriptions, art and architecture as well as in Sri Lankan chronicles. What Sri Lanka gained from Myanmar is equally significant. Myanmar’s return gifts to Sri Lanka - the Amarapura and the Ramanna sects contributed a great deal to the religious, cultural and educational renaissance in the 18th and 19th centuries, the influence of which continues up to now. Let me give a few snapshots of this deep relationship.

Some - by no means all - of the descriptions of our relationships are couched in pious tales of the miraculous. According to the Myanmar chronicles, the very first king of Bagan, Anawrahta (Anuruddha) made a miraculous trip to Sri Lanka in the 11th century to obtain a replica of the Tooth Relic from his friend Vijayabahu I. When Anawrahta received his request, he wished it replicated, and three more copies were miraculously produced.

King Anawrahta is said to have enshrined the original replica in the Shwezigon Pagoda in 1059 (archaeologists attribute it to the reign of Kyanzittha). The other three were enshrined in three other Pagodas attributed to Anawrahta, the most famous among them being Lawkananda Ceti. Situated on the river bank, Lawkananda is an ancient landmark near the old harbour where vessels from Sri Lanka, Arakan (Rakhine) and the Mon Ramannadesa anchored. The third pagoda stands across the river on Mt. Tangyi and the last on Mt. Tuywin.

Mahavamsa pictures

One of the most interesting sights in Bagan for Sri Lankans is the Mahavamsa episodes painted in the Myinkaba Kubyauk-gyi Temple in Bagan. This temple has pictorial illustrations of a large number of episodes covering the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka up to the reign of King Vijayabahu, the contemporary of King Anawrahta and Kyanzittha. The murals relate events from Asoka’s life including his paying homage to Moggaliputta Tissa Thera. There is also a sequence of panels depicting the first three Buddhist Councils. The scenes in these pictorial illustrations include: the Buddha's visits to Sri Lanka, Emperor Asoka and King Devanampiyatissa, Asoka's message and the gifts for Devanampiyatissa's coronation, Devanampiyatissa's meeting with Thera Mahinda and Theri Sanghamitta’s arrival in Sri Lanka carrying the Bodhi tree.

On another wall are the scenes from the life of the Mahavamsa hero, Dutthagamini, namely: his elephant Kandula, he being given the name Abhaya (fearless), Abhaya wanting to go out and fight the enemy, when his father forbids him, him sending his father a woman's dress making the father angry, King Elara and the number of villages he administered and his justice bell which was rung by a cow when his son drove his chariot over a calf. Elsewhere on the walls are the scenes relating to the activities of King Vasabha, Siri Sanghabodhi and the physician-king Buddhadasa.

It should be remembered that Myanmar historical writings themselves began under the guidance of Sinhala Bhikkhus. The Myanmar chronicles such as the Mahasammatavamsa, Rajavamsa and Sasanavamsa were directly modelled after the Mahavamsa.

King Elara’s bell and cow

There have been much political contacts between our two countries. The best connection was during the time of Vijayabahu when Myanmar helped us against the invading Cholas. Let me add a few more examples.

The premier historian of Myanmar, Gordon Luce has given evidence to show that there was a strong Sinhalese influence in the Bagan court during the reign of Narapatisithu. The latter's Queen Uchokpan was a Sinhalese princess, possibly the daughter of Parakramabahu.

In another reference in the Myanmar chronicle Hmaman Yasawinkyi, Alaungsithu of the 12th century, King of Myanmar (who was a contemporary of our Parakramabahu the Great) visited Sri Lanka. Alaungsithu married a daughter of the Sinhalese king and returned with an image of Maha Kassapa Thera who was highly venerated at the time in Sri Lanka.

(It was Maha Kassapa Thera who helped reform our sasana under Parakramabahu.)

But the political relations were sometimes antagonistic. The Culavamsa records that the Myanmar king caught sight of a letter addressed to the King of Cambodia in the hands of the Sinhalese envoys and suspecting that they were envoys sent to Cambodia, seized them and punished them. He also immediately stopped Sri Lanka's lucrative elephant trade with foreign countries, and captured the elephants, money and vessels of the Sinhalese envoys. But our major impact was in the realm of culture.

Sri Lankan monks’ monastery complexes

Illustrating the general prestige of Sinhalese monks, a Myanmar inscription dated 1268 A.C. claimed that the deeds of merit by the donor were witnessed by all the Sri Lankan monks. An inscription near the Sinhalese style Stupa (No. 1113) in the vicinity of the Tamani complex of monasteries dated 1271 A.C. recorded by Tissa Maha Thera is indicative of this. It describes the mission undertaken by a Bagan monk to Sri Lanka carrying a message from the King of Bagan to the Sri Lankan King requesting Sri Lankan monk teachers to go to Myanmar to propagate the Buddha’s message.

During the reign of King Narapatisithu and the period immediately thereafter, several large monastery complexes that were built in Bagan were dedicated to Sinhalese monks. Inscriptions and ruins of several monasteries belonging to this period demonstrate that a large number of influential Sri Lankan monks taught Myanmar monks and samaneras.

The monasteries where the Sri Lankan monks resided are located south of the old city. The monks from Sri Lanka came to be known also as the Tamani group or sect and the monasteries that they resided in were known as Tamani monasteries. The largest monastery complex identified as Tamani comprises three large monasteries, located near each other.

The above is only a brief and admittedly scrappy set of descriptions on the intensity of our relationships. I only hope that as many Sri Lankans would travel there as they do to Buddha Gaya and to Thailand. The people of Myanmar are friendly and travel there is quite easy and the prices quite reasonable.

COURTESY:SUNDAY TIMES

November 08, 2009

In Pictures: “Numbed”, Exhibition on sculpture by Bandu Manamperi

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother’s womb ~ Jean Arp or Hans Arp-German/ French Sculptor . (September 16th 1886, 1886 –June 7th 1966)

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Bandu Manamperi uses variety of techniques to explain his thoughts.

He is a founding member of the Theertha International Association, a visual artists group based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has participated in several exhibitions held in Sri Lanka and abroad. His exhibition is absolutely an unusual experience in the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene. [Click here to see and read in full~humanityashore.com]

Massacre in Fort Hood: Who was Major Nidal Hasan?

By M.S.Shah Jahan

“Someone had shot up the S.R.P. building [Soldier Readiness Processing Center] I am hiding”. It was Thursday 5th just before 2.p.m. [roughly SL time 01.30 a.m.] at Fort Hood Army post in Central Texas. Alyssa Marie Seace’s husband, Pfc. Ray Seace Jr., sent her the text message. News of the shooting set off panic among families and friends of the base personnel.

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The gunman, who was identified as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, is a psychiatrist who had previously worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was about to be deployed to Afghanistan-NY Times.com-more pics.

According to media, a balding, chubby-faced man, clad in a military uniform and firing an automatic pistol and another weapon, sprayed bullets inside a crowded medical processing center for soldiers returning from or about to be sent overseas

As the shooting unfolded, military police and civilian officers of the Department of the Army responded and returned the gunman’s fire. The killer was shot by a first-responder, a female soldier who was wounded in the exchange and the gunman received four other shots too. General Cone praised the first-responders and the medics who acted quickly to administer first aid at the scene.

As a parade of ambulances wailed to the scene of the shootings, officials said the extent of injuries to the wounded varied significantly, with some in critical condition and others lightly wounded. The final count was 12 dead and 31 wounded. All were military personnel except two civilians, the officials said. Witnesses told military investigators that medics working at the center tore open the clothing of the dead and wounded to get at the wounds and administer first aid.

Law enforcement authorities identified the killer as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, who had been in the service since 1995 and was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Who is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan?

He is a U.S. citizen, born and brought up in Virginia.

His parents emigrated from a small town near Jerusalem

long time ago and are both dead. They had been American citizens who owned businesses, including restaurants and a store, in Roanoke, Va. His mother’s obituary, in The Roanoke Times in 2001, said she was born in Palestine in 1952.

It described her as a restaurant owner “known for her ability to keep sometimes rowdy customers out of trouble and always had a warm meal for someone who otherwise would not have anything to eat that evening.”

Major Hasan had two brothers, one in Virginia and another in Jerusalem. The family, by and large, prospered in the United States. He joined the army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. But he said, no I was born here raised here, I am going to do my duty to the country. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. “He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy. He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there. He knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder” said a cousin, Nader Hasan, 40, a lawyer in Virginia, who described his cousin of a respectful, hard-working man who had devoted himself to his parents and his career, and became more devout after his parents died in 1998 and 2001.

Nader further said never mentioned in recent phone calls to Virginia that he was going to be deployed, and he said the family was shocked when it heard the news on television on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Hasan said he wanted to do whatever he could within the rules to make sure he wouldn’t go over.

“Few years ago, he consulted a lawyer whether he could get out of the Army before his contract was up, because he had received harassment as a Muslim. But the lawyer said even if he paid the Army back for his education, it would not allow him to leave before his commitment was up. I think he gave up that fight and was just doing his time,” Mr. Hasan said.

Former imam at a Silver Spring, Md., mosque where Major Hasan attended prayers for about 10 years described him as proud of his work in the Army and “very serious about his religion.” The former imam, Faizul Khan, said that Major Hasan had wanted to marry an equally religious woman but that his efforts to find one had failed. He wanted a woman who prayed five times a day and wears hijab, and maybe the women he met were not complying with those things,” the former imam said.

An owner of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Fort Hood, Texas, said Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan came in for coffee and hash browns most mornings, including the morning he allegedly shot dozens of soldiers.

Surveillance video from the store obtained by CNN shows a man who, according to the storeowner, is Hasan at the cashier's counter about seven hours before the mass shooting -- carrying a beverage and dressed in traditional Arab garb. "He looked normal, came in had his hash browns and coffee as you see in the surveillance video," the owner told CNN.

Another surveillance video from the store on Tuesday showed the man believed to be Hasan in scrubs. The owner said through his brief talks with Hasan he learned the officer's background was Jordanian, though he didn't speak Arabic well. He added that Hasan didn't wear a wedding ring and joked several times on whether the owner knew a bride for him. Hasan would also ask the owner whether he planned to attend Friday prayers, a mainstay of Islam, to which the owner would say that he was too busy.

Staff Sgt. Marc Molano, currently based at Fort Knox, Kentucky, told CNN that he was treated by Hasan for post-traumatic stress disorder in Washington earlier this year. "Dr. Hasan provided me with nothing but the best care," Molano said. "He was a very well-mannered, polite psychiatrist, and it's just a shock to know that Dr. Hasan could have done this. It's still kind of hard to believe."

Video: Hasan at convenience stodeo: Fort Hood shooter 'nged gunman's neighbor

A soldier said "Hasan hears nothing but these horror stories from soldiers who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan -- just hearing it I'm pretty sure would have a profound effect." Mindy B. Mechanic, an associate professor of psychology at California State University, Fullerton, said listening to horror stories can indeed have an impact, but was unlikely to have such an extreme one.

A former neighbor of Hasan said he lived in a high-rise apartment complex with another man, apparently his brother. "They had some Arabic signs out there, and I asked them what they meant," said the woman. [Allah in Arabic on the door] The other man told her it was a prayer, she said. "They seemed like they were nice people, the two men moved out three or four months ago. Honestly, they seemed like very cool, calm guys, and religious guys," she said. "It's kinda strange."

Sri Lanka: Trade and economic prospects

by Col R Hariharan

The European Council is likely to take a final decision on the extension of the GSP+ tariff concessions to Sri Lanka in the first week of January 2010, to become effective from middle of June, 2010. The investigation report compiled by the EU Committee on the effective implementation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka submitted to the EU Headquarters on Oct 19, 2009 is likely to influence the decision. The report is said to be negative and highlights a number of human rights concerns in Sri Lanka.

However, Sri Lanka Central Bank has said that Sri Lankan exports would not be adversely affected even if the EU withdrew the concession. Quoting the latest external trade data the Bank expected that exports to continue to increase during 2009 and 2010 regardless of the continuation of GSP+ concessions. Quoting the European Commission’s estimate, it assessed the benefits of lower import duties under the GSP+ scheme for the year 2008 at only 1.4% of Sri Lanka’s total exports. “So the loss of preferential duty margin by around 6-7% arising from a potential withdrawal of the GSP plus facility is not expected to have an adverse impact on Sri Lanka’s exports,” the Central Bank added.

It is assessed that loss of the zero tariff concessions could increase the price of Sri Lankan goods up to 10 per cent in the EU markets and make them less competitive. Apparel industry which forms about 45 percent of exports would be hard hit by the withdrawal of concessions. Opposition parties have warned it would mean loss of jobs and reputation of Sri Lanka.

Internally displaced people

The first ever delegation of Tamil Nadu parliamentarians made a five-day visit to Sri Lanka during the month. The 10-memebr “non official” delegation composed of members from the three political parties of the ruling coalition in New Delhi –– the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK)), the Congress party and the pro-LTTE Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) was ostensibly to understand the problems of Tamils, particularly war displaced people living in camps. Evidently, this was a political exercise to remove the stigma that these parties had not helped the Tamils during the war and later in freeing of the IDPs from government controlled camps. In spite of this political intention it was a welcome move as Tamil Nadu politicians were positively thinking about bringing amity between the two ethnic communities in Sri Lanka rather than taking up the Eelam litany to serve their own political ends.

The delegation visited IDP camps and submitted a report to the Tamil Nadu government. It spoke of a promise by President Rajapaksa that 58,000 IDPs would be released within a fortnight. The Sri Lanka government had planned the release even before the delegation’s visit; but it went along to substantiate the delegation’s claim and by the end of the month over 58,000 IDPs were allowed to return home. However, in Tamil Nadu there was only lukewarm interest with the political parties reverting to their original political positions. In particular, the VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan after a brief pause took up Eelam propaganda, trying to immortalize V Prabhakaran as a national hero of Tamils.

The Sri Lankan Minister for Youth Empowerment and Socio, Economic Development, Arumuga Thondaman visited Chennai to brief the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister apparently on Tamil IDP issue. According to him 1.86 lakh IDPs would continue to stay in camps during the monsoon period as their release was condtional to receiving certification from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on demining and humanitarian aspects. As of now, Sri Lanka government appears to have succeeded in satisfying ruling Tamil lobbies in Delhi and Chennai.

Human rights issues

Even as dust had not settled on the EU investigation report, Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, filed a report to U.S. Congress on incidents relating to violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity in the Sri Lanka war between January to May 2009. The report chronicled allegations of war crimes by both Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The Senate subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations has called for "a full and independent investigation" so those responsible can be "held accountable."

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also joined in the call for a similar investigation of Sri Lanka's war. These moves are likely to further strengthen the Sri Lanka Tamil Diaspora’s campaign demanding the trial of Sri Lanka army commander and government officials for carrying out genocide of Tamils during the war.

Given this climate of adverse publicity, it is not clear why the government is dragging its feet on taking strong measures to improve its human rights record. The government had generally been describing such criticisms as part of a deliberate international smear campaign. Even ministers in responsible positions had been making loose comments. Typical was the comment of Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka when the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included Sri Lanka among countries where women were raped during war. Although it could have ignored as a passing reference, the Prime Minister took her to task and linked it to Bill Clinton’s short-lived “affair” with Monica Lewinsky.

What Sri Lanka hopes to gain by such campaign is not clear. The anti-west posturing is probably connected with political rabble rousing for use in forthcoming elections. But already it is making things a little more difficult for Sri Lanka in handling international issues, particularly in the EU, UK and the U.S. And it could get worse when the genocide snowball gathers more momentum.

Political developments

President Mahinda Rajapaksa does not appear to have made up his mind on holding of presidential poll before the parliamentary poll due to be held in early 2010. He would be sacrificing two years of his present term by going for re-election. On the other hand he would like to use his current popularity to gain both a second term and a two thirds majority for his coalition in parliament.

The opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), despite their ideological differences, appear to be in agreement in fielding General Sarath Fonseka, who has become a national hero after routing the LTTE, as a common presidential candidate against President Rajapaksa. He would be eligible as he is due for retirement when his tenure as CDS ends in December 2009.

Such a move could strengthen the opposition in the President. However, reduce the margin of victory for Rajapaksa who has the political edge. There had been a great deal of speculation in the media about this which has caused concern to the ruling coalition. A subtle campaign is going on to bring down the role of Fonseka by upgrading Rajapaksa’s contribution in winning the war.

Adding insult to the injury the government offered him the appointment of secretary to the Ministry of Sports which the General turned down. We can expect President Rajapaksa to make political moves to dissuade the General from contesting even as the opposition brings pressure on him to contest the presidential poll.

Security

The security forces’ search operations in north and east have unearthed more arms caches during the month. About 60 LTTE members spotted among the IDPs are being sent to rehabilitation camps. Verification of LTTE documents is said to have revealed that the LTTE had supplied arms and ammunition worth Rs 400 crores to Indian insurgent groups particularly in Assam.

Based on information gained from interrogation of prisoners, police have arrested a number of people including police officers and government officials who had been on the pay roll of the LTTE. The CID has arrested Colonel Ranjith Perera and his wife and three others on suspicion of conspiring to assassinate the President. Their interrogation is going on.

However, so far there had been no indication of any fresh LTTE activity.

Crisis, what crisis? India stays calm as refugees keep coming

by Matt Wade

THERE is a country where leaky boats full of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers are turning up without triggering a political crisis.

In India more than 24,000 have arrived in the past three years, many by sea. Despite heavy naval patrolling of the narrow ocean channel that divides the countries, at least 1075 Sri Lankan Tamils have made it to India this year. Some put this year's arrivals at more than 3700.

The public reaction is in stark contrast to the recent frenzy over boat people in Australia. The media have taken little notice of the boat arrivals and national politicians have been allowed to concentrate on other challenges.

Some in Australia have asked why Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka don't just go the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, home to 60 million Tamil speakers. The answer is that more than 100,000 have done just that. About 73,000 of them live in special refugee camps funded and run by the Indian Government. Another 31,000 live in the community, mostly in cities such as Chennai.

India - where 800 million people live on less than $2 a day - does not encourage the flow of refugees from its small island neighbour. Even so they have been arriving in waves since the Tamil Tigers took up arms to fight for a separate homeland in north and east of Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. The war ended in May but refugees continue to arrive.

"It's often older people and the unskilled who come here," said a strategic analyst in Chennai, R. Hariharan, a retired colonel. "People who can't afford to pay the huge sums its takes to get to Australia or Canada."

There is sympathy for the refugees. In September the ruling party in Tamil Nadu passed a resolution calling on the national government to grant citizenship to all Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India. So far, New Delhi has shown no interest in the idea.

Not only Tamils seek sanctuary in India. The World Refugee Survey 2009, published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, found 456,000 refugees and asylum seekers in India. That includes about 110,000 Tibetans including the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. India also tolerates a huge number of Bangladeshis within its borders - many millions, by some estimates - although they are officially deemed illegal immigrants.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the numbers are even more confronting. Despite battling insurgency and economic collapse, Pakistan hosts nearly 2 million Afghan refugees. Tens of thousands of them have been allowed to set up businesses and make their home in Pakistan's cities and towns while they wait for the United Nations to find them a new home.

courtesy: The Sydney Morning Herald

Sarath Fonseka candidacy will divide Sri Lankan armed forces

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

divide

Presidential contest between Mahinda Rajapakse & Sarath Fonseka will politicise and divide Sri Lankan armed forces. Dismal prospects ahead!

refuse

President Rajapakse MAY refuse to accept Sarath Fonseka's resignation of Chief of Defence Staff post to prevent SF contesting elections

forbids

Since law forbids serving defence personnel from contesting President Rajapakse can keep Sarath Fonseka at bay by keeping him in "service"

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa (L), Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother and the Defence Secretary, stands with Chief of Defence Staff Donald Perera (2nd L), Army commander Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka (3rd L), the chief of the Navy Wasantha Karannagoda (4th L), Air Force Chief Roshan Goonatilake (5th L) and the heads of the Sri Lankan police force before a meeting to discuss the end of the 25-year civil war at the president's residence in central Colombo May 18, 2009-Reuters pic

Precedent

Precedent for President MR to decline Sarath Fonseka resignation is that of elections commissioner D.Dissanayake not being allowed to retire

Irredeemable

SriLanka will fall from the Mahinda Rajapakse frying pan into Sarath Fonseka fire. Irredeemable harm will be caused to Country if SF wins

betrayal

UNP,SLMC,DPF&SLFP(M)are blundering by supporting Sarath Fonseka's presidential candidacy.History will record this folly as great betrayal

people and parties

Tamil & Muslim political parties may support Sarath Fonseka for presidency BUT Tamil & Muslim people WONT vote for SF the Sinhala supremacist

renounce

Best Proof of "SL patriotism" is for all ministers & senior officials in Rajapakse regime to renounce their citizenship in western countries

conspiracy

Sri Lanka's ambassador to US Jaliya Wickramasuriya is a Canadian citizen.Rajapakse regime fight "international conspiracy "with" foreigners"

boasting

Sarath Fonseka who "retreated rapidly" from US to avoid "interview" is now boasting to Sinhala media that he defied the Americans & returned

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Non-partisan claim of Dr. Rohan Guneratne challenged

recent tweet updates from D.B.S. Jeyaraj twitter pages:

Canadian lawyers

Canadian lawyers representing Tamil refugees in Vancouver protest about Dr. Rohan Guneratne being cited as non - partisan authority on LTTE

tortured

Army spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara says LTTE's KP is NOT being tortured IN Panagoda. Now that denial makes me feel KP is BEING TORTURED THERE

difficult conditions

Monsoon rains are on. IDP's in Vavuniya internment camps are facing difficult conditions. Those IDP's re-located elsewhere also suffering

re-locating

Is Govt actually re-settling IDP"s in their original homes or merely re-locating them elsewhere away from existing internment camps?

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

National security notion lies in defending human rights enshrined in constitution

by Nirmala Chandrahasan

The notion of ‘National Security’ is generally regarded as being in conflict with Human Rights. I would like to express a different view. National security is multi faceted and human rights are also encompassed within this concept.

The security of the nation which has to be protected is not only the physical security of the people and the state from internal armed attack or external aggression but also the way of life of the people expressed in the democratic freedoms and the human /fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

In a war situation the notion of national security takes on the connotation of defending the State from the threat of armed force or attacks directed against it, either from internal sources or from third states. In this context it may be required to restrict or curtail some of the human rights in the larger interest. Article 15(7) of the Constitution takes note of this type of situation inter alia, and provides that the Fundamental (human) Rights contained in articles 12,13(1) ,13(2) and 14 shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national security, public order and the protection of public health and morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, or for meeting the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society.

It will be noted that the threat perception is not confined to armed attack. Public health, morality the rights and freedoms of others, welfare of a democratic society are all matters which are given equal importance. Threats to the nation can be in the form of epidemics affecting health, or threats to the democratic way of life of the people. These would all come within the notion of national security where these considerations have to be protected some of the human rights i.e. rights of equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest detention and punishment, freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement may be restricted. However the section does not cover articles 10 and 11, i.e. freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition against torture. These rights cannot be derogated from in any circumstances.

It will be noted that Article 4 of the ICCPR,( International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) states that "in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation……the States parties to the Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation provided that such measures shall not be inconsistent with their obligations under international law, and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin".

Furthermore no derogations from articles 6,7,8 11,15,16 and 18 may be made. These articles include the right to life, freedom from torture and slavery. Hence it is clear that article 15(7) of our constitution when taken in consonance with the international human rights instruments which as stated in the ‘Bangalore principles’ provide important guidelines in cases concerning fundamental rights and freedoms, may provide for derogations to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.

Where as presently obtains the armed conflict is over, national security focuses once again on protecting the democratic way of life of the nation and the rights of the citizens enshrined in the Constitution. For it is these rights that constitute the security of the people and it is these rights which the state has to protect. Thus the right to freedom of conscience and right to practice one’s religion, equality before the law and non discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex etc, as well as freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment, and the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association, lawful occupation, movement and of choosing ones residence within Sri Lanka are all rights which have to be secured. They must be applicable to all the people without discrimination Hence the rights of the internally displaced persons to movement within the country, employment, freedom from arrest and detention etc must be safeguarded by the state just as much as much as it safeguards the rights of other citizen of the country.

It is not only the political rights of the citizen that must be protected; their economic well being must also be protected. Hence the people have to be protected against corruption, waste, misappropriation of public funds and misuse of public funds. It must also be recognized that custodians of public order who do not maintain law and order are also endangering the national security of the citizens. Furthermore national security is best maintained where the rulers i.e. the bureaucracy and the political class are aware of and show concern for and solidarity with, the sufferings of the people. In neighbouring India the Congress President Sonia Gandhi has directed the Congress MPs and Ministers to show solidarity with the farmers of the country who were suffering due to the unprecedented drought by taking austerity measures.

Congress MPs have been asked to donate 25% of their salaries towards drought relief measures, and ministers and bureaucrats have been asked to give up staying in expensive hotels and to travel economy class. Even the corporate sector is being asked to cut unnecessary expenditure and the huge salaries paid to CEOs of companies. These are measures which could be followed by politicians in Sri Lanka too, where the masses are suffering from the high cost of living. On the other hand those politicians who follow the attitude encapsulated in the purported remark of Queen Marie Antoinette that "if the populace does not have bread let them eat cake", might keep in mind the disastrous consequences of this attitude for the monarchy in France.

To conclude I would like to quote from an American case where an agency of the State claimed to be acting on the basis of national defense. The court said "the concept of national defense cannot be deemed to be an end in itself. Implicit in the concept of national defense is the notion of defending those values which set this nation apart."

Similarly we may say of Sri Lanka one of the oldest democracies in Asia that implicit in the notion of national security is the notion of defending those values i.e. the human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the democratic way of life, which the people of the country consider as part of their heritage.

Rajaratnam: a 'living buddha' under suspicion

by Mel Gunasekera

Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire financier facing insider trading charges in the United States, is recalled in stone in one of the villages he helped recover from the Asian tsunami in 2004.

A black granite monument honours the "Galleon Housing Scheme", named after his Galleon Group hedge fund, in the palm-fringed and rustic village of Rathgama, 112 kilometres (70 miles) south of the capital Colombo.

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This photo taken on October 29 shows Sri Lankan W. Ariyapal (left) inside his house built by Raj Rajaratnam. Rajaratnam, a billionaire financier facing insider trading charges in the United States, is recalled in stone in one of the villages he helped recover from the Asian tsunami in 2004. (AFP/Ishara S.Kodikara)

Some of his most ardent fans want an even more visible tribute to his decision to build 100 new homes after the tsunami that killed 31,000 people in Sri Lanka.

"We will continue to push for the Galleon name on our street," said retired post-master Upasiri Sumanaratne, 75, a resident of the housing scheme.

"He is our living Buddha. It's our turn to pray for him in his time of trouble."

Far away in the United States, Rajaratnam stands accused of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, charges he intends to fight. Prosecutors say he and his alleged co-conspirators earned 20 million dollars in improper gains.

Rajaratnam, 52, is a man of mixed roots and many faces, nowhere more so than in his native land of Sri Lanka, where he has friends, foes and admirers.

Previously little known outside financial circles in New York, where he built up tremendous wealth as the boss of his hedge fund, he has a more public profile in Sri Lanka, his country of birth.

Here, he is revered by some for his midas touch as one of the biggest investors in Sri Lankan companies. He is a generous donor for humanitarian causes.

But among hawks in the government establishment, suspicions linger that he is a sympathiser and funder of the dreaded Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought a three-decade battle for independence.

"Raj is an LTTE fund-raiser and an activist in LTTE transactions. We have shared this information over the years with the US authorities," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters last Thursday.

The sort of charity work carried out in Rathgama has fuelled the allegations of financing terrorism -- strongly denied by Rajaratnam -- in this highly polarised country that has been gripped by war for over 30 years.

Rajaratnam is a member of the Tamil minority in whose name the Tamil Tiger rebels fought a brutal insurgency against government forces for an independent homeland, deploying suicide bombers and child soldiers.

They were finally defeated in May after an onslaught by government forces.

Probes here found that the financier had donated two million dollars to the US-based Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, which was eventually banned in 2007 by the United States and Sri Lanka for links with the rebels.

But investigators at the central bank, the top authority on financial transactions, concluded the money was given before the ban and was donated "in good faith".

He and his father were nevertheless named in a civil lawsuit in the United States on behalf of victims of Tamil Tiger violence. His lawyers have rejected the funding allegations and denied any links.

Some here are keen to stress that Rajaratnam's support for charities cuts across ethnic lines.

Ajit Gunawardene, deputy chairman of the John Keells Holdings group, of which Rajaratnam is the second biggest shareholder, with an 8.0 percent equity stake, remembers his reaction to the tsunami disaster in 2004.

"He happened to be here when the tsunami hit us. He was moved by the devastation and gave his own money to build houses," Gunawardene told AFP.

"His only request was to spread the money in the north, east and south."

Channelled through the John Keells charity arm, the five million dollars Rajaratnam donated was spent to build nearly 400 houses for the island?s ethnic groups -- Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, he said.

Last month, Sri Lanka's justice ministry thanked Rajaratnam for millions of dollars donated to rehabilitate child soldiers conscripted by the Tigers.

Listed as the world's 559th richest person by Forbes magazine, with a net worth estimated at 1.3 billion dollars, Rajaratnam is also one of the biggest investors in Sri Lanka, capable of moving markets with every decision.

The tiny 10-billion-dollar Colombo Stock Exchange, currently one of the best performing markets in the world, lost two percent of its value on news of his arrest.

"Raj was by far the biggest foreign hedge fund investing in a few publicly quoted and private companies in Sri Lanka," said Murtaza Jafferjee, chief executive of JB Securities, a private brokerage, who managed Rajaratnam's investments in Sri Lanka until three years ago.

"I'm really shocked and surprised by the charges," he said.

Rajaratnam grew up in Colombo's elite neighbourhood and studied at a private Christian primary school, Saint Thomas Preparatory College, that overlooks the Indian Ocean.

His father, J. M. Rajaratnam, headed the local unit of sewing multinational Singer Industries and moved the family to Britain and then the United States, where Raj created the hedge fund and went on to make his millions.

Rajaratnam's New York-based Galleon fund firm manages 3.7 billion dollars in investments. - courtesy: AFP

courtesy: Financial Times London

Opposition too hasty in supporting Sarath Fonseka

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

too hasty

Opposition too hasty in supporting Sarath Fonseka as common candidate. Country will fall from frying pan into fire. Army will be politicised

what awaits?

Sarath Fonseka opines Sri Lanka belong to Sinhalese alone & minorities cannot demand anything. What fate awaits non-Sinhalese if SF is prez?

sfmrsla118.jpg

Sri Lankan army troops move past the portrait of President Mahinda Rajapakse and Army Chief Sarath Fonseka during the National Victory Ceremony in Colombo June 3, 2009-Reuters pic.

autocratic

Sarath Fonseka is an autocratic Sinhala Buddhist supremacist. Under SF Sri Lanka will be turned into a "malevolent military dictatorship".

Difference

Difference between current Rajapakse regime & "future" Fonseka dispensation will be like the differences between Tweedledee & Tweedledum. Tee Hee!

rapprochement

Frantic efforts underway by mutual friends to bring about rapprochement between estranged Sarath Fonseka & Gotabhaya Rajapakse. Stay tuned!

munificent

Mahinda Rajapakse sends many"peace"brokers to woo Sarath Fonseka away from opposition party folds by making munificent offers. Stay tuned!

jet lag

Upon arrival in Colombo Sarath Fonseka declined president Mahinda'Rajapaksas invitation for meeting saying he was suffering from Jetlag

withstand

one way for govt to break/withstand evolving opposition unity is to have presidential&parliamentary elections simultaneously.Cuts costs too

will he

Will Mahinda Rajapakse have early presidential election if Combined opposition backs Sarath Fonseka as common Presidential candidate?

Mahadanamutha

Mahinda appoints 5 member panel to"examine"US State dept report on SL human rights violations. Mahadanamutha/ Paramarthaguru and 5 disciples?

"patriotic games"

Lesson from "adventures" of Gota-Sarath in US. Those playing "patriotic games" must be ready to"sacrifice"US citizenship& green card status

Raj Rajaratnam

Dual citizens Gotabhaya, Basil, Moragoda & Kohona regarded as Sri Lankans but Raj Rajaratnam is described as Sri Lanka born in media. Why Ah?

foot in mouth disease

Bogollagama suffering from foot in mouth disease has exposed the Rajapakse-Fonseka rift clearly through his press conference statements

fantasy

FM Rohitha fancies himself as the Knight who charged on his horse Jaliya & rescued Princess Sarath from US dragon & brought the lady home safely

token

Govt decides to give every soldier will be two empty artillery shell cases each as a souveneir and as "token of gratitude"for fighting LTTE

scraps

Govt scraps earlier idea of selling empty artillery shell cases as 41 tons of "scrap metal" to Singapore firm at 150 rupees per kilo.

related digest of tweets by dbsj on transCurrents.com:

- Gotabhaya receives US query on violation of Human Rights

- Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka may resign his Chief of Defence Staff post

- Sarath Fonseka in Strategic Withdrawal

- Is Gota trying to "fix" Sarath or Sarath trying to "psycho" Gota?

- Why is Gota, JVP, JHU & Bogollagama in panic about US quizzing Sarath Fonseka ?

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Miss Sri Lanka Jacqueline Fernandez enters Bollywood with Aladin

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

JFTC118FB.jpg

dandy

Went for Hindi movie "Aladin "just to see Bollywood debut of Miss Sri Lanka Universe Jacqueline Fernandez. She looks dandy! Nice eye candy!

Jacqueline Fernandez

Jacqueline Fernandez looks like a composite of Hollywood's Rene Russo & Bollywood's Rakhee Gulzar, Parveen Bhabi, Sonu Walia & Sushmitha Sen

Success

"Aladin" seems to have flopped at box office but Leading lady from Lanka Jacqueline Fernandez dazzles and lights up screen. Wish her success

Aladin- Music Launch- Interview with Jacqueline Fernandez (Miss Sri Lanka 2006)

AJFTC118.jpg

Jacqueline Fernandez on twitter

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November 07, 2009

World press coverage 'negative' on Australia's handling of boat people stand-off

by Cameron Houston, New York ~ The Age.com.au

THE Federal Government's tough stance on asylum seekers is attracting international media attention - most of it critical and likely to damage Australia's standing.

As the impasse involving 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on an Australian Customs ship enters its fourth week, The New York Times heaped opprobrium on Australia's policy of processing refugees at the Christmas Island detention centre. The newspaper compared the centre to Guantanamo Bay.

''Even as boats arrive every few days, advocates for refugees and even the Government's own human rights commission are urging the Government to close the place down and sort the asylum seekers on the mainland,'' The New York Times reported.

It cited a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission which said the centre ''looks and feels like a prison'' and described security as ''excessive and inappropriate''.

''The centre … now nearly full with refugees from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, has come to symbolise what many call one of Australia's defining fears: the arrival of boat people from Asia,'' reporter Norimitsu Onishi said.

Reports by the BBC have also been critical of Australia's reluctance to share responsibility for the tide of asylum seekers.

''Australia receives just a fraction each year of what the UN estimates to be more than 15 million refugees globally, but the issue has split the country,'' the BBC reported recently.

And attempts by the Rudd Government to persuade Indonesia to process the 78 asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking have rankled media organisations in Malaysia and Singapore, just a week before the APEC summit.

Malaysia's New Straits Times said the Rudd Government's response was motivated by self-preservation and selfish gain.

''Border protection, border security, is ingrained in the Australian psyche. From the 'reds under the bed' parodied paranoia of Robert Menzies' 1950s, successive governments of both mainstream persuasions have pandered to the politics of fear of invasion,'' the New Straits Times reported.

But the Government's handling of the crisis has won editorial support in Canada, which detained 76 Sri Lankan refugees who arrived by boat last month.

''Canada should emulate Australia in being vigilant and trying to intercept such ships before they get close to shore,'' said Canada's Globe and Mail.

Unlike Australia, however, Canadian authorities processed most of the Tamil refugees within days of arrival.

Under Canadian law, an asylum seeker must be given a detention hearing within 48 hours of being taken into custody. - courtesy: the age.com.au

From Here to Hanoi

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Vietnam was the first country to be informed by Sri Lanka of its victory over the Tigers. It was from the on the record remarks of a top Vietnamese leader that I learned that. In their separate speeches of welcome, the President, Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling Communist party of Vietnam all congratulated the Sri Lankan President for “the country’s historic victory over the LTTE” and promised to cooperate in “the elimination of the remnants of the LTTE”. On the issue of whether or not the Sri Lankan victory over the Tigers was one worth celebrating, the word of leaders who, as young men, actively fought the world’s mightiest superpower and won has an overriding credibility and authority.

VHTC118.jpg

A woman sits making flags with a sewing machine in her tinny shop selling political decorative items including flags, banners, communist signs and portraits of Karl Max-Lenin and Ho Chi Minh in downtown Hanoi on July 15, 2009-pic: pic: Getty images

Vietnam hosts an international Buddhist Conference next year but it’s purely part of the cultural matrix and plays no role in the identity of the state. This is because they have separated religion from the state and government. Vietnam is successfully Janus faced, balancing the continued emotive commemoration of its sufferings, sacrifices and victories in the wars against imperialist intervention ( so much for those who say we must forget the Tigers and the war) with a forward looking, liberalized economy (so much for those who want to stay mired in a wartime mindset and mood). There is a lighter ideological touch in Vietnam than there is in Sri Lanka. The past is part of the fabric of identity and culture and ideology weigh less heavily on the people than they do in Sri Lanka.

NVATC118.jpg

A North Vietnamese tank crashes through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon on April 30, 1975. The taking of the palace marked the fall of the U.S.-backed south and the end to a decade of fighting-pic: NYTimes archives

On April 30th 1975 as I watched on my TV screen in London, a North Vietnamese tank pushed its barrel through the bars of the main gate of the Presidential palace in Saigon, broke it open and rolled over it like some war elephant. 34 years later I was at a banquet at the same palace hosted by the Chairman of the Peoples Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, who had joined the resistance fighters while in his teens. Next to me was a highly articulate and relatively young man who had done two years of postgraduate studies at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts and had just sat for his advanced political training examination at the Higher Party Academy. Throughout the dinner we discussed and debated Vietnamese foreign policy options in the 1970s --and this was a cadre attached to the Municipal authority of Ho Chi Minh City; the interface of the Foreign Ministry and the Municipality! We should be lucky to have Ministers, let alone officials and Left party cadres of this intellectual caliber and pragmatic open-mindedness. At one point President Rajapakse interrupted from across the table, mentioning smilingly that he had just told the top Vietnamese official next to him that I was very knowledgeable about the history of the Vietnamese CP and the revolutionary struggle.

Flashback: The first thing I did when having finished a lengthy chat over breakfast, Mahinda Rajapakse invited me to join him the next day on the first ever state visit by a Lankan leader to Vietnam, was to go to the BMICH and switch my tickets for the Mt Lavinia Hotel jazz concert from the Saturday to Sunday. There was only one disappointment: percussionist Sunil de Silva, my first cousin, hadn’t turned up from Sydney, but the rest of it was great and Sanja and I were glad we had got away from the high politics and the house repairs. It was great to see Mignonne still in action, guiding the band, Grooving High. We should all look so good and be as gracefully spirited at her age. In my early 50s, I belong to the generation that knew her as Mignonne Ratnam and had bought the ‘Jetliners at the Taj’ album. I still remember her from my boyhood, when she used to play the Yamaha organ at the Taprobane’s Blue Leopard (wearing a long slinky, glitzy slit dress). My mum Lakshmi de Silva had taught her at St Bridget’s and Mervyn knew Tony Fernando.

Jerome Speldewinde was of course the maestro, the Man, El Hombre, though I wish he had given himself a more challenging repertoire. With that voice he should be singing Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. He did the very best version of Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy that I have heard, supercharging and Latinizing it in the same go. I told him he’s good enough to be playing Montreaux. He told me I was lucky to have been there and more than once and that if I’m back here maybe people like himself should think of coming back too. I didn’t know what to say.

Good as he was, and he was the best, what made me happiest were young Dellain Joseph and Natasha Rathnayake though not necessarily always in that order. It’s a heck of a lot easier for me to answer some of the questions that GV posters ask me like “what’s a nice intellectual like you doing with someone like Mahinda Rajapakse?” or words to that effect, than to decide whether Natasha or Dellain is the better singer. Depends on the song I guess. Natasha was better accompanying Jerome on God Bless the Child than Dellain was, but it was reversed when the same trio did Ain’t No Sunshine. I’d love to hear Jerome, Natasha and Dellain sing with Harsha Makalanda on the keyboard.

Mignonne represented continuity and Natasha and Dellain connected us back with the great Sri Lankan divas such as Yolande Bawan and Erin de Selfa. We‘ve still got the talent and social and cultural space; Cultural conformism hasn’t been able to stamp it out, I thought.

Flash forward: This new candidacy thing, maybe it’s the Black Swan event we needed; the game changer. In the first place it makes all those speculations about how we are almost the same as the Tigers look silly. Godfrey Gunatilleke (Uncle Godfrey to me) had told me some weeks back that he believes in the “reiterative principle in History”. He was right. The very possibility of a close run race reiterates the quintessentially competitive, democratic character of the Sri Lankan system, in contradistinction to Prabhakaran’s rule in the North east not to mention Hitler’s and Stalin’s. (Some Gulag Island, though my favorite bit of punditry was the quote propped Hitler-MR parallels of a Sunday before turning into cheering a possible democratic renewal a Sunday after). I thought it pretty un-Hitlerian for a Hitler to risk losing power by chancing an election anytime after he had assumed power through one!

The Black Swan entry splits the ultranationalists and will draw a line of demarcation between the militarist hyper-nationalists and the relatively more moderate or pragmatic nationalists. It potentially enables the demarcation of a Third space between the militarist “majoritarians” and the neoliberal “minoritarians”. It enables the recognition that if anyone is auditioning for Hitler or Mussolini, it sure ain’t Colombo civil society’s favorite bad guy MR or the trimmer mustached GR! The peeling off, jettisoning or marginalizing of the hardest line Sinhala chauvinists elements from the mainstream ruling coalition is a necessary precondition for the reassertion of a centrist nationalism and unblocking the transition to a stable peace. It enables the posing of the question, to whom does Sri Lanka belong: the Sinhala Buddhist alone, the pro-west Fat cat elite, or all of us who were born and live here; all of us citizens?

Back to Jerome Speldewinde winding up the show and zipping his guitar case at the Mount. Some BB members and GV bloggers may say it’s the Dayan Paradox, though I prefer the more alliterative and accurate Dayan Dialectic: how can Dr DJ dwell in both the (erstwhile pro-war) statist-patriotic space and the (pacifist) nonconformist jazz space. Sri Lanka is one of those few places that would be considered a paradox, but the Sri Lankan cultural and political personalities or identities are split, and this schizophrenia is a key to comprehending our crisis. F. Scott Fitzgerald, echoing Blaise Pascal, commended the ability to hold together two absolutely antithetical ideas at the same time, the hallmark of a first rate mind. As for me, I’m thinking, we produce - we have—singers like Natasha and Dellain and soldiers like Shavendra de Silva and Prasanna Silva. Damn it, we’re good.

Gotabhaya receives US query on violation of Human Rights

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

as a US citizen

Gotabhaya receives letter from US querying whether he as a US citizen was/is involved in any violation of Human Rights in any other country

Basil Rajapakse

US letter sent to Basil Rajapakse querying whether he as a US citizen was/is involved in any violation of Human Rights in any other country

Milinda Moragoda

US letter sent to Milinda Moragoda querying whether he as a US citizen was/is involved in any violation of Human Rights in any other country

Jaliya Wickramasuriya

SL envoy to US Jaliya Wickramasuriya advises Gotabhaya Rajapakse to get legal advice about relinquishing/retaining def secy's US citizenship

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A Sri Lankan soldier stands in front of a poster displaying pictures of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa,and heads of the military forces in central Colombo May 17, 2009-Reuters pic.

Foreign Secy Romesh Jayasinghe

"Note Verbale" by SL Foreign Secy Romesh Jayasinghe to US envoy Patricia Butenis requested US "facilitation" to ensure return of Sarath to SL

US citizenship

US "Officially"asks Gotabhaya,Basil & Milinda whether they want to retain their US citizenship. All three reply that they want to remain so

US citizen Gota

In Sep 2009 US citizen Gota was"escorted"to room at John F Kennedy airport and quizzed for 50 minutes on his "activities" abroad in Sri Lanka

fight now

They fought to get sole credit for victory over LTTE as war heroes. Now they fight each other to prevent US charging them as war criminals

home leave

Soldiers who fought final stages of battles against LTTE have not been given home leave since May.Rising discontent among rank&file in North

pay hike

President Mahinda Rajapakse verbally promises a 'hardiving allowance' pay hike to all army personnel stationed in any part of the Country

coup d'etat ?

Fear of a military coup d'etat ? Gajabahu regiment loyal to Gotabhaya Rajapakse placed in charge of security for Colombo city and environs!

Gajabahu Gota

Sinha regiment will guard only area up to Sarath Fonseka's office at army hqrs. Armoured corps will guard Defence ministry & rest of area

related digest of tweets by dbsj on transCurrents.com:

- Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka may resign his Chief of Defence Staff post

- Sarath Fonseka in Strategic Withdrawal

- Is Gota trying to "fix" Sarath or Sarath trying to "psycho" Gota?

- Why is Gota, JVP, JHU & Bogollagama in panic about US quizzing Sarath Fonseka ?

about twitter.com

TWEET IDEAS: 13 Things to Do on Twitter Besides Tweet

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Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka may resign his Chief of Defence Staff post

from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka may resign his Chief of Defence Staff post on or after November 10th and declare intention to contest future elections

meet the press

Sarath Fonseka whisked away in helicopter to Army grounds without being allowed to meet press when he arrived in KIA at 4.35 am on Nov 5th.

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Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka takes part in a ceremony at the army head quarters in Colombo July 15, 2009.-Reuters pic

put on plane

Sarath Fonseka put on plane to Dubai by SL envoy to Washington Jaliya Wickramasuriya. SF reached Colombo by SriLankanAirlines flight UL 228

without wife

SL defence ministry urgently summoned Sarath Fonseka to return. SF cut short his US stay & hurriedly flew back alone without wife & bodyguards

Colombo pleads

Colombo pleads with US envoy Patricia Butenis & gets US homeland security dept to cancel "voluntary" Nov 4th meeting with Sarath Fonseka.

complained

Sarath F met Gothabhaya R on Friday (nov 6) afternoon & complained about his security being reduced. Recent US matters were also discussed

takes over

Sinha regiment removed from security duties at army headquarters &replaced by Gajaba regiment. Now Gemunu Watch takes over duties from GR

slams phone

Gota & Sarath argue on telephone on army major suspension."Don't teach me discipline" says Gota. "this is not justice" says Sarath & slams phone

suspended

An Major from Artillery Regiment at Panagoda regarded as being closely linked to Sarath Fonseka is suspended pending disciplinary inquiry

slashed

Sarath Fonseka's personal security slashed drastically. The ex- army chief complains to PM Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and def secy Gotabhaya R

Mano

DPF chief Mano Ganesan probes Sarath Fonseka on 3 more issues.

1.National ethnic question.
2.aboilition of executive presidency&
3. bribery-corruption

Wanni demography

Democratic Peoples Front led by Mano Ganesan wants Sarath Fonseka to reveal his stance on IDP re-settlement without changing Wanni demography

common

Ranil, Rauff, Mano & Mangala agree to support Sarath Fonseka as common opposition presidential candidate after discussions with ex-army chief

met

Sarath Fonseka met with Ranil Wickremasinghe (UNP), Rauff Hakeem (SLMC) Mano Ganesan (DPF) & Mangala Samaraweera (SLFP-M) from 8-10 pm on Nov 6th

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

related digest of tweets by dbsj on transCurrents.com:

- Sarath Fonseka in Strategic Withdrawal

- Is Gota trying to "fix" Sarath or Sarath trying to "psycho" Gota?

- Why is Gota, JVP, JHU & Bogollagama in panic about US quizzing Sarath Fonseka ?

about twitter.com

TWEET IDEAS: 13 Things to Do on Twitter Besides Tweet

Click here to join twitter

President Obama, one year after

by Rajan Philips

The first anniversary of his resounding victory in last year’s Presidential election has been more blues than roses for Barack Obama. In widely watched gubernatorial elections last Tuesday in New Jersey and Virginia, the Democratic Party came up short. The Democrats lost New Jersey after 12 years, while in Virginia the President’s Party could not consolidate last year’s victory for the first time in a presidential election in forty years.

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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks with his family (2nd L-R), mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughter Sasha, first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before their departure for a weekend to Camp David November 7, 2009-Reuters pic

The Democrats did win other minor State and local elections, and the few off-year elections are of no direct legislative consequence in Washington. But the pin-prick defeats have made a chink in the Obama aura and are worrisome to the Democrats as they look ahead to next year’s Congressional elections. The Republican victories may not mean much for the rejuvenation of the Party in the short term, but are a huge fillip to the far rightwing that is doing everything possible to distract America from Obama’s agenda.

What is Obama’s agenda? The answer lies in the eyes of the beholders. For his rightwing detractors, Obama is the bridgehead of socialism, nothing less. The Obama detractors are the scumbags of American politics who have taken advantage of the disarray in the Republican Party leadership and stepped in to dominate the opposition to Obama. They have taken control of the American airwaves at several locations and are propagating all manner of lies and libels to discredit everything that the Obama Administration is doing. The undertone of racism in their attacks is all too audible. And racist remarks can now be dressed up as expressions of honesty against the hypocrisy of political correctness.

Moderate Republicans have been worried that the takeover of the Party by rightwing extremists would further alienate moderate Americans and independent voters. Republican defeats in these elections would have been enough to put them on a shorter leash. On the contrary, the two gubernatorial victories have given them unlimited bragging rights.

Equally, the Republican victories will force Obama and his Administration to be on the defensive and further disenchant his youthful and multihued supporters. It was their energy and enthusiasm that enabled Obama to not only defeat the beleaguered Republican candidate John McCain but earlier secure the Democratic nomination from the very formidable Hillary Clinton. These supporters notably stayed home in the New Jersey and Virginia elections, while the independent voters who supported Obama last year went over to the other side in both states. Reassuringly for the Democrats, however, the same voters have indicated in the exit polls that they are still supportive of the Obama presidency.

Within the Democratic ranks, the meaning of the Obama agenda is now more tentative, if not confusing, and has ceased to be galvanizing as it used to be earlier. “Yes, we can” has now been downsized to “what we can.” It is no longer the politics of presiding over change, but the Churchillian take that “politics is the art of the possible.” Essaying in the Harper’s magazine, Kevin Baker, the novelist, elevates Obama as being the first American president in forty years (after Lyndon Johnson?) “to convey any gravitas”, but bemoans in the same breath that although Obama’s failure would be unthinkable he is bound to fail “because he will be unable – indeed he will refuse – to seize the radical moment at hand.”

In a remarkable comparison, Baker compares Obama not to Franklin Roosevelt, who led America out of the Great Depression, but to President Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt’s predecessor and a man of great engineering and managerial competence, who however lost the political plot and the re-election on account of his dealing with the beginnings of the Depression. Baker’s contention is that like Hoover on the eve of the Great Depression, President Obama, in the midst of the great recession, will shy away from fundamental changes and will court political failure by opting for prudence and caution where creative boldness is required.

Obama’s dilemma

All of this is not to minimize the extent of the challenges that Obama is facing, or to cast doubts on the sincerity of the man. Writing in this weekly following his inauguration, I described President Obama in paradoxical terms – “Insider as Outsider”. He is a quintessentially conventional American caught in a vortex of radical expectations. In his inaugural, he justifiably articulated the radical potential of his nation’s founding promises, just as he had earlier argued with eloquence in the celebrated ‘race speech’ about America’s inherent capacity to provide for equality between the races. But having raised expectations about ‘change’, he now faces attacks from the extreme right for doing too much and alienation by the liberal left for doing too little. Middle America, long accustomed to politically muddle through the experience and dream of material prosperity, is now cranky about the economic situation and cautious about doing anything too radical about it. That is Obama’s dilemma.

On the domestic front, the economic crisis, the health care mess and the energy and environmental problems are his inheritances and not his creations. The difference is conveniently lost on his rightwing detractors. Worse, in characterizing his approaches to addressing these issues as pathways to socialism, they have effectively put him on the defensive. They successfully mobilized vocal opposition throughout the summer months to his modest reform proposals and forced him to address the Congress and the country, in September, solely on the health issue. In a memorable line, he said that he is not the first president to try to resolve the health issue, but he is “determined to be the last.”

President Clinton has given the warning that the vast rightwing conspirators are doing to the Obama presidency what they did to him during his eight years in office. Unlike the erratic genius that Bill Clinton was, Barack Obama is perfection personified, save for the trip to Copenhagen to make a pitch for hometown Chicago to win the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics. But that perfection has not helped him with his rightwing opponents. The naivety of his campaign undertaking to bring the Republicans and Democrats together to work on common issues must surely have dawned on him by now.

Bill Clinton publicly laughed at the young pretender’s innocence, although as President, Clinton kept moving to the right to fight and beat the Republicans in their own game, and he got away with it because of the good times of the dot.com economy. Obama does not have the luxury now to be anything but radical and move to the left on all domestic fronts – the economy, health, energy and the environment. The defeats in New Jersey and Virginia will make the move even harder now than before.

Ironically, President Obama might be having fewer detractors abroad than at home. The premature award of the Nobel Prize for peace caused greater cynicism within America than elsewhere. As on the domestic front, he has to cope with the two bleeding legacies of Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the problem of Pakistan is creating its own challenges for Washington. But Obama has tried hard to change America’s image in the world, although he seems to be boxing himself in Afghanistan mostly to reinforce his credentials as Commander in Chief at home. In so doing, he is again alienating many Democrats and the more idealistic of his supporters who do not see any reason for Obama continuing in Afghanistan what he is discontinuing in Iraq.

Not long ago, the New York Times posed the question whether Afghanistan will be to Obama what Vietnam was to President Johnson. President Obama must learn from Johnson’s errors in Vietnam and eschew that path. At the same time, he would do well to learn from Johnson’s domestic record – the big Texan’s tenacity, single minded purpose and legislative prowess in registering the highest achievements in the field of racial equality after Abraham Lincoln, and in the field of social welfare after Franklin Roosevelt.

November 06, 2009

current tv: Sri Lanka - Notes from a War on Terror

Vanguard correspondent Mariana van Zeller travels to Sri Lanka during the final days of the country's civil war to see how one of the world's most powerful insurgencies, the Tamil Tigers, was finally defeated. While some security experts are hailing Sri Lanka as a case study in how to defeat an insurgency, Mariana finds that it comes at a steep price:

Displaced Sri Lankans increasingly returning home from camps – UN

6 November 2009 – About 90,000 Sri Lankans displaced by the conflict between Government forces and Tamil separatists have returned to their homes in the past three months, and the pace of returns has begun to accelerate, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists that in the past two weeks alone, an estimated 39,000 people have returned to their former villages – mostly in the north and east of Sri Lanka – as part of the Government’s return plan.

Another 16,500 people have been released from the camps where they have been sheltering since the conflict ended in May and are being accommodated with host families, Mr. Mahecic said. This group includes many pregnant women and elderly persons. A number of persons with disabilities have also been released to specialized care institutions.

More than 270,000 Sri Lankans were staying in closed camps after hostilities between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended, and in recent months senior UN humanitarian and human rights officials have voiced concern over their safety.

About 163,000 people now remain, and Mr. Mahecic said conditions inside those camps are deteriorating.

“UNHCR and other UN agencies continue to advocate strongly with the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite the return of all remaining IDPs [internally displaced persons] to their areas of origin in safety and dignity and in line with international standards,” he told a press briefing in Geneva, where the agency is headquartered.

“We also continue to advocate for the full freedom of movement for those who are not able to immediately return to their homes or stay with friends and relatives once the ongoing phase of the return is complete.”

UNHCR, with the assistance of other UN aid agencies, has been distributing relief items such as sleeping mats, bed sheets and hurricane lamps to people returning to their former communities.

Returning families also receive a shelter grant equivalent to about $250 so they can start rebuilding their homes.

In Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, the agency has held talks with Government officials to ensure that minimum standards for safe returns, such as the completion of mine clearance activities and access to services, are met.

UNHCR has provided five demining flail machines to speed up mine-clearing operations in former conflict areas, and those machines are expected to arrive tomorrow.

The mine clearance operations will be carried out by the Sri Lankan Government with the help of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations.

H. Res. 711 resolution: "Rights of Sri Lankan Tamils"

H. Res. 711 resolution, passed in the US House of Representatives on Thursday Nov 5th, 2009 by a vote of 421 to 1:

Suspend the Rules And Agree to the Resolution, H.Res. 711 with Amendments (The amendments consist of a new preamble, a substitute text, and an amendment to the title)

111TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION H. RES. 711

Calling on the United States Government and the international community to address the human rights and humanitarian needs of Sri Lanka’s Tamil internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently living in governmentrun camps by supporting the release of such IDPs, implementing and facilitating an independent oversight of the process of release and resettlement, and allowing foreign aid groups to provide relief and resources to such IDPs.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

JULY 31, 2009

Mr. DAVIS of Illinois (for himself and Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

RESOLUTION

Calling on the United States Government and the international community to address the human rights and humanitarian needs of Sri Lanka’s Tamil internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently living in governmentrun camps by supporting the release of such IDPs, implementing and facilitating an independent oversight of the process of release and resettlement, and allowing foreign aid groups to provide relief and resources to such IDPs.

Whereas May 2009 marked the conclusion of the 26-year struggle between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and the Government of Sri Lanka, and the Government of Sri Lanka committed itself to caring for and ensuring the speedy return of the civilians internally displaced as a result of the fighting;

Whereas the Government of Sri Lanka is seeking to identify former combatants who were part of the LTTE and as part of the vetting process the Government of Sri Lanka has set up make-shift camps that initially housed over 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled their homes as the war drew to an end;

Whereas of those 280,000 internally displaced persons at the end of the war, approximately 10,000 of those individuals are being separately held by the Government of Sri Lanka on suspicion of having supported the LTTE;

Whereas as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council 11th Special Session on Sri Lanka held on May 27, 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka made commitments to the world to improve the conditions for the civilians housed in the camps and stated that the ‘‘bulk’’ of the IDPs would be resettled within 180 days;

Whereas as of October 23, 2009, over 52,000 IDPs have been released from the closed camps in the Vanni, and of those 36,000 have been returned to their districts of origin and found accommodation in their own homes or, pending return to their homes, with host families and in vacant houses of friends or relatives; and over 16,000 IDPs of special categories, such as the elderly, pregnant women and their families, priests, students, or people of special needs, have been released to host families or institutions;

Whereas as of October 25, 2009, some 250,000 IDPs still remain in military-guarded camps in the four northern districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna, and Trincomalee;

Whereas the Government of Sri Lanka has made some progress in easing camp congestion, registering IDPs, and expanding access by humanitarian organizations, but much remains to be done to improve humanitarian conditions, particularly before the onset of the monsoon season;

Whereas the Government of Sri Lanka has announced that it intends in the next few weeks to facilitate the voluntary return of over 40,000 of the approximately 250,000 IDPs in the camps;

Whereas the United States is urging the safe and speedy return of IDPs, continued access for international humanitarian organizations, and the registration and provision of national identification cards to IDPs, to help promote freedom of movement; and

Whereas the United States also supports the rapid release and voluntary return of all IDPs as a critical element of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) urges the Government of Sri Lanka, consistent with its obligation to provide security for all of its citizens, to expeditiously allow freedom of movement for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to leave their camps voluntarily and return in safety and dignity to their homes or, where that is not possible, to live with host families or move to open transit sites;

(2) calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that IDP camps are truly civilian in nature and administered by civilian authorities, rather than under military supervision, and give full access to national and international humanitarian organizations and observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, in order to monitor the situation and to assist in the care of IDPs; and

(3) urges the Government of Sri Lanka to promote justice and political reconciliation for all paties, and engage in dialogue with all parties, including Tamils inside and outside Sri Lanka on new mechanisms for devolving power, improving human rights, and increasing accountability.

Amend the title so as to read: ‘‘Calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to address the human rights and humanitarian needs of its internally displaced Tamil population currently living in government-run camps by working with the United Nations and the international community to implement a process of release and resettlement of such internally displaced persons (IDPs), and allowing foreign aid groups to provide relief and resources throughout the process.’’

November 05, 2009

The mysterious ambitions of Sri Lanka’s victorious army commander

To which victor the spoils?

from The Economist ~ Print Edition

SF116tc.jpg

Gen. Sarath Fonseka pic: Reuters

NOT even six months has elapsed since the protracted war with Tamil Tiger rebels ended in a bloody climax, leading to the Sri Lankan government’s triumph. But already the leaders of the military campaign are sparring ahead of an election due next year. For weeks the press has been speculating about friction between the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka, the hawkish army general who commanded troops in the final assault against the Tigers.

Jittery over rumours, spread mostly by opposition parties, that General Fonseka will challenge Mr Rajapaksa in the election, the government in October banned reports about his political ambitions. A communiqué from the army’s spokesman warned the press that several laws would be used against those who published “false reports” using the names of serving senior army officers.

General Fonseka is no longer army commander. But as chief of the defence staff, a post obtained after the defeat of the Tigers in May, he is the highest-ranking military officer in service. He cannot contest elections while in uniform. But his term ends in December and he has hinted that he might reject any offer of an extension.

During a visit to America which ended abruptly this week, General Fonseka, who holds an American green card (ie, permanent residence), told Sri Lankan expatriates he would step out of uniform to bring the country back on track “if it continues to go on the wrong path even after defeating terrorism.” Such statements, combined with goading from the opposition, have increased agitation in government, and particularly presidential, quarters. Some ministers are already cautioning the public about the pitfalls of a military regime. Others have claimed ownership of the victory for Mr Rajapaksa himself, rather than his military chiefs.

The plot thickened this week when General Fonseka notified the government that America’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had sought his testimony in a probe into alleged human-rights violations by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s defence secretary and the president’s brother, a naturalised American citizen.

General Fonseka was hastily flown back from America on the day the DHS interview was to have taken place. Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said no American government agency had questioned him before his departure. Still, it had taken several days of feverish diplomacy to prevent the meeting, which, intriguingly, General Fonseka had consented to two days before notifying the defence secretary.

The government’s obvious anxiety about General Fonseka’s possible candidacy is a consequence of Mr Rajapaksa’s plans to call a presidential election in early 2010, nearly two years before the end of his six-year term. He naturally wants to capitalise on the popularity generated by the military victory. But this strategy may backfire if he is challenged by the former army commander, who is hugely popular among the president’s main support base, the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

As one independent Tamil analyst put it, the ruling regime’s main achievement has been to win the war. But with the victors apparently squabbling among themselves, which ones should people support? Mangala Samaraweera, a parliamentarian who defected to the opposition from Mr Rajapaksa’s party, says his former leader will now “not have the guts” to hold an early poll. Judging by the president’s actions this week, that prediction sounds premature. At the convention of a big trade union, he promised a pay rise in January for all public-sector employees. The next day, as General Fonseka flew back to Colombo, the president took a helicopter to previously Tiger-controlled areas and told soldiers that the salaries of all security-force personnel would be raised with immediate effect. This hardly sounds like a man shy of an early dash to the polls.

courtesy: The Economist

The killing of Balavarnam Sivakumar

by Dr A.C.Visvalingam

Perhaps the most sickening TV news item seen by Sri Lankans in recent times was the cold-blooded murder of the mentally ill Balavarnam Sivakumar of Ratmalana. It is understood that a police constable named Dimuthu Somnas has been remanded in connection with this attack. A few of his fellow constables are also said to be likely to be taken into custody. These arrests will predictably divert attention away from those criminals who started the whole thing by beating and chasing Sivakumar into the sea initially, and the other policemen who helped Somnas and his accomplices finish off the job by looking on, doing nothing.

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(Courtesy: Daily Mirror)

It has also been reported that the Bambapilitiya Police had been informed but had taken no action to stop the unrelenting assault. Most of the citizens who were witness to this monstrous exhibition of brutality would undoubtedly have been fearful of the consequences of interfering with its vicious participants. In these circumstances, the action taken by a few concerned citizens to alert the Bambalapitiya Police and the TNL TV Station tells us that there were at least a few decent persons there who had the conscience to try to do something to stop this inhuman killing. Considering the sad fate of many media institutions and personnel during the past few years, TNL TV and its personnel deserve our thanks and praise for their courageous exposure of this terrible episode.

The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has little doubt that the videoed evidence will establish to the satisfaction of the courts that Somnas, his accomplices and the inactive Police spectators were the direct and immediate perpetrators of this crime. On the other hand, CIMOGG’s view is that those in power who have steadily and unrelentingly destroyed the independence and professionalism of the Police force are the real wrongdoers behind this and a myriad other examples of the gross dehumanisation of Sri Lanka’s law enforcement apparatus.

The moral responsibility for this pitiful state of affairs rests fairly and squarely on those persons who first foisted the omnipotent Executive Presidency on this hapless country and those who have subsequently exploited it for their own personal ends, barefacedly breaching their promises to abolish it. Under cover of the immunity given to the President, which frees the incumbent from being sued in person in the courts, successive holders of this office have gone about violating the Constitution with chilling purposefulness.

In the early days of the 1978 Constitution, policemen who were found guilty by the courts of various misdemeanours were given promotions and their fines paid by the State. After the Police had successfully got a rapist convicted and sentenced to jail, he was pardoned and made a JP, in order to please a key Minister of the government of the time. Large numbers of SLFP supporters were punished or killed on fabricated grounds that they were JVPers, at a time when the public was paralysed with fear by the savagery practised by the latter in dealing with those whom they wanted to eliminate. Later, a notorious criminal believed to have been responsible for more than one murder was employed as a high profile bodyguard by a President. Well-known artistes who appeared on political platforms had their houses set on fire.

At least one woman supporter of a rival political party was paraded naked through the streets whilst the Police remained unmoved. Still later, media businesses and members of the media themselves have been subjected to increased threats, assault, arson and murder by those supporting powerful interests. The villains who carried out these acts were not worried about being caught and charged by the Police, who they knew feared political victimisation, if they did their duty. No one seriously expected the Police to bring to justice those who were responsible for these offences. There are scores of more well-known examples of impunity and the lack of accountability of the administration.

Encouraged by the knowledge that they will not be called to account for supporting or failing to investigate crimes which help the government of the time being in power, a frighteningly large number of the Police have conveniently expanded their activities into areas outside the political arena. It appears that they think nothing of arresting and torturing suspects or even persons who they know are innocent, not only with a view to solving crimes but even to help the odd friends’ or benefactors’ private agendas.

From there, it was but a small step, when torture had probably resulted in irreversible physical damage to a victim, to get rid of the evidence by creating a false scenario of Police weapons being snatched, or grenades being flung at the Police by a heavily manacled suspect, to justify shooting him in cold blood. We do not deny the significant probability that a good number of those who were shot were well-known drug-dealers, murderers or rapists, regarding whose guilt the Police would have been certain in their own minds. As for the unidentified, tortured bodies in swamps and other even less accessible places, we cannot but speculate half-blindly. The point is not whether the Police were right in eliminating criminals but that they failed to do so within the ambit of the Rule of Law.

Under pressure, governments have appointed several Commissions of Inquiry to pacify the public until interest, as expected, wanes in respect of the current burning issue and is transferred to a fresher social or political drama. These Commissions were invariably given limited terms of reference and investigational resources. The final reports, unless innocuous, have almost never been published in full, although extracts unfavourable to the government’s opponents were freely leaked to the press.

When it was realised that the decline of governance and the Rule of Law had gone too far, the 17th Amendment was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2001 because all MPs, on a miraculously serendipitous day, thought of the country first and agreed to depoliticise the Elections Commission, the Public Service, the Police Commission, the Judiciary, the Human Rights Commission, and so on. As is generally the case with laws that are passed hurriedly, there were a few critical shortcomings in the Amendment but it was a huge step forward to control the unprincipled and arbitrary exercise of executive power.

From the experience gained in the first three years, the Amendment could very easily have been improved to remove all identified defects. However, President Kumaratunge went against the intent and spirit of this Amendment by relying on a minor technicality to avoid appointing the Elections Commission, accusing one of the nominees of being politically partisan. Her Ministers, too, had come to find it irksome that they could not get their hangers-on appointed to good positions or stations over more deserving candidates in the face of the Public Service Commission and the National Police Commission.

Upon coming into power, President Rajapakse, instead of getting the cooperation of the other parties to set right the deficiencies in the 17th Amendment, found many number of excuses for not making use of his enormous authority to get the Constitutional Council reactivated, and thereby prevented the key Commissions mentioned above from being appointed. By this means, he has wrongfully arrogated to himself vast autocratic and monopolistic powers over the entire machinery of government. The disastrous effect this has had in exacerbating the conditions which restrain the Police from acting independently and, instead, acting with unlimited licence in the interests of the government has blunted the sensibilities of many policemen to the extreme extent witnessed during the assassination of Sivakumar.

Mr Malinda Seneviratne reminded us a few days ago of the following observation of the late Mr Ran Banda Seneviratne: "There was a time when, if a dog died, there would be fifty people wondering whose dog it was, how it died, and what needed to be done; now, even if fifty people died, not a dog would be bothered". It is a matter for the most extreme regret that our successive Presidents have contributed in no small measure to this change of values. We, therefore, call upon President Rajapakse to supplement his reputation as a successful "war" leader by getting all parties together to resurrect the 17th Amendment, with the revisions needed.

We also urge him to exploit the cooperation promised by the UNP and the JVP to get rid of the accursed Executive Presidency and reform the structure of government to ensure a much greater separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary than the present hybrid model, the unsuitability of which become more and more apparent by the day. If he succeeds in getting this done, he will set Sri Lanka on a lawful and productive trajectory that would earn him an enduring reputation as a great peacetime leader and statesman. Among the many great outcomes of that step would be that the Police force would be able to regain the superb reputation that it had at the time of independence and not continue to display to the world how unprofessional and sadistic too many of its members have become.

Dr A.C.Visvalingam is President of Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance
www:cimogg-srilanka.org

November 04, 2009

Sarath Fonseka in Strategic Withdrawal

from the Twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Flees

Sarath Fonseka in Strategic Withdrawal .Flees from US - Nov3rd 11pm without meeting US officials on 4th.Will arrive in Colombo -Nov 5th 4am

fortunes

Sarath Fonseka avoids meeting US officials as talking to them may have badly affected his fortunes if the Lt.Gen contested for SL presidency

gives in

Sarath Fonseka gives in to pressure from Govt,JHU &JVP.Puts US green card status in jeopardy & returns to Lanka as loyal patriotic army man

cuts short

Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka cancels meeting with US officials in Oklahoma.cuts short his US stay & returns to Sri Lanka. Expected back on Nov 5th

counter

Prez Mahinda Rajapaksa in whirlwind tour of Wanni addressing soldiers in a bid to counter Sarath Fonseka popularity with Army rank & file

stop worrying

Rohitha Bogollagama boasts that he has satisfactorily resolved the Sarath Fonseka "problem" by talking to US envoy.Gotabhaya stop worrying.

diplomatic

SL foreignminister Bogollagama tells Parliament that his"diplomatic intervention" n US -Sarath Fonseka issue will yield positive results

Why

Wimal Weerawansa reveals US citizen Gotabhaya was "questioned" for 1hour by US officials.Why did the Defence secy not disclose this earlier?

choice

If the choice is between M.Rajapakse&S.Fonseka in presidential poll the minorities will boycott voting or votefor Mahinda but not for Sarath

votes

If Sarath Fonseka is made common opposition presidential candidate he will not get the bulk of Tamil & Muslim votes

explain

US officials to ask Sarath Fonseka to explain why LTTE political wing members who surrendered with white flags were shot dead in cold blood

"terrorists"

US officials may quiz Sarath Fonseka on his remark sto Washington audience that "terrorists" hiding in IDPcamps must be identified&destroyed

bravely

"War Heroes"like Sarath F&Gotabhaya R should face US officials bravely & reiterate their stand that NO war crime was committed in the war

furore

There's a furore about what Sarath Fonseka's interview with US officials. Why is there no furore about what Gotabhaya said in his interview?

wont

Those responsible for war crimes wont get US citizenship.This may apply to Sarath Fonseka who boasted that army shot tigers who surrendered

prove

The JVP&JHU must ask Gota&Sarath to prove their patriotism by relinquishing their US citizenship&greencard status.Why divided loyalties ?

comical

its comical for JVP & JHU to rant & rave at US for meeting with a US citizen like Gota & a green card holder like Sarath. What's wrong guys?

US citizen Gotabhaya

As a US citizen Gotabhaya should not prevent a US green card holder like SarathFonseka meeting& talking to US officials about the Wanni war

duty

Since he has US green card status it's Sarath's duty to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the "war" to US officials

triumphalist

After months of triumphalist roaring about "war heroism" its refreshing to see & hear the pathetic whimpering & moaning about Uncle Sam

"snitching" and "snatching"

If Gota is so worried about Sarath "snitching" to the US why can't he do some "snatching" like what he did to KP & make Fonseka "disappear"?

other

The other war hero Gotabhaya is shit scared about what Sarath may or may not tell US officials about him. So he's trying to stop the meeting

hilarious

It's hilarious to see our war heroes being so jittery about the US. Sarath is consulting lawyers before meeting US officials in Oklahoma

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

November 03, 2009

Why is Gota, JVP, JHU & Bogollagama in panic about US quizzing Sarath Fonseka ?

from the Twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Options

Sarath F has 4 options.

1.refuse to meet US officials.
2.Meet &refuse to tell truth.
3.meet& reveal truth.
4.create a "patriotic" fuss & return.

Play ball

-By publicising Sarath's scheduled interview with US officials the govt is pressuring the Lt.Gen to play ball with the Rajapaksa regime.

MRTCSFGR113.jpg

President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his visit to Killinochchi with defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka and field commanders-May 2009-pic.dailynews.lk

Renounce

-Looks like Gotabhaya & Sarath may have to soon renounce US citizenship & permanent residence status respectively to avoid being penalised

Equal

-As far as war crime allegations are concerned both Sarath & Gotabhaya bear equal responsibility and should share equal punishment if guilty

Every right

-US officials have every right to question persons having citizenship & permanent residency. This applies to citizen Gota & "greencard" Sarath too

Why panic?

-If no war crimes were committed by Sri Lanka in war against LTTE then why is Gota, JVP, JHU & Bogollagama in panic about US quizzing Sarath F

Need NOT be worried

-IF zero civilian casualty policy was followed as claimed then Sri Lanka need NOT be worried about US State dept allegations. IF that is....

Guns and charter of human rights

-Prez Mahinda says our soldiers fought with gun in one hand and human rights charter in the other. Then we dont have to worry about war crimes

Sweet revange?

-Rajapaksa regime treated Sarath Fonseka very shabbily. Now its the day of the general. Will he extract sweet revenge by exposing Gota to US?

48 hours

-Sarath Fonseka was contacted by US official Michael Tarantino by phone on Oct 28th. But the general informed Gota only 48 hours later. WHY?

Saffron power

-JHU plans demonstrations against US opposite State dept in Washington & US embassy in Colombo supporting both Gotabhaya & Sarath. Saffron power!

Rathu sahodarayas

-JVP's Somawansa Amerasinghe threatens serious action if US oversteps limits with Sarath Fonseka. Wow! what will the rathu sahodarayas do?

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

November 02, 2009

Twitter updates: Is Gota trying to "fix" Sarath or Sarath trying to "psycho" Gota?

Lattest updates on twitter by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

- Bogollagama "warning" Sarath indirectly

- Shouldn't Gotabhaya reveal details

- Are not US officials entitled to "interview"

TC112SF.jpg

- Is Gota trying to "fix" Sarath?

- Is Sarath trying to "psycho" Gota with a "con" about war crimes?

- SL foreign minister Bogollagama summons US envoy Butenis

- Gota was also interviewed by US homeland security dept

- Would US officials have asked Sarath Fonseka on the telephone

November 01, 2009

In Pictures: 25th Anniversary of Women and Media Collective

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman”~ Margaret Thatcher,-Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and British politician (b: 1925-)

WMC13Btc.JPG

Women and Media Collective celebrated its silver jubilee recently. An anniversary exhibition “Changing Minds” by and about women was held on October 8th to 11th 2009 at Lionel Wendt and Harold Peiris Galleries in Colombo. The exhibition featured Women’s Activism, Women Photographers, Women Artists and Short Videos. [Click here to read in full~humanity Ashore.com]

Myanmar: Developments in Myanmar and the Security of North East India

by Col R Hariharan

[Excerpts of this article were included in a presentation by the author at the National Seminar on “Recent Developments in Myanmar : Implications for India”, organized jointly by the Department of Politics & Public Administration, University of Madras, and Center for Asia Studies , Chennai on 29 October 2009.]

Turbulence in Myanmar

Myanmar is going through throes of change after over 45 years of military rule. The first multiparty elections under the new constitution are to be conducted in 2010. The new constitution was confirmed through a referendum with barely three weeks notice even as Myanmar was being devastated by cyclone Nergis in 2008. Despite its long gestation It hardly represents the democratic aspirations of the people.

Originally, after the 1992 general election was held and the National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the polls, the ruling junta had announced that the newly elected members would draft the new constitution. But the elected members of parliament hardly had a hand in drafting the new constitution in the deliberations of the National Convention entrusted with the task. Although it met on and off for almost 15 years, less than two percent of the parliament members were involved in the final draft.

The members of the National Convention were handpicked by the military to push through the draft scripted by the army. To prevent active involvement of NLD in the process during the tortuous course of constitution making, the junta ensured Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest. The elected NLD members of parliament were never allowed to present their views in public; in fact they were hounded out and persecuted. The new constitution also does not meet the legitimate demands for autonomy of major ethnic communities that had been waging war for their rights for over four decades. There had been no public discourse on the draft.

So it comes as no surprise that the new constitution is more of a cosmetic exercise than a meaningful effort to transfer power to a democratic government. Its purpose appears to be two fold: to legitimise the role of the army as a power over and above the elected government and to appease growing international demand for restoration of democracy so that sanctions slapped on Myanmar are lifted.

The Tatmadaw (army) has a favoured position in the new constitution. The president has to be an army officer endowed with power to appoint Union ministers and chief ministers of states. He will also nominate judges of the Supreme Court. The Tatmadaw has the right to independently administer all affairs of the armed forces. And the highest court of the country will have no jurisdiction over them! The Commander in Chief of armed forces nominates the ministers of defence, security and home affairs, and border affairs. He shall also appoint armed forces officers as security and the border affair ministers in the governments at the level of state, region and in the self-administered division and zones. It is the C-in-C who nominates parliament members for 25 percent of the seats reserved for the armed forces in Union Assembly (upper and lower houses).

Problems of political democracy

The president has to be an army officer; and persons whose children and spouses owe "allegiance to a foreign power” are barrred from being elected president. Thus the junta has ensured that Aung San Suu Kyi is not allowed to occupy the highest office in the “democratic government” on both the counts as her husband and her children are British citizens. Without her active leadership it is doubtful whether the first step to democracy would ever go further to reach the final goal of making Myanmar a full fledged democracy.

The process of changeover to even limited democracy is not likely to be a smooth process. With the army continuing to wield unfettered power, the civilian government would be hampered from taking independent policy initiatives in three major areas that had been the bane of the country. These are people oriented development, restoring integrity of institutions of governance, and ensuring equitable rights to all citizens regardless of their ethnic origin.

Without Aung San Suu Kyi's active participation in the run up to the elections, the NLD leadership might find it difficult to repeat its successful electoral performance of 1992. In any case, the army is likely to use strong arm tactics to ensure the NLD is edged out in the election. Coalition politics was never the strong point of Myanmar’s short lived democratic experiment from 1948 to 1962. The opportunistic coalition governments were notorious for infighting, floor crossings and corruption. Thus the chances of a coalition government successfully functioning appear remote. So a period of political instability may well be in the offing. This would only reinforce the army’s belief that it was fundamental to ensure national stability.

Ethnic insurgency

Ethnic insurgency had been the blight on Myanmar from 1948 onwards. The military regime had recently been trying to disarm members of ethnic insurgent groups that had signed ceasefire agreements (ceasefire groups) and enroll in border guards force. However, this process is not complete. Three major ceasefire groups in the northeast bordering China —the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the United Wa State Army (UNSWA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA)—all of have reportedly rejected its request to disarm and The Kachin Independence Organisation is still dragging its feet.

The MNDAA’s Kokang troops, who are of Chinese ethnicity, had clashed with the troops last month and a few thousand Kokang people had taken refuge in Chinese areas across the border. The UNSWA, an ally of MNDAA, is one of the biggest insurgent groups bordering both China and Thailand. Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) which refused to sign the ceasefire agreement had been in conflict with the government troops along Thai border. These ethnic insurgent groups have little incentive to lay down arms and join the mainstream even when the civilian government is sworn in. As long as the question of their autonomy is not resolved, they are likely to continue to be active. Historically, the army had used the ethnic unrest as the reason for legitimising its hold on power. With the army controlling the defence, border affairs and home affairs ministries, the civilian government has little chance of resolving the issue politically.

International power play

The international sanctions are likely to be lifted when a semblance of democracy is restored the election as part of the new U.S. initiative on Myanmar. Once that happens there is likely to be an international scramble to gain access to Myanmar’s abundant natural resources including oil and natural gas. Inevitably, this could turn Myanmar into a seat of global power play. Both India and China would be watching these developments with caution.

China had used the era of international sanctions to increase its strategic and economic influence in Myanmar and helped the junta to weather international sanctions. As a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), China had baled out the military regime from international collective action on more than one occasion. This has enabled the Chinese to become well entrenched in the country, building strong linkages with the army. Chinese also dominate the nation’s economic development, trade and commerce. Their influence is likely to be transferred to the political arena also.

In short, China has created a client regime in the military junta. China is unlikely to loosen its hold on Myanmar as it provides strategic land and sea access from Chinese mainland to India and the Indian Ocean. Myanmar’s 1930 km long coastline dominates the eastern arch of the Bay of Bengal, leaning on to the Malacca Strait could help China's mavy to widen its reach. Despite building closer economic links with the U.S. in recent times, China continues to be wary of the U.S. extending its strategic reach in this region. Its suspicions have already been kindled with the increasing Indo-US strategic convergence. So China is going to loom large in front of all nations, including India, aspiring play a bigger role in Myanmar on all fronts.

India’s security compulsions

Geostrategy dictates that India should keep Myanmar in its foreign policy horizon for strategic, economic and developmental reasons. Myanmar’s geographic location astride the India-ASEAN trade routes increases its value for India. It can also open up external land and sea communication links to landlocked north-eastern states. Myanmar’s ocean boundaries are barely 30 km from the Andaman Islands increasing its maritime security potential. Unfortunately, Myanmar’s strategic significance in India’s national security does not appear to have been given the recognition it deserves.

North East is connected to rest of India by “Siliguri Corridor” a tenuous 30-km wide link flanked by Bangladesh and Nepal. Thus strategically, northeast is vulnerable to the developments in its neighbourhood in both peace and war. Large scale illegal migration of Bengalis from Bangladesh into the region has created demographic imbalances resulting in social and economic unrest. The assertion of distinct ethnic identities has resulted in the rise of separatist insurgencies in this region. The assistance received from China and Pakistan at different times had been important for their survival. They also have safe havens in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

India had striven to improve relations with the military junta Myanmar from 1992 onwards as a part of its Look East Policy. This policy had limited success. Despite promises, Myanmar regime had shown little inclination to evict Indian insurgent groups from its soil. Its interest in joint operations against them had been equally poor.

The development of Northeast had been hobbled due to Bangladesh's reluctance to permit transit of Indian goods through its territory. To overcome this problem India has been implementing a multi-modal scheme to open up road and sea access from the Northeast through Myanmar to other ASEAN countries as well as the Indian Ocean. However, India’s two major infrastructure projects including the Sittwe multi modal projects and the much heralded Myanmar – India pipeline have made only slow progress.

During the last two decades, trade and development links between the two countries have improved. However, due to inertia on both sides, growth of trade between the two countries had only been in fits and starts. There appear to be no vigour on either side's attempts to improve mutual trade.

Keeping the hyper sensitivity of the military to the issue of restoration of democracy and freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi, India had soft pedalled them, broadly keeping a neutral stance on these issues. India’s attitude of ignoring the struggle for democracy, focusing only on building relations with the military regime has shocked civil society the world over. In this process India had ignored the democratic forces which would be coming to limelight in the coming years. Thus India will be starting with the baggage of poor credibility while engaging with Myanmar polity. Ushering in of democracy in Myanmar is likely to increase India competitive role with China. And already China enjoys a head start in the country with geo-political and economic advantages. Added to this is its international clout as a permanent member of the UNSC. And China is unlikely to make India’s task any easier. Thus India's best long term bet would be to improve its relations with the political parties and the new government.

Other potential triggers

There are other potential triggers that could destabilise the entire region either directly or indirectly. These issues are connected with the national security of India; and the northeast could become their epicentre of action.

Tibetan issue: As the Dalai Lama is aging and the Tibetan refugees, particularly the younger generation, are getting restive over China’s intransigence on Tibet. If the issue gets out of hand, it could impact followers of Tibetan Buddhism in Arunachal Pradesh. This could activate not only India-Tibet border but also India-Myanmar border. Of course there is the added possibility of a confrontation with the Chinese over the Arunachal border claims of China.

China’s subversive support: Although China-India have been trying to build cordial relations with India, China’s capability to support to insurgents from Manipur and Assam and use them as a pressure point in any political or military confrontation with India should not be ignored. Myanmar could play a vital role in denying sanctuaries and safe passage to insurgents on its soil.

Maoists in Nepal: The ascendancy of Maoists, who are pro-Chinese, to power in Nepal and the spread of their influence provides China a potential opportunity to increase, if not replace, Indian influence in Nepal. If China gains a strategic foothold in Nepal, it would result in manifold increase of northeast's vulnerability. In such a situation any military confrontation in the region is likely to isolate northeast from the rest of India.

Myanmar’s nuclear ambition:

* The military regime in Myanmar confirmed plans to build a nuclear research reactor for “peaceful purposes” in early 2002 with the help of Russia. Selected students and army officers have undergone nuclear orientation and training in Moscow. Nuclear physics departments have been established in the universities of Rangoon and Mandalay with their enrolment controlled by the military regime. Uranium deposits have been found in several areas: Magwe, Taungdwingyi, Kyaukphygon and Paongpyin in Mogok, and Kyauksin and in southern Tenasserim Division and the Russians are said to be involved uranium mining.

* In this nuclear backdrop, recent reports about a secret deal on developing nuclear facilities between Myanmar and North Korea are significant. Both the U.S. and Thailand have voiced their concerns on these reports. Australian strategic studies analyst Desmond Ball and Thailand-based journalist Phil Thornton in 2007 have claimed that Myanmar had secretly constructed a nuclear reactor that would encompass reprocessing technology designed to extract weapons-grade plutonium. These reports were based on information given by defectors and need corroboration.

If true, it could introduce a new strategic nuclear paradigm in the region. That might lead to a situation not dissimilar to India’s western front where it is facing an unstable, nuclear Pakistan. Though, it seems unlikely that Myanmar would invest on such “nuclear game,” India will have to keep a careful watch for developments in this respect.

Avenues for action

The stability of Myanmaris directly related to the creation of a stable democracy. It is in the longterm interest of the region that Myanmar is turne into a stable democratic country. Their international community could become complacent after a civilian government comes to power after the 2010 elections. The experience of Myanmarese people's struggle during the past four decades have shown that it would not be possible for them to gain a reasonable response from a brutal regime unless there is international support.

The two giant neighbours India and China along with the US hold the key to ensure stability in Myanmar. Only concerted action on their part could achieve any meaningful results. At present the perspectives of the three nations are based only on their national strategic interests in Myanmar. However, they need to join hands to evolve a new paradigm for change in Myanmar. Such a coordinated strategy could improve the chances of freeing democracy from the shackles of its military rulers.

India should have an action plan to help progressive democratisation of Myanmar. With its strong democratic credentials, India should be able to revive its relationship with political leaders and build a win-win relationship.

India should try and separate trade and developmental relations with Myanmar and ASEAN from the effects of regime change in Myanmar. It has to evolve strategies in collaboration with Thailand and other interested nations of ASEAN to make this a reality.

As there is a friendly Awami League regime in Bangladesh, India should strive to open up alternate land and sea routes through Bangladesh for widening the scope of trade and industry in northeast.

Sri Lankan society for abolition of executive presidency

by Karu Jayasuriya

The unceasing call from all sectors of Sri Lankan society appears to be for the abolishing of the executive presidency. Having lived through and experienced first hands the pitfalls and dangers of this system for more than 30 years, Sri Lankans have reached the unanimous conclusion that the executive presidency is not only a serious threat to the principles of democracy upon which this republic was founded, but also a plague on society at large.

This country has watched politician after politician ascending this seat of power promising to abolish it. But once they have savoured the power it affords they have clung to the presidency, in many cases morphing into tin-pot dictators with no further ambition than ruling supreme for as long as possible. The office of the executive president of Sri Lanka holds immense power, not afforded to any other leader in the world. Once believed to be the change this country badly needed, the Presidency has become the greatest threat to democracy and development in Sri Lanka.

Having suffered through this system many times before, Sri Lanka is once more living the nightmarish reality of an all powerful president. The executive presidency has rendered parliament, the highest democratic institution in the land, redundant. Laws are now being made and imagined at will, there is state of terror that pervades all aspects of life in Sri Lanka, despite the defeat of the LTTE that belies the government’s promise of waging war for the sake of peace. The intimidation of the press, the harassment of political detractors and the impunity with which the regime conducts itself can all be traced directly to the tragic flaws of our presidential system which affords absolute power.

The executive has moved to decimate the Opposition; at every turn elected representatives have been intimidated, cajoled and bribed into supporting the incumbent, creating fissures within virtually every active political party within Sri Lanka’s parliament. Even the President’s own cabinet of ministers has been reduced to mere figureheads, with no voice and no power to effect executive decisions. That is not to say that everyone other than the President is powerless. Instead, all state power is vested in those individuals in the inner circle, including the President’s advisors and personal staff. It is these persons, who hold no elected office and have no claim to legitimacy, that hold the reins of governance in Sri Lanka today. There is no doubt that sometimes the presidential staff and advisors wield more power in the corridors of governance than the Ministers of this country.

The President’s Men, those unaccountable to parliament or the people of this nation will reign today, paving the way for a next set of henchmen once the Presidency changes hands. This is how it has been and this is how it will be unless and until Sri Lankans band together and demand that this blatantly corrupt and ruthless system is changed and replaced with one that ensures that the Head of State is always responsible to and answerable to parliament.

It is admirable that in the face of such horrendous intimidation of political opponents by the executive, the JVP has decided to campaign tirelessly for the abolishing of the presidency. It is well that the party has taken up this call to remind President Mahinda Rajapaksa about the promise upon which he was elected president. The UNP also wishes to remind President Mahinda Rajapaksa about Page 84 of his election Manifesto under the chapter ‘Constitutional amendments’ which states clearly that the executive presidency would be abolished during his tenure.

With proof such as this laid bare, it is unthinkable that the government is now claiming that there is no mandate for the abolishing of the presidency. If this is the way in which this president chooses to honour the sacred covenants he has made with the people who voted him into office, there is no doubt that the voters would never be able to trust him again. This answer fashioned by this government proves once more what Sri Lankans have long since come to expect from their leaders – that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is in this context that we decided to call for a mandate to remove presidential immunity; to establish Constitutional Councils and Independent Commissions; establish rule of law and transparent governance within 60 days and abolish the Executive Presidency within 180 days; for the citizens of Sri Lanka to enjoy the fruits of democracy.

Karu Jayasuriya
Deputy Leader
United National Party

Rebel with a cause:An Interview with Dayan Jayatilleka

by Rathindra Kuruwita

Q: First of all, tell me something about your childhood? What was it like being the son of Mervyn de Silva?

A: Well, I suppose, the best answer is to give you some observations from other people. Governor of the Western Province, SLFP elder statesman and veteran trade unionist Alavi Moulana was kind enough to give me a lift, on the way back into town from the airport, when we returned from Vietnam, having accompanied President Rajapaksa on the first ever State visit by a Sri Lankan leader to Vietnam. Governor Moulana, a dear friend of Mervyn’s, has known me from my boyhood.

He said that, “No one who was privy to the conversations between my father and me, could say we were father and son”. I asked him why, what did the conversations sound like? He said, “Frank; they were very frank”. A few weeks ago, I was at dinner with another respected SLFP elder, of enlightened views on the ethnic issue, Mangala Moonesinghe, and he told both our hostess and my wife that he has observed my intellectual evolution from the time I was in short pants and that “As a boy, Dayan held his own in conversations with both his parents, Mervyn and Lakshmi, which was a challenging thing, since they were strong personalities”.

Thaththa came from a conservative family, with an upright and sternly authoritarian father --who studied at Trinity College, Kandy-- but he had himself rebelled against that. His knowledge of Western literature had opened up his mind, and he left the limited world outlook of his family far behind. Mervyn was a very confident parent, and therefore, did not insist on traditional forms of deference or silence. He would challenge you with a question, or you could initiate a discussion, and as long as you could make your point logically and knowledgeably, it didn’t matter how young you were.

He was a combination of liberal mindedness, high intellectual standards and firmness. If he said no, it was no, but he said no very rarely, so one took it quite seriously when he did. If you didn’t measure up of course, that was that, he would ignore you, but fortunately, I never failed to measure up intellectually, though I may have disappointed him in other ways, as he himself had disappointed his father on occasions. Mervyn could be quite remote, and not a little distant, even from family members, but had no hesitation in confiding in me and even sounding me out; including me in any discussion within family or in public, in society, among friends and associates.

He had no time for obsequious traditionalist practices. Amma, on the other hand, never believed in bothering to argue with her son, and always complained to her sisters-in-law that my father “treats this fellow like an equal; tosses him the same novels he’s read, once he’s finished”. Amma was modern, but authoritarian, as befits a teacher at St Bridget’s Convent. I recall former President Chandrika telling me that, as her teacher, Amma was “firm but fair”.

Q: How were your school days at St. Joseph’s? Were you into sports and other extra curricular activities?

A: I could have gone to Royal, where my father went, and cleared the top prizes (his name is engraved on those concrete tablets there), or to S Thomas’s, which my uncles attended, but Amma decided to send me to St Joseph’s, so I couldn’t bask in anyone’s reflected glory. I had no old boys of St Joseph’s in my family. I had to make my own way, which was a good thing I suppose. My mother sent me there to learn discipline, but what I mainly got out of the school was the study of the Gospels and a deep impression about Jesus Christ, a great existential rebel.

So it was just the opposite of what the school tried to teach us I suppose. Sports, no, frankly for two reasons: sports practices were difficult to attend, because my father used to keep the oddest hours, and my domestic life was rather unorthodox; the second reason was that I preferred to read a book. Extracurricular activities, yes: Debating, the Literary Union, writing for the school magazine, music, art.

Q: Who were the other peers that you remember from your school days?

A: Well I recall many, such as the current Chairman of Levers, Amal Cabraal, son of Dr Shelton Cabraal. Most of them wound up in the corporate sector, while others migrated to the USA or Australia, where they are quite successful. Nihal Gunasekara is a doctor in New York, who won an award for an innovation in heart surgery. Anil Wijewickrema is a Maths Prof in Tokyo.

Q: You got your first Degree from the University of Peradeniya. How was Peradeniya in the ’70s, and how was it like to be there at the butt end of its glory days?

A: As a boy, I usually spent my holidays at Peradeniya, because my father’s sister, Lalitha (my Punchi nanda) was married to Prof P.E.E. Fernando, (‘Ebert maama’) a scholar of archeology and Sinhala, and a leftist, who later became the Vice Chancellor. In the 1960s, it made a deep impression on me. As a boy of about 12, I wanted to wind up an academic at Peradeniya, teaching Philosophy. The choice of subject was because I had just discovered Marxist philosophy through the British Communist Maurice Cornforth’s two slim volumes which I had found on Ebert maama’s bookshelves. On a visit to London in the 1960s, my parents had been invited for high tea by Thaththa’s old VC Sir Ivor Jennings, who, at the time was VC at Cambridge. On that occasion, they had entered my name in some register.

Later, after my A Levels, my parents took me to Harvard and tried to persuade me to agree to enter, I refused all these options and insisted on Peradeniya. Mind you, I had been selected for Law Faculty, topping the batch, which wasn’t easy due to standardisation, but I opted for Political Science at Peradeniya instead. The place wasn’t what I remembered. Between them, the SLFP and UNP administrations, they had wrecked a fine university. The iconic librarian, Ian Goonetilleke was hounded out. In my first year, Weerasooriya, one of our intake, was shot dead by the police. One-and-a-half decades later, in response to JVP killings, almost a dozen severed heads decorated the Alwis pond.

Q: Mohan Samaranayake was one of your peers at Peradiniya, and, if I’m not mistaken, you both specialised in the same subject, Political Science?

A: He was several years my senior, and we didn’t know each other on campus.

Q: Were you involved in radical politics even at University?

A: Most certainly. My involvement started earlier than that. When I was first picked up and taken to the Intelligence Services Division headquarters at Longdon Place for questioning, I was an A level student at Aquinas. At Peradeniya, I was a member of two overlapping, but distinct radical organizations, one off-campus and one on-campus. The off-campus one was founded by the late Dr Newton Gunasinghe, a brilliant Marxist social scientist, and Jayaratne Maliyagoda, a Kandy trade union leader, and called the ‘Lanka Samaja Adhyayana Kavaya’ (Lanka Social Studies Circle). The one on campus was simply called the ‘Samaja Adhyayana Kavaya’, an umbrella organisation of radical student activists ranging from an array of Maoists to underground JVP activists, some of whom, like Shantha Bandara, became Politbureau members during their second insurrection.

Q: You are from the upper middle class of Sri Lanka, the son of one of the most famous journalists in the country. So, how and why did you join Vikalpa Kandayama?

A: My father would have arched an eyebrow and asked sardonically, “what do you mean ‘one of’?” Anyway, I didn’t join the Vikalpa Kandayama; I was one of its founders. Partly, it was a logical progression: I was a precocious member of the Vietnam generation, had been travelling in Europe with my parents during the student uprisings of May 68, which Mervyn wrote about in the Ceylon Observer, and had been studying Marxist writings before I hit my teens.

Partly, it was the situation at the time: the 1980s. Under JR Jayewardene’s administration, we had witnessed and experienced the abduction of university students, who were beaten up at Sirikotha, the use of cycle chains to thrash striking workers, the sacking of 60,000 workers, for demanding a modest wage increase, the attempt to rig the Jaffna DDC elections, the setting on fire of the Jaffna Public library, the false arrest of Vijaya Kumaratunga, on charges of leading a Naxalite plot, the closing off of the peaceful parliamentary path of change by scrapping the general election and substituting for it a coercive Referendum, the anti-Tamil pogrom of July 1983, the murder of Tamil political prisoners, which went unpunished, the shooting of two unarmed university students -- one before my eyes, outside their Havelock Road hostel. All of this constituted a challenge to the conscience of some of us.

We felt something had to be done. In the meanwhile, K. Pathmanabha, the leader of the most authentically revolutionary Marxist organisation among the young Tamil militants, had met me, together with Suresh Premachandran in 1978, when I was still an undergrad at Peradeniya. He met me again in 1981, after he had left the EROS/GUES and just founded the EPRLF. Pathmanabha and I had been discussing the need for a joint North-South revolutionary project, transcending ethnic schisms. His term for it was “total revolution”. After July ’83, this seemed all the more necessary, since both the LTTE and JVP were polarising people along North–South lines.

Kethesh Loganathan, a Georgetown and Sussex alumni, son of my father’s friend the famous banker C Loganathan, who authored the Loganthan Plan, also joined the EPRLF at this time. The final factor was the global one, where it seemed that there was a high tide of revolution, after the victory in Vietnam in 1975 and Nicaragua in 1979. That too impelled or tempted us to seek to join the tide of international revolutionary struggles. This was our chance, we felt. What we did not recognize was that this New Cold war was to be the final flush of global socialism as we knew it; the last rise before the fall.

Q: You were also a minister under Varadaraja Perumal for a brief period in the late 1980s. Can you recount your experiences and why you left the fold?

A: Mahinda Samarasinghe, who was in the Western Provincial Council, and I in the NEPC, were the two youngest provincial ministers at the time. I was the only one to resign, in that first experiment. Perumal was the wrong guy to have been made chief minister, and I had said so to Pathmanabha as well as the Indians, but I failed to prevent it. The rest is history. He pushed Colombo too hard and too fast. Too many innocent civilians were also being killed in the North. I took oaths in late 1988, but had resigned by February or March 1989, in well under six months, and more than a year before the UDI and the final fall of the North East Provincial Council -- during which time I was supporting President Premadasa to contain it. I stayed away from the NEPC as much as I could. I took only the first month’s salary, didn’t take any of the three vehicles (including a BMW and a Pajero) I was entitled to, or sell the permits!

Q: The 1990s saw you supporting President Premadasa, and in this decade, the SLFP. Isn’t that a radical shift from the political ideology you adhered to in the 1980s?

A: Not at all. Somewhere in 1980 or ’81, the Lanka Guardian carried an article by me, which supported Premadasa in the fight he then had with Upali Wijewardene. In 1984 or 1985, Qadri Ismail, a Vikalpa member, submitted to the Lanka Guardian, a film review which contained a strong and unfair criticism of Prime Minister Premadasa. I was editing the magazine, while my father was overseas, and I binned the review. Both Wijeweera and I, always had a soft spot for Premadasa!

I became a socialist because, as a boy, I wanted to overcome the social injustice I saw around me. Premadasa was, socially, the most progressive reformist leader the country has had. As a socialist, a leftist, what was I to do, except support him, especially, when all his enemies were far more reactionary than he? His foes were the UNP elite, which had been responsible for all the ills that drove us to rebellion in the ’80s. They were supported by the SLFP old guard, against which I had rebelled in my teens while at Aquinas. He was also besieged by the ultra left JVP, which had murdered the most enlightened progressive politician we ever had --Vijaya Kumaratunga—and by the Tigers, which killed the most radical Leftist Tamils such as Pathmanabha. What else should I have done?

If I had any authentic commitment to social change and the uplif of the poor; if I had not forgotten the well springs of my radical Left convictions, I should have supported Premadasa, which is precisely what I did. Millions of poor people found their lives improved by his programmes of housing, Janasaviya, free school uniforms and the 200 garments factories. What I ask those so-called Leftists who criticise me is, how come, if you were really on the left, if you were really for social progress, didn’t you extend even critical support to Premadasa, who was our Salvador Allende, and whose socio economic project antedated and anticipated much of what is happening under progressive regimes in Latin America today?

Q: You are also a lecturer at the University of Colombo. What are the main differences today as when you were a student?

A: Students read less voraciously and there is less debate on ideas. In my day, you couldn’t see a student in the canteen who wasn’t carrying a book on political theory and debating it with his or her peers at a table over a cup of tea.

Q: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, how did that come about?

A: As a kid, JVP leaders, especially Wijeweera, was something of a hero, after the 1971 insurrection. Decades later, when we were both underground, he wrote a book on the Eelam problem, which had more consecutive pages against me, than against Prabhakaran! The Southern left, from mainstream to radical, had more individuals brutally murdered by the JVP, than in a century of Colonial oppression and local capitalist rule! In the North, the so-called Liberation Tigers slaughtered fellow liberationists, including by burning some of them alive in the streets of Jaffna. Internationally, the victorious surge of world socialism, after Vietnam, was thwarted by phenomena such as the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia.

Thus I focused on the phenomenon of barbarism within the socialist, anti-capitalist or anti-systemic space. I also examined where I had derived my own ethical criteria and values about the use of violence from. I was for the use of violent resistance and rebellion, when there were no other alternatives, but strongly rejected the use of violence against non-combatants and innocents, and firmly believed that revolutionaries, liberation fighters and resistance fighters must occupy the moral high ground in contrast to the State or the enemy they were fighting. I quickly figured out that my ideas derived from the example of Fidel and Che Guevara, so I thought I would research the subject deeply and write a book on it, to prove that violence can be used in a manner very different from Pol Pot, Peru’s Sendero Luminoso, the JVP and LTTE, and that, such ethical use of violence also leads to success and sustainability.

Q: You are also a friend of Régis Debray?

A: No. But we do have dear friends in common, such as Prof Jean Ziegler of the University of Paris.

Q: Tell me something oft your diplomatic career?

A: It was clearly a success. A new article in the New York Times, which calls for war crimes inquiry on Sri Lanka, mentions our victory in Geneva in May, saying “In late May, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution celebrating Sri Lanka’s victory over the Tamils and blocked discussion on an European-drafted text raising concerns about the conditions endured by war survivors housed in Sri Lankan camps”. (Sri Lanka May Need Gaza-Style Rights Inquiry: UN, New York Times, October 23, 2009). The Economist (London) of August 6 attributed the victory to me, by name, saying: “Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Geneva, who warded off the threatened UN war-crimes probe in May…” What I did in Geneva