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January 31, 2010

Sinhala "intellectuals" with "pariah" thoughts replace "mau-basa" with "mau-bima" and "kaduwa" with "traitor"

by Dushy Ranetunge

It's been hilarious reading the “pariah” thoughts of Sinhalese “intellectuals” over the past few weeks in a Sri Lankan newspaper, especially as the term was derogatorily used previously as “Para” demala.

Over thirty years ago, when I was growing up in Sri Lanka, people whom present day Sinhalese “intellectuals” refer to as English-speaking pariah?s were derogatorily referred to as “karapoththas”. They were referring to the Burgher community of Sri Lanka and about 200,000 of them packed their bags and immigrated, mainly to Australia.

Then the others the Sinhalese “intellectuals” of the “pariah thoughts refer to as the “Para” demala?s also packed their bags and about a million of them emigrated all over the world.

During this time all the fad among Sinhalese “intellectuals” with “pariah” thoughts was about “Mau-Basa” and those who spoke English were referred to as “Kaduwa danawa”.

It must be noted that many of these Sinhalese “intellectuals” who advanced “Mau-Basa” “intellectuality” educated their children in the Queens country in “pariah” English.

Thirty years later, when we return to the “motherland” (not to be confused with the previous “mother country” as referred by Ceylonese to the “Queens country”) we no longer hear about the “Kaduwa” or the “Mau-Basa” as the peasants are going broke paying for “Singlish” classes and the posters advertising “Singlish” classes are fighting for wall space with “suba Anagathayak” posters.

Why, even the government is encouraging the peasants via TV advertisements not to be shy to speak “Singlish” as an “apeyma ekak”.

But today, we have a new breed of Sinhalese “intellectuals” of the “pariah” thought kind.

Thirty years later, these Sinhalese “intellectuals” with the “pariah” thoughts have replaced “Mau-Basa” with “Mau-Bima” and “kaduwa” has been replaced with “traitor” and the circus goes on.

Since the peasants have finally wised up to the “Mau-Basa” Sinhalese “intellectual” canard and are now going broke paying for “Singlish” classes, it is certain than in another thirty years the same fate would befall the “Mau-Bima” and “traitor” intellectual concepts.

Then “Mau-Bima” would be no more, as it would be replaced by SAARC, with free movement of Capital and yes, Labour. Terrifying thought for Sinhalese nationalists! Will we be Swarmed???

Then peasants will no longer be looking at currency with a waving Rajapakse, but a common currency for SAARC which could be used all over South-Asia.

Those who don?t want to hang around for another 30 years will of course pack their bags and leave the field for the “intellectuals” of the “pariah” thoughts.

Political Imperatives of Rajapaksa Victory do not suggest any sympathy for Tamils who were out to defeat him

by Prof. S.D. Muni

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s electoral gamble has paid off handsomely. By cutting short his first term by two years, he has ensured a six-year second term for himself, a victory with 57.8 per cent votes cast

What basically carried him through this gamble were his determination to militarily eliminate the LTTE and his control over the State apparatus. The war on the LTTE was fought under his leadership against heavy odds and international pressures. His campaign effectively drove home the point that despite his opponent and erstwhile Army Chief Gen Sarath Fonseka’s claims for an equal share in crushing the LTTE, victory primarily belonged to him. In democracies, critical initiatives are the territory of the political leadership, not of the army generals or bureaucrats. The Tamil voters also seem to have endorsed this point, though negatively, by impressively voting against him in the LTTE-dominated North and East regions.

President Rajapaksa’s incumbency gave him the critical control over the official machinery. The State had numbed the critical media long back during the fight against the LTTE. Private websites monitoring the Sri Lanka elections were blocked hours before the vote counting started. The Election Commission publicly conceded that the State media and State officials were disobeying its directives. The independent election monitors illustrated several examples of the abuse of State authority in promoting Mr Rajapaksa’s candidacy.

An election held in the post-LTTE terrorism context was not completely free from violence. Most of the violence was blamed on the official side. The pre-dawn series of blasts in the Jaffna region on the polling day definitely scared the pro-Fonseka Tamil voters to come out in full strength. Many of the Tamil Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the war zone remained without their voting cards and transport arrangements to vote. The recorded voter turnout in the North was below 20 per cent and in the East below 50 per cent, much lower than the national average of more than 70 per cent polling. General Fonseka has rejected the poll outcome on the basis of these factors.

However, no large-scale irregularities were reported in the voting that was watched by nearly 10,000 observers, including international groups. Even without the misuse of the State machinery, President Rajapaksa would have perhaps carried the day. The challenge to him was inherently weak. He was opposed by a coalition of contradictions. Bereft of leadership confidence, this coalition had to seek a non-political army General who was an ally of Mr Rajapaksa in the in-humanitarian war against the LTTE.

The liberal United National Party (UNP) joined hands with the leftist and Sinhala extremist Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP). The known LTTE ally, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), joined them just to defeat the Rajapaksa regime. President Rajapaksa, through his crafty political moves, had already eroded the strength of the JVP and the UNP as evident during the Provincial Council elections of 2009. These elections had established Mr Rajapaksa’s mastery over the Sinhala political psyche and dynamics.

General Fonseka, the main opposition candidate, proved to be a political novice, moved essentially by his power ambitions and personal rivalry with his erstwhile bosses, the Rajapaksa brothers. The General could not present any credible socio-economic and political programme. His mindset towards the Tamil minority was also not much to speak of, having publicly caricatured them earlier as second class citizens. Accordingly, his promise of greater democracy by changing the presidential system and his assurances of giving justice to the Tamils sounded hollow.

The possibility of many North and East Tamils abstaining from voting due to their trust deficit with General Fonseka cannot be ruled out. His sole emphasis on otherwise valid issues of corruption, nepotism and family oligarchy of the Rajapaksa family did not cut much ice with the Sinhala voters for whom he had nothing much to offer. The support he eventually received came only from the committed but truncated constituencies of the three opposition parties supporting him.

Mr Rajapaksa also succeeded in conveying the message effectively that electing a Western supported candidate like General Fonseka would be an affront to Sri Lankan patriotism. On the polling day, everyone was surprised to know that General Fonseka had not even cared to get himself registered as a legitimate voter. His hometown constituency of Ambalangoda decisively voted against him.

President Rajapaksa fought against the opposition’s call for “change”. It would, therefore, be unfair to expect any major transformation in Sri Lanka’s Presidential system or its prevailing ethnic balance between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The President’s primary aim was to consolidate his regime and political grip over the island. This will be done ruthlessly and with considerable fanfare on the strength of secured popular endorsement.

The next move in the process of this consolidation is to control Parliament, and for this parliamentary elections are expected to be held soon before the opposition can get over its demoralisation. The Executive Presidency will be consolidated at the cost of freedom and prosperity of the common Sri Lankans. The way the defeated candidate, General Fonseka, and the dissenting national and international media is being hounded out, points in that direction. The economy will surely grow, taking the advantage of peace and political stability. In the name of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation, international assistance will be mobilised but most of the benefits of the rejuvenated economy will flow to the entrenched interests.

The crying need for Sri Lanka is to resolve the ethnic issue politically and constitutionally. This is an opportunity as well as a challenge for the President in his second and last term.

But the political imperatives of his victory and the consolidation of his regime do not suggest any sympathy for the Tamils, who were out to defeat him. It would be unrealistic to hope for anything more than cosmetic relief to the Tamil grievances.

Will this revive Tamil resistance in a different shape and size remains to be seen?

It may also be prudent on the President’s part to mend his relations with the “international community”, but he cannot give in to their demands on trial for “humanitarian crimes” and a political package for the Tamils. Relations with China and India will dominate Sri Lanka’s foreign policy but mostly on the Rajapaksa regime’s priorities

(S.D.Muni Emmeritus Professor ar Jawarhalal Nehru University,New Delhi is currently is Visiting Research Professor, ISAS, Singapore)

Constitution provision very clear about when presidents second term begins

by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

Iwas deeply saddened to read today an article by Nihal Jayawickrama, former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, in which he declares that, disregarding time-specific provisions ‘as being limited in application to that first election held in 1982, the remaining provisions lead inexorably to only one conclusion, namely, that the first term of an incumbent President who seeks re-election after completing four years in office ends at the conclusion of that poll and the declaration of the result. That is also the moment in time when his second term commences’.

Mr Jayawickrama is therefore throwing his not inconsiderable weight behind efforts to bypass specific constitutional provisions and limit the term of Mahinda Rajapakse’s Presidency. I would have termed this casuistry, were it not conceivable that Mr Jayawickrama too, like the other eminent lawyers who failed to ensure the obvious interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, has been misled by some confusing language in the relevant provision.

To quote that in full, namely Clause 30 (3a) (d), introduced by the 3rd amendment to the Constitution in 1982, which allowed an incumbent President to call for an early election to appeal ‘to the People for a mandate to hold office, by election, for a further term’ -

The person declared elected as President at an election held under this paragraph shall, if such person

(i) is the President in office, hold office for a term of six years commencing on such date in the year in which that election is held (being a date after such election) or in the succeeding year, as corresponds to the date on which his first term of office commenced, whichever date is earlier; or

(ii) is not the President in office, hold office for a term of six years commencing on the date on which the result of such election is declared.

This makes crystal clear that two different commencement dates are envisaged depending on whether the incumbent or a challenger won. The challenger commences office on the date on which the election result is declared. The incumbent commences office of a date that ‘corresponds to the date on which his first term of office commenced’, i.e. November 18th in the case of President Rajapaksa, just as it was February 4th in the case of President Jayewardene, a date that was never challenged.

Why then were things different in the case of President Kumaratunga? Her first mistake was to take oaths shortly after she was re-elected in 1999, in December, i.e. well before her second term was due constitutionally to begin. That term should have begun in November 2000, and this fact was made clear to her in an article by Rohan Edrisinha shortly after she had taken oaths, but typically she pretended not to take this seriously. Typically too she claimed later that she had recognized the problem, and had therefore taken oaths again in November 2000, but she had done this in secret.

President Kumaratunga’s second mistake was not hers but that of her lawyers. They failed to explain in court, as explicitly stated in the judgment on the matter delivered by then Chief Justice Sarath Silva, the only phrase that could suggest ambiguity, namely ‘whichever date is earlier’, which figures at the end of Clause 30 (3a) (d) (i).

In fact the phrase is not ambiguous at all, but I realized that it had caused difficulties to lawyers, for instance the first UNP leaning lawyer with whom I discussed the issue, shortly after Ranil Wickremesinghe had begun a campaign of marches to demand that President Kumaratunga vacate office in 2005, i.e. six years after the election and her taking of oaths.

The lawyer granted that the fact that there were two separate dates envisaged was not in question, but said that the phrase ‘whichever date is earlier’ was ambiguous. I explained it to his satisfaction, and also discussed the issue with my father, who also accepted my explanation. It never occurred to me until too late that other lawyers would also have been confused, though I now realize that legal minds might have treated the matter as a complex one, whereas a thorough knowledge of the English language makes the picture clear.

In 2005 I was informed that President Kumaratunga believed her time was up because the Chief Justice was determined to rule against her. I wondered why she thought her lawyers did not stand on what seemed indisputable, and finally I rang up one of her junior lawyers and asked how they planned to explain the potentially ambiguous phrase. It turned out that he had no idea, though he agreed when I explained it. However he said that it was then too late to make the position clear to H L de Silva.

Sure enough, when the judgment emerged, it turned out that the Chief Justice stressed the fact that no one had explained the phrase, and then based the rest of his judgment on the claim that this made clear that there was ambiguity. Where there was ambiguity, he indicated, it was incumbent on the Courts to rule in a manner that caused least disruption to the country, and therefore he declared that President Kumaratunga’s term should end in 2005.

I wrote about this judgment at the time, pointing out that his logic was brilliant, but was based not on a real ambiguity, but on the failure of lawyers to explain what seemed possibly ambiguous. In that article I noted the obvious interpretation of the phrase.

It is intended to distinguish between the relevant date in the same year and in the ‘succeeding year’, both of which are specifically mentioned in the Clause.

Thus, if that phrase were not there, President Rajapaksa could decide whether his second term commenced on November 18th 2010 or on November 18th 2011. A date that ‘corresponds to the date on which his first term of office commenced….. commencing on such date in the year in which that election is held (being a date after such election)’ is November 18th 2010. A date that ‘corresponds to the date on which his first term of office commenced….. in the succeeding year’ is November 18th 2011.

Both possible dates are obviously those that correspond to the date ‘on which his first term of office commenced’. If the phrase ‘whichever date is earlier’ had been omitted, it would have suggested there was a choice. One might have thought it was obvious that the earlier date was intended, but it could have been argued that nothing was specified. Thus the phrase, which seems unnecessary, and therefore was used to suggest ambiguity, was in fact necessary to deal with a possible counter-intuitive argument.

In President Kumaratunga’s case, in fact, no choice was available since the date on which the second election results were announced was after the date on which her first term of office commenced. But her failure to read the Constitution carefully in 1999, what is claimed as a secret taking of oaths in 2000, and above all the failure of her lawyers to point out the one confusing phrase in the relevant Clause, contributed to her losing out.

It is possible that Nihal Jayawickrama is uncertain then of the obvious meaning of these provisions. I would like to think so, but there are elements in his article that suggest he is being disingenuous. Instead of quoting the relevant provisions in full, he only mentions 31(3A)(d)(i) in terms of what the election President Jayewardene called in 1982, and then argues that, since (d)(ii) says the challenger commences office on the date on which the result is declared, the same must serve for the incumbent since ‘The day on which the first term ends cannot be determined by who had won or lost in that poll, but by a more certain event, namely the close of the poll and the declaration of the result’.

Thus he seems to suggest that 31(3A)(d)(i) was specific to President Jayewardene, and that everyone else must forget what that Clause says. He engages in reference therefore to what the Amendment says about what happens if the incumbent President dies after having called for an early election, and totally ignores what it says about what happens if the President lives and wins the election, which is what has happened now.
Sadly it would seem that the bitterness of the Ghosts of Christmas Past has also affected Mr Jayawickrama. I am not sure if that is a more comforting explanation than the possibility that his once bright intellect has lost its shine.

Media organisations say this is the hour of solidarity , serious situation developing in Colombo

Post election media clamp down in Sri Lanka – Update 03

MFSL note 31 January 2010

* Journalist Eknaligoda missing for a week

31 January 2010 marks one week of disappearance of www.lankaenews.com journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, a father of two children. He went mission on 24 January 2010.On 29th Minister Susil Premjayanth told media that the government has reliable information that this was not a abduction but a staged act.

So far minster or the government has not produced any evidence to prove the story. Eknaligoda has serious diabetic condition from age 15, takes two insulin injections daily and also medication after open heart, bypass surgery. All attempts to trace him by loved ones have failed so far. Serious concerns has been raised that he will not survive without medication for more than 4-7 days.

* Editor arrested and newspaper office sealed

Editor Chanadana Sirimalwatta of Sinhala language weekly Lanka was arrested on 30 January 2010 by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sri Lanka police. No reason was given. Soon after his arrest Lanka newspaper office was sealed by the CID. Lanka news paper played a crucial role in presidential election campaign of defeated candidate Sarath Fonseka. Lanka news paper faced constant intimidation form the authorities during the whole year 2010.

* lankaenews editor receives 40 death threats in 45 minutes

www.lankaenews.com remains blocked in Sri Lanka . Its office entrance was padlocked by a group of 10 wearing balck on the night on 29 January 2010. On the same night lankaenews editor Sanda ruwan Senadeera received 40 threatening phone calls within 45 minutes. During last two days lanakenews barely managed to upload news. They are operating form unknown location, their office being padlocked and has come under constant surveillance. The editor works under life threatening situation.

* MTV network license to be canceled?

According to Sunday Times government has decided to cancel the license of MTV television net work. This is the only TV network telecast critical content and give space for political opposition. The network has been under constant intimidation over the years. On 06 January 2009 the main station was attacked with fire arms and set on fire. State controlled TV network Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC) mounted a huge attack on the MTV network in its news bulletin on 30 January 2010. ITN the second state controlled TV network followed it with a more fearful attack in its news bulletin on the same day.

* Chinese IT experts to police internet/Face book

Authorities are monitoring the user activities of Facebook and Twitter social networking sites as some members of these networks allegedly defame prominent personalities and spread false rumours against the government. A special team at the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) is already monitoring the user activities on Facebook, LAKBIMAnEWS learns. “A special team is randomly monitoring activity on social networking sites. The government is worried about false notes on Facebook that criticize the election results giving false allegations and openly doubting the validity and the legitimacy of the result,” a TRC source said.

“The order has been given by the government to monitor activities of Facebook and Twitter and monitor how the trend continues.” Already the TRC has tracked down some IP addresses of many Facebook users who have been spreading false allegations. Also the TRC is to receive the support of a special team from China as they are experts in tracking down disgruntled elements.

* Journalist leaders sacked/suspended

State controlled media has started to get rid of journalists who did not obey political orders of the government and criticized the biased coverage of recently concluded presidential election. Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC) has dismissed senior programme producer Herburt Kumara Alagiyawanna by delivering the letter to his home. At least four others including programme producers Kanachana Marasinghe, Gamini Pushpakumara, were suspended on 30th . On 31 January 2010 10 media workers of state controlled Independent Television Net work (ITN). Reliable sources say that more journalists and media workers are to be suspended on coming days.

* SLRC target another activist

State controlled SLRC unleashed a incriminating attack on Ruwan Ferdinandas on its 31 January 2010 8.00pm main news bulletin linking him to banned website www.lankanewsweb.com . lankanewsweb has been banned in Sri Lanka for more than four moths now and it publishes critical content and oppositional views and news.

* Number of journalists in hiding in Colombo

Number of journalists who were indentified with the campaign of defeated presidential candidate General( Retired) Saratha Fonseka are in hiding in Colombo to evade imminent arrest or abduction. Well respected English weekly reported today that defeated candidate General(Retired) Sarath Fonseka will be arrested soon. State controlled media broadcast cooked up news items saying that group of journalists were part of the conspiracy General( Retired) Sarath Fonseka had planned to capture power. Media circles in Colombo believes that state media is creating the ground to justify number of journalists on treason charges.

* Media organizations appeal for international solidarity and advocacy

The strongest and most representative journalist collective, 5 media organization x(Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Free Media Movement) has appealed international press freedom and democratic rights organizations to do their utmost in pressuring government of Sri Lanka to respect media freedom in the country. These organizations and their activists are taking a huge risk in defending press freedom in a increasingly precarious situation on Sri Lanka

Related article: Government moves against media raise fears for Sri Lankan democracy [Times, UK]

Protecting Democracy Post-Election: An end to political violence and revenge

by The Centre for Policy Alternatives

A series of recent events connected to the presidential election last week give rise to extremely serious concerns about the state of democracy in Sri Lanka today. The campaign period, the election and its aftermath were marred by unprecedented disregard for the Constitution and the law, resulting in not only violence and large-scale abuse of public resources, but also in setting a number of disquieting precedents with regard to the respect for constitutional authority and democratic values.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) together with other civil society organisations have previously pointed out concerns regarding the conduct of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), the extreme partisanship of the government-controlled media institutions, the appointment and withdrawal of the Competent Authority for the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), the general disregard on the part of government institutions for the authority and directives of the Elections Commissioner (in particular the Police Department), and even the authority of the Supreme Court.

More broadly, however, the acrimonious conclusion of the election and its aftermath pose several vital questions and concerns. Despite less than ideal conditions in previous elections, we have never witnessed a situation in which the main opposition challenger was besieged by the military in a hotel on election night and continues to experience harassment by the authorities. The government has justified its actions on the basis of vague, unsubstantiated and largely unconvincing allegations against the main opposition candidate, retired General Sarath Fonseka, including claims that he was attempting to stage a coup, that assassinations and incarceration of prominent political figures was contemplated, that he was harbouring deserters, and that he was divulging state secrets. If the government has reason to suspect anyone of instigating such action, the appropriate response is to let the law enforcement authorities deal with it according to the law. The manner in which General Fonseka has been treated however suggests different motives exuding a perception of political persecution and revenge. Unnecessary and vindictive, such measures risk political capital and the goodwill of citizens as well as Sri Lanka’s international image.

General Fonseka has alleged irregularities with regard to the ballot counting process, including the chasing away of opposition counting agents by identifiable ruling party personalities in some districts. It is his right as a candidate to petition the Supreme Court with such claims, and thereafter his responsibility to substantiate them. It is best that the courts are left to resolve this matter according to procedure established by law. It is in the interests of democracy that the President and the government demonstrate magnanimity in victory, and that a defeated candidate who received the support of approximately 40% of the citizens of this country is not subject to a sustained campaign of vilification and harassment.

Meanwhile, a critical situation has arisen with regard to media freedom and the physical safety of journalists, including assaults, disappearances, verbal threats delivered by senior officials such as the Defence Secretary, interrogations and arrests, orders to deport foreign correspondents, sealing of newspapers, and the blocking of news websites without apparent legal basis. It is telling that journalists who have been targeted are perceived to be those critical of the government, while at the same time, publicly funded government controlled media have become unapologetic propaganda apparatus of the ruling party (a new development in this regard is the phenomenon of unsolicited text messages purporting to be from the President). Assaults on media freedom have been a major blemish on the record of President Rajapakse’s first term, and he has a responsibility to address this as a matter of priority in the post-war second term he has won overwhelmingly.

The President has won re-election with a mandate for post-war reconstruction, national reconciliation and economic development. The necessary backdrop for all this is his commitment to the values of democracy and constitutional government, and the respect for the limitations on his power and the authority of his government that are imposed by the Rule of Law and other democratic principles. It is in the President’s interest, for the legitimacy of his administration as well as our post-war future, to provide the leadership essential to ensuring that democracy is protected, the Constitution and the Rule of Law is respected, fundamental human rights are upheld, and that the temptations of political persecution and victimisation are firmly resisted.

A Scottish journalist's experience of voting in Scottish and Tamil referendums

Stuart Cosgrove, a Scottish journalist, broadcaster and television executive voted in a "Tamil referendum', held across the United Kingdom this weekend. He writes that he was able to vote in the 'Tamil referandum' for being a 'qualifying spouse', as he is 'married to a native Tamil speaker from Jaffna.'

As a journalist Cosgrove served on the NME (Media Editor) and The Face during the 1980s, before joining Channel 4 in April 1994, serving for eight years as Controller of Arts and Entertainment and currently as Head of Programmes (Nations and Regions). In Scotland, Cosgrove is probably best known as the co-host of BBC Radio Scotland's popular comedy football phone-in Off The Ball which he presents twice a week with Tam Cowan, and as the co-host of BBC Scotland's Saturday football results show Sportscene Results.

In The Times UK of Jan 31st, Stuart Cosgrove writes about his experiences of voting in the Scottish referendum of 1997 and now in the 'Tamil referendum':

Full text of the article:


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Tamils come out in rain to have their say

by Stuart Cosgrove

Maryhill has a special place in urban folklore. It’s the spiritual home of Partick Thistle, a gangland where the Maryhill Fleet once roamed, and for the fearful bourgeoisie of Glasgow’s west end it’s “bandit country”, just beyond the Byres Road.

Yesterday, Maryhill defied the new world order to play a minor role on the epic stage of global politics. At 8.30am, shops lifted their shutters and the rattling noise of corrugated metal woke the dead. A queue of voters huddled together in the damp cold, waiting outside Woodside Hall in Glenfarg Street to cast a precious vote for Eelam, which means homeland in Tamil. Maryhill was chosen as a polling station in a global referendum organised by expatriate Tamils in their tense stand-off with Sri Lanka, a country that has resisted their independence.

Woodside Hall has the air of dank municipality — it’s more accustomed to jumble sales and ska discos than making history — but the Maryhill referendum is a fascinating story of democracy withheld, with more plotlines than a political thriller and enough constitutional twists to send Scotland’s political intelligentsia into paroxysms of near-erotic delight.

My interest went beyond the observational. I was there to cast my vote. My wife, Shirani Sabaratnam, is a native Tamil speaker from Jaffna, on the northern peninsula of Sri Lanka. She still holds Sri Lankan citizenship and, as a “qualifying spouse”, I am allowed to participate in the poll. So, strange as it seems, the stubby pencil of democracy was rightfully mine.

As I handed over my identity papers, I was acutely aware of the paradox. Voting Yes/Yes in the 1997 Scottish referendum on devolution seemed natural; voting in a referendum on Tamil independence was an unexpected experience. Unless there is a sea change in the factional Scottish parliament in the months ahead, it is a vote I will not be able to cast in a Scottish constitutional context, no matter how mundane the backdrop.

The voters spoke of home, and traded memories. Some wore the red and yellow colours of Tamil nationalism. Coincidentally, in Maryhill, they’re the colours of the local football team, Partick Thistle, who were playing away in Inverness to avoid misunderstanding.

Tamils have for decades fought a relentless battle with successive Sri Lankan governments, demanding greater civil rights. With well-organised communities in Toronto, London and Paris, the Tamils are the undisputed world champions of diaspora politics.

Many thousands flocked to Westminster to disrupt the business of Parliament at the emotive heights of the civil war last year. Glasgow’s Tamil community is smaller but no less committed, with enclaves in Sighthill, Dumbarton Road and the east end. Some are students, some are professionals forced into economic migration, and many are political exiles or asylum-seekers displaced from the war-torn north of Sri Lanka.

My wife’s journey is part of the ragged jigsaw of the Tamil experience. She was born in Jaffna, raised in the nearby village of Vaddukoddai, and moved via Colombo to England. Her home village is now a Bannockburn of sorts, and a landmark in her people’s history. In 1976, Tamils triumphantly secured their biggest victory in modern electoral history. Every political party and all registered voters supported the so-called Vaddukoddai Resolution, a mandate for Tamil independence.

Almost teasingly, it is a wordier variation of the statement Alex Salmond would dearly love to make for Scots. “I aspire for the formation of the independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam ... on the basis that the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka make a distinct nation, have a traditional homeland and have the right to self-determination.”

Comparisons end there. The Maryhill referendum is more pressing than kilted teachers at the Wallace Monument. The war in Sri Lanka has killed more than 90,000 people. More than 27,000 were Tamil fighters, many from the notorious Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, aka the Tamil Tigers. In January 2009, as the bitter war reached its cruel end-game, Sri Lankan troops captured Kilinochchi, which was the de facto administrative capital of resistance. It was, in almost every sense, the Tamil Culloden, and a dark cloud still hangs over the outcome, with accusations rife of genocide, war crimes and black propaganda.

By tea-time, the hall was all but empty. Glasgow’s Tamil communities had been and gone, some scattered to low-paid jobs and high-rise flats, others back to professional lives as doctors, computer analysts and entrepreneurs.

For the handful of indigenous Scots who had a reason to be there, it was a timely reminder that democracy is a precious gem that neither war nor national circumstances should tarnish. ~ courtesy: Times UK ~

January 30, 2010

Full Text: Verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka

Permanent People’s Tribunal
Tribunal on Sri Lanka
14-16 January 2010

HOSTED BY
The Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin
The School of Law and Government, Dublin City University
National College of Art and Design, Dublin

ORGANIZED BY
Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
c/o Churchtown Meeting House
82 Churchtown Road
Dublin 14, Ireland

irishpeaceforum@gmail.com

CONDUCTED BY
Permanent People’s Tribunal
Fondazione Lelio Basso Sezione Internazionale
Via della Dogana Vecchia
5 - 00186 Roma Italia

pptribunal@internazionaleleliobasso.it

Permanent People’s Tribunal

Founder
Lelio Basso (Italy)

President
Salvatore Senese (Italy)

General Secretary
Gianni Tognoni (Italy)

Contents

1. Members of the Panel
2. The Competence of the Permanent People’s Tribunal
3. The Complaints
4. The 2002 CFA and the Breakdown of Peace Talks
5. The Atrocities of the Last Weeks of the War
6. On the Qualifications of the Facts
7. Personal Appeal for Peace from Thai Buddhist Sulak Sivaraksa

8. Annex I

8.1 The Program: People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka
8.2 List of Affidavits : Given in Person
8.3 Written Submissions : Last Phase of War
8.4 Video Footages and Photographs
8.5 Written Submissions: Identified Persons & Organizations
8.6 Documents Compiled by IFPSL
8.7 Repressive Laws and Killing of Journalists
8.8 Civilian Targets
8.9 Displacement & Acquisition of Land

9. Annex II

List of Supporters (Individuals)

List of Supporters (Organizations)

PPTTC130A.jpg

PPTTC130B.jpg

Members of the Permanent People's Tribunal on Sri Lanka

Members of the Panel

Feierstein, Daniel

Director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Professor in the Faculty of Genocide at the University of Buenos Aires and a member of CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas, (The Argentine National Center for Scholars).

Halliday, Denis

Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned from his 34 year old career in the UN because of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the Security Council. Laureate of the Gandhi
International Peace Award.

Houtart, François (Chairperson)

Prof. Emeritus of Catholic University of Louvain ( Belgium), a member of the UN Commission on Reform of the Financial and Monetary System, Founding Member of the World Social Forum, Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences of Vietnam and Cuba, Dr. h.c. of Notre Dame University (USA) and of the University of Havana (Cuba) and UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize Awardee for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence

Lawlor, Mary

Director, Front Line, The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Dublin.

Martone, Francesco

An ex-Senator in Italy, a leading activist in the non-governmental sector and an ecologist.

Saadawi, Nawalal

Egyptian writer, trained as a medical doctor, known for her outstanding work for women’s rights in Egypt and in the region. She has been imprisoned for her activities and writings in Egypt. She has also been United Nation’s Advisor for the Women’s Programme in Africa (ECA) and Middle East (ECWA) from 1979 to 1980. She is a prolific author.

Sachar, Rajindar

Former Chief Justice, High Court of Delhi and the Chairperson of the Indian Prime Minister’s High Committee on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. Former President, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties in India.

Sivaraksa, Sulak

Thai Buddhist peace campaigner and writer, initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand and a laureate of the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award).

Tognoni, Gianni

Secretary General, Permanent People’s Tribunal, Rome.

Tveter, Øystein

A scholar of International Law and member of the People’s Tribunal on extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights in the Philippines.

1. The Competence of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is an international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority. It examines cases regarding violations of human rights and the rights of peoples.

Promoted by the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, the PPT was founded in June 1979, in Bologna, Italy, by a broad spectrum of legal experts, writers, and other cultural and community leaders (including five Nobel Prize laureates) from 31 countries. The PPT is rooted in the historical experiences of the Russell Tribunals on Vietnam (1966-67) and the dictatorships in Latin America (1974-1976). The importance and strength of decisions by the PPT rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, as well as the integrity and capability to judge of the Tribunal members.

Complaints heard by the Tribunal are submitted by the victims, or by groups or individuals representing them. The PPT calls together all parties concerned and offers the defendants the possibility to make their own arguments heard. The Jury is selected for each case by combining members who belong to a permanent list of jurors, and individuals who are recognized for their competence and integrity.

From June 1979 to the present date the PPT has held some 40 sessions whose results and judgements are available at www.internazionaleleliobasso.it

For this Session on Sri Lanka, the Secretariat of the PPT was first approached by representatives of a broad spectrum of NGOs, as early as July 2009. The government of Sri Lanka had declared the war over two months prior, following months of bloody massacre which had made headlines worldwide. The urgency of the matter was recognized. Additionally, the specific competence of the PPT was considered in response to the substantial disregard of the matter by international institutions which accompanied the “disappearance” of the massacre of the Tamils from the attention of the international media.

The documents supporting the request to convene a session of the PPT with the primary objective of focusing on “the last phase of the war, the period after the collapse of the peace process, and especially the last months” were received and accepted on November 19, 2009.

The notification of the procedures and the invitation to participate in the session of the PPT in Dublin were submitted to the representative of the Government of Sri Lanka in London, H.E. Justice Nihal Jayasinghe, on December 1, 2009.

According to the Statutes of the PPT, and as specified in the notification, in the absence of a positive response to the request for formal representation of their positions, the PPT mandated a rapporteur to present the views of the Government of Sri Lanka in the Public Session.

The work of the PPT took place in the facilities of Trinity College (c.f. program attached in Annex 1).

Due to security reasons, the members of the panel of the PPT heard the highly detailed eye-witness accounts of the events related to the last months of war, and to the concentration camps during, “in camera” sessions.

The PPT certifies that the resources which have covered the organizational and financial needs of the sessions correspond mainly to the voluntary work of the members of the NGOs supporting the initiative, and that no economic contribution has been derived from sources directly or indirectly related to Tamil organizations, nor to states involved in the events considered in this session.

The written and visual documentation presented and examined by the PPT aside from the oral hearings and cross-examinations, is listed in Annex II and available on the PPT and IFPSL websites. A new website - www.pptsrilanka.org - will make the findings and other relevant material available to the public in several languages.

2. The Complaints

The request to conduct a Peoples’ Tribunal came from the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka, in a letter dated 19.11.09. The Forum claimed that from the time that the war began in July 2006 through April 2009, according to United Nations internal documents, air raids and the use of heavy weaponry resulted in the death of 116 people per day. British and French mainstream media reported that during the final few weeks 20,000 Tamil people were killed. There were numerous accusations that Sri Lankan security forces were guilty of violating the Geneva Conventions on warfare and of having committed gross war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly during the last five months of the war, between January and May 2009. The charges included the bombing of civilian habitations, hospitals, and government-proclaimed ‘safety zones’ or ‘no fire zones’ by security forces, causing innumerable deaths of civilians, doctors and aid workers. Additionally, the charges also included depriving the population of essential services such as food, water, and health facilities in war zones, and other grave crimes against humanity.

Even before the war ended, UN agencies had been voicing their concern to the Sri Lankan Government over the level of impunity surrounding human rights abuses, the continued attacks on civilians by its armed forces, and the denial of aid to the local population residing in areas formerly administered by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Nonetheless, Sri Lankan security forces completely ignored these warnings and continued their deadly assault. In the immediate months after the war attention shifted to the plight of over 280,000 Sri Lankan Tamils forced to live in internment camps in the Vanni region. Densely packed in camps, with inadequate infrastructure to provide safe food, water, sanitation and health facilities, the Government announced that the internally displaced people (IDPs) would be kept there until they had been ‘screened’ for possible LTTE sympathies. In subsequent weeks, reports poured in of scores of Tamil youths disappearing from the camps, having been taken away by security forces and government-sponsored paramilitary groups. Hundreds are feared to have
died.

Following the international outcry resulting from the forcible detention of Tamil people in these camps for more than 5 months, the Government announced that a significant number of them would be resettled. However, it has been reported in the BBC and other news media that a considerable number of those released were simply moved to new satellite camps in remote areas. The Sri Lankan Government has always vehemently denied all wrongdoing on the part of its forces and has dismissed all accusations as attacks on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. It has steadfastly refused to permit the media and other organisations, both national and international, including UN bodies, to enter and to ascertain the facts by interacting with local people. In the Sri Lankan south, any call to critically examine the conduct of the war and the action of the Sri Lankan security forces in terms of internationally accepted war conventions and human rights standards, is regarded as treason.

Against this background the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was asked to examine the following:

1) Did widespread or systematic attacks directed against the Tamil civilian population take place in the sense that has been described by the ‘Rome Statute’ of the International Criminal Court as ‘crimes against humanity’?

2) Was there an intentional infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of part of the Tamil population, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, consistent with the definition of ‘extermination’ elaborated under ‘crimes against humanity’ within the Rome Statute?

3) Have Sri Lankan government forces violated the international law of war by executing war prisoners who surrendered themselves to the Sri Lankan Army? Have Sri Lankan armed forces subjected Tamils that they have captured, or those who have surrendered, to torture? Have there been outrages committed against the personal dignity of prisoners, or humiliating and degrading treatment inflicted upon them?

4) Have sexual assault and rape been used as weapons of war?

5) Have murder and disappearance of Tamil people in contravention of the Rome Statute on ‘Enforced disappearances of persons’ taken place?

6) Has there been mass deportation and detention of Tamil people in contravention of international law?

7) Have Sri Lankan armed forces committed war crimes by indiscriminately using heavy weaponry and air power in densely populated areas? Have they utilized weapons forbidden by international law, such as cluster munitions and weapons of chemical nature?

8) Have Sri Lankan government forces committed war crimes by desecrating the dead?

This Tribunal is dealing with the crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, but not with the crimes committed by the LTTE forces in the war.

The reason for this is that humanitarian law was created to protect citizens from the State. Any crime committed by individuals or groups can be judged and punished by the State. However, crimes committed by the State usually result in impunity, as the State is not willing to judge and punish its own actions.

The category of human rights violations in international law applies specifically to the State. The action of this Tribunal is a mechanism to ratify this principle.

3. The 2002 CFA and the Breakdown of Peace Talks

On the 22nd of February 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a permanent Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), formalizing the unilateral truce declared by the Tigers. The Norwegian peace envoys who facilitated the signing of the agreement were backed by the Co-chairs of the donor countries who were overseeing the Sri Lankan peace process, namely the EU, USA, Japan and Norway. The overall objective was to “find a negotiated solution to the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka.” The CFA was intended to be “a means of establishing a positive atmosphere upon which further steps towards negotiations on a lasting solution can be taken.” A separate body, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), was created to monitor ceasefire violations. Its members were drawn primarily from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. The war-weary people on the Island, both Tamils, as well as Sinhalese, were supportive of the CFA, as was the Sri Lanka business community and their external partners.

There were certain initial benefits following the signing of the CFA. The ceasefire paved the way for six rounds of direct peace talks between the GoSL and the LTTE. Mutual confidence was rebuilt on the basis of the CFA and new political and social spaces were opened up allowing all communities to mutually interact with each other and to initiate a long delayed inter- ethnic dialogue. The ceasefire also facilitated the opening of the A-9 highway – the only land route linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the Island – re-linking the North and the South.

Despite the historical significance of the ceasefire, its benefits were short lived as the CFA gradually fell apart. Even though the six rounds of talks achieved considerable success, the overall significance soon started to fade away. Limited hostilities recommenced in late 2005, and the conflict escalated after July 2006. Through massive military offensives, the GoSL drove the LTTE out of the entire Eastern Province and extended operations to the north of the country.

By 2007, five years after the CFA was signed, the situation was described as “undeclared war” characterized by high casualties, humanitarian strife and large- scale displacement. Following the completion of the eastern offensives, the GoSL announced that its troops would be moved to the northern areas, in order to regain the “guerrilla- administered territory”. On the 2nd of January 2008, the GoSL officially revealed its withdrawal from the CFA. Both parties accused each other of violating the CFA and thus weakening the mutual confidence that had been achieved.

The failure of the CFA has been attributed to a number of causes. While the GoSL accused the LTTE of repeatedly violating the ceasefire, the LTTE accused the state and its armed troops of undermining confidence- building measures and of not delivering peace dividends to Tamil people living in waraffected areas. In addition, both parties traded accusations regarding targeted assassinations of high profile individuals belonging to the opposing party. Furthermore, the delayed response of the GoSL in beginning reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the war-ravaged areas, and in failing to ensure the social and economic well- being of the people, contributed significantly to eroding mutual confidence. Especially after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Tamils felt neglected, marginalized and discriminated against, increasing their distrust. Moreover, hard-line Sinhalese nationalists put all their efforts into blocking any positive development which would guarantee the rights of the Tamil people and improve their living conditions. They had opposed the CFA since its inception, and used every possible means to
undermine and weaken it.

It has also been pointed out that international actors did not intervene in a productive and evenhanded manner to strengthen the CFA and to uphold the achievements already realized. In particular, the USA, UK and others have been accused of undermining the LTTE and its commitment to peace by repeatedly calling for a complete renunciation of violence “in word and deed”. The European Union’s decision to ban the LTTE even before the war started has also been seen as a grave error that destroyed the parity of status necessary for the continuation of the peace process.

Furthermore, it has been asserted that the “Washington episode” led the LTTE to withdraw from direct talks after they were excluded from talks in Washington. In addition, the USA has been accused of being instrumental in undermining the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS), which was put in place as a unified mechanism to carry out joint rehabilitation and relief work in the Tsunami-affected Tamil areas, by insisting that it would not direct money to any joint fund other than the Government treasury. A further setback came in 2006, when the European Union added the LTTE to its list of terrorist organizations, while even the GoSL remained reluctant to ban the Tigers in Sri Lanka.

Throughout the six years that the CFA was in place, the SLMM, which was an autonomous and impartial body established to monitor the truce, accused both parties of violating the ceasefire agreement. Until its operation ceased in January 2008, following the GoSL’s unilateral abrogation of the CFA, the SLMM conducted verification and monitoring operations in the conflict areas. It had two main objectives: to assist the GoSL and the LTTE in implementing the CFA properly, and to inquire into and report on violations of the CFA. In the period that followed the signing of the CFA, the SLMM observed a “considerable and notable reduction of violence”.

In spite of minor setbacks, the initial period after the CFA marked a clear step forward with regard to decreasing acts of hostilities and achieving important breakthroughs in the direct talks. However, this success depended on the equal status of the two parties, and once this was breached, mainly as a result of the Washington episode, the CFA started to lose effectiveness. As a result, new hostilities emerged, which eventually evolved into a full scale war, and pushed Sri Lanka back into a becoming a killing-field once again.

4. The Atrocities of the Last Weeks of the War

This part of the report of the Tribunal is focussed on the terrible consequences of the collapse of the ceasefire agreement (CFA), and in particular the military and other actions taken by the Government of Sri Lanka in respect to the LTTE forces, and the civilians associated with them.

The tribunal listened to several presentations by NGOs, experts on the recent and current “civil war” situation in Sri Lanka, in front of a public audience. The Tribunal listened to a larger number of witnesses, victims, human rights defenders, journalists and Tamils from the diaspora in ‘in camera sessions’ in order to protect their identity.

In its work the Tribunal was reminded several times that this civil war was a “war without witnesses” because the GoSL had prevented either national or international media coverage. In fact, some of the early victims were the many journalists that were murdered by unknown assassins, something which appeared to serve the agenda of the Government by silencing critical opinion. The impression held by most experts and witnesses is that this was a civil war, and an exercise in ethnic cleansing, perhaps even genocide, and that the Government did not wish to share this with the media. Instead, significant misinformation as to the policies, the fighting, and the numbers and overall well-being of civilians in LTTE-controlled areas was provided by Colombo.

This misinformation frequently underestimated the number of Tamil civilians within LTTE-controlled areas who were trapped by the military, and exposed to attack by aircraft and artillery. It was only when the final exodus from the much diminished LTTE-held territory began, and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) were counted that it was seen that the government had misinformed both the national and the international public.

The atrocities carried out by the military relate particularly to civilians, and there is evidence of cluster munitions being dropped by warplanes. Some witnesses reported that white phosphorous was used in violation of international law. Several witnesses had seen burn marks on wounded civilians. Others believed that indications of napalm were apparent, and evidence of other incendiary devices has been confirmed by doctors who had cared for hundreds of Tamil civilians wounded in this manner. The sight of hundreds of dead bodies was reported by a number of witnesses. This indicates that in addition to the many wounded and the heavy loss of civilian life, the destruction of civilian infrastructure essential for human wellbeing was common (with women and children among those targeted) in the diminishing areas controlled by the LTTE.

The frequent use of heavy artillery by the military against LTTE forces in civilian areas, including on public buildings such as hospitals and schools as indicated above, constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions. The populace suffered from the lack of potable water, lack of access to essential medical care and continuing lack of access to educational facilities. Virtually all their basic human rights were violated. Further, loss of civilian life under these conditions was very high. By April 2009, according to internal documents of the United Nations, use of heavy weapons, combined with air-raids caused the death of some 116 persons each day. Further, British and French media indicated that during the final weeks of fighting some 20.000 Tamils were killed.

The attempt to annihilate the Tamil population with or without the use of illegal weapons certainly constitutes one form of war crime. The question remains if the government intended genocide in respect of the Tamil people in brutally suppressing armed and political resistance. From expert and eye-witness testimony, it would seem certain that the military attacked targets of a purely civilian nature, such as hospitals, fleeing IDPs and many villages. Further, evidence that the military executed both Tamil civilians and LTTE prisoners of war, who in some cases had voluntarily surrendered, further supports charges of ethnic cleansing and violations of international law.

Before drawing any conclusions, other atrocities and abuses of Tamil civilians need to be considered. Witness testimony on IDP “camps”, or perhaps “concentration camps” as suggested by testimony, demands attention. Portrayed by the government as temporary residential facilities pending the return home or resettlement of those detained within them, the camps were designated as “welfare villages” by the government. Fifteen such IDP camps were so designated. These camps continue to be in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many tragedies within the camps were reported to the Tribunal members. Living space was very modest, cover was of galvanised tin which in hot conditions became a health hazard, often resulting in poor skin conditions. Many children in particular, but also women and the aged, died from diseases such as cholera and malnutrition. Water supply was a significant problem, with five litres per day for all the needs of a family being totally inadequate and threatening to health. Sufficient water for simple hygiene, toilet use and the washing of clothes (most IDPs had only the clothes on their backs) was simply unavailable. Garbage remained in place, and toilets pits constructed without cement often collapsed leading to flooding, and, in some cases, the drowning of children. Many children had lost both parents and become orphans, or only had the protection of a single parent, and were thus vulnerable to the many dangers lurking in the camps.

Another unacceptable government policy was the withholding of food, and the use of this tactic as a tool to coerce and torture Tamil civilians. The blockade of food supplies and deliberate underestimation of the numbers of civilians within the LTTE-controlled areas also led to dangerous food shortages. The additional withholding of medical supplies to Tamil civilians is equally unacceptable and a violation of humanitarian law.

Sexual abuse and the rape of women by government troops was yet another atrocity repeated throughout the civil war by government military in destroyed villages and in the “welfare villages”. This practice, which is in violation of the Rome Statute as a crime against humanity, led to tragedies such as abortions and suicide on the part of victims unable to live with family shame and mental trauma. This policy of targeting also applied to Tamils living outside the conflict zone. Apart from mass deportations, selective terror campaigns were carried out by means of abductions, assassinations, arbitrary arrests, detention, sexual assault and torture.

The information provided in the paragraphs above can be found in the reports of Human Rights Watch (28.07.09 and 24.11.09), of Amnesty International (10.08.09), and of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (September 2009).

Specific assassinations of Tamil leaders are yet another atrocity, and highlighting this occurrence is the targeted killing of members of Parliament, including Joseph Pararajasingham, Nadarasa Raviraj and T. Maheshwaran, who had protested the military massacres.

One aspect of government policy that facilitated a variety of atrocities was the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 which designated the LTTE forces as “terrorists.” It further undermined some of the safeguards in the justice and military legal systems, leading to significant abuse.

Evidence shows that maltreatment of the dead also took place.

In summary, in pursuing its ambitions to remove the threat that LTTE forces presented and to control the Tamil civilian population, the Government of Sri Lanka pursued military actions in violation of international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Declaration of Human Rights. The resulting atrocities of rape, torture, assassinations, “disappearances,” and withholding of food, water and medical supplies brutalised and threatened the survival of the Tamil community. The use of artillery and illegal weapons such as white phosphorus and cluster munitions places the government outside accepted international legal standards. It is not surprising that charges of atrocities, ethnic cleansing and indeed genocide have been levelled at Colombo. War crimes and crimes against humanity clearly appear to have been committed.

5. On the Qualifications of the Facts

Summing up the facts established before this Tribunal by reports from NGOs, victims’ testimony, eye-witnesses accounts, expert testimony and journalistic reports, we are able to distinguish three different kinds of human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan Government from 2002 (the beginning of the CFA) to the present:

• Forced “disappearances” of targeted individuals from the Tamil population;

• Crimes committed in the re-starting of the war (2006-2009), particularly during the last months of the war:

• Bombing civilian objectives like hospitals, schools and other non-military targets;

• Bombing government-proclaimed ‘safety zones’ or ‘no fire zones’;

• Withholding of food, water, and health facilities in war zones;

• Use of heavy weaponry, banned weapons and air-raids;

• Using food and medicine as a weapon of war;

• The mistreatment, torture and execution of captured or surrendered LTTE combatants, officials and supporters;

• Torture;

• Rape and sexual violence against women;

• Deportations and forcible transfer of individuals and families;

• Desecrating the dead;

• Human rights violations in the IDP camps during and after the end of the war:

• Shooting of Tamil citizens and LTTE supporters;

• Forced disappearances;

• Rape;

• Malnutrition; and

• Lack of medical supplies.

5.1 War Crimes

The actions included under the second point above clearly constitute “war crimes” committed by the Sri Lankan Government, its security forces and aligned paramilitary forces, as defined under the Geneva Conventions and in the Rome Statute, with regard to the following sections of Article 8.

If this conflict is recognized as international in nature, the following charges would apply:

(b) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:

(i) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct
part in hostilities;

(ii) Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives;

(iv) Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to
civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated;

(vi) Killing or wounding a combatant who, having laid down his arms or having no longer means of defence, has
surrendered at discretion;

(ix) Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;

(xxi) Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(xxii) Committing rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, as defined in article 7, paragraph 2 (f), enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence also constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions;

(xxv) Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to
their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions;

If the conflict is of a domestic character, the following charges would apply:

(c) In the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause:

(i) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(ii) Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(iii) Taking of hostages;

(iv) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all judicial guarantees which are generally recognized as indispensable.

(e) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character,
within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:

(i) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct
part in hostilities;

(iv) Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;

(vi) Committing rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, as defined in article 7, paragraph 2 (f), enforced sterilization, and any other form of sexual violence also constituting a serious violation of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions.

So, if we analyze the conflict as either an international conflict or as an internal armed conflict, we have clearly found that war crimes were committed by the Government of Sri Lanka.

5.2 Crimes against humanity

The actions included under the points 1 (forced disappearances) and 3 (violations committed in the IDP camps during and after the war) clearly constitute “crimes against humanity”, as defined in the Rome Statute, Article 7, specifically in the following sections:

Any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

(a) Murder;

(b) Extermination

(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;

(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

(f) Torture;

(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;

(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;

(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;

(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to
mental or physical health.

5.3 The possible commission of the crime of genocide

Although the charge of genocide was not included in the inquiry requested of the Tribunal, some of the organizations and persons that gave testimony insisted that it be recognized that genocide occurred, or may have occurred, against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. There was not enough evidence presented before the Tribunal to determine that the crime of genocide be added to the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some of the facts presented should be investigated thoroughly, as possible acts of genocide. Such facts include the following:

- A possible pattern of forced “disappearances” of Tamil individuals carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces and by paramilitary forces with the acquiescence of the State, directed against crucial members of the Tamil community (journalists, physicians, politicians) to destroy, as Lemkin said, “the grounds for the continuity of the life of the group”(in this case, the Tamil group); and

- The persistence of the situation of the Tamil population in the IDP camps; the continuity of shootings, systematic rape and forced “disappearances;” the widespread destruction of infrastructure in those parts of the country where there is a concentration of Tamils; and the lack of food, medicine and other fundamental needs for the continuity of life of the Tamil people.

Although the facts listed above are current, we have not received enough evidence to include them as charges. However, the Tribunal acknowledges the importance of continuing investigation into the possibility of genocide.

5.4 The right of any human being to be under the protection of humanitarian law

The so-called “global war on terror” has produced the idea that any act committed in such a war should be allowed as the best means to defeat a most dangerous enemy. This kind of new security paradigm has led to the justification of human rights violations against those members of the population labeled “terrorists”. It is fundamental for the verdict of this Tribunal that even considering crimes committed by the LTTE forces, the alleged “terrorists” are under the protection of humanitarian law. Neither war crimes, nor crimes against humanity (the charges that have been recognized by this Tribunal) would be justified by any act committed by the victims.

The importance of highlighting this question is that, within this new security paradigm, members of the population labelled as “terrorists”, or any other extreme qualification, would be excluded from the rest of humanity and therefore would not enjoy any protections ensured by human rights law. This assumption would deny the existence of human rights law as such.

5.5 The alleged commission of “crimes against the peace”

The last crime submitted to the Tribunal deals with the charge of “crimes against the peace”. Allegedly, the Government of Sri Lanka and some “external forces” conspired to commit a “war of aggression”. Crimes against the peace were defined in the Nuremberg Tribunal as: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances and/or (ii) participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of such acts.

The problem for this Tribunal regarding this part of the accusation is not only with the evidence provided to the Tribunal to support the charge, but also (and mainly) with the consequences of accepting such a concept as part of humanitarian law.

The idea of a crime against the peace supposes that peace exists and that one side of the conflict breaks this peaceful situation through a war of aggression.

However, in the majority of the armed conflicts that humanity have suffered, the situation can be analysed from a more subtle and complex perspective. The definition of the first offender in an armed conflict is difficult to determine and subjective. The manner in which years of oppression accumulate to a critical level may easily become the first act in a “war of aggression.”

That is the case of the years of war within Sri Lanka. The perspective through which the conflict is analysed defines who may be charged with “crimes against the peace”. That is the reason the Tribunal will not endorse specific charges in regards to such a crime.

Nevertheless, on the basis of the evidence obtained and the testimonies heard, the Tribunal acknowledges the responsibilities of the international community, inasmuch it did not take concrete steps to prevent violations of the human rights of the Tamil people, and subsequently omitted the pursuit of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Tribunal stresses the responsibility of the Member States of the United Nations that have not complied with their moral obligation to seek justice for the violations of human rights committed during the last period of war. After repeated pleas, and in spite of the appalling conditions experienced by Tamils, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council failed to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate those responsible for the atrocities committed due to political pressure exerted by certain Members.

It also highlights the conduct of the European Union in undermining the CFA of 2002. In spite of being aware of the detrimental consequences to a peace process in the making, the EU decided - under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom - to list the TRM (Tamil Resistance Movement, which included the LTTE) as a terrorist organization in 2006. This decision allowed the Sri Lankan Government to breach the ceasefire agreement and re-start military operations leading to the massive violations listed above. It also points to the full responsibility of those governments, led by the United States, that are conducting the so-called “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) in providing political endorsement of the conduct of the Sri Lankan Government and armed forces in a war that is primarily targeted against the Tamil people.

The Tribunal also points to the direct responsibility of various countries in providing the Sri Lankan Government with weapons. Some of these weapons are banned by conventions such as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), and others. In addition, some of those countries also trained Sri Lankan military forces during the ceasefire period.

6. Recommendations

6.1 To the Government of Sri Lanka

The PPT recommends that the government of Sri Lanka:

– Establish as a matter of urgency an independent and authoritative Truth and Justice Commission, to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by parties to the conflict in the course of the last phases of the war after the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire, and ensure the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity;

– Immediately re-establish fundamental freedoms and political rights for the Tamil people, by withdrawing the state of emergency and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979;

– Assure the safety and dignity of the 12,000 plus political prisoners, allowing access to International Committee of the Red Cross and legal representation according to international norms;

– Promptly ensure the protection and integrity of national and international journalists and human rights defenders, and guarantee their legitimate human rights;

– Disband all paramilitary forces and progressively reduce the presence of military forces in the Tamil areas;

– Implement a political power-sharing solution that gives the Tamil people a proactive and legitimate role in the administration and management of the Northeast, while upholding their rights to equal citizenship, participation and representation at all levels, and ensuring a free, fair, and peaceful electoral process in regard to parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2010; and

– Sign, ratify and implement the Treaty of Rome establishing the International Criminal Court.

As far as the current situation in the camps and for Internally Displaced Persons, the PPT recommends:

– Allow free and unlimited access to humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, human rights defenders and media to the refugee camps;

– Hand control of the camps from military to civilian authorities, and ensure the resettlement of Tamils in their native lands, managed by civilian authorities and overseen by international organizations with the full and active participation of the affected people;

– Ensure implementation of standards for safe returns, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and allow independent international monitoring of returnees, rehabilitation, and reconstruction activities;

– Carry out impact assessments and human audits, and set up a mechanism of accountability and compensation after a proper assessment of damages suffered by the Tamil people; and

– Address the particular condition of women, children, and separated families, allowing access to basic services, post-war rehabilitation, education, and health and psychological care, including treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

6.2 To the International Community, Donor Governments and the United Nations The Panel urges to the above that they:

• Appoint a UN special rapporteur for Sri Lanka to investigate and identify responsibilities for human rights violations, violations of humanitarian law and war crimes committed by all parties in conflict;

• Support the establishment of an independent group of eminent persons to investigate the responsibilities of the international community in the disruption of the ceasefire agreement and subsequent war crimes and crimes against humanity and provision of the Sri Lankan Government with weapons during the ceasefire;

• Establish a field office of the UNHRC to allow for independent monitoring of the human rights situation of the Tamil people, and the implementation of Tamil rehabilitation and resettlement programmes, as well as measures aimed at reinstating fundamental rights, freedoms and the rule of law;

• Create an inter-governmental and inter-agency task force to coordinate donor agencies’ activities to support peace and reconciliation processes, landmine clearance, rehabilitation and post-war reconstruction, subject to the rights and wishes of the Tamils;

• Provide the Tamil people with means to ensure their sustainable livelihoods and meet basic human needs, and support confidence-building programs to enable inter-cultural and inter-ethnic dialogue between the Sinhala and Tamil peoples;

• Investigate the final use and proper redistribution of international emergency and development aid to Sri Lanka for tsunami relief and post-disaster reconstruction;

• Appoint a special international electoral monitoring mission for the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2010; and

• Demand that the right to a fair and transparent trial be recognized for the 12,000 plus political prisoners currently detained in Sri Lankan prisons.

6.3 Concluding Remarks

The PPT cannot conclude its work without specifically recognizing the fundamental contribution of those eyewitnesses who had the courage to come forward to testify on facts that have touched their lives profoundly and forever. They are the most qualified representatives of the victims, whose numbers will never be known and whose suffering could never be described in full. The recognition and protection of their rights are the reasons for the existence and activities of the PPT.

The PPT is also well aware that in the current situation the rights of those that witnessed the atrocities committed in the country are vulnerable to further violations, both directly against their personal freedom and life, and through the persecution of their families.

Therefore, the PPT declares that any harm that might happen to those that testified or to their families should be considered as the exclusive responsibility of those authorities and actors addressed within our judgement. We commit ourselves to maintain a sharp attention to the safety of the witnesses who have courageously contributed to the fact-finding task of the tribunal. If anything would happen to any of them, we will hold the government of Sri Lanka responsible for that.

The PPT furthermore declares its readiness and commitment to take an active role in monitoring and promptly acting on any consequence that the witnesses might suffer due to the fact of having contributed to our work and deliberations.

Francois Houtart - Chairperson
People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka

Gianni Tognoni - Secretary General
Permanent People’s Tribunal - Rome

Personal Appeal for Peace from Thai Buddhist
Sulak Sivaraksa

We would like to appeal to the Sinhala Buddhists first of all to acknowledge the crimes that they committed against their own Tamil sisters and brothers and ask for forgiveness from the Tamils. Rejoicing at the war victories, when thousands have been killed, ‘disappeared’, maimed, raped and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and detained, is totally against the dhamma.

After all, forgiveness in Pali is apaya – no fear – we should cultivate spiritual fearlessness. Fear arises from construction of the other. Construction of the other arises from separation of self and other. This is ignorance. The enemy is, in fact, greed, hatred and ignorance. In order to be fearless one needs to break the fetters of ignorance and greed. It is the ideological attachment to a majority dominated state that has caused the war and led to enormous suffering. The notions of minority and majority are wrong perceptions. We are interrelated or ‘interbeing’. One who realizes interbeing is fearless. It is this fearlessness that can help transform the colonial construction of the Sri Lankan unitary state. This construction is based on greed and hatred.

Through deep Buddhist meditation we can realize our interbeing. In reality we all are friends, who may have different ethnicities. But with right-mindfulness (sammâ smadhi), we can see that they are all our friends, not enemies. The words war heroes and terrorists are misconceptions. We can live together, acknowledging each other’s dignity. Tamils are human beings and they should live their basic human rights as we do. They aspire to live in their own land just like the Sinhalese. The government of Sri Lanka should follow Emperor Asoka who transformed violence into loving kindness treating all diverse ethnicities in his empire with dignity and equal respect, upholding different cultures and religions. We need to follow the great Buddhist emperor in order to uphold the world in the twenty- first century in peace, truth and compassion. The Sri Lankan state needs a transformation.

The Machiavellian approach of exploitation and imperialism is coming to an end, as the Buddhist teaching of anicca, impermanency has implied and as evidenced by the fact that the Roman and British empires have come to their ends and the American one is on the decline. The future of humankind depends on ahimsa and satyagraha. The power of the truth was not only expressed by Gandhi, but it was proclaimed by the Buddha. Once we confront the Noble Truth of Suffering – not only individually but socially; we can then find out the causes of suffering, which link directly with greed lobha (capitalism and consumerism), hatred dosa (nationalism, militarism, pseudo-democracy), and delusion moha (mainstream education stressing on the head without cultivating the heart and mainstream mass media).

Then we can overcome social suffering through the Noble Eightfold Path of Sila not exploitative of oneself and others, samadhi, deep meditative practice of self-awareness, and panna, that is wisdom or true understanding, seeing that we are all interconnected. The Tamils and Sinhalese need to be brother and sister. If this is taken seriously as a reality not as a far-fetched ideal Sri Lanka can really be a land of the buddha, with a small ‘b’. Tamils and Sinhala could be side by side in unity and diversity. This will indeed be a good example of the country in the twenty-first century. It will be a century marked by the strength of spirituality beyond hypocrisy and mediocrity.

Annex I

The Programme

People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka
14 -16 January, 2010

Day One: 14 January 2010

Nature of Crimes to be Investigated: Part I

Last Phase of the War in Sri Lanka and its Aftermath: Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes

Session I : 9.00 a.m. - 11.00 a.m. (Open to the Public)

1. Mr Rajeev Sreetharan and Ms Janani Jananayagham (Tamils Against Genocide) Evidence of war crimes based on satellite images of the region ‘ Safety Zone’ during the last phase of war

2. Dr Paul Newman (Concerned Citizens’ Forum of South Asia) An overall view of refugees and human rights especially in the aftermath of war

Screening of Video Footages of bombing of civilian targets in the last phase of war

Session II : 11.15 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. (In Camera sessions)

3. Expert Witness
An overall summary of crimes against humanity and war crimes based on existing documents

4. Expert Eye Witness Account crimes against humanity and war crimes; food as a weapon of war; medicine as a weapon of war; rape as a weapon of war; killing civilians and destroying civilian buildings etc

5. An Eye Witness Account killing of civilians and destroying civilian hospitals; schools; homes and places of worship; artillery attacks on the designated Safety Zone Session III: 3.00 p.m. - 6.00 p.m. (In Camera sessions)

6. An Eye Witness Account Bombing of hospitals, food and medicine as a weapon of war.

7. An Eye Witness Account killing of civilians and destroying civilian hospitals; schools; homes and places of worship; artillery attacks on the designated Safety Zone.

8. Eye Witness
An eye witness account of detention camps and violation of human rights; rape and abductions

9. Eye Witness
An eye witness account of detention camps and violation of human rights; rape and abductions

6.00 pm -Closure of the first day one

Day Two: 15 January 2010

Session IV - 8.00 a.m.– 9.30 a.m. (In Camera Session)

10. An Expert Account
Suppression of media; killing of journalists and extra-judicial killings

11. Eye Witness Account
A Journalist/A Victim of Torture

Local and International factors that led to the collapse of 2002 CFA : Crimes Against Peace

Session I :10.15 a.m. - 12.15 p.m. (Open to the Public)

1. Commodore R.S Vasan, India (Head of the Strategic and Security Studies Centre- Chennai and a former naval officer in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka)

How did the Sri Lankan State defend itself to protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security against the separatist movement like the LTTE.

2. Brigadier General Ulf Henrickson, Sweden (Head of the Monitoring Mission of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement in Sri Lanka)

What happened to the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement?

3. Prof. Peter Schalk , Sweden

The role of the European Union in the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement Video footages of extra-judicial killings and desecration of dead bodies

Session II: 12.30 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. (In Camera Session)

1. Two expert eye witnesses

An assessment of the welfare, healthcare, child care, de-mining and other humanitarian services during the peace process and especially after the 2004 Tusnami in the LTTE-controlled areas and the response of the international community to these services.

Session III: 3.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. (final session - In Camera Session)

1. Expert Witness, Ireland
Ireland’s positive contribution to the peace process in Sri Lanka

2. Two Expert Witnesses
International factors that led to the collapse of the CFA and promotion of the military solution (crimes against peace)

5.00 p.m. -Closure of the Hearings

Day Three : 16 January 2010

Public Session : Presenting the Findings - 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m.

2.00 p.m. - 3.00 p.m.
Chaired by Prof. Francois Houtart

Presenting the findings
The Chair and the Panel leave the Hall

Closing Session : 3.15 p.m.- 4.00 p.m.

An open discussion led by the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka

List of affadavits submitted at the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka

1. ‘Crimes to be Investigated (part 1): Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes’ - International HumanRights Association (IMRV)

2. ‘Crimes to be Investigated (part 2) : Crimes against Peace’ – International Human Rights Association (IMRV)

3. ‘Massacres of Tamils’ – International Human Rights Association (IMRV)

4. ‘Genocide Presentation to the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka’ – Tamils Against Genocide (TAG)

5. TAG Presentation and accompanying written submission – Janani Jananayagan a) IMF- Lawsuit ( 6 March)

6. TAG - PPT - Extra-Judicial Executions – Rajeev Sreetharan

7. TAG - PPT - Boyle-WarCrimes-Sri Lanka - Rajeev Sreetharan

8. TAG - PPT - Model-Indictment - Rajeev Sreetharan

9. TAG - PPT - PTK - Hospital - Sattelite - Final V5 - Rajeev Sreetharan

10. TAG - PPT - TrincoFiveExecution – V5 - Rajeev Sreetharan

11. ‘My Experience in Vanni – An Eyewitness Account’ (in camera) – Name of witness witheld for security reasons

12. ‘Evidence for the Seven of the Nine Charges under Rome Statute: War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity’ – an expert eyewitness (witness’ name witheld for security reasons) a) North Eastern Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR) and Statstical Centre for Northeast (SCNE): Massacres of Tamils: 1956-2008 ( Chennai, Manitham, 2009)

13. ‘My Evidence during the Period July 2008-May 2009 - Name of witness witheld for security reasons witness

14. ‘People’s Rights and Democracy – An Expert Witness - Name of witness witheld for security
reasons.

a) Memo to H.E.The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon

b) Parliamentary Series No. 20 of The Sixth Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Third Session), Interim Report of The Select Committee of Parliament for investigation of the Operations of Non-Governmental Organizations and their Impact.

c) Report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Sri Lanka, (Advanced edited version - A/HRC/10/9 - 6 February 2009) (Excerpt - http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/docs/A.HRC.10.9.pdf)

d) Joint Public Press Release of the Civil Monitoring Mission, Free Media Movement and Law and Society Trust ( 23 August, 2007)

e) Sri Lanka: Vanni Emergency, Situation Report, 16, ( 21 May, 2009), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

15. ‘Suffering of IDPs and Conflict-affected People in Sri Lanka: A Case of War Crime’ – Dr. Paul Newman

16. ‘My Life in a Bombed Hospital’ – Name of witness witheld for security reasons

17. ‘Suppression of Freedom of Expression (witness given by an affected journalist)’ - Name of witness witheld for security reasons

18. ‘War against Terrorism in Sri Lanka and Peace and Security in the Indian Subcontinent’ – Commodore R.S Vasan

19. ‘What Happened to the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement’ – Brigadier General Ulf Hendriksson

20. ‘The Role of the EU in the Sri Lankan Conflict’ – Professor Peter Schalk

21. ‘The Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Work in the LTTE Controlled Areas during the Ceasfire Agreement’ - name of the two witnesses witheld for security reasons

22. ‘The Role of Ireland in the Sri Lankan Peace Process’ - Name of witness witheld for security reasons

Written Submissions Sent to PPT

Last Phase of War

1-14. ‘An Eyewitness Account of the Last Phase of War in Vanni 1-14’ - Names of witness witheld for security reasons

The Aftermath of War

1-21. ‘An Eyewitness Account of State of Refugee Camps in Sri Lanka 1-21’ – Names of witness witheld for security reasons

Video footages and photogarphs

1. A large collection of video footages of bombing, killing and wounding civilians and destruction of hospitals

2. Video footages of descration of dead bodies of women taken by mobile phone cameras of the soliders

3. Photographes of desecration of dead bodies taken by soldiers ( email dated:11 June, 2009)

Written submissions sent by identified persons and organisations

1. Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes Against Peace’ – Dr P Kukathasan

2. ‘Fact Sheet:Tamil Asylum Seekers’- Civil Society Solidarity for Asylum Seekers & Refugees (Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, Legal Aid Foundation, Working People ‘s Association and Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance)

3. ‘Internment of Tamil Civilians in Sri Lanka’ - Tamil Legal Advocay Project-UK

4. Sri Lanka: The Case for Suspension from Commonwealth

5. The Affidavit of the Global Peace Support Group - UK

6. ‘Scarred’ - Janani Paramsothy

7. ‘Over 2000 Cases of Disappearences’: Committee for the Investigation of the Dissapeared (CID) - Colombo, Sri Lanka

8. ‘Rape as a Weapon of War’ - Thiben Ramanathan (email dated: 20/12/2009)

9. A realistic view of the root causes of the current Sri Lankan crisis – Dr S. Jeyasundaram

Documents compiled by Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL)

Articles and links for forced evictions and deportations of Tamils

1. Biscuits for LTTE: Suspects remanded – 31 January 2008
http://www.sinhala.net

2. WFP wants story on biscuits rectified. http://www.thebottomline.lk/2008/01/30/B35.htm

3. High protein biscuits supplied at government request: UNICEF http://www.slmuslims.com/index.php/200802011517/Local-News/High-protein-biscuitssupplied-
at-government-request-UNICEF.php

4. Food Supplies to Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu Districts http://www.thecolombotimes.com/2008_10_01_archive.html

5. Is truth also military gear? A question to Sri Lanka media. www.lakmag.com/02-01-2008.html

6. Norwegian NGO used by LTTE, also delivered arms to an insurgency in Sudan -Walter
Jayawardana http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20080728_02

7. WFP food packs meant for LTTE? - 28 January 2008 http://www.news.lk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4724&Itemid=44

8. WFP biscuit story: Trico Chairman clarifies http://www.news.lk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4735&Itemid=44

10. The latest Situation Report by Lawrence Christy, Planning Director, TRO - Updated on 02
May 2009 http://www.sangam.org/2009/05/Enclave_Report.pdf?uid=3460

11. On the spot report by Lawrence Christy, Planning Director, TRO - Updated on 04 March
2009 http://vannimission.org/reports/On%20the%20Spot%20Report%20-
%204th%20March,%202009.pdf

12. On the Spot Report by Lawrence Christy, Planning Director, TRO - Updated on 11 March
2009. http://vannimission.org/reports
On%20the%20Spot%20Report%20%20Bunker%20life%2011th%20March%202009.pdf

13. REPORT from the ‘Safe Zone’ / TRO Media Release - 25 April 2009 http://www.tamilnational.com/world-news/asia/774-report-from-the-safe-zone.html

14. Some Notes on Situation Report for the month of February, 2009. http://www.tamilnation.org/tamileelam/tro/090220on_the_spot_report.pdf

15. On the Spot Report by Lawrence Christy, Planning Director, TRO – Latter part of
January, 2009. http://www.tamilnation.org/tamileelam/tro/090120on_the_spot_report.pdf

16. TRO’s Relief Activities in Vanni - Updated on 26th April, 2009 http://www.sangam.org/2009/05/TRO_Relief.pdf

17. ‘As the shells fell, we tried to save lives with no blood or medicine’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/sri-lanka-war-on-tamil-tigers

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/sep/16/sri-lanka-tamil

18. In Sri Lanka the war is over but Tamil Tiger remnants suffer brutal revenge
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/21/sri-lanka-tamil-tigers-ltte-tamil-refugeesin-
camp

19. Disgraceful treatment of LTTE captives - 14 November 2009 http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/11/disgraceful-treatment-of-ltte-captives.html

20. http://www.lankaenews.com/Sinhala/news.php?id=7761

21. A Profile of Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in the Vanni and Vavuniya The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) March 2009

22. http://www.lankaenews.com/Sinhala/news.php?id=7816

23. National Leader Prabakaran’s Daughter Dwaraka’s photos released http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-369439

24. Sri Lanka’s brutal war takes heavy toll (AFP) – May 9, 2009

25. On the operating table, evidence of Sri Lanka’s brutal war - AFP - 10 May 2009
http://reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/MYAI7RW633?OpenDocument&query=white%20phosphous

26. Sri Lankan Army used Chemical Weapons on Tamils in the war zones http://www.nowpublic.com/world/sri-lankan-army-used-chemical-weapons-tamils-warzones

27. Sri Lanka acquires ‘banned’ weapons - 13 August 2001 http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=6237

28. Controversial weapon meant for genocide alleges MP - 17 August 2001 http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=625

29. Recurring Nightmare State Responsibility for “Disappearances” and Abductions in Sri Lanka – Human Right Watch- March 2008- Volume 20, No. 2(C)

30. New allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka - Mark Leon Goldberg – 26 August 2009 http://www.undispatch.com/node/8816

31 Sri Lanka: Execution Video Shows Need for International Inquiry - Human Right Watch http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/26/sri-lanka-execution-video-shows-needinternational-
inquiry

32. Slovak rockets sold to war-torn Sri Lanka http://www.spectator.sk/articles/view/31317/2/slovak_rockets_sold_to_war_torn_sri_lanka.html

33. Thermobaric warfare and humanitarian concerns – D.B.S. Jeyaraj http://www.tamilcanadian.com/page.php?id=805

34. Emergency Relief Coordinator Condemns Killing of Aid Workers in Sri Lanka - 7
August 2006
http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail_full_story.asp?news_id=757

35. United Nations-Department of Public Information, New York - Press Release IHA/ 1211, 7 August 2006 / Emergency Relief Coordinator Condemns Killing of Aid Workers in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka : Vanni Emergency Situation Reports United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

36-58. Situation Report: Vanni Emergency Situation Report # 1 - #24 - 27 April 2009 - 02 July 09

59-60. Situation Report: Sri Lanka - Flash floods Situation Report # 01 - # 02 - 17 August 2009 - 21 August 2009

61. Map: Welfare Centre Locations as at 01 May 2009 - Jaffna District

OCHA -Joint Humanitarian Updates

62-76. Situation Report: Joint Humanitarian Update - Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts Report #2 - #07 ~ 13 – 26 Feb 2009-15 – 28 August 2009

77. United Nations Condemns Indiscriminate Use of Force in Sri Lanka / November 2006
Press Release IHA/1240 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/iha1240.doc.htm

78.Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary - General Ban Ki - Moon at United Nations
Head Quarters , 11 June 2009 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sgsm12306.doc.htm

79. Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary - General Ban Ki - Moon at United Nations
Head Quarters / 29 July 2009 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2009/sgsm12389.doc.htm

80. On Sri Lanka, UN’s Alston Probes Execution Video, Kaelin Says His Praise Was
Misquoted - By Matthew Russell Lee http://www.innercitypress.com/unhr1srilanka102709.html

81. UN Plaza: Pay Attention to Sri Lanka! - Matthew Russell Lee http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56

82. Civilian killings in Sri Lanka discussed in UN, leaked documents and double standards-
Matthew Russell Lee - Inner City Press http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtIW-Kx7QRQ

83. SG/SM/10304 17 January 2006-Secretary-General very Concerned about Deteriorating Security Situation in Sri Lanka; Urges Resumption of Dialogue, Respect for Human Rights http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2006/sgsm10304.html

84. Battle for water or something else 7 August 2006 Press release By LTTE http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?artid=19111&catid=13

85. “Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment by the Karuna Group”. Human Rights Watch - 23 January 2007. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/srilanka0107/.

86. “Norway regrets the Government of Sri Lanka’s decision to terminate the 2002 ceasefire agreement”. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. - 02 January 2008. http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/Press-Contacts/News/2008/Norway-regretsthe- Government-of-Sri-Lan.html?id=495581

87 “Unicef: Bombed orphans were not Tamil Tigers”. Mail and Guardian Online - 15 August
2006. http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/ breaking_news__international_news/&articleid=280855.

88. Note no. 359 25.01.2007 CAPTURE OF VAKARAI AND THE Contradictions in Sri Lanka’s Agenda – Update :112 / by Col R Hariharan (retd.) http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cnotes4%5Cnote359.html

89. Destructive tide of a water war http://www.nation.lk/2006/08/06/politics3.htm

90. SLMM had entered Mavil Aru area unannounced-Sri Lanka Secretariat for Coordinating
Peace (SCOPP) Press Release http://www.tamilnation.org/conflictresolution/Tamileelam/norway/060806sri_lanka.htm

91. LTTE opens Mavil Aru Dam ahead of SL Govt http://www.lankalibrary.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2756

92. “Mission Water Shed” continues -By Walter Jayawardhana http://www.defence.lk/PrintPage.aspfname=20060731_07

93. Parties want peace, but no consensus on how to achieve it http://sundaytimes.lk/060813/columns/lobby.html

94. Bauer drowns in Mavil Aru http://sundaytimes.lk/060813/columns/political.html

95. Ire after fire http://www.nation.lk/2006/08/13/politics2.htm

96. Sri Lanka: Ban Ki-Moon Regrets Termination of Cease Fire Agreement http://www.un.org/News/ossg/hilites/hilites_arch_view.asp?HighID=987

97. Hakeem has got wires crossed - Govt. http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2006/8/7996.html

98. “Lanka defends expulsion of Tamils”. The Times of India (AP). 2007-06-10 / http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Lanka_defends_expulsion_of_Tamils/articleshow/
2112442.cms

99.Amal, Jayasinghe (2007-06-07). “Sri Lanka police evict ethnic Tamils from capital” - AFP/
2007-06-07.

100. “Deportation of Tamils from Colombo is reminiscent of The Holocaust” - 2007-06-08
/ http://www.achrweb.org/press/2007/SLK0307.htm

101. Krishan, Francis (2007.06.07). “Sri Lanka accused of ethnic cleansing as over 400
Tamils evicted from capital” - AP / 2007.06.07 /

102. Lanka SC steps in, halts eviction of Tamils from Colombo -The Times of India / http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Lanka_defends_expulsion_of_Tamils/articleshow/
2112442.cms

103. “Tamils return to Sri Lanka capital” / http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2007/06/
2008525143412610585.html - 2007-06-09.

104. Police evict Tamils from Colomb - BBC/ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/
6729555.stm / 2007-06-07

105. “The United States condemns the forced removal of Tamils” / press release June
2007 (U.S. Department of State.). http://srilanka.usembassy.gov/pr-08june2007.html

106. Norway condemns enforced removal of Tamils from Colombo / press release June 2007

107. “Sri Lanka media slam Tamil eviction” - AP / 2007-06-09 / http://www.dnaindia.com/
world/report_sri-lanka-media-slam-tamil-eviction_1102233

108. “Mass expulsion of Tamils from Colombo denounced” - INAS / 2007-06-07/ http://
www.indiaenews.com/srilanka/20070607/55214.htm

109. “Ethnic Cleansing” in Sri Lanka? - TIME / http://www.time.com/time/world/article/
0,8599,1631473,00.html

110. Apex court halts eviction of Tamils from Colombo / Rediff.com / http://
www.rediff.com/news/2007/jun/08lanka.htm

111. Ethnic cleansing claim after police move Tamils at gunpoint / The Guardian / http://
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/08/randeepramesh.international

112. Sri Lanka court blocks state deportation of Tamils | Reuters / http://
www.reuters.com/article/idUSCOL6048

113. “Is Sri Lanka “our country?” - 2007-06-09 - BBC / http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/
news/story/2007/06/070608_evicted_tamils.shtml

114. Mallawaarachchi, Bharatha (2007-06-08). “Court: End Tamil Expulsions in
Colombo”. (AP) / http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/06/08/
international/i040745D49.DTL&type=printable

115. “Sri Lanka Supreme Court orders to stop evacuation of ethnic Tamils from Colombo
lodges” - Colombo Page. / http://www.colombopage.com/archive_07/June8102839SL.html

116. “SC issues Interim Order against forcible transportation of Tamil lodgers”. LankaeNews / 2007-06-08 / http://lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=4239

117. “Those chased from Colombo yesterday brought back to Colombo today”. LankaeNews / 2007-06-08 / http://lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=4240

118. “Those chased from Colombo yesterday brought back to Colombo today” (in Sinhala). LankaeNews / 2007-06-08 / http://lankaenews.com/Sinhala/news.php?id=2496

119. “Vacation of lodgings: President asks IGP for immediate report” (in English). Daily News / 2007-06-09 / http://www.dailynews.lk/2007/06/09/news02.asp

120. “Sri Lanka PM expresses regret” - The Hindu - 2007-06-11/ http://www.hindu.com/2007/06/11/stories/2007061115040100.htm

121. Open Letter to President Mahinda Rajapakse to stop the expulsion of Tamils from
Colombo / http://www.imadr.org/statement/human_rights_in_sri_lanka/open_letter_to_president_mahin/

122. Forced Evictions of Tamils in Northeast Since 1980’s by Sri Lankan Armed Forces A
Report by NESOHR January 2005 http://www.tamilnet.com/img/publish/2006/01/forced_evictions_ne.pdf

123. Sri Lanka begins forced eviction of Tamils - is there a human rights violation? http://www.indiadaily.com/editorial/17015.asp

124. Expulsion of non-resident Tamils from Colombo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_of_non-resident_Tamils_from_Colombo

125. Sri Lanka State Terrorism Rape & Murder of Eelam Tamil Women http://www.tamilnation.org/indictment/rape/0211omct.htm

126. Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective Violence Against Women / Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women,Yakin Ertürk / http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/ds668_02908.pdf

127. Traumatised Tamils live in fear of new crackdown in Sri Lanka http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/05/sri-lanka-forces-tamil-tigers

128. ‘Urgent Appeal: Flight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka’ , Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
(IFPSL) / 19 May, 2009

129. ‘Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka’, Amnesty International - 17 August, 2009 /
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/unlock-camps-sri-lanka-20090807

130. ‘Sri Lanka: Free All Unlawfully Detained’ - Human Rights Watch - 24 November, 2009
/ http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/11/24/sri-lanka-free-all-unlawfully-detained

Repressive laws and killings of journalists

1 . SriLanka: Briefing Paper- Emergency Laws and International Standards, International Commission of Jurists (March, 2009) / http://www.icj.org/IMG/SriLanka-BriefingPaper- Mar09-FINAL.pdf

2. Recorded List of Media Workers, November 2005- March 2009 Cilvilian Targets

1. Plight of the People: Background to Humanitarian Issues in Sri Lanka, Canadian Humanitarian Appeal for Relief of Tamils

2. Attacks on Hospitals, Compiled by Human Rights Watch based on interviews from aid agencied and eye witnesses (15 Dec 2008 - Feb 10 2009) / http://www.hrw.org/ja/news/2009/05/08/sri-lanka-repeated-shelling-hospitals-evidence-war-crimes#Hospital

3. Civilians Wounded, Families Separated in Conflict Zone, MSF (16 April, 2009) / http://doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=3542&cat=field-news

4. Halt the mass murder of Sri Lankan Tamils , Concerned citizens of South Asia ( 10 April,
2009
)/ http://radicalnotes.com/journal/2009/04/10/halt-the-mass-murder-of-sri-lankantamils-in-the-vanni-area-of-north-sri-lanka/

5. ‘Government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians, Statement by SL government’, ( 02 Feb, 2009) / http://www.lankadaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207%3Asl-warns-civilians-in-combatzone-&Itemid=197

6.‘UN must protect civilians in Sri Lanka, A joint appeal by a group of imminent personse’, (06 March, 2009) / http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28621

7. Regarding the humanitarian crisis and mass deaths of civilians in Vanni, Statement issued by S.V. R. Krishner Iyer, (09 April,.2009)

8. Sri Lankan hospital shelled in Tamil no-fire zone. AFP news report, (09 April, 2009) / http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/09/sri-lanka-tamil-tigers-civilians

9. AFP Report on usage of Chemical weapons, (09 May, 2009)/
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gGEOc5G_8nk8A97fD1FbLHIGPeow

10. Guardian Editorial : Sri Lanka:Crushing victory, (11 April,2009 ) /http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/11/sri-lanka-tamil-tigers

11. 47 people killed in new shelling in Sri Lanka, (12 May, 2009 ) / http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/12/world/fg-srilanka12

12. Telegraph: Sri Lanka hospital attack kills dozens, (12, May, 2009) / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/5312230/Sri-Lanka-hospital-attackkills-dozens.html

13. AP news report:40 civilians die daily in Sri Lanka war, (13 Feb, 2009) / http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-02-13-official-40-civilians-die-daily-in-sri-lanka-war

14. MSF: Listening to fleeing Sri Lankans, (13 Feb, 2009) / http://www.msf.org.hk/public/contents/news?ha=&wc=0&hb=&hc=&revision_id=41041&item_id=41040

15. More than 2000 Tamils have been killed (17 Feb, 2009) / http://www.wrp.org.uk/news/4001

16. MSF: For those who escape the Vanni region, (17 March, 2009) / http://doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=3498&cat=field-news

17. Express India - Lankan army shelling 'no fire' zone, (17, April, 2009) / http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Lankan-army-shelling-no-fire-zone-says-intl-watchdog/
438348/

18. UNICEF’s Executive Director speaks out on situation in Sri Lanka, (18 March,.2009)/
http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail.asp?news_id=1288

19. Times Online: Artillery pounds wounded Tamils trapped on beach, (22 March, 2009)/
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5950376.ece

20. Guardian: Civilians are dying, and the hospital is paralysed, (22 April,.2009) / http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/sri-lanka-civilian-deaths

21. UN says nearly 6,500 civilians killed in Sri Lanka, (24 April, 2009) / http://
abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7417282

22. Downgrading of Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, (18 December 2007)/ http://
www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/12/17/sri-lanka-human-rights-commission-downgraded

23. Karen Parker’s Testimony on Sri Lanka to the Near East and South and Central Asian
Affairs Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States ( 24 Feb 2009) / http://www.tamilnet.com/img/publish/2009/02/KarenParker22Feb.pdf

24. Satellite Imagery Analysis of AAAS, (12 May, 2009) / http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/0812sri_lanka.shtml

25. UN Document - Civilian Casualties in Wanni

26. UN document on Vanni killing and injuries, (March 2009)

27. Lanka Guardian: Disgraceful Treatment of LTTE Captives, (14 November, 2009) / http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/11/disgraceful-treatment-of-ltte-captives.html

Displacement and Acquisition of Land by the State

1. High Security Zones and the Rights to Return and Restitution in Sri Lanka - A case study of Trincomalee District:

2. Trincomalee High Security Zone and Special Economic Zone / http://www.sangam.org/2009/12/Trinco_HSZ.pdf

Local and International factors that led to the collapse of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement

1. Brigadier General Ulf Henricsson’s main speech - 23 March 2007 in Berlin: http://www.friedenfuersrilanka.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&itemid=27

2. Geo Strategic Interests of the USA in Sri Lanka / http://www.humanrights.de/doc_de/
countries/sri-lanka/sivaram/sivaram_4_d_hi.wmv

3. War Against the Tamil People and the US-SL Strategic Relations, International Human Rights Association, (IMRV)

Annex II

List of Supporters

Individuals:

Among those who cannot be on the Panel - for various reasons - but have agreed to publicise and interpret the findings of the Tribunal are:

Brockmann, Miguel d’Escoto - Senior Advisor to the President of Nicaragua, the outgoing President of the UN General Assembly (2008-2009), the former Minister for Foreign Affairs in Nicaragua and liberation theologian

Esquivel, Adolfo Pérez - Argentinian human rights campaigner, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner

Fernandez, Irene - A leading Malaysian Trade Unionist and a human rights campaigner

Iyer, S.V.R.Krishna - Former Judge of the Indian Supreme Court, former Minister in the Kerala Parliament

Keskin, Eren - Kurdish-born lawyer, rights campaigner and vice president of the Human Rights Association, Istanbul, Turkey.

Maguire, Mairead - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Co-founder of Community for Peace People, an organisation which encouraged a peaceful resolution to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Mairead is member of the Honorary board of the International Coalition for the Decade of the culture of Peace and Nonviolence.

McWilliams, Monica – Prof. emeritus, Ulster University, co-founder of Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement (1998)

Roy, Arundhati - Writer and Journalist and Booker prize-winner

Ziegler, Jean - University of Geneva, Switzerland

Further Individual Supporters:

Afghanistan

Dabhi, Dr. James C. - SJ, Country Director, Afghanistan Research and Development Institute, Kabul, Afghanistan

Argentina

Calvelo, Graciela - Argentina

Casas, Jose - Professor Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina

Crocco, Natalia - Argentina

Dalmau, Iván Gabriel - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ferreira, Marcelo - Chair, Department of Human Rights, Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ohanian, Bárbara I. - Sociologist, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ortiz, Alberto Luis - General Roca, Rio Negro, Argentina

Ramos, Carlos José Pérez - Sociologist, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Said, Emilia Judith - Buenos Aires, Directora Archivo Nacional de la Memoria, Argentina

Samanes, Cecilia - Argentina

Stupenengo, Alejandra - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Stupenengo, Julieta - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Canada

Sundar, Aparna - Assistant Professor, Dept of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University

Croatia

Bec, Janja - Croatia

England

Kawamura, Betsy A. - London, United Kingdom

Nathan, Prof. Pradeep - Cambridge, United Kingdom

Spencer, Prof. Philip - Associate Dean and Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, UK

India

Ayyanathan, K. - Editor, tamil.webdunia.co

Dr. Dominic. D - Associate Professor, Dept. of Kannada Studies, Bangalore University

Jayaraman, Nityanand - Chennai, India

Jeyaraj, Xavier - Secretary, South Asian Peoples’ Initiatives (SAPI)

Koshy, Prof. Ninan - Kerala, India

Manisha Sethi, Jamia - Teachers’ Solidarity Association, New Delhi, India

Roy, Kirity - Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) & National Convenor (PACTI), Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, West Bengal, India

Sudhakar, Dr. Philip - Director, Commission for Communication, Dindigul, Tamilnadu,

India

Xavier, Santiagu - Secretary, Jesuits in Social Action (JESA)

Ireland

Caliman, Liviu - Dublin, Ireland

Fitzpatrick, Breda - Portlaoise, Ireland

Grehan, Gerry - Chair, Peace People, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Malesevic, Dr. Sinisa - School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland, Galway

McKeown, Bishop Donal, Belfast

Murphy, Dr. Ray - Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway,Ireland

Tormey, Sorcha - Coexist Ltd., Ireland

Ward, Dr. Eilís - School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Malaysia

Nair, Raveendran - Malaysia

Scotland

Bloxham, Donald - Professor of Modern History, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh. Author of ’The Final Solution: A Genocide’

Spain

Prada,, Carlos Slepoy - Attorney, Madrid, Spain

Thailand

Kosolnavin, Surasee - Former National Commissioner for Human Rights, Thailand

United Arab Emirates

Hanieh, Adam - Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zayed, University, United Arab Emirates.

United States of America

Chatterji, Dr. Angana - Co-convener of International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir; Professor of Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco Prof.

Imtiyaz, A. R. M. - Department of Political Science, Temple University Philadelphia, USA

Organisations:

Asia

1. Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation, Thailand

2. People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Chennai and Ponderchery, India

3. People’s Union for Civil Liberties- Kerala, India

4. Concerned Citizens’ Forum of South Asia- Bangalore, India

5. Campaign for Abolition of Thirld World Debt (CADTM) ,Pakistan

6. Working Peoples Association, Indonesia

7. Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, University of Madras, India

8. Institute for Development Education Action and Studies (IDEAS) Centre, Madurai, India

9. Ecumenical Christian Forum for Human Rights (ECFoHR), India

10. MaduraiPeople’s Action Liberation Movement in East Ramnad (PALMERA), Devekottai, India

11. DACA ( Dr.Ambedkar Cultural Academy),Madurai, India

12. JOHAR, Adivasi Centre for Development and Human Rights, Dumkha, Jharkhand, India

13. Adivasi Yuva Chetana Manch, Raipur, Chattisga, India

14. Parishkaran-Bridging Populous and Polity, India

15. Adivasi Jivan Vikas Sanstha (AJVS), New Delhi India (Secretary- Rojalia Tete)

16. JOHAR - Human Resources Development Centre, Dumka, Jharkhand, India (Director -David Madhava Solomon)

17. SHAKTI - Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (LAHRC), Songadh, Gujarat, India (Director - Amrutbhai R. Patel)

18. Focus on the Global South, CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok,Thailand

19. All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF)

20. Tamilnadu Pondy Fisher People’s Federation, Chennai, India

21. Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, New Delhi, India

22. Afghanistan Research and Development Institute, Herat and Bamyan University, Kabul

Australia

1, Socialist Alliance, Australia

2, Sydney Peace Foundation

3. Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.

Canada

1. Socialist Project, Toronto, Canada

2. Canadian Arab Federation (The national umbrella organization of all Arab organizations based in Canada)

3. The Toronto Area Council of the United Steelworkers Union of Canada

4. Canadian Forum for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka

5. Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) – Canada

6. Canadian Organisation for Peace & Equality (COPE)

7. Centre for War Victims and Human Rights (www.cwvhr.org), Toronto

8. No One is Illegal, Toronto

9. The Philippine Solidarity Group of Toronto

10. Philippine Network for Justice and Peace, Toronto

Europe

1. Dublin Quaker Peace Committee, Ireland

2. Latin American Solidarity Centre – Dublin

3. Frontline- International Organisation for the Defenders of Human Rights, Dublin & Brussels

4. Irish Trade Union Congress

5. Action from Ireland (Afri)

6. Stephen Gargan & Jim Keys / Gaslight Productions, Derry, Northern Ireland

7. Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (David Landy, Chair)

8. Comhlámh

9. Africa Centre, Ireland

10. Debt and Development Coalition, Ireland

11. Latin American Solidarity Centre- José Antonio Gutiérrez (Research and Development Officer, LASC)

12. Bloom Movement (Bloom is a movement of people in Ireland taking action together for global justice.)

13. Justice and Peace Office - International Oblates, Rome and Washington

14. European Initiative for a Negotiated Settlement in Sri Lanka, Sweden

15. Initiative for Peace in Sri Lanka, Germany

16. Centre Tricontinental, Belgium

17. Mireille Fanon-Mendes, Foundation Frantz Fanon, France

18. Olivier Bonfond, Campaign for Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) Belgium

19. CEDETIM / IPAM (‘Centre d’études et d’initiatives de solidarité internationale / Initiatives pour un autre monde)

20. FIMARC

21. Casa Argentina de Madrid, Spain

Latin America

1. Comisiòn Interclesial de Justicia y Paz, Colombia

2. Red de Alternativas a la impunidad y l globalizaciòn del Mercado, Colombia

3. Mesa Contra La Impunidad,Colombia

4. Proyecto Justica y Vida,Colombia

5. Red Colombianos y Colombianos Unidos por Nuestros Derechos Constitucionales,

Colombia

6. Asociacion de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos Dignidad Educativa, Colombia

7. Taller de Jormacion Estudiantil – Raices, Colombia

8. Circulo del Pensamiento Critico Latino Americano, Colombia

9. Central Unitaria de Ttabajadores - Derechos Humanos,Colombia

10. Colombianos y Columbianas por la Paz, Colombia

11. Asociacion Distrital de educadores, Colombia

12. Archipelago Movement for Ethnic Native Self Determination , Colombia

13. Theatre of the Oppressed - Sao Paulo, Brazil

14. National Armenian Council of South America (Consejo Nacional Armenio de Sudamérica), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Permanent People's Tribunal Fondazione Lelio Basso Sezione Internazionale, Via della Dogana Vecchia, 5 - 00186, Roma, Italia

Tamils must become stakeholders and partners of Rajapakse administration and not clients or competitors of Sinhala nationalism

by Dayan Jayatilleke

The (geographic) periphery proved to be (politically) peripheral, while the road to power lay through the paddy fields and the provinces of the Sinhala heartland. Mahinda Rajapakse gave the lie to the notion that the minorities, especially the Tamil minority, held the key to the outcome of the election.

Given the demographics on the ground, namely that the Sinhalese constitute an overwhelming majority, Rajapakse proved that even in peacetime, winning an overwhelming majority of that overwhelming majority was a viable path to victory, leaving the Tamil voters relatively peripheral to the outcome just as the Tamil majority areas are peripheral to the island.

The Sinhala peasantry which provided the manpower to sustain the war against the Tigers and finally prevail over them, provided the votes needed for a political victory for the incumbent over the Fonseka option chosen (ironically) by the unreconstructed Tamil nationalists. The foot soldiers who loyally followed Gen Fonseka as Army chief, voted with their families for Mahinda. It is not that they deserted Fonseka but that Fonseka was perceived as deserting the camp of Sinhala nationalism. Rajapakse romanced and won the hearts of the heartland.

The question remains as to how the Opposition’s strategists, Western diplomatic opinion and the overwhelming majority of media pundits got it so very wrong. Not only were they on the wrong side of History and totally oblivious to the sentiments of the vast majority of their fellow/Sri Lankan citizens, their demonstrated powers of analysis require them to get to the back of the class and work it out.

A cursory acquaintance with modern history would have told them that no military chief has bested a strong national political leadership in a political struggle in the aftermath of a historic, victorious war or revolution. A Fonseka bid could have had a chance only in the context of a military defeat, an economic depression or an incumbent with a wimp factor. Furthermore, an Obama-model campaign can work only with an Obama-model candidacy, not grafted onto a John McCain or Ariel Sharon one. A Terminator-type candidate had no chance against a serial smiler with proven machismo and warm if rascally, piratical charm.

The statistical starting point of the opposition strategists and most commentators, not to mention those who sent an array of ‘polls’ by email, was the Presidential election of 2005. We were informed that "the facts were undeniable" when the only thing that was undeniable was the hollowness of pure empiricism as an analytical methodology and perspective.

It was truly imbecilic to take 2005 as the base line, when (i) the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga had thrown her not inconsiderable weight behind former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at that election and (ii) the intervening period was taken up with a full-on war and victory, making the difference between 2005 and 2010 one between distinct historical periods, "pre-war" and "postwar", or "the Prabhakaran period" and the "post-Prabhakaran period" with their qualitatively different dynamics and altered states of collective consciousness; of national moods.

The election was held in a period that was post-war, post-Prabhakaran but not post-nationalist or post-patriotic. The reckoning that Fonseka’s military record could neutralize that sufficiently, even to the extent of bearing the burden of an alliance with the TNA, the Tiger fellow travelers, (and Ranil, the Tiger appeaser) proved disastrous. Above all, the Opposition, its western backers/handlers, its Diaspora Tamil allies and local pundits grossly underestimated the patriotism/nationalism and anti-interventionism/anti-imperialism of the Sinhala masses, as well as their democratic aversion to the risk of Bonapartist tyranny.

In Gramscian terms, the vital "national popular" and "national democratic" dimensions were ignored by the opposition’s strategists and ideologues, except in the most superficial sense of fielding a war hero as candidate. Those factors, the depth and extent of which were underestimated, were (re)activated not only by the perceived threat to the main political leader who had restored national pride, but by the presence of the pro-Tiger TNA and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s unrepentantly pro-appeasement UNP at General Fonseka’s side, the reactivation of the "war crimes" propaganda in the West, and certain gratuitous remarks by some Western diplomatic representatives.

The model for Rajapakse’s defeat was supposed to be that of Churchill in 1945, but not only was ‘born again’ politician Fonseka no Clement Attlee, Labour leader Attlee did not contest in alliance with Nazi supporter Oswald Mosely and appeaser Neville Chamberlain! Though unaware of its Biblical provenance, "tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are" seems to have been the criteria of the Sinhala Buddhist voter.

Is the newly and handsomely re-elected incumbent then secure from challenges? The first challenge is the avoidance of hubristic adventurism. President Jayewardene won a 5/6ths majority at the parliamentary election of 1977 and promptly disenfranchised his main opponent Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike. He won the Presidential election of 1982 comfortably, but blundered by postponing a parliamentary election and substituting a referendum instead. These two superfluous moves, coming in the wake of clear victories, de-legitimized the administration, generating a huge crisis with a bloody denouement. One can only hope that President Rajapakse is not nudged along the same path.

What now, what next? The Sinhalese have voted overwhelmingly one way, the Tamils the other. What this means is that despite developmental successes and economic reintegration, the Administration’s stewardship of the North and East and relationship with the ethnic minorities in general has been as stark a political failure as its relationship with the Sinhalese has been a political success. One is the reflection upside down, of the other.

Today, the majority of the Tamil–speaking people of the North and East have voted as a single bloc, and barring the Sinhala majority areas, the North and East have psycho-politically re-merged! The failure to win notably large political support from the Tamils and Muslims in the East, despite the progress of economic development, not only reveals the flaws of that model of development - perceived as ethnocentric - but of the administration’s central and abiding weakness so far: its blind-spot regarding the political and psychological dimensions of the ethno-national question and its insensitivity to the dimension of ethnicity and the management of difference.

The ethnic polarization of the map of Sri Lanka reveals a basic structural weakness of the Lankan state formation. Samir Amin tells us that systems decay precisely at their periphery, and this I believe is true of state formations too. While President Rajapakse has resolved the long crisis of state power, in that he has restored the state’s territorial borders (once again co-extensive with its natural ones) and monopoly of violence, he has not yet resolved the state’s crisis of legitimacy at its periphery. There is no political consensus which cross-cuts ethnicity and runs from North to South, East to West. Thus, the crisis continues.

Sad, troubling, but more affordable in the final analysis for the Sinhalese than the Tamils because the former have the sheer numbers, the big guns, the relative resource endowments, the engines of economic growth, the ideological fuel of re-assertive nationalism and the historical memory-driven collective political will to maintain or restore coercive control over the North East. This means that the majority of the Tamil minority, having now seen that (a) they wield no veto over political outcomes (b) Sinhala sentiment tends overwhelmingly one way, and (c) the incumbent is here to stay another term, have one more chance to negotiate its way into the mainstream or remain an alienated periphery in more senses than one.

That last chance or those last chances are at the parliamentary and provincial council election (as well as within a constituent assembly if one is constituted). It is not a seller’s market. The Tamils need to become stakeholders of the Rajapakse administration and partners – neither posturing competitors nor pliant clients — of Sinhala nationalism. This entails a double and mutual shift: on the part of triumphant Sinhala nationalism and the re-elected presidency, to greater openness, generosity and accommodation of Tamil sentiments, and on the part of the Tamils, to leaders from their community with whom the Sinhala nationalist dominated centre is willing and likely to deal with. Here, I can only think of Devananda and (perhaps) Dharmalingam Siddharthan. Prudence, responsibility and constructive partnership are the need of the hour. Let us hope the hour is not too late.

When does second term of re-elected President Rajapakse begin?

by Nihal Jayawickrama

When does the President’s second term commence? Divergent views are now being expressed on this constitutional issue. It is reported that the consultative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be invoked on this matter.

Any opinion expressed by the Supreme Court after due consideration in private will not be binding on anyone since it will not be a judgment or a determination of the court. If the President were to act on such an opinion, and defer his assumption of office, it could well be argued that the office of President had become vacant by his failure to assume office within the period prescribed by the Constitution. In fact, the validity of every executive act performed by his Government could be challenged on the same ground.

The President is required by the Constitution to "assume office" within two weeks from the date of commencement of his term of office. The President "assumes office" by taking an oath or making an affirmation before a Judge of the Supreme Court. In this instance, to determine when the President’s second term will commence, it is necessary to ascertain when his first term will end, because it is upon the end of the first term that the second term will commence.

The Constitution prescribes three ways in which a President may be elected. The first is at the regular election to be held shortly before the six-year term of office of the incumbent President ends. The second is an election by Parliament from among its members whenever the office of President becomes vacant before the end of the six-year term. The third is the election provided for by the Third Amendment: after he has served four years of his first term, the President may, by proclamation, "declare his intention of appealing to the people for a mandate to hold office, by election, for a further term."

The Third Amendment provides in Article 31(3A)(b) that if the President seeking re-election dies before the close of the poll, the proclamation is deemed to have been revoked and the election is deemed to be cancelled. The vacancy thus created in the office of President is filled by Parliament for the unexpired period of the term of office of the deceased President. This means that while the poll is in progress, the President’s first term of office continues.

If, however, the President dies after the close of the poll, the consequences are dramatically different. If the result has not been declared, Article 31(3A)(c) requires the Commissioner of Elections to proceed with the count and ascertain the result. If the person entitled to be declared elected is the deceased President, the Commissioner is required not to declare that result, but to take a fresh poll for the election of the President. The vacancy in the office of the President will not be filled by Parliament, but by a national election, notwithstanding that the unexpired period of the deceased President’s term of office may well have extended to two further years. This is because the first term of the President is deemed to have ended with the close of the poll and the conclusion of the count. This is reaffirmed by Article 31(3A)(d) which provides that if the incumbent President is defeated, the term of office of the victor shall commence on the date on which the result is declared, and not on some later date on which the President’s first term of office would ordinarily have ended.

These three provisions in the Constitution very clearly and unequivocally indicate that the conclusion of the poll and the declaration of the result is the defining moment when the first term of an incumbent President who has sought premature re-election ends. Thereafter, the President has two weeks within which to assume office.

The Third Amendment was a convoluted piece of legislation that was initially drafted by President Jayewardene’s personal legal advisers. It was designed to meet the particular exigencies of the time, namely, the fact that Mrs. Bandaranaike, his principal political opponent, had recently been subjected to civic disabilities and was therefore prevented from contesting a presidential election. Amendments made at the committee stage in Parliament and President Jayewardene’s desire to retain 4th February – the anniversary of the day on which Ceylon became a self-governing dominion in 1948 and the day on which he first assumed the office of President in 1978 – as the date of commencement of his second term as well, led to further confusion. These factors probably account for the contradictory and sometimes incoherent provisions in the Third Amendment.

An example is Article 31(3A)(d)(i) read with subparagraph (f) of that same Article which provides that the second term of a re-elected President will commence on a date after that election which corresponds to the date on which his first term commenced, i.e. 4th February 1978 thereby implying that his first term did not end upon the completion of the poll and the declaration of the result. On the other hand, Article 31(3A)(d)(ii) provides that the successful presidential challenger will commence his term of office on the date on which the result of the election is declared, thereby implying that the first term had ended on that day. The day on which the first term ends cannot be determined by who had won or lost in that poll, but by a more certain event, namely the close of the poll and the declaration of the result.

When such time-specific provisions are disregarded as being limited in application to that first election held in 1982, the remaining provisions lead inexorably to only one conclusion, namely, that the first term of an incumbent President who seeks re-election after completing four years in office ends at the conclusion of that poll and the declaration of the result. That is also the moment in time when his second term commences.

(The writer is a Professor of Law and former secretary of Justice)

Need of the hour is a national discussion without rancour

by Milinda Moragoda

I must study politics and war so that my sons may study mathematics and commerce… in order to give their children the right to study painting, poetry and music… -John Adams (2nd President of the United States)

The reelection of President Rajapaksa with a historic mandate accounting for nearly 58% of the total votes cast presents a unique moment for Sri Lanka to capture the many opportunities for economic development which we have missed since Independence.

This overwhelming victory should serve as a wake-up call for our political establishment across all party lines to stop squabbling on parochial and personality-based issues and to unite and work together on matters of national importance. The electorate has clearly demonstrated that they desire stability and continuity.

During the past four years, President Rajapaksa has been laying the foundation for a growth-based development agenda through an ambitious island-wide infrastructure development programme. The President has said that, during his second term, he intends to pursue national reconciliation, nation-building and economic development with the same single-minded determination that he prosecuted the war and delivered peace during his first term in office. It is very clear that uniting a nation that is deeply divided on race, class, caste, religious and party lines remains one of the major obstacles to progress. One hopes that all political parties will have the maturity and statesmanship to put an end to the culture of manipulation and brinkmanship. However, in this article I will focus primarily on the issues connected with economic development and build on my previous article, published in March 2009.

With the successful conclusion of the war, the recently concluded Presidential election and with the upcoming General Elections, an opportunity presents itself to review Sri Lanka’s overall development strategy. The end of the war has given "hope" to all communities in the country. However, a great deal needs to be done to convert this "hope" into "optimism"; and more importantly, to achieve greater prosperity for our people.

It is timely, therefore, for us to have a national discussion about the "vision" that should drive our development strategy and the policies and programmes that would bring lasting benefits for all our people. This should of course take place in the overall framework of the "Mahinda Chintanaya – Way Forward."……

This discussion should be open-minded and pragmatic, not narrow-minded and grounded on false and unrealistic ideology. Unthinking and chauvinistic populism should give way to rational analysis focused on identifying what works in practice. Short-term political expedience should give way to a long-term perspective based on a rigorous assessment of Sri Lanka’s dynamic comparative advantage in the global economy. For years, partisan politics have driven economic policy-making. The current historical conjuncture presents the country with a unique opportunity to move away from "business as usual" that has given us two youth insurrections in the South and a separatist war in the North. The time is ripe to build a consensus around a long-term strategy for developing the country.

The need of the hour is a national discussion conducted without rancour, which focuses on policy and practice rather than personalities. President Rajapaksa’s pledge at the launch of his Manifesto to end the "politics of promises" and to begin an era of politics based on policies, is a step in the right direction.

The intention of this article is to initiate this discussion. I will begin by presenting my thoughts on a "vision" for achieving sustained development of the country. I will then propose to set out some policies that, in my view, are necessary to achieve this "vision". This article is intended to stimulate debate, which I hope will eventually yield a national consensus.

The "vision" for Sri Lanka’s development must be based on:

* Accelerating the growth trajectory of the economy.

* Maintaining macro-economic stability based on a predictable and transparent policy framework.

* Implementing structural reforms that improve the competitiveness of the economy, including micro-economic measures.

* Ensuring that growth is inclusive by maximising its employment intensity.

* Striving for both regional and urban/rural balance.

* Developing a targeted social safety-net that affords protection to the poor and vulnerable, as well as those who are affected by the adjustment costs of reforms.

* Achieving sustainability by reducing the carbon intensity of the economy.

* Fostering international relations that support the country’s commercial/trading interests.

A sustained reduction in poverty and increased prosperity cannot be achieved without "growing the cake". Moving the economy to a higher growth trajectory requires a significant increase in the overall productivity of the economy. This involves enhancing both the quantity and quality of investment. Increasing productivity through strengthening investment performance is at the core of sustained development.

Investment as a percentage of GDP averaged 25% over the last decade. This resulted in growth averaging 5% during the same period. Our objective must be to achieve 8-10% growth per annum. This is well within our grasp, particularly as for the first time in three decades the whole country is in a position to contribute to accelerated growth. Investment will have to rise to the 30-32% range to achieve this. For this to happen, savings must be increased and the efficiency of capital allocation and utilisation enhanced. National savings averaged 21% of GDP during the last decade and external flows 4% of GDP. Total savings needs to rise to the 26% range to achieve 8-10% growth. Addressing this saving/investment gap will be crucial to achieve the growth objectives.

This cannot be achieved without addressing the structural budget deficit. The government’s fiscal performance is a source of instability in the economy. The current account deficit in the budget has averaged 2.8% over the last ten years. This deficit must be converted into a surplus which contributes to public investment (capital expenditure).

During these past ten years domestic savings averaged 16% of GDP, and national savings were higher at 23.8%. This is attributable to the impressive levels of remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad.

The overall policy framework should incentivise the increase of all forms of savings to bridge the savings-investment gap identified above. The savings performance in the economy cannot be improved without achieving macro-economic stability. The policy framework must be stable, predictable and transparent. It must create the conditions for low inflation and balance of payments viability.

We need to get away from the stop –go policies that have characterised our post independence economic history. We need to create an economy that is efficient enough not to overheat (rising inflation and balance of payments pressure) when we achieve 5-6% of growth.

As I indicated in my previous article, we cannot achieve macro-economic stability without fiscal consolidation. High budget deficits exert pressure on key prices, such as the exchange and interest rates which are important determinants of savings and investment decisions. Unsustainable budget deficits result in higher interest rates, which increase the cost of funds in the economy. This leads to lower growth, employment and incomes. In addition, large deficits would exert pressure on the exchange rate by increasing the inflation differential between Sri Lanka and its major competitors and trading partners. An uncompetitive exchange rate encourages imports by making them relatively cheaper and this discourages savings and investment by reducing the competitiveness of the domestic economy.

I would also like to reiterate that inflation fuelled by an unsustainable budget deficit is an implicit regressive tax on the poor, who do not have the compensating benefits of appreciating asset values. A rigorous public expenditure review, based on clear national priorities drawn from the elements of the "vision" set out above, would be central for meaningful fiscal consolidation. Improving tax administration and the efficiency and buoyancy of the tax system is also important. President Rajapaksa has established a Tax Reform Commission, which I expect will present us with concrete recommendations to achieve this.

Stable macroeconomic policies must be supported by structural reforms which improve the efficiency, and therefore the competitiveness, of the economy. There are two large pools of low productivity in the economy: the public service and paddy production. These sectors absorb considerable resources yet yield low returns. Policies need to be developed, which not only shift resources to other more productive sectors but also use the resources that remain more efficiently. The challenge is to achieve these objectives while minimising adjustment costs in terms of lost livelihoods and incomes. There is a debate to be had on the pace and sequencing of reforms in these sectors. There is, however, a strong case for arguing that "the pain in the short-run will ultimately yield gains in terms of more employment and incomes in the longer-term". We need a national debate on the difficult issues surrounding the reform of these politically sensitive sectors. This debate should take place in the knowledge that much will be foregone in terms of future prosperity if we continue to adopt soft options as we have done in the past.

There are a number of other structural issues that need to be addressed. The financial system is the lifeblood of any economy. The recent crisis has demonstrated the importance of sound institutions operating in a well regulated sector. We need to ensure that the Sri Lankan financial system is fit for purpose in the coming decades of the 21st century. The recent actions taken by the Central Bank to reduce spreads are positive for business. However, we need to adopt a holistic approach to reducing the cost of intermediation in the economy. This has to be supported by measures that seek to make credit available to profitable businesses in all sectors.

In recent years, considerable progress has been made in developing infrastructure, particularly power generation and roads. There is a great deal more to be achieved to reduce the transaction costs in the economy, not least the uncompetitive prices of utilities in the economy. There must also be a pragmatic debate on how best Sri Lanka can take advantage of public-private partnerships to accelerate infrastructure development. Organisations such as the CPC and CEB also need to be reformed.

The global economy places a high premium on competitiveness. A skilled labour force with high levels of productivity is an important element of the competitiveness strategy for any country. Our education system, vocational training and overall skills development should be aligned to labour market dynamics. These in turn must be linked to Sri Lanka’s dynamic comparative advantage in a highly competitive global economy. The focus of policy in this area must be on raising the opportunities available to people in all parts of the country. The controversial area of labour market reforms is another subject that requires a pragmatic debate and effective action. We need to ensure that we have the right balance between the interest of labour and investors.

Sri Lanka possesses the most attractive investment climate in the South Asia region. However, there is much to be done if we are to be more competitive in the overall Asian region and the global economy more generally. Transaction costs must be reduced and "doing business" should be facilitated by reducing red tape and bureaucracy. A significant amount has been done in this respect but we now need to move to the next generation of reforms. These need to be formulated in collaboration with the private sector. However, the private sector, for its part, needs to move beyond narrow self-interest and contribute to constructive thinking on improving the overall business environment.

Employment generation is the best transmission mechanism for sharing the fruits of growth. Interest rates and exchange rate policies as well as the tax system must be geared to support inclusive growth. Priority must also be attached to providing the labour force with the opportunity to acquire marketable skills.

Much has already been done to address regional disparities. This has been a priority for President Rajapaksa. However, more needs to be done. We need to explore how best to develop growth poles in various parts of the country. Rural/urban imbalances are less pronounced in Sri Lanka than in many other developing countries. However, the performance of the rural sector is heavily influenced by the low productivity of the paddy sector. Large scale resources are allocated to this sector through public expenditure on irrigation, the fertiliser subsidy, extension services and the guaranteed price scheme. Paddy and rice are an integral part of our culture and heritage and as such this cannot be viewed through an economic lens alone. However, we have to find ways to modernize and be competitive, perhaps drawing upon the experiences of other rice-centric cultures such as Japan, Thailand, etc. Another debate to be had and consensus to be developed is related to the structure of the agricultural sector in the country. Crop diversification and the balance between small-holder and commercial agriculture are issues that need careful and balanced consideration. We also need to explore what measures can be taken to promote agro-industry. Historically, the country’s performance in this area has been disappointing. Priority needs to be attached to realising the potential of this sector.

As a humane society, we must provide social protection to the poor and vulnerable. However, such support should be carefully targeted, monitored and kept to the absolute essentials so that resources are not diverted from productive activity. We need a conversation among ourselves on whether there is an "entitlement culture" that is constraining Sri Lanka’s development. Do we need to move from an entitlement to a more entrepreneurial culture, which will create the conditions necessary to bring about a rapid transformation of the life prospects of our people.

Well designed compensation schemes to mitigate adjustment costs are an important element of any ambitious reform programme. Any such scheme must also support retraining for workers displaced by implementation of the structural reforms necessary to place the country on a higher trajectory of growth, employment and incomes.

Despite the disappointing outcome at the Copenhagen Summit, it is inevitable that all countries will eventually have to reduce the carbon intensity of their economies. A concerted plan is needed to promote energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources. Any future vision for Sri Lanka must also take account of the need to adapt to climate change.

I argued in my previous article that Sri Lanka cannot afford isolationist and inward looking policies. Our international relations need to be conducted in a manner that enables us to take advantage of all commercial opportunities. Our policies should be such that we have good relations with both the East and the West. The global economic centre of gravity is shifting to the East. We need to be alive to the opportunities arising from this qualitative change in the landscape. At the same time, it would be unwise not to nurture the relations that we have developed over the years with the West and multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

I began by highlighting the need to address the savings/investment gap. Foreign savings (aid, foreign direct investment and portfolio capital) have an important role in supplementing national savings as a means of increasing investment in the country. Historically, foreign savings have played a major role in the development of various regions. Colonialism and the slave trade were important sources of foreign savings that supported transformation in the West. Japan also benefited from its imperial reach. In later years, South Korea and Taiwan benefitted from preferential access to US capital for geopolitical reasons. In addition, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand benefitted from the export of Japanese capital, following the Plaza and Louvre Accords, which resulted in a sharp strengthening in the value of the Yen.

Our access to foreign savings should be structured on the basis of dignity and mutual respect. While we must welcome both investors and donors as partners, the ultimate decision-making power will rest with us.

Arguably the most critical determinant of the country’s future prospects is going to be our ability to capitalise on India’s emergence as a global power – both economic and geopolitical. The four southern states of India (Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala ad Tamil Nadu) are all experiencing rapid growth. The Indian economy was growing at 8% before the global economic crisis. There is confidence that such levels of growth will be restored in the coming years. If the country is recording an overall growth rate of 8%, the four southern states must be enjoying double digit expansion as the overall performance of the Indian economy is being dragged down by lagging states with large populations, such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (though performance in the latter has improved recently). Our efforts need to be focused on how to tap into the rapid progress and rising disposable incomes in India, particularly in the four southern states which are in close proximity to Sri Lanka. We need to have a rational conversation on how best to take forward the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India.

Sri Lanka is faced with a unique opportunity for transformative change. We need to grasp this opportunity with both hands. We must not be held back by petty-mindedness and a lack of ambition. We must set aside our insecurities and look forward to the future with boldness. There are risks that need to be managed but we should be confident that we can do this and secure a much more prosperous future for all the people of Sri Lanka.

(Milinda Moragoda is Leader of the Sri Lanka National Congress and Minister of Justice and Law Reform)

Rajapakse’s commitment of reconciliation with the Tamil minority remains as empty as his long promised devolution

by Dushy Ranetunge

It was indeed a stunning victory, as it surprised everyone, including many of those who are in power who displayed great anxiety and frustration in their campaign, expecting a close result.

For weeks and months to come, analysts will ponder as to the reasons why; the largely Sinhalese electorate decided to hand Rajapakse such a resounding mandate.

There was always a significant disjoint in the perceptions and world views of the Westernized English speaking constituency and the rural Sinhalese masses who were the targets and victims of LTTE terrorism in bus and train bombings, and the war itself in terms of manpower for the military effort.

It has been commented that the war was being funded by the village females working in the Middle East remitting several billion US dollars home and the war fought by the village males who were manning the armed forces. They experienced the reconciliatory politics of Chandrika and Ranil not yielding tangible results.

This then, is their gratitude to Rajapakse who is personally untainted by corruption in the eyes of the rural masses and rarely criticized by them. Criticism is directed at those around him. This may be reflected in the general election.

Rajapakse seem to defy gravity, as he has not only defeated the LTTE, which experts the world over declared unbeatable, he has emerged from this election with a stunning mandate, which no one expected. He would be the envy of politicians the world over, if not for the poor conduct of the war in the final weeks, and his style of governance which seem to aspire to the "pavement", at "subsistence level", rather than the "highest standards" aspired by great statesmen.

Rajapakse’s victory is largely a sectarian "Sinhalese" victory and do not have the support of large chunks of the minorities, Tamil, Muslim as well as the English speaking affluent Sinhalese who disapprove of the "brothers" and Rajapakse style of governance. These segments of society judge standards of governance and value systems in terms of liberal western democracies, rather than Rajapakse’s standards, which are perceived as being closer to his friends in Iran, Libya, China and Myanmar.

Rajapakse has already tried to defray charges of "War Crimes" based on his stunning Presidential victory, but these "wish lists" are unlikely to be accommodated as they are more legal rather than political processes.

The creation of one of the worlds largest and hostile diasporas will ensure that the international legal processes will be pushed forward as the Tamils have no confidence in the Sri Lankan legal processes which have been compromised on sectarian lines with Tamils failing to gain any legal or political recourse to the injustices suffered by them. Already this week Rajapakse has stated that no war crimes investigation is required in Sri Lanka as requested by the UN. By stating so, he has shut the door and Tamils can now demand that since Sri Lanka has ruled out a war crimes investigation, it now remains for the international community to initiate one.

Statements made during the Presidential election has further strengthened the case for war crimes charges and this trend is expected to continue with the hostility of the administration to the General and his supporters within the military establishment.

Rajapakse’s commitment of reconciliation with the Tamil minority remains as empty as his long promised devolution proposals. What Rajapakse means by reconciliation is a "Sinhalese" nationalist reconciliation, which will never be accepted by the Tamils, other than those Tamils who rely on him for political survival.

The reconciliation that Tamils yearn for are those found in Western liberal democracies and in India. This is a prospect that is anathema to the Sinhalese nationalist mindset who fails to realize that military unity has a shelf life, unless the Sinhalese want the army on their streets indefinitely like in Myanmar, Iran, Libya and China.

India and Western democracies have achieved stable political systems based on politically accommodating minorities within their democracies.

The chances of resurrecting GSP+ will now be remote and "hope" on resurrecting tourism is fragile as long as standards of governance are in line with China, Myanmar, Libya and Iran.

Sri Lanka’s geo-political positioning will ensure its continued somewhat stunted success under a Mahinda Rajapakse presidency, but it would be economic expansion under "controlled economic" conditions, rather than harnessing the spirit of free enterprise and an expansion of the private sector.

The Rajapakse doctrine favours an expansion of the state sector, which is inherently inefficient in terms of economic productivity and national output.

On the eve of Sri Lanka’s historic military victory over the LTTE, so much goodwill was squandered on flag waving jingoism reminiscent of the tribalism displayed by Tamil nationalists when the LTTE captured Elephant Pass.

This week, on the eve of another historic political victory by President Rajapakse, so much goodwill was squandered with the army surrounding the hotel in Colombo, which accommodated the losing opposition candidate.

What was achieved by this Libya/Myanmar/Iran/China style military action is unclear, but the political damage to Sri Lanka was immense. Unfortunately those in power seem clueless. There are other ways to safeguard security rather than mobilizing the army to surround a five star hotel.

Sri Lanka would continue to experience net emigration of the educated and the highly skilled, under a Rajapakse Presidency

Those who did not vote for President voted for Greater Liberal Democratic Agenda

By Ranga Jayasuriya

President Mahinda Rajapaksa belied the projections of many an observer, including this correspondent who guessed that the election would be a close call. Rajapaksa romped home with a massive margin of 1.8 million votes in an election which many including the opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe described as relatively peaceful on the election day.

That is a fair assessment. But, a relative peace in a polling day alone could not underwrite a free and fair election. This election was tainted by an overwhelming evidence of blatant abuse of state property and libelous coverage of the state media, all of which prevented Mahinda Rajapaksa from claiming a principled electoral victory. More than anyone else, it was a shame for Rajapaksa, who could have won, as his massive 17 per cent lead accentuated, even if he opted to a fairly decent line of electioneering.

Lamentation

Elections showcase the scale of democracy in a country. This election proves once again that legitimacy of the electoral process is at great strain when other democratic institutions of the country can not function independently. The televised lamentation of the election commissioner was a case in point as to how difficult it had been for the election commissioner to discharge his responsibilities. The conduct of the state media was an affront to the election commissioner- and by extension to the very constitution of the country, which bestows the election commissioner with powers to conduct elections, which were brazenly flouted by the state media heads.

Sri Lankan villages suffer from a chronic information vacuum which was filled by the slanderous and ethnically divisive propaganda aired by the state media institutions. Hapless villagers were fed with an overdose of a slanderous coverage about a pact between Sarath Fonseka and the Tamil National Alliance and a Western conspiracy against Sri Lanka etc. That explains why this election, more than any other in the past reinforced ethnic fault lines in voting. Rajapaksa won all the majority Sinhalese electorates while Fonseka secured minority majority districts. Now, some of the government spokespersons, many of whom are the torchbearers of a culture of sycophancy deep rooted in Sri Lankan politics, are brazen enough to provide a patriotic undertone to votes cast to Rajapaksa. By omission, they label 4 million voters who voted for Gen Fonseka and several thousand others opted for other candidates as ‘unpatriotic.’ That is dangerous stuff. The government is on a dangerous track to alienate millions who, anyway, had reservations about its democratic credentials.

What happened in the aftermath of the election itself is a dangerous first in the Sri Lankan politics. Military encircled the hotel where the campaign staff of the main opposition contender had camped and later in the week raided his office and arrested some of the retired military officers in his staff. The government accused the main opposition candidate of plotting a coup from a five star hotel adjacent to the air force headquarters. Not a plausible explanation.

Directly targeted

Sri Lanka has had a history of violent elections. However, this is the first time in three decades, since the abolishing of the civic rights of Sirima Bandaranaike, that a losing candidate was directly targeted by a well orchestrated campaign by the winner of the election. Had Sri Lankans believed that local politics matured since authoritarianism of JR Jayawardene’s era, they seemed to be mistaken. Later in the week, JVP’s mouthpiece, the Lanka newspaper office was sealed and its editor was arrested. All these developments portend an ominous trend.

One would call this the Ahamedinejad doctrine, named after the eccentric Iranian president who won a flawed election in June last year and proceeded to crack down on the protesting supporters of the losing candidate Mir Hossein Musavi. However, all such antics are bound to lower the stature of President Rajapaksa, who, in fact, sounded conciliatory to the losing party.

He said he would be the president to all, to those who voted him and those who did not vote him.

Liberal democratic agenda

That is a good starting point. But, the president should realize that those 4 million odd citizens who didn’t vote him had, in fact, voted for a greater liberal democratic agenda. They voted against nepotism, corruption and absolute power enjoyed by the highest office of the state. They voted to reactivate the 17th amendment, set up independent commissions and to enhance civil liberties. None of these are policies deleterious to body politic of the state. They are the principles which should be at the core of any aspiring democracy. Sri Lanka needs strong institutions, not political or military strongmen if it is to restore its democratic traditions and to provide a more accountable government to its people. Millions of rural villagers who voted Rajapaksa en masse would definitely be the beneficiaries of such a move.

They would find that they are no longer the proverbial serfs of their political masters. They and their children would find new political and economic avenues open to them and vibrant government institutions at their disposal. But, more than anyone else, that would help Mahinda Rajapaksa. It would improve his stature in the eyes of the community of democratic nations and give him a clear and decisive break from Ahamedinejad. ~ courtesy: Lakbima News ~

Election Results Procedure Change Leads to Suspicion

By R.M.B. Senanayake

I have had first-hand experience as a Presiding Officer, Counting Officer (Assistant Registering Officer) and as Returning Officer in past elections in Vavuniya, Nuwara Eliya, Matara, etc. The procedure then was for the counting centers to be set apart for each electorate.

After the count the results for that electorate were announced by the Government Agent (Returning Officer). In later elections I am aware that the procedure was for the Returning Officer of each district to aggregate the results of each electorate and announce the results for the District. The Commissioner of Elections is informed of such results and then he aggregates all the districts and announces the final result.

On this occasion the Commissioner of Elections has altered the procedure and instead of allowing the District Secretaries to announce the district result has asked them to send the electorate results to him. Why did he make this change which has now given rise to allegations of rigging? He has said it is because of the IDPs voting outside their districts. I am not sure whether there is a legal requirement which justifies the adoption of this new procedure. But it has caused unnecessary doubts in the minds of the people.

I think the only way to remove such doubts is for an independent audit of the results of the electorates to be done and reconciled with the votes cast. The Elections Commissioner is required by law to seal and preserve the votes for a limited time period. If the defeated candidate contests the result he should file an election petition. As for the Elections Commissioner he cut a pathetic figure. He should have boldly said whatever he had to say without moaning. He should now at least resign; whether his resignation is accepted or not, for his enforced stay is perhaps another of those faulty judgments by the former CJ.

World's first successful software/paper rigging of election done by govt charges Mangala Samaraweera

An Interview with Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

SLFP (M) Wing Leader and Co-media Spokesperson for General Sarath Fonseka, Mangala Samaraweera charged that software/paper rigging finally changed an approximately 1.5 million vote victory for General Sarath Fonseka into a 1.8 million majority for President Rajapaksa. He said this “is perhaps the first successfully carried out software/paper rigging in the world.”

Excerpts:

Q: General Sarath Fonseka’s camp has said the polls were rigged. On what basis do you make this allegation?

A: We have many reasons to believe the election was manipulated in the most insidious and subtle manner to distort the true mandate of the people. I would accuse the government of concluding successfully what I would term the world’s first hi-tech election rigging programme. The details of which are beginning to emerge. Before I get into that I would like to highlight some of the more conventional types of election malpractices and irregularities of this scandalous election.

People will realise one day soon that this election was perhaps the most outrageous and insidious election ever held in a country which claims to be democratic. Once the true details emerge, the world will realise that this election is even more shocking than the notorious election held in November 1933 under Adolf Hitler in Germany, which is seen by many historians as one of the most scandalous elections ever. Hitler claimed that 96% of the voters had voted for him and amazed the world by even claiming that 2,100 of the 2,300 inmates at the Dachau concentration camp voted for him.

Q: Yes, but on what basis do you make this allegation?

A: Before I explain this very serious and complex picture of vote rigging, I must say this is not at all a case of sour grapes and to justify the defeat of our candidate. In my 21-year-old political career I have never resorted to justifying our political setbacks before by making allegations against the victor. However, this time there are serious questions now surfacing and these questions need to be answered before we can be convinced with the claims of victory.

I will start off with the mundane. First the mood of the country — Did the people of our country act in a manner they should after giving the President a resounding victory? The majority of the people were shocked and stunned by the announcement, while small pockets of supporters led by a few UPFA PS members took to the streets in intoxication. What was most indicative of what may have happened was the Election Commissioner’s statement on January 27 announcing the final results. I would ask people to read his statement carefully and read between the lines.

To me the statement is more a cry for help from a man held hostage with a gun at his back than an official statement proclaiming the victory of President Rajapaksa. I would like to highlight that at one point he says, “Now on certain occasions we can’t even protect our ballot boxes. This is a big situation. A wrong situation. Because of this I’m sad to say I have had to work in great difficulty.” Leaving aside the other extremely serious allegations, which are emerging, this statement by the Elections Commissioner alone would have been enough to declare the election null and void in any other country which is truly a practicing democracy.

He also talks about the unprecedented misuse and abuse of state properties and resources at this election. The misuse of public funds is well documented in the Transparency International report recently. He also highlights how he was totally helpless in the face of the despicable and totally partisan media onslaught by SLRC, SLBC and other state media. Despite appointing a Competent Authority under powers vested with him, he had to withdraw the Competent Authority in a most shocking manner.

Even on the day of the election, state media was campaigning for Mahinda Rajapaksa with advertisements and other programmes. These allegations in themselves would be enough to disqualify the President in an election petition if we really had a truly free judiciary. Unfortunately, we have to remember the present Chief Justice has also been appointed in total violation of the constitutional requirements.

However, the country cannot wait for the court ruling because what finally changed an approximately 1.5-million-vote victory for General Fonseka into a 1.8 million vote majority for President Rajapaksa in the early hours of the morning is perhaps the first successfully carried out software/paper rigging in the world.

Q: Does the opposition have proof that there was software/paper rigging?

A: We don’t have proof at the moment. As I said earlier details are emerging and there are many questions that require answers. The international election observers who were here have apparently issued a report claiming the polling day was violence-free and extremely peaceful, and concluded that the election was free and fair. These monitors who issued such a report after spending a few days, most of which were spent wining and dining at events organised by the government, had made some senior members of the delegation say this was the best-paid holiday they have received.

The election day was relatively free of violence, although there were government-inspired grenade attacks and artillery firing in the north. In their master plan they did not want the software rigging operation in the north, but were only interested in reducing the majority of Sarath Fonseka in the north and east by keeping the voter turnout low. In their master plan they had already decided to allow Fonseka to gain a victory in the north and east in order to back up their allegation of him only having the support of LTTE sympathizers in the north.

At the beginning of polling it was planned to show Fonseka in the lead in the north while the rest of the country gave a massive endorsement of Mahinda Rajapaksa. We now believe that the results were changed with the connivance of certain senior counting officers in the District Secretariats with whose help the final numbers of the tally sheets were heavily inflated in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa. We are also receiving information on how these counting officers were handpicked by Basil Rajapaksa before the elections. We are in the process of getting concrete proof about this shocking operation. Until such time as we will have those in hand I will say with responsibility and gravity that this was one of the most sophisticated poll-rigging programmes carried out anywhere in the world.

Q: Are you saying there was no rigging on ground level during the polling period?

A: The traditional, crude forms of rigging never took place where armed hooligans show up in booths and stuff boxes. On the other hand even the polling day was violence-free. Like in the Zimbabwean elections, most violence took place in the run-up to the election. Goon squads operated by Colombo were based in various parts of the country. In Matara alone these squads, handled by the officer-in-charge of the Gemunu Watch along with two relatives of the President, roamed the area in government vehicles with impunity carrying arms.

They threatened opposition supporters with death and several times came near my house and shot in the air. Despite repeated complaints to the police with even their names, they turned a blind eye. Finally, when a police officer arrested a vehicle with armed thugs and remanded them, the thugs were released the following day because of “orders from above.” The respective police officer was questioned by the CID for carrying out his duties. I wrote a letter to the IGP on January 22 with details and names of the culprits, and in response the police raided my house in Matara, searching for weapons.

There were two other forms of rigging at the election. One was the issuing of temporary IDs. The Elections Commissioner ordered the issue of 2.1 million IDs. They were to be issued through the Samurdhi officers, but when the opposition complained it was decided to issue them through the Grama Sevakas. We are now receiving information that apart from the 2.1 million approved ID cards, thousands of false ID cards have been issued to trusted party people. These have been issued in place of dead persons and those who have gone overseas. We believe there might have been 400,000-500,000 votes rigged in this manner. The ID card machine and the laminating machine it is learnt were taken to Temple Trees in the run up to the elections.

Another method that was used, again not at the polling booth but at the counting centers, is to change the bundles. When counting, ballot papers are divided according to symbols and packed into bundles of 50. If a betel leaf ballot paper is placed on top of a swan symbol bundle, that bundle is counted as a betel leaf bundle. This was noticed in certain areas.

Q: In which areas were there malpractices recorded during counting?

A: It happened even in Matara. For example, 20 bundles are a few thousand votes. The coup de grace, however, was the massive operation which was carried out. We will come out with the details. My life is in grave danger, but I am confident that we will be able to come out with the details. There are so many questions that need to be answered:

Why did SLRC send its staff on leave on the 26th and 27th and operate for two days through an OB bus from Temple Trees? The usual practice has always been that before any media institution can give results a copy of the results certified by the Elections Commissioner has to be sent. Why were computer generated results sent this time?

Usually postal results are out by 2 am and the rest of the results start to come in. This time the postal votes took so long that electoral results got delayed; why did the voter turnout, which was announced by the district secretaries in some districts, increase dramatically when the final results were announced? Why did Basil Rajapaksa spend so much time with the Elections Commissioner? According to information, he had been with the Elections Commissioner since 3 pm.

We have reason to believe that the Elections Commissioner was put under duress to release the certified results against his wishes.

Q: The opposition camp has also said polling agents at counting centers were assaulted and chased away. Have those agents made official complaints?

A: I’m not sure that official complaints were made. They were attacked and chased away. They were not in a proper state to make complaints. Most of the representatives in counting centers were chased away at the time the hi-tech conspiracy was taking place.

Q: What action does the opposition plan to take with regard to the alleged poll rigging?

A: The opposition must first keep the people informed. Many are asking why the opposition is not on the streets with the people protesting. We will also take this to the people and try to deal with this great conspiracy at different levels. While protesting with the people, we will file a presidential election petition for what it’s worth. We will keep the international community informed of these developments and will also ensure that such insidious acts against the people’s mandate will not be repeated during the general election. We are trying to get to the bottom of this terrible crime so that we can prove to our people what really happened.

Q: How long would it take for the opposition to gather the necessary proof to take action?

A: We will try to do it in the shortest possible time. It’s going to be a very dangerous investigation because we are dealing with a regime prepared to kill, maim, intimidate or threaten to hang on to power. What is remarkable is that the President is not behaving like a man who has gained such a remarkable victory. Even during a statement made after the results he looked guilty and dared not look at the cameras, which made me realise that he still may have a conscience. The Rajapaksa regime has already started a witch-hunt against their political opponents. Sarath Fonseka is being harassed in the most shameful manner. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s security is being removed, my house was raided on the 27th and my colleague Upulangani Malagamuwa’s house was stoned by government-sponsored mobs.

Q: What will General Fonseka do now?

A: Fonseka has the ideal qualities needed for a politician. He also has the charisma and personality to attract the people. That is why I feel that while fighting to regain the position he rightfully deserves he must remain in politics and come forward at the next general election on behalf of the millions of people who voted for him - courtesy: The Sunday Leader -

President's mantra of "peace through development" has been resoundingly rejected by all ethnic minorities

by Dr.Muttukrishna Sarvananthan Ph.D.

On the morning after the election result was announced I woke up to a stale old day. The winning margin of the election was too big to believe. The hope for believable change has turned into an unbelievable status quo. If it is the destiny of Sri Lanka, I humbly accept that. Now that the Sri Lankan people have chosen the President of the country for the next six years or eight years (depending on the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court), it is time to strategise a robust post-war economy.

The election manifestos of the two main contenders were grounded on the future of the economy of Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the end of the civil war in May 2009. Thus, “Brighter Future” and “Believable Change” became the main campaign slogans of the incumbent and the common opposition candidate respectively. The people of Sri Lanka have placed their trust on Brighter Future. The incumbent and re-elected President promised to make Sri Lanka the economic hub of Asia and take the country from Third World to First World status, though he did not give any specific time frame to achieve the same.

Although there may be different definitions of ‘Third World’ and ‘First World,’ one of the widely accepted benchmarks is the classification of economies in the World Development Indicators (WDI) of the World Bank as follows (latest data available pertains to the calendar year 2007):

Low-income economy – $935 or less GNI (gross national income) per capita in 2007

Lower middle-income economy – $936 – $3,704 GNI per capita in 2007

Upper middle-income economy – $3,705 – $11,455 GNI per capita in 2007

High-income economy – $11,456 or more GNI per capita income in 2007

Hence, while low-income economies could be classified as Third World economies, high-income economies could be classified as First World economies. Lower and upper middle-income economies would fall in-between the First and Third World. The foregoing figures are upwardly revised annually and therefore flow variables.

Sri Lanka was already a lower middle-income economy when the incumbent President was first elected to office in late-2005, i.e. per capita income of little over $1,000 in 2005. According to WDI, in 2006 Sri Lanka’s per capita income was $1,310 and ranked 144 out of 207 countries. In 2008, the latest year for which data is available, Sri Lanka’s per capita income was $2,014 according to the national estimation. The per capita income is likely to have risen to nearly $2,200 in 2009 though the official data is yet to be released. Therefore, aiming to become a First World country during his second and last term of office is a mirage.

Nevertheless, the President could and should aim for the Sri Lankan economy to graduate into an upper middle-income economy at the end of his second term of office. Remember that, by the time of the end of his second term the threshold for upper middle-income economy would have risen to at least $4,000 per capita GNI. In order to realise this feat, the Sri Lankan economy should grow at double-digit rates uninterruptedly during this second decade of the century or beyond.

Sri Lankan economy was stuck in low-level equilibrium growth rate (i.e. less than 5% annual average growth) between 1951 and 1977. After 1977, the Sri Lankan economy has graduated into medium-level equilibrium growth rate (i.e. more than 5% but less than 10%), in spite of the high-intensity armed conflicts both in the north and east and the south. Unfortunately, in the past three decades, the economy was stuck in medium-level equilibrium growth rate. Although the medium-level equilibrium growth rate was quite remarkable and resilient amidst the high-intensity armed conflicts, it was not sufficient to diffuse economic growth to the periphery and make substantial and sustainable reduction in poverty.

With the conclusion of the protracted civil war in May 2009, it is time to take-off into a high-level equilibrium growth trajectory (i.e. sustained double-digit growth rate) in the next decade or longer in order to graduate into upper middle-income economy and reduce the share of the poor in the population to single-digit level.

Thus, sustained double-digit economic growth rate and sustainable single-digit poverty rate should become the twin objective of the economic strategy for the second decade of this century and second-term of office of the incumbent President. There are at least five prerequisites for achieving the foregoing twin goal.

Induction of competent economic advisers

Restoring good governance

Right-sizing the public sector

Inculcating meritocracy

Enterprising the education sector.

First of all, the President should induct a group of young, open-minded, innovative and modernist advisers who could provide sound policy options to lift the Sri Lankan economy from medium-level equilibrium to high-level equilibrium (sustained double-digit growth rate) economy.

Secondly, restoring good governance is sine qua non to achieve sustained double-digit economic growth and sustainable single-digit poverty. Some of the urgent measures to be taken to restore good governance are clamping down on corruption, ensuring freedom of information (particularly on financial and economic information) and media freedom, instilling transparency and accountability in economic management and policy-making, and improvement in protection of human rights and enhancing human security.

Thirdly, the President should take concrete action to wind-down the bloated bureaucracy that has become a huge burden on about 80% of the population that is not part of the public sector employees (roughly one million) and their immediate families (roughly four million). Right-sizing the bureaucracy is indispensable for providing cost-effective and efficient public goods and services to the citizens.

Fourthly, inculcation of meritocracy in public service is sine qua non for restoring the confidence of the citizens on the public sector. That is, appointments to the public sector (government and semi-government institutions) should be made on the basis of merit, competence, and performance. No public servant (including in the universities, judiciary, and the Central Bank) should be made a permanent employee at least until 10-years of service coupled with measurable track record of effective delivery and performance.

Fifthly, enterprising and modernising the education sector is long overdue. This needs to be done in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. The education sector needs to be made competitive and up-to-date by way of promoting and nurturing private sector participation, both local and international, in the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Opening up the health sector for private sector participation has not undermined the universal free public health service. Instead, opening-up health services for private sector participation has improved the public health services by reducing the number of people dependent on public health services and improving the quality of public health services.

Therefore, there is no rationale for postponing the opening-up of the education sector for private investment, both local and foreign.

The oft repeated mantra of the President and the government, viz. “peace through development”, has been resoundingly rejected by all ethnic minority communities, namely Muslims, Tamils of North & East, and hill-country Tamils, in the just concluded presidential election. It is a terse reminder that bridges, highways, roads, schools, and hospitals alone cannot reconcile the ethnically polarised Sri Lankan society and establish durable peace.

I am informed that the Puttalam-Mannar road, which was temporarily opened just two days before the election-day, for public use to transport internally displaced people in Puttalam to cast their votes in Mannar has been closed since the day after the election.

This is just one example of the short-lived reintegration and reconciliation through connectivity. Deep divisions in the hearts and minds of the diverse population cannot be patched-up by restoration of physical, economic, and social infrastructure alone. Reconstructing highways, roads, and bridges are necessary, but insufficient to reconcile the diverse people of the country and establish durable peace, which is sine qua non for building a robust post-war economy.

(Muttukrishna Sarvananthan is the Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, Point Pedro, Northern Sri Lanka http://pointpedro.org and the editor and author of Economic Reforms In Sri Lanka (2005, ICES Colombo) and The Economy Of The Conflict Region In Sri Lanka (2008, EWC Washington DC & PPID Sri Lanka) respectively.)

Rajapakse won election because majority of war euphoria infected Sinhalese wanted to keep the Tamils in their place

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time Close to the gardens of broken shadows, We do what prisoners do, And what the jobless do: We cultivate hope”. – Mahmoud Darwish (Under Siege)

So begins the Rajapaksa era, heralded by a massive vote of confidence by the Sinhala majority, a resounding vote of no-confidence by the Tamil and Muslim minorities and armed soldiers surrounding the hotel in which the main contender was temporarily residing.

For those who oppose the dynastic project of the ruling family, illusions of a Fonseka victory should not be replaced by delusions of a fraudulent election. The situation is far too critical to engage in such comforting but ultimately self-defeating charades. Though the election campaign was far from free and fair, as even the Election Commissioner admitted, the election was, by and large. Whatever irregularities there were (and there were some) would have had only a marginal impact on the final outcome. Even without those isolated incidents of malpractice, Rajapaksa would have won, though perhaps with a slightly less wide margin.

The presidential election is over, irrevocably, irredeemably. Debating about who really won the presidential election is as productive as flogging a dead horse. Instead, the entire focus should be on the parliamentary election and the absolutely vital, and possible, task of preventing the Rajapaksas from winning a two thirds majority.

President Rajapaksa won the presidential election because a majority of the Sinhala people, intoxicated by war-euphoria, opted for a leader who had kept and promised to keep Tamils in ‘their place’. General Fonseka lost because he and the other opposition leaders failed to persuade UNP voters and Tamils to vote, in sufficient numbers.

Sooner or later, hard economic realities can and will dispel Sinhala euphoria. A new leader might be able to inject some enthusiasm into the veins of the UNP. It is possible that the crisis of the UNP is terminal and that the Grand Old Party of Lankan politics has passed the point of recovery. Still, the only way the UNP’s death can be ascertained is by replacing Ranil Wickremesinghe with either a new leader or, in the absence of a suitable single alternative, a leadership council. (A digression: at a personal level I am delighted that candidate Rajapaksa’s received his lowest percentage of votes outside of the north and the east in Ranasinghe Premadasa’s constituency of Colombo Central – a paltry 22.54%).

The Tamils too are leaderless; most of them live in fear and uncertainty with little hope of a better tomorrow. Despite these insalubrious political conditions, a large segment did vote against the incumbent President. The fact that most of the Tamils who voted did so not for the ‘independent’ Tamil candidate but for the former Army Commander (who, when ensconced in power, told them that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country and they should therefore desist from making unreasonable demands) demonstrates their antipathy towards the Rajapaksa regime and their eagerness to join with the rest of the country to effect a regime change. It may take many years for a new Tamil leadership to emerge; until then a revitalised UNP will be able to attract a majority of the Tamils, on the basis of restoring democracy, ensuring development and delivering devolution.

The President’s spectacular victory with almost 58% of the valid vote would have rekindled dynastic ambitions in the Rajapaksa family. If there is no constitutional change, President Rajapaksa will have to retire at the end of his second term; in that event, the dynastic project of the Ruling Family will come to naught. Consequently winning a two thirds majority at the parliamentary election and effecting constitutional change are sine qua non for the success of the Rajapaksa dynastic project. Therefore it is reasonable to expect the President to dissolve the government and go for a parliamentary election as soon as astrologically possible, before the opposition has time to recover from its crushing defeat.

The opposition therefore should not waste time licking its wounds or engaging in acrimonious and pointless debates about who lost the presidential election. Pointing fingers and indulging in delusions are unaffordable luxuries, given the imminence of the parliamentary election. It may not be all that difficult for the UPFA to reach from 58% to 66% (or close; the gap can be bridged with defections), especially if the opposition continues to be in disarray, obsessed with the lost presidential election.

Though it will not be possible to defeat the government at the parliamentary election, it is entirely possible to prevent the UPFA from winning a two thirds majority or even coming close to that level. President Rajapaksa is more popular than the UPFA; the UNP, as a party, is more popular than its leader. Denying the Rajapaksas a two thirds majority is thus a realistic goal, a goal towards which all opposition parties, irrespective of their different agendas, can commit themselves wholeheartedly. In fact this is a goal that can be shared by the more enlightened sections within the UPFA, especially those SLFPers who do not want to serve the Rajapaksas, father, brother and son, for the rest of their political lives.

If the UPFA wins a two thirds majority, a Rajapaksa constitution would become a reality. This was confirmed by Minister Champika Ranawaka at the post-victory press conference of the UPFA. A Rajapaksa constitution will be less democratic than the existing constitution both in terms of basic rights and devolution of power. The Rajapaksas will drop the 17th Amendment in its entirety and enshrine within the constitution many a repressive measure in the name of national security. Since the President is on record dismissing the 13th Amendment as a ‘mere slogan’, the new constitution is unlikely to contain any provisions granting provincial level devolution.

Instead there would be district level administrative decentralisation (President Rajapaksa’s preferred model) at the most. A Rajapaksa constitution will thus usher in an era with less rights and freedoms, not only for the anti-Rajapaksa minorities but also for the pro-Rajapaksa majority.

But the raison d’être of a Rajapaksa constitution will be to ensure the longevity of Rajapaksa rule, to set up a Rajapaksa dynasty with either a brother or a son succeeding the incumbent, someday. Removing the impediment to the Rajapaksa project, represented by Presidential term limits, will thus be the paramount aim of a new Constitution. Once that impediment is removed, a Rajapaksa future will descend on Sri Lanka.

The outcome of the Presidential election demonstrated that notwithstanding the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lanka remains a divided land, politically and psychologically.

Establishing a dynastic rule dependent on Sinhala support and subscribing to Sinhala supremacist policies and practices in such a country would be nothing less than a recipe for permanent strife.

During the presidential election campaign Candidate Rajapaksa equated a vote for Sarath Fonseka with a vote for separatism. After the victory, President Rajapaksa treated his main electoral opponent as a common criminal. In doing so, the President was merely continuing a practice established during the Fourth Eelam War, a practice followed by both the President and his Army Commander, based on the belief that we, as patriots can do no wrong. The most powerful symbol of this thinking was the myth of a humanitarian operation which spared civilians and just killed Tigers.

This logic not only denied civilian casualties; it also turned the dead civilians into Tigers and branded any critic of the conduct of the war as a Tiger stooge. This lie bestowed on the Lankan state (and its armed forces), ipso facto, a cloak of infallibility, the right to be always right. This was later used to justify the internment of almost 300,000 civilian Tamils in open prisons masquerading as welfare villages.

The equation of the necessary but unfortunate war with a holy enterprise was a basic ideological premise of Sinhala racism/supremacism, and this was adopted by the Rajapaksas during the Fourth Eelam War. According to this version there is no difference between Tigers and Tamil nationalists, between Tiger propaganda and Tamil grievances. It is as if history began in 1983 with the LTTE attack on Four Four Bravo, skipping Black July and various atrocities committed by the Lankan forces and ending with the death of Velupillai Pirapaharan on the shore of the Sea of Conches.

This ideological sleight of hand was used by the Rajapaksas during the recent presidential election campaign. The President and his acolytes used coded racism to win Sinhala support and damned all their opponents as anti-patriots who seek the division of the country. For instance, Rajapaksa himself accused “SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem of trying to revive the separatist movement once spearheaded by the LTTE” (The Island – 15.1.2009). Since the belief that anti-patriots are undeserving not just of constitutional and legal rights but even of humanity has been established during the Eelam War, daubing his electoral opponents with the anti-patriotic brush enabled President Rajapaksa to vilify and persecute them at will.

The unsuccessful attempt to arrest Gen. Fonseka for harbouring deserters as well as the manner in which his security detail was treated (according to media reports these uniformed serving soldiers were made to kneel on the road and handcuffed) are the natural outcome of this warped and self-serving logic. All it takes for the patriot of yesterday to become the anti-patriot of today and the criminal of tomorrow is to go against the Rajapaksas, who like the ancient kings, equate themselves with the country/state/nation.

The anti-democratic excesses of the Rajapaksas are likely to increase during the parliamentary election season. Last week another journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda of Lanka e-news website vanished. Others dissidents will share his fate.

The regime may also turn its guns against the JVP, as the following remarks by President Rajapaksa at an election meeting in Bandarawela indicate: “The President said that a political party which is well-known for creating a fear psychosis among the people in the past is trying to sow the seeds of discontent and fear among the people again….

President Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that he will not allow such unscrupulous elements to breach democracy nor disrupt the peace and co-existence among the people under any circumstances. The President stressed he has already ordered the police to take stern action against the elements engaged in activities detrimental to peace and democracy in the country. ‘I will not hesitate to call for the armed forces if the police and the STF fail to ensure peace and democracy in society,’ he said” (Daily News – 23.1.2010).

What is at stake today is not the fate of this or that political party or leader but the fate of the democratic system. That is why the opposition needs to put the discontents of the presidential election behind and look ahead to the parliamentary election – because that is the last chance to stop the Rajapaksa Juggernaut. Labouring to prevent a two thirds win by the UPFA at the parliamentary election is the responsibility of any who do not want to see the establishment of Dynastic Rule behind a democratic façade.

What Now for the TNA, the Tamil Diaspora and their Supporters?

By Gus Mathews

The Eleam war has turned full circle as the political machinations of the race for the Sri Lankan Presidency has demonstrated. General (Retired) Sarath Fonseka the ‘hammer of the Tamil tigers’ became the de-facto saviour of the aspirations that the Tamil Diaspora, the remnants of the Tamil tigers, and their proxy the TNA ever wanted in the Presidential election.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) the Tamil Tiger proxy in Parliament gave the retired General a political credibility that he did not deserve, and in the elections against the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa the retired General lost disastrously. Along with the defeat went the political dreams of the TNA, the Tamil Diaspora, the remnants of the Tamil tigers and their supporters.

The strategic thinking of the TNA has failed totally again and with their support given to Sarath Fonseka the final nail in the coffin of their ambitions has also been struck. The thirty year Eleam war that they backed has not yielded the fruits of their aspirations. In addition they gave tacit support to the Tamil tigers for the killing of all the Tamil intellectuals in their midst as well as other intellectuals who were political realists and explored new ways of resolving the political and social issues prevalent at the time. By supporting Sarath Fonseka any solutions that the TNA and their supporters have intended such as limited autonomy for the North and the East will be inconsequential as the victorious President Mahinda Rajapakse has reiterated.

Instead the President will implement a political solution that has a model that is currently at work in eastern Sri Lanka. In addition the President has indicated that Sri Lanka will be a model democracy where Tamils will never ever fear repression or subjugation and a wholly inclusive Sri Lanka is in the making. There have also been veiled pronouncements by the President that a constitutional change is being considered. These changes would give provincial representation in a bicameral parliament. The upper house in such a parliament would give adequate representation to the Northern and Eastern provinces. The detailed representation and powers of the upper house is yet to be considered but is expected to have some of the powers listed below:

Revision of legislation from the lower house

-Scrutiny of Government Expenditure

-Approval of public appointees including the judiciary

The Tamil politicians have for the past sixty years sung the same mantra of federalism, autonomy and separateness underestimating that the majority Sinhalese population and the some of the other minorities will not permit the break-up of the unitary state of Sri Lanka. Any federal setup is anathema to the majority Sri Lankans. Isn’t it time for the Tamil politicians to ‘stop banging their head against the proverbial brick wall’? They have tried all the political tirades at their disposal and failed. Even the Tamil tiger secessionist movement (encouraged by India initially) failed miserably with over 100,000 deaths in the last thirty years. Despite all the untold suffering that they have unleashed upon the Tamils by their political obduracy the TNA is now bereft of any new thinking. The fact remains that the future of the Tamil populace in Sri Lanka is inextricably woven into the aspirations and future of the majority Sinhalese and the rest of the other Sri Lankan minorities.

The Tamils have attained parity in the National Language issue as Tamil and Sinhalese are both accredited national languages of Sri Lanka. This is the primary step for future inclusiveness. The regional model of the Tamil language in India is not applicable to Sri Lanka and elevating Tamil to a national language in Sri Lanka gives it a political dimension far more than any other minorities in Sri Lanka could ever enjoy. (Even in India no Tamil could in reality aspire to the heady heights of Indian Prime Minister unless he/she is a fluent Hindi speaker). Tamils in Sri Lanka enjoy far more economic and material benefits than the Tamils in India. They have free education (up to tertiary level) and free health service that is available to all Sri Lankans and a standard of living that is miles ahead of the majority of Indians or their cultural cousins in Tamil Nadu. Now with a projected economic growth rate of six to eight percent and GDP per capita that is already double that of India currently, the Tamils in Sri Lanka will further reap the economic benefits that will be available to all. Indeed the President has indicated that the North and the East are in for a bonanza of economic and infrastructure development that has indeed already begun. In the meantime the TNA is still harping on the politics of yester year and is immune to the global economic and political realities of today. So what is left for the TNA and their allies? There are a variety of paths that they could follow. Some of these have been enunciated in my earlier blog written in June 2009 on ‘dbsjeyaraj.com’ entitled ‘What the future holds for Sri Lanka and all its Citizens’. Please click on the link below.

http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/819

What would follow with the flow of economic benefits to the North and East is the leaching away of the support for the TNA. The TNA’s view of separatism and sectarianism will wither away and the Tamil populace and other Sri Lankan citizens who have different vision – a vision of total inclusiveness with the rest of Sri Lanka will prevail. Those Tamils who suffered unimaginable hardship under the yoke of the Tamil tigers will now notice the difference to their freedom of movement, security and also their economic liberalisation. The rest of the smaller minorities in Sri Lanka have benefitted from this vision since Independence – the only proviso being the inevitable adherence to the unitary state of Sri Lanka. The meagre participation of the Northern and Eastern Tamils in this election is indicative of the feeling that these Tamils are busy re-building their shattered lives and politics is the last thing on their mind at this current juncture. The Tamil Diaspora would also clamour for regionalism and a mono ethnic enclave, but despite their entreaties the realities on the ground for the population of the North and the East is the rapid return to normalcy and a equivalent slice of the economic benefits that the country as a whole is predicted to enjoy. The President too has been magnanimous in his victory and has indicated that despite the Tamils voting for the ex-General he will be the President for all of Sri Lanka including the Tamils who voted against him.

The TNA and their allies have to think anew and ask themselves whether there is any justification for a federal setup for six percent of the total population of Sri Lanka who are Tamils resident in the North and the East. The world is undergoing a change of immense magnitude with fast communications and ease of travel and the thinking of the TNA is deeply flawed and rooted in the fifties and sixties of the past century. Unless a radical change in the thinking of the TNA and their allies becomes a reality they will feed false hopes to the Tamils in the North and East and the cycle of disappointments will continue to re-occur in the future for the Tamil electorate in these regions.

What NYTimes.com did not include in '31 places to visit'

The following letter appears in the Letter to the Editor of The New York Times, Jan 31, 2010:

To the Editor: Regarding "The 31 Places to Go in 2010" (Jan. 10): I am surprised you included Sri Lanka as one of the 31 places to visit.

It appears your newspaper seems to have forgotten the innumerable human rights violations committed by successive Sri Lankan governments, the worst being by the present regime. Journalists have disappeared; people with independent views were abducted and whereabouts not known; massacre of the Tamils by the army in May 2009; no press freedom and no law and order.

Pon Thangarajah
Los Angeles

Related:

~ Maya's tweet to NY Times: "Get your priorities straight"


Will India gain with Rajapaksa's win?

by K Venkataramanan

No country's role is more discussed and less understood in Sri Lanka than India's. With the island nation electing Mahinda Rajapaksa as president for a second six-year term, there is bound to be much debate in Colombo on what the result means for India, and whether India "won" or "lost" in the process. Perennial political legend has it that India has specific preferences about who rules in Sri Lanka and that its choice reflects its geo-strategic interests of the moment. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Sonia Gandhi, President of India's Congress party-pic: http://www.mahinda2010.lk/

There are two dominant theories on India's perceived intent surrounding this election. One goes that India wanted retired soldier Sarath Fonseka to win because the old warhorse, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was galloping towards China at a pace too alarming for India. And the second theory is that India is uncomfortable with a former army general suddenly entering the political arena, taking over the administration and setting the stage for military rule in civilian garb.

Proponents of the first theory hold that India and its strategic ally, the United States, are worried about China's growing presence in Sri Lanka. They see something in Rajapaksa's attempt to neutralise India's political interest in boosting the minority Tamil cause. The fact that Fonseka was backed by the main opposition United National Party led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, a man seen as pro-India and pro-West , besides the Tamil National Alliance and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the main minority parties, favours this theory.

On the flip side, the view is that India is enamoured of Rajapaksa for promising an achievable political solution to Tamils in a postconflict era, and had even attempted to earn their support for his campaign. And that the attempts only failed when Tamils decided to back Fonseka.

Even when not suggesting that India would prefer one above the other, analysts identify the Rajapaksa camp with China's interests and contend that this factor may have made India more favourably disposed towards Fonseka. "While it is unlikely Sri Lanka will actively alienate its northern neighbour, it is equally unlikely the Rajapaksa government will continue to woo India in the future, particularly if its alliance with China bears fruit," wrote Dr Kasun Ubayasiri, an analyst of the Sri Lankan scene, for the South Asia Analysis Group days before the polls. Rajapaksa's "return to power will benefit China's strategic interests in the region," he added, contending that Fonseka was more alive to India's predicament. Fonseka had after the war said weapons came primarily from China and Pakistan. He had avoided naming India. Such developments have landed the former officer "on the Indian side of the future battle line," Ubayasiri argued.

It is a fact that Sri Lanka won the war because of India's moral and diplomatic support, especially as the main guarantor of its territorial unity. And despite its humanitarian concerns and frequent appeals for avoiding civilian casualties, India remained steadfast in not calling for a halt to military operations against the LTTE. Rajapaksa has acknowledged India's contribution to his victory. With the incumbent returning to power, there will be continuity in bilateral relations with India.

Meanwhile, China's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council makes it invaluable, its sheer presence insulating the island nation from any adverse Security Council resolution. A UN Human Rights Council resolution seeking to censure Sri Lanka and call for a war crimes probe against it last June was defeated, with India joining China and Russia, among other nations, in support of Colombo. Both Beijing and New Delhi are engaged in development work. Thus, regardless of who holds office, the Sri Lankan president has good reason to engage the two countries with equal zeal, bearing in mind the respective sensitivities.

Many, however, say that India, on its part, needs to be vigilant about the growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, especially after it emerged a key supplier of arms and military equipment that helped troops defeat the LTTE. In recent years, it has been clear that Sri Lankan diplomacy will make extensive use of Colombo's proximity to Beijing to counter India's pressure for a political solution to the Tamil question.

A significant issue in the post-conflict era is that Sri Lanka does not have urgent and critical military requirement that would leave India worrying about Beijing entrenching itself in the island with its uninhibited defence supplies. China's interest in the island is mainly strategic. "Strategically, China perhaps wants to cultivate Sri Lanka as a friendly cockpit for its Indian Ocean defence as China's vital shipping lanes are dominated by Sri Lanka,'' says Col (retd) R Hariharan, a military analyst observing the region for long. "Moreover, Sri Lanka, because of its geographic location, is the southern vanguard of India's strategic defence. As India is the major competing power in the South Asian region, China would like to strengthen its presence in India's neighbourhood."

New Delhi has been criticised for not taking adequate notice of the Chinese policy of 'encirclement' of India as it scaled up its presence in the neighbourhood through infrastructure projects. China, for instance, is developing the Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka and funding Norochcholai power plant near Puttalam on its south-western coast.

Hariharan has suggested India could balance the Chinese influence by developing Trincomalee, a coastal city in the east, with a natural harbour. In the mid-1980 s, it was the possibility of the US getting a foothold in Trincomalee that led to India getting entangled in the Sri Lankan conflict. In the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord, it ensured Trincomalee remained in its sphere of influence when it added provisions to the effect that it will have the first right of refusal if Colombo wanted to refurbish its 102 oil tanks of World War II vintage in the eastern town. In 2002, the Ranil Wickremesinghe government handed over the entire tank fleet to India.

India knows well that no Sri Lankan ruler is going to stop using the China card. In fact, there are many in Sri Lanka who believe that China's presence is an incentive for New Delhi to retain its positive outlook towards Colombo. But equally true is India's uncompromising commitment to Sri Lanka's unity on the one hand and to ensuring political equality and dignity for Tamils within a united country on the other. Of course, Tamils on either side of the Palk Strait are unhappy that during the worst and most brutal phase of the war India failed to go beyond the strategic 'Lakshman rekha' - the limit imposed by the theory that too much of pressure on Colombo to halt the war would seriously damage its bilateral ties, much to the advantage of players waiting to move in like China.

But in the ultimate analysis, the demise of the Tamil Tigers was an outcome of India's policy of mixing overt non-interference with quiet support. So was the unforeseen end of the armed conflict. Other powers may stay or leave Sri Lanka, but India cannot rest. It bears the burden of keeping a watch on the rising tide of Sinhala nationalism so that a political solution is not delayed forever. China or no China, India stands on a different footing in Sri Lanka. It has a long 'things-to-do' list. These include rehabilitation and development, such as restoring the railway network in the north, rendering humanitarian help in the area of demining, and fostering livelihood activities and vocational training for the Tamil youth. It has towards that signed an agreement to revive the railway network in the north with a $425 million line of credit. Besides, it is spending Rs 500 crore on post-war development with a focus on agriculture and housing. New Delhi is confident these will not go unnoticed. - courtesy: Times of India -

A HELPING HAND

India has sent 2.5 lakh family packs from Tamil Nadu containing dry ration, clothing, utensils to internally displaced persons when they were in post-war camps

New Delhi set up an emergency field hospital with 60 medical and paramedical staff for six months between March and September in the war zone. It treated 50,000 people, many requiring surgeries

The government set apart Rs 500 crore for rehabilitation and welfare of IDPs

Six Indian de-mining teams are currently working in Sri Lanka's former war zones

It sent nearly 3000 tonnes of shelter material

Indian agencies are also engaged in project to help vulnerable people like war widows

Engineers from India are engaged in capacity building and vocational training for Tamils of Indian origin in the hill country

CALCULATED RISKS

Under a $425 million line of credit, two railway tracks are to be laid by India's IRCON in the north - one from Omanthai to Pallai and another from Madhu to Talaimannar

RITES India to provide rolling stock for these railway projects

PRIVATE COMPANIES WITH INDIAN INVESTMENT

Airtel Sri Lanka

ICICI Bank Sri Lanka

HDFC Bank

Taj Lanka Hotels Ltd

Asian Paints

CEAT-Kelani

Mackwood Infotec (Pvt) Ltd

Bensiri Rubber Products (Pvt) Ltd

Ceylon Ambuja Cement (Pvt) Ltd

Behind Sri Lanka’s political infighting: US-China rivalry

BY Peter Symonds

In the wake of Tuesday’s presidential election in Sri Lanka, Colombo has become a hotbed of rumour and intrigue as the two factions of the ruling elite backing the winner, Mahinda Rajapakse, and the loser, General Sarath Fonseka, manoeuvre and position themselves for open political warfare. Far from putting an end to the campaign brawling, the election has set the stage for deepening instability.

The extraordinary events of the past three days have included: the surrounding of Fonseka’s hotel by heavily-armed troops, government accusations that he was planning a coup, counter-accusations by Fonseka that the government was about to arrest or assassinate him, a demand that the election be annulled and threats of legal action from both sides.

What is behind this bitter rivalry? The two men have essentially the same domestic program. General Fonseka was part of President Rajapakse’s inner cabal as it ruthlessly prosecuted the communal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in the LTTE’s defeat last May. Fonseka now pledges to renew Sri Lankan democracy, but like Rajapakse, he is responsible for war crimes and gross abuses of democratic rights. If he fears assassination, it is because he is intimately acquainted with the operations of the pro-government death squads that murdered hundreds of politicians, journalists and ordinary people over the past four years.

The economic agenda of the two men is identical. Both campaigned on the basis of fanciful promises that they knew could not be kept. Rajapakse pledged to turn the island into the “wonder of Asia” and to double per capita GDP within six years. Fonseka demagogically declared he could solve all the country’s problems by eliminating “waste and corruption”—as if the impact of 26 years of civil war and the current global economic turmoil could be overcome simply by ending the corrupt practices of the Rajapakse brothers. In reality, Rajapakse and Fonseka are committed to imposing the full burden of the worsening economic crisis onto working people and using the police-state apparatus built up during the war to suppress any opposition.

The main reason for the political feuding is not to be found in Colombo. Since the LTTE’s defeat, the country has been drawn into the vortex of great power rivalry. Sri Lanka’s strategic position in South Asia and astride the key sea routes from the Middle East and Africa to North East Asia and across the Pacific has made it the focus of growing attention by the major powers. China, which is seeking to protect its maritime trade, used the war to bolster its position in Colombo—providing arms, aid and diplomatic backing in return for economic and strategic concessions, in particular a major new southern port at Hambantota. India and Pakistan, along with the European powers, are also vying for position in Sri Lanka.

The major destabilising factor, however, has been the US, which is determined to counter China’s growing influence in Asia and internationally, including Sri Lanka. Following the LTTE’s defeat, the Obama administration, which had backed Rajapakse’s war, cynically played the “human rights” card. Together with the Europeans, Washington sponsored a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council calling for a limited war crimes investigation as a means of pressuring the Rajapakse government. China, however, flexed its diplomatic muscle, blocked the US/European move and supported the Sri Lankan government’s own resolution hailing its victory in the “war on terror”.

By early December, the US had shifted tack. A major report entitled “Sri Lanka: Recharting US Strategy After the War”, issued by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, highlighted the danger to US strategic interests of China’s growing influence in Colombo and bluntly declared that the US “cannot afford to ‘lose’ Sri Lanka”. It advised “a new approach that increases US leverage vis-à-vis Sri Lanka” using economic, trade and security incentives. As for “human rights”, while they remained important, the report stated, “US policy towards Sri Lanka cannot be dominated by a single agenda. It is not effective at delivering real reform, and it shortchanges US geostrategic interests in the region”.

Rajapakse is acutely aware that he can ill-afford to alienate the US. In the course of the presidential election, he boasted that he had opposed the “international conspiracy” to save the LTTE and smear the army with war crimes charges. But his anti-Western posturing and defence of “little Sri Lanka” always had its limits. While pointing to Washington’s war crimes in Afghanistan, he only did so to justify his own. He was always careful never to name names and now shows every sign of wanting improved ties with the “conspirators”—the US and the EU.

Fonseka’s own relations with Washington are extremely murky. He arrived in the US in late October, purportedly to renew his Green Card and visit relatives, and was asked to attend a voluntary interview with the Department of Homeland Security, reportedly to answer questions over war crimes related to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. Colombo furiously opposed the interview, which eventually did not take place. While the nature of discussions between US officials and Fonseka is shrouded in secrecy, he announced his resignation from the army just days after returning to Colombo and actively campaigned against Rajapakse’s anti-Western stance.

The nature of future relations between Washington and the Rajapakse regime is by no means clear. What is certain is that this great power rivalry, especially between the US and China, is adding an explosive new factor to the volatile and unstable mix of Sri Lankan politics. Whatever the immediate outcome, the factional warfare in the ruling elites will only compound the economic crisis facing the island, and therefore the determination of whoever comes out on top to launch a savage onslaught on the social position of the working class. ~ courtesy: WSWS ~

Sri Lankan government cracks down on opposition

By Sarath Kumara

After winning Tuesday’s election, President Mahinda Rajapakse has begun his second term with a widening crackdown on his political opponents. Despite winning by a substantial margin, Rajapakse’s position remains weak amid continuing sharp divisions in ruling circles and widespread popular frustration and resentment over declining living standards.

On the island of Kayts off the northern Jaffna peninsula, the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) mobilised a gang of thugs on Thursday evening to intimidate people they believed had voted for opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka or Socialist Equality Party (SEP) candidate Wije Dias. Dozens of people were physically attacked. One supporter of the SEP has been hospitalised—his medical condition is unknown. The EPDP, which is notorious for its thuggery, is part of Rajapakse’s ruling coalition. (More details will be published when available.)

The attacks on Kayts after part of a broader pattern. Yesterday evening, some 150 police commandos from the Special Task Force raided the election office of opposition candidate Fonseka in Central Colombo on the pretext of searching for army deserters and illegal weapons.

The operation, which extended over five hours, ended with the detention of 15 retired military personnel, including six officers, who were taken to the Criminal Investigation Department. Computer hard drives, mobile phones and some documents were confiscated.

Karu Jayasuriya, deputy leader of the opposition United National Party (UNP), told reporters that no weapons or explosives were found during the search. “We informed them that they [the detained men] are all officers and other rankers who have retired from service,” he said.

On Thursday, Lakshman Hulugalle, the Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, claimed that the security forces had uncovered a plot organised by Fonseka to mount a coup and assassinate members of the Rajapakse family, the president and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is the country’s defence secretary.

Hulugalle declared that Fonseka had hired “70 rooms in two prestigious hotels” and gathered “retired army officers and army deserters to assassinate the President and his family members”. The spokesman offered no evidence to support his extravagant claims, but added that Fonseka would be arrested if his involvement in the plot could be proven.

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of heavily armed soldiers surrounded the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel where Fonseka and his supporters were staying. A tense standoff continued into Wednesday, with the government claiming that the troops were hunting for deserters. None were found. Fonseka accused Rajapakse of preparing to arrest him.

Following Hulugalle’s statement, Fonseka flatly denied any plans for a coup. “This would then be a mess officers’ coup. The government thinks that I’m as stupid to plan a coup so close to the president’s office in a hotel,” he told the media. The general reiterated his claim to have won the election, despite receiving 18 percent less votes than Rajapakse, and his plans to challenge the results.

“We have sent a letter to the elections commissioner and we have begun initiating court proceedings to contest the legitimacy of these results,” Fonseka said. “During the early stages reliable sources told us that I had a 1.4 million lead to him. This amount has been transferred to the president.”

Fonseka accused the government of undermining his personal security by removing his security detail. “They have left me with only four policemen and I have had to resort to employing unarmed civilians. There is a Supreme Court order that my security contingent of 70 should at no time be reduced, however this president does not respect the law of this country.”

On Thursday, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse added another legal threat, telling the BBC that the government was considering legal action against Fonseka over accusations during the campaign that the defence secretary had ordered the killing of senior leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While Fonseka later retracted the accusation, saying he had been misquoted, the killings in the final days of the war last May were covered in the international press. Rajapakse scoffed at the retraction, declaring: “We will follow legal procedures. If he has violated certain laws then we will take action.”

The government is particularly sensitive to accusations of war crimes. In the wake of the LTTE’s defeat, the US and its European allies sought to use the issue to put pressure on President Rajapakse and undermine China’s growing influence in Colombo. In fact, both Rajapakse and Fonseka, who was the country’s top general until he resigned in December to contest the election, are responsible for war crimes and the systematic abuse of basic democratic rights.

The government’s threats against Fonseka are part of a broader campaign that has also targetted the media. The international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, yesterday called on Rajapakse to put an end to the intimidation of journalists. “This wave of post-election violence could cast a lasting stain on the start of President Rajapakse’s second term and bodes ill for the political climate during the coming years,” the statement said.

Yesterday evening the editor of Lanka, Chandana Sirimalwatte, was arrested over an allegedly defamatory article published on January 26. The newspaper is linked to the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which along with the UNP backed Fonseka for the presidency. On Thursday, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe accused Defence Secretary Rajapakse of threatening to kill him and to burn down the Lanka newspaper offices.

Other incidents included the sealing of the office of the Lankaenews web site by plain-clothes police on Thursday evening. The web site had been previously blocked by the state telecommunications company, Sri Lanka Telecom. Also on Thursday, Ravi Abewikrama, a reporter with the state radio broadcaster SLBC, was attacked by one of the station’s officials for criticising the biased election coverage in favour of Rajapakse imposed by the station head.

During a victory speech, Rajapakse declared: “From today onward, I am president of everyone, whether they voted for me or not.” In reality, Rajapakse will not hesitate to make full use of the state apparatus to suppress political opposition in the lead-up to parliamentary elections due by April. The moves against media critics are a sharp warning to the working class of what is in store as the government proceeds to implement the austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In his election platform, Rajapakse boasted that he would double the country’s per capita GDP within six years. During the campaign, he appeared on platforms with large pictures of power stations, new ports and transport infrastructure. In reality, the country faces a worsening economic crisis, burdened with huge debts as a result of heavy military spending, and confronting shrinking markets for its exports.

The government was compelled to seek a $US2.6 billion loan from the IMF last July to stave off an acute balance of payments crisis. The terms of the loan included a drastic reduction in the budget deficit equivalent to 4 percent of GDP over the next two years, higher taxes and the restructuring of key state-owned corporations, including the Electricity Board and the Petroleum Corporation.

Rajapakse claims that “building of the economy” will be his top priority. What this means in practice is a savage assault on the social position of the working class and rural masses that will inevitably provoke opposition. Despite the defeat of the LTTE last May, Rajapakse has retained the state of emergency that grants the president sweeping powers to censor the media, ban industrial action and carry out arrests without trial.

Ominously, the general secretary of Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Maithripala Sirisena, declared on Thursday that the abolition of the country’s executive presidency was now a non-issue. In a bid to present himself as a democrat, Fonseka had promised to abolish the post. The executive president has the powers to assume cabinet posts, dismiss ministers and bring down governments.

Rajapakse, who holds both the defence and finance portfolios, exploited the executive presidency to marginalise parliament and cabinet. He has wielded power through a cabal of top bureaucrats, including his brother Gotabhaya, generals and political allies. In the course of his four-year term, Rajapakse openly violated the constitution and High Court rulings, including the 17th Amendment that requires the establishment of a constitutional council to oversee senior government appointments. Fonseka was part of the presidential clique until he fell out with Rajapakse following the LTTE’s defeat.

Sirisena defended the executive presidency, declaring that it had helped to thwart “enemy” manipulation of parliament. His comments are a clear sign that Rajapakse will continue to ride roughshod over parliament, the legal system and the constitution as he presses ahead with what he describes as his “economic war” to rebuild the nation. - courtesy: WSWS -

Chandrika Kumaratunga was the final nail in Sarath Fonseka's coffin

Anatomy of an Election - 1

By Prof. RAJIVA WIJESINHA

I must confess to feeling some relief on Wednesday morning. Perhaps as a result of living in Colombo, and imbibing its pernicious predilections, I had worried about the result of the Presidential election. True, rational thought suggested one need not feel anxious. This was reinforced even by the details of a poll, commissioned I was told by international interventionists, on behalf of General Fonseka. This claimed he would win by a tiny margin but acknowledged that he would lose almost all districts in the south of the country, save for Colombo and its ilk. Given the unrealistic margins it predicted in those areas one should have felt confident.

But still, the manner in which the voters of this country have expressed themselves democratically (and also affirmed their determination that democracy should continue) is heartening, and a reason for pride. They have affirmed their faith in the future and in political principle. They have rejected ‘dysfunction and breakdown’, which dear old Dr Saravanamuttu declared had taken place in Sri Lanka even while everyone else acknowledged that the election was peaceful and orderly, and only a different result might have created chaos.

But the complete disjunction of the urban elite was apparent when, in a final effort to sway voters, they threw former President Chandrika Kumaratunga into the fray. Anyone with the slightest sense of the national pulse, or even an awareness of history, should have realized that this would be the final nail, assuming one was needed, in General Fonseka’s coffin.

He was already finding it difficult enough to reconcile the claims of all the Ghosts of Christmas Past who had flocked to his standard. Now, when the greatest of the Ghosts joined him, rattling her chains with unaccustomed enthusiasm, the atmosphere of naked opportunism was unmistakable.

But so was the stale smell of bitterness. Rancour, hatred, revenge, are never principles on which to build up a political alliance, even though we have to acknowledge that they have played their part in Sri Lanka previously too. But generally they are concealed, covered by a pretext of principle.

The principle on which the opposition had united with some plausibility was corruption. It could not have coalesced with regard to pluralism, given the previous pronouncements of its candidate, and indeed his opposition to swift resettlement of those who were in the Welfare Centres, which he gave as one of the reasons for his resignation. It could not have come together over opposition to regionalism that could lead to separatism, given the support for a preposterous ISGA for the merged North and East that both the UNP and the TNA had evinced in the dark old LTTE days. It could not be media freedom, given the treatment of poor Keith Noyahr, and indeed the continuing persecution of his editor, Lalith Alahakoon, by General Fonseka.

But corruption was an issue that clearly caused concern – as it has done with every government in the last three decades. Colombo has forgotten the ghastly things they said about President Premadasa, they have forgotten how even favoured UNP papers highlighted corruption by many government ministers during the 2002 – 2003 Wickremesinghe regime.

Those papers exempted Wickremesinghe himself, and certainly his philosophy was on the lines of that of his mentor President Jayewardene, namely that everyone should be corrupt except for himself, which obviously enhanced his personal control of the situation. But another reason for this was that Wickremesinghe, like Jayewardene, did not need to amass a personal fortune to pay for publicity at elections, since his party paid for him. This factor the President has understood, in tying to his pledge to control corruption in the future a determination to change the current electoral system, with its brutal dependence on preference votes.

But, given how short memories are, the cry of corruption seemed to strike a chord. Sadly for the General however, memories are not short enough to forget the allegations of corruption against President Kumaratunga launched by precisely those who had flocked to the General as though they were all knights in clean shining armour. The spectacle then of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Somawansa Amerasinghe and Sarath Silva joined by Chandrika Kumaratunga to support the General seemed a particularly bad joke, with Rauff Hakeem also hovering in the background to contribute his little mite too to the hysteria.

All this was on the surface. Extraordinarily, adding to the fuel was a former Presidential Secretary, whose family had been unashamedly involved in arms deals in the nineties. That involvement had been well known, as was the involvement of the family of President Jayewardene’s Secretary, and also family members of the Defence establishment during the Wickremesinghe government.

That was why I was particularly sad when there were allegations about the General, since that was a field in which this government has been a shining contrast, as was well known by army officers who for the first time had full confidence that purchases were designed only to improve their operational capacity. In such a context Wickremesinghe’s lame defence, that the allegations concerned not the General, but just his son-in-law, was a pitiful example of the sort of argument that had vitiated arms purchases in his time as well as in that of his uncle President Jayewardene.

But, forgetting recent aberrations, it was particularly ironic that a fortune made on arms purchases during President Kumaratunga’s tenure should have been put at the disposal of her new hero. Fortunately, not content with manoeuvers behind the scenes, she decided to get into the fray herself, and thus made crystal clear the sheer hypocrisy of the whole enterprise.

If General Fonseka ever engages in a post-mortem on the firmness with which the Sri Lankan people have brought him down to earth, he will doubtless think of the intrigues of Mr Sambandan, the incompatibility of the UNP and JVP positions on war crimes charges, the disastrous antics of his deserters. But let him also spare a thought for President Kumaratunga, who could not resist yet another bite at the cherry she squeezed dry over so many years. ~ TO BE CONTINUED

Disgraceful treatment of Fonseka and his security personnel after election

by Shanie

"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon",
In the afternoon they came into a land,
In which it seemed always afternoon.
Is there confusion in the little isle?
Let what is broken so remain.
The Gods are hard to reconcile;
‘Tis hard to settle order once again,
There is confusion worse than death,
Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
Long labour unto aged breath,
Sore task to hearts worn out with many wars
And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

Mahinda Rajapakse has won re-election to the Presidency of Sri Lanka. The margin of 1.8 million votes over Rajapakse’s nearest rival was a decisive one. Even allowing for malpractices on polling day like credible evidence of attempts to intimidate potential voters for the opponents particularly in the North from exercising their franchise, the margin of victory was sufficiently large for such malpractices not to have made a significant difference to the final outcome. No doubt, the campaign itself was marred by blatant violation of election laws and the scandalous misuse of public resources. Sarath Fonseka has spoken of mounting a legal challenge to the election process. But the Courts in any country would normally be wary of taking any action to nullify a poll except in very exceptional circumstances. Any such action can plunge a country into a deeper crisis, and Fonseka would be better advised to desist from taking that step.

But the way Fonseka and his security personnel were treated immediately after the conclusion of the poll was nothing short of disgraceful. Fonseka is a distinguished son of the country who has served with distinction as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army. The attempt to humiliate him and his security officers because of the political position he took after retirement deserves contempt and condemnation. We need to turn away from this culture of seeking revenge and directing extra-judicial violence at political opponents. We need to turn away from this culture perfected by the LTTE and which was followed by their clones in the south. Surely, President Rajapakse can rise above this and put a stop to this crudity. With strength derived from his decisive re-election, Mahinda Rajapakse now has the opportunity to deliver on his manifesto promise of ensuring human rights and the rule of law. That will be a step forward towards democratic governance.

From War to Peace and Unity

Lord Tennyson was the poet laureate in England in the mid nineteenth century at the time of the Industrial Revolution when the working people were undergoing much hardship. His poem Lotus Eaters, stanzas from which we quote at the beginning of this column, is based on the legend concerning the wanderings of Ulysses, the Greek hero of the Trojan War. In the course of his voyage home, he comes upon the land of the Lotus-eaters where he and his men are tempted to give up their struggle and lead a life of ease. The poem is about this temptation to escape from the difficulties and complexities of present life and to dwell on the pleasant moments of the past. In Tennyson’s time, it was escapism from the harsh conditions of the Industrial Revolution. In our context, it is escapism into the mood of post-war euphoria that will prevent our country from moving forward to peace, unity and reconciliation.

The results of the recently concluded Presidential Election show how deeply fractured we are as a country. It appears that the overwhelming majority of the minorities, ethnic and religious and from across the country, have voted for Sarath Fonseka and the overwhelming majority of the Sinhala Buddhist majority, again from across the country, have voted for Mahinda Rajapakse. There was an element of polarisation in previous elections too but it is starkly plain in this election. The credible explanation for this is that the nationalist mood of triumphalism at the defeat of the LTTE still prevails and the UPFA’s campaign has been successful in identifying Rajapakse with the success achieved in defeating the LTTE. At the same time, some of the campaigners for Rajapakse injected communalism into the campaign by alleging a non-existent secret agreement between Fonseka and the minority parties that allegedly was going to sell out to the minorities, at the expense of Sinhala rights. This crude campaign aimed at winning the Sinhala vote has instead united the Tamils and Muslims of not only the North and East but also of the Hill Country and the rest of the country.

Despite the ethnic and religious polarisation at the election, President Rajapakse must reach out to all the people of our country. After election he is the President of the country and all her people. He should resist the temptation to feel that he was elected by the Sinhala Buddhist majority and can therefore overlook the aspirations of the minorities who did not vote for him. At the Presidential Election of 1999, Chandrika Kumaratunge won re-election, again decisively. But she lost the districts of Jaffna, Vanni, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Nuwaraiya to her UNP opponent. During the campaign, a suicide bomber attempted to assassinate her – she survived but lost an eye in the process. But the statesperson that she was, she did not allow rejection of her electoral bid by the minorities to prevent her from reaching out to the Tamils and Muslims. In 2000 and again in 2002, she presented, after all-party discussions, far-reaching constitutional proposals for power-sharing. Mahinda Rajapakse has the capacity to rise to the same level of statespersonship. He has received a strong mandate from the people which will enable him to reach out to the minorities. The Tissa Vitarana Committee appointed by him has made some proposals and he must not make the mistake of dismissing those proposals to appease the Sinhala extremist lobby that supported him at the election. There can be little doubt that such a move to implement the APRC proposals will strengthen his hand at the forthcoming parliamentary election. The UNP is committed to power-sharing and cannot afford to do a U-turn at this juncture to oppose any proposal on those lines, except at their own peril. The extremists will bark but, without the electoral support that they lack, cannot bite.

Lessons from the Election

From a simple reading of the results, it could appear that they disprove the notion that the support of the minorities is essential to win an election. Such a reading will be a facile one. This election was unique in that it came within twelve months of the end of the war and it has become clear that the mood of euphoria and triumphalism is still prevalent, contrary to what many thought. Mahinda Rajapakse was projected as the architect of that victory. Sarath Fonseka, the Army Commander, was projected as having ‘let the side down’ by becoming a candidate of those forces that were not fully behind the war effort. In that sense, the result at this election was a personal one for Rajapakse. Even if the bulk of the UNP block vote stood by Fonseka’s candidature, nearly the entire floating vote among the Sinhalese, which forms the majority and which would normally have been evenly divided, appears to have opted for Rajapakse. This personal vote for Rajapakse, the man, is unlikely to be translated into a similar vote for the UPFA at the parliamentary that must follow in a few months time. This columnist is convinced that the minority votes will certainly matter at the parliamentary election.

For the Opposition, some of their irresponsible statements ridiculing the war effort, like the comparisons of Alimankada and Pamankada, came back to haunt them. Senior parliamentarians must resist the temptation to score cheap debating points and must provide responsive co-operation in matters of national interest. For this same reason, they must not oppose any meaningful power-sharing proposals in the event they are presented by Mahinda Rajapakse.

During the election campaign, Rajapakse promised to ensure human rights and respect for the rule of law. He also promised to curtail some of the powers of the Executive Presidency. These are admirable if he can keep to his promises. Two matters regarding the Executive Presidency require urgent attention. First, would be to rid the constitution of the presidential immunity clause. This is an anachronism in a democracy. It may be acceptable where the position of the Head of State is purely a ceremonial one like in Britain where the ‘Queen can do no wrong’. But in a democracy, a citizen must have recourse to the law in respect of the executive actions of a President.

The second, which will deal both with the curtailment of executive powers as well as the rule of law and human rights, is the implementation in full of the 13th, 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution. These amendments are not ‘defunct’ as a senior minister is infamously reported to have stated. They are a part of the law of this country and their fill implementation – the 13th on power-sharing, the 16th on language rights and the 17th on an independent and efficient public service – will go a long long way towards good governance. Now that the rhetoric of electioneering is over, the President must know that all nominations to the Constitutional Council are in place and those nominated are eminently qualified to serve on the Council. The appointment of these independent commissions will address his campaign promise to ensure the rule of law, human rights and an administration free of bribery and corruption.

We have come through a bruising election campaign. We must now turn away from the violence of the past and move forward to ensure democratic and good governance. The country deserves nothing less. ~ courtesy: The Island ~

January 29, 2010

Sri Lankan Police Raid Defeated Opposition Candidate’s Office

By ROGENE FISHER (The Lede ~ New York Times Blog)

Sri Lanka’s quarter-century-long civil war may have ended, but there is no peace between the two rivals in Tuesday’s presidential contest. Police raided opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka’s campaign headquarters on Friday, seizing computer equipment and arresting 15 members of his staff.

Sri Lankan police Special Task Force commandos blocked a road outside the office retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka during a raid of his office in Colombo. Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

Officials accused Mr. Fonseka, the former army chief, of plotting to overthrow the government and assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who defeated Mr. Fonseka by a wide margin in Tuesday’s vote, according to official results.

The former army chief was at his house in Colombo, the capital, at the time of the operation, according to Reuters.

According to the BBC, the government cordoned off the street during the raid and excluded all journalists from the leafy street where the general’s campaign office is situated.

[click here to read in full ~ Sri Lankan Police Raid Defeated Opposition Candidate’s Office ~ in The Lede ~ The Bew York Times Blog]

 

End Harassment, Attacks on Journalists-HRW

Jan 30, 2010: The Sri Lankan government should immediately end its post-election harassment of media outlets and ensure protection of journalists from attack, Human Rights Watch said today.

Since the presidential election on January 26, 2010, Sri Lankan authorities have detained and questioned several journalists, blocked news websites, and expelled a foreign journalist. At least one journalist has been assaulted and several have been threatened. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected to a second term in the hotly contested election.

"Now that the president has been re-elected, there appears to be a settling of scores with critics of the government," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Just days after the election, some officials seem to be on a campaign to abuse their power."

On January 28, the Criminal Investigation Department arrested Chandana Sirimalwatte, editor of the Iridia Lanka newspaper. According to news reports, he was questioned for two hours and detained for further questioning because of an article published on election day about a senior government official.

Sri Lankan authorities have blocked access to at least five news websites by internet users in Sri Lanka since the day before the election. On January 28 a group of armed men surrounded the offices of one of the blocked websites, Lanka e news. When journalists arrived at work on January 29, they found that the offices had been sealed off. A regular contributor to the website, Prageeth Eknalogoda, has been missing since leaving his office two days before the election.

On January 28, Ravi Abeywickrama, an employee at the state-controlled TV broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, was assaulted. Abeywickrama had signed a joint statement along with 60 other state media employees condemning the misuse of state media to promote Rajapaksa's election campaign. At least seven other employees who also signed the letter have been suspended or dismissed.

The Sri Lankan elections commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, has criticized the misuse of state media during the election. In his statement announcing the election results, he said he had issued specific guidelines for the state media that were "duly ignored." He also said that the state media had "completely disregarded" a person he had appointed to make certain they followed his guidelines.

The authorities also withdrew the visa granted to Karin Wenger, a reporter with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), telling her to leave the country within 48 hours. The SBC said a government minister had publicly criticized her for asking about irregularities in the election.

Sri Lanka has a long history of media harassment and attacks on journalists.

For example, on January 8, 2009, unidentified men killed Lasantha Wickremetunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper who was acclaimed for his investigative reporting. The investigation into his murder has failed to produce any results. On August 31, 2009, a court sentenced another journalist, J.S. Tissainayagam, to 20 years of hard labor for his criticism of the government's military campaign. Â US President Barack Obama, among others, had strongly criticized the handling of the case. After spending 22 months in prison, before and after his sentencing, he was released on bail on January 11, 2010, but continues to face restrictions on his movements.

Dozens of journalists are living in exile because of the dangerous and sometimes deadly atmosphere for media workers in Sri Lanka.

Parliamentary elections must be held in Sri Lanka by April 22, 2010.

"We fear that this is just the beginning of a campaign to get rid of critical voices before the parliamentary elections," Adams said. "Sri Lanka's friends should tell the government that any crackdown on civil society will harm future relations."

The Magic behind the Mahinda Rajapakse Victory

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Presidential Stakes 2010 came to an official end when Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake announced the winner in Sri Lanka's sixth Presidential election.

Incumbent Executive President Mahinda Rajapakse registered a stunning victory by polling 6,015,934 votes(57.88%).Former Army commander retired General Sarath Fonseka, his chief challenger got 4,173,185 or 40.15% of the votes.

The other twenty candidates including three who had withdrawn unofficially fared badly. None of them polled a six digit figure and all of them lost their deposits.

While President Rajapakse's winning margin of 1. 842,749 (17.73 %) is indeed impressive the remarkable result has been tarnished somewhat due to charges of intimidatory violence, flagrant abuse and misuse of Government machinery particularly the state-owned media and alleged vote rigging. [click here to read in full~dbsjeyaraj.com]

January 28, 2010

Rajapaksa’s Victory & After: Answers to questions put by national and international media

by Col R. Hariharan

This article is a summary of answers to questions put by various national and international print and electronic media on January 27, 2010.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has won a second term as President of Sri Lanka with a handsome margin. Did you expect this victory? Would you take it as peoples’ recognition of his leadership role in the victory against the Tamil Tigers?

Of course President Rajapaksa’s rise in popularity was mainly due to his contribution in designing and orchestrating the actions of the entire government to achieve military victory. While he provided the canvass for the victory, it was Fonseka who led the campaign and made it a reality .So both gained public acclaim after the military victory. According to one assessment the popularity of Rajapaksa and Fonseka on this count was in the ratio of 60:40 respectively.

Many of us had forecast a victory for the President by a narrow margin. In fact he was expected to scrape through. So winning by over 58% plus majority was indeed a surprise. This is a sizeable increase over the 50.3% majority he secured in the 2005 election. Actually a popular poll prediction in the early days of election ring said he would win by 62% and nobody was prepared to believe that. On the other hand, another pollster on January 21 had forecast a lead of 12% for Fonseka. So much for poll predictions.

However, it is too early to carry out a detailed analysis of the polling patterns. We need more inputs to do that. But it is clear that majority of Tamils in the north did not vote and the President was elected by overwhelming Sinhala support.

Do you think the President’s victory came by fair means? How did he achieve it?

Stuffing of ballot boxes is not an uncommon phenomenon in South Asia and in particular in Sri Lanka. Probably there were such cases in this election also. The detailed reports of monitors would surface in due course, I presume.

But there was considerable misuse of state media by the ruling coalition; and government servants campaigned openly against the opposition candidate. The Election Commissioner was so disgusted at the utter disregard shown to his directions that he decided to retire from office before the next parliamentary poll in April. Even while announcing the results of the election, the Elections Commissioner said that though he tried his level best to ensure the polls were conducted in a free and fair manner, it was “largely out of his control to manage, especially in areas like Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Matale.”

In spite of all this, it would be unfair to the voters to trivialise the overwhelming mandate Rajapaksa has secured as solely due to electoral malpractices.

I think President’s victory came about because of overwhelming Sinhala majority support, and large scale abstention of Tamil voters of Northern Province, just as it happened in the 2005 presidential poll. Many Tamils in Vanni have not been able to get back to their normal life savagely destroyed by the war. Many believed there was nothing much to choose between the two main candidates. In their eyes probably both the candidates lacked credibility particularly on the Tamil issue. Though theTamil National Alliance (TNA) had supported General Fonseka, it could influence only those who voted, but not the majority who stayed away from voting. In the end only around 19% of them voted. As a whole it has exposed the lack of credibility of Tamil political class among the public.

At the same time the ruling coalition had generally created a climate of fear and suspicion in the country before the election. There was intimidation, high handedness and muzzling of opposition media. By January 24 there were over 900 incidents of election related misconduct. Five people were killed. In this kind of environment the explosion of a few bombs in Jaffna in the early hours of Election Day probably came as a final straw for the voters not to stir out of their houses.

Rajapaksa’s overwhelming support came from Southern Sinhala voters particularly in rural areas. Apparently, Fonseka had not been able to make a dent in this vote bank. Even Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga’s belated show of solidarity with Fonseka had only symbolic effect.

General Fonseka had alleged that the troops had surrounded the hotel where he was staying and it was part of a plot to kill him. What are your comments?

“Politics of revenge” became the order of the day in Sri Lanka ever since the ambitious General fell out with the President and his brothers. Its pitch increased when he decided to contest the presidential poll. The General has since moved out of the hotel to his house. The government had said the troops were out there “to protect the opposition leaders” (from whom?) and the search was carried out to apprehend deserters holed up in the hotel. This is hardly a credible story as police can to carry out these tasks.

The General’s accusation of a plot to kill him needs to be substantiated. The allegation was probably a manifestation of the confrontational politics. Presumably, the aggressive act of massing of troops was a continuation of pressure tactics used against Fonseka starting with allegations of corruption and nepotism. The General’s statement also could be to enrol international sympathy for his plight and uncertain future after his defeat.

The General Fonseka led the army to victory in the Eelam War under President Rajapaksa. Despite this he appears to be daggers drawn with the President. What was most important reason for his relationship with the President going wrong?

Basically, the General was an ambitious person. He felt the President had not given the recognition he deserved for his contribution to the military victory that eluded Sri Lanka for 26 years. After the General became the CDS, he spoke of a grandiose vision of building 300,000-strong army. His talk of building a huge and powerful army, when even the 200,000-strong army was becoming redundant after the war, made political classes uneasy.

The President apparently felt uncomfortable in handling him and sidelined him from the mainstream of decision making. This process of “downsizing” reached its low point when he was appointed Secretary of Sports Ministry.
The differences between the President and the General came out in the open and culminated in the fight for presidency. And the opposition parties desperately looking for a suitable candidate to oppose the President, they found a useful foil in Fonseka.

What was India’s equation with the two candidates?

Over the years, President Rajapaksa has built a strong relationship at various levels of Indian leadership. He is quick to acknowledge India’s help and appreciates the political limitations of India in supporting him during the Eelam War. Even though India had harped on activating the 13th amendment to the Constitution on provincial autonomy, it chose to ignore when the President deferred action on it and went to war. India had consistently supported Sri Lanka under his leadership in international forums even on some of the critical issues like human rights violations.

On the other hand, Fonseka was an unknown quantity to Indian leadership. The UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is on a good wicket with Indian leaders, had tried to plead for India’s support to the General. Apparently, India was not comfortable with the idea. When he was the army commander, General Fonseka’s pronouncements had smacked of Sinhala nationalism and support to him would at best be controversial.

Moreover, India considered Rajapaksa a safe bet, as it probably expected him to come on top in the election. So probably India favoured his victory although it stand on the subject was never made public.

President Rajapaksa has been elected with a sizeable majority votes for a second term. Do you expect him to be dictatorial in his second term? Will he use the majority Sinhala support he enjoys to crush the Tamils?

I agree there are instances where presidents repeatedly given a democratic mandate tended to be dictatorial. And the executive presidency gives considerable leeway for the president to be dictatorial. But Sri Lanka has an enlightened political class and strong civil society which had become vocal during the election. It had always opposed such tendencies as was seen during the Jayawardane regime. So it would not be easy for the President to behave like a dictator.

Rajapaksa is a seasoned politician who uses existing political instruments to get his writ through. He has demonstrated this a number of times say by splitting political parties in his favour, buying time on the Tamil issue etc.

Tamils are a sizeable minority who can make a difference between the winner and the loser in national elections. So over the years, all major parties have tried to cultivate a Tamil lobby. So I do not expect the revival of vintage anti-Tamil attitude of rabid Sinhala nationalism as a major political force. Already Rajapaksa enjoys huge Sinhala support and he will gain no political advantage by “road rolling” Tamils and their concerns.

There is also the lingering India factor in Sri Lanka, however reluctant India might be to acknowledge it. Rajapaksa knows that across the Palk Straits, Sri Lanka Tamils enjoy considerable empathy and emotional support. This has already been tested during the war. And Tamil Nadu has a big clout in New Delhi in the ruling coalition. So Rajapaksa would always keep India at the back of his mind while dealing with the Tamil issue. India is also likely to come under considerable pressure to bring up the issue with Rajapaksa as Tamil Nadu gets ready for the 2011 assembly polls.

Overall, although the election mandate has boosted Rajapaksa’s power, I expect the President to show a nuanced approach during his second term. However, he could be encouraged by those around him to deviate from this path when pressure builds up against him internally or externally.

It had been reported that the U.S. favoured Fonseka in the presidential poll. What are your comments?

It is true the U.S. had been quite unhappy with the Rajapaksa regime on two counts: its indifference to the U.S. concerns over gross human rights violations, and its contacts with the anti-US club – Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar etc. Moreover, considerable anti-U.S. feelings were whipped up in the closing stages of war when the U.S. wanted to extricate the beleaguered Tamil Tigers.

Countries do act at times in strange ways but I do not believe the U.S. ever seriously considered supporting Fonseka, despite its frosty relations with Rajapaksa. I am sure the U.S. is realistic enough to know of Rajapaksa’s strengths as demonstrated in his success against the Tamil Tigers. I am sure this was the reason for Senator John F. Kerry led Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s call for friendlier relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka in December 2009. Moreover, the U.S. does consult India on key issues relating to Sri Lanka. And India’s lack of enthusiasm for a regime change in Sri Lanka would have definitely discouraged the U.S. from any thought of favouring Fonseka.

When Mrs Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister she reacted strongly to America’s planned foray into Sri Lanka. China has already made an entry into Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka is in a 1987-like situation now, do you expect Rajapaksa to slowly marginalise Indian influence in the island to accommodate the Chinese?

The Cold War scene of Mrs Gandhi’s time does not exist anymore. The world and this region have changed considerably along with international power equations. China is poised to become a global power; it has become the financier to boost up America’s sagging economy. Its economic influence is spreading the world over and in support its military reach is also growing. This is the reality.

And the Chinese influence in Sri Lanka is a part of this reality. And Sri Lanka would need China’s economic support to build its war ravaged economy as much as it needs India’s support. In spite of this, Sri Lanka had carefully tried to balance the relationship. In fact, it offered the Hambantota project to India first; it went to China only after India failed to respond. On the other hand as China’s foot print increases in Sri Lanka, India’s security concerns would also increase. And India should constantly keep a watch on Chinese activity in Sri Lanka, regardless of its nature.

At the same time, India has also become an important economic power and militarily a strong regional player. It is building its strategic security relationship with the U.S. This is likely to grow in the coming years. As the U.S. sees India as a factor to balance the Chinese power projection in this region, despite India’s reluctance to acknowledge it. So India of today is not the same as it was in 1987.

Sri Lanka-India relations are closer than ever before. It has a fairly successful free trade agreement with India. Indian capital flow to Sri Lanka is poised to increase and this would boost employment and economic opportunities for Sri Lanka. There is considerable similarity of perception on many international issues between the two countries. So it is doubtful whether Rajapaksa would gain any major advantage by enlarging his relationship with China at the cost of India. In fact, it would be strategically risky for him to do so as India is physically too close to Sri Lanka. This is an advantage that China does not enjoy.

The President is politically savvy enough to understand these nuances of the Sri Lanka, India and China triangular relationship. He would probably try to reap maximum advantage for his country from India using the China card.

A principled approach Necessary for constitutional Reform

By Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

One of the themes that the common opposition made much of during the election campaign was the need to implement the 17th amendment immediately. In fact many of those without a political agenda also see this as a panacea for all ills.

Sadly, in requesting the immediate appointment of the Constitutional Council, they do not take at all seriously the reasons given for not appointing it over the last few years. They also ignore the fact that the continuation in office of the Elections Commissioner, which they attribute to the absence of a Constitutional Council, was precipitated by a basic problem with the 17th amendment, which became apparent during the tenure of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

To put it in a nutshell, the Constitutional Council sent her a list of names to be appointed to the Elections Commission set up under the 17th amendment, and she refused to make the appointments. The 17th amendment did not specify what should happen in such a situation, and I believe there could be no satisfactory recourse to the Courts to enforce what is now claimed to be necessary compliance with the law.

The reason for this failure is obvious. The 17th amendment was a hasty piece of legislation, which has no basis in any known constitutional principle. It confuses a Westminster style limitation on the appointing powers of the head of government with what usually obtains under Executive Presidencies to limit such powers.

n short, when an Executive President is elected, it is his prerogative to make appointments, though it is both understandable and desirable that there should be limitations on what could turn out to be arbitrary appointments. This is done by instituting a process of ratification by another body with due authority, such as for instance the elected Senate in the United States.

Conversely, in a Westminster dispensation, the Head of State who appoints does so on the advice of an elected Head of Government, the Prime Minister. In practice the Head of State would not repudiate the elected authority. But in theory this is possible, and since Prime Ministers would not want the Head of State to reject or even question any appointment, they will make sure their nominees are basically suitable.

The President has made it clear that, were the required number of nominees to the Constitutional Council sent to him, he would set it up. There is no reason for him not to, since he could turn down any of its nominees, given the precedent set by President Kumaratunga in refusing such appointments. But first the minor parties could not agree on a nominee and then, when it was announced that they had done so, it turned out that the candidate they were supposed to have agreed on was under contract to Parliament.

Meanwhile Parliament, that had set up a Select Committee to deal with the problem, has failed to finalize a solution. In this context the President has committed himself to a long overdue legislative change that could, in this regard of limiting the absolute authority to make appointments, ensure that Sri Lanka fell in line with established international constitutional practice.

I refer to his oft expressed determination to establish a Second Chamber of Parliament, based on representation of Provinces. Not only will this measure serve to strengthen the role of the regions at the Centre, not only will it provide opportunities to review legislation, it will also allow for checks on appointments through a body that has its own authority rather than deriving it vicariously.

For this too is a problem with the Constitutional Council as currently prescribed. It consists of individuals whose claim to decide for the President, or in some cases ratify his choices, is based on their being nominated by other individuals. Though those individuals are elected, the parameters within which they operate do not allow for representative choices but rather encourage the development of cabals. And as we have seen, inevitably all the choices are representative of a Colombo elite, perhaps understandable given the concentration of what purports to be intellectual capital in the capital, but in no sense fulfilling the representative requirement of any body that makes decisions on behalf of the nation.

A Second Chamber, as envisaged by the President, would ensure that the voice of the Provinces would be heard at the Centre, while also being responsible to the people to provide the checks and balances that any leader needs. Such a body should not usurp his prerogative to decide, but the process of making such decisions will be helped by the awareness that they are subject to ratification.

In passing, I should note that the President has, in the other major legislative change he proposes, also dealt with a couple of problems that now adversely affect the body politic. I refer to his determination to change the electoral system, to get rid of the current system of proportional representation that maximizes competitiveness and hence the squandering of resources. That this is a major reason for corruption has been obvious now for a couple of decades, as exemplified by the fate of one universally acknowledged honest Minister in the 2002-2003 cabinet. This was Karunasena Kodituwakku, who had no money to engage in the competition for preferences that so many of his peers relished, and never sought any, and so lost ignominiously.

The second reason for reverting to a constituency based system is to ensure that all areas in the country have someone to look after their interests. This will be good for the areas, it will also be good for the MPs who will have much more to do that will translate into concrete action and readily measurable outcomes. This will also help reduce the size of the Cabinet since, while all MPs seek some sort of additional authority, this can be targeted at the development of areas which they know they have to excel in to secure re-election.

I should note however that legislation to statutorily reduce the size of the Cabinet would be the best answer to the current problem, a problem that began way back during the Jayewardene regime, when the President did not even have the reason of fearing crossovers. Incidentally, limiting the size of the Cabinet was one of the conditions the JVP made when they gave provisional support to President Kumaratunga in 2001, and I remember asking them why they did not insist then on a Constitutional amendment to this effect.

The answer was evasive, leading me to believe that the JVP too has a very pragmatic approach to politics when it comes to real issues of principle. Instead all they got introduced into the Constitution was the hasty and ill thought out 17th amendment, President Kumaratunga not perhaps realizing that this represented the Westminster tradition, to which the JVP is so endearingly committed, and not the ideal of Separation of Power which the American Constitution exemplifies.

Meanwhile the President has also made it clear that he appreciates the concerns of parties representing the minorities, who worry about the unrepresentative nature of Parliaments elected solely on the constituency principle. The excessive majorities of 1970 and 1970 must be avoided, and the unpopularity of those governments at the end of their tenure makes it clear that such avoidance is in the interests of government as well as the people. In this regard the President’s assertion that provision must be made for such concerns makes clear his wholistic vision, which will not be led astray by perceptions of immediate advantage that attract some proponents of the first past the post system.

The best system for satisfying all requirements is the German system, though I must confess a parochial interest in this, since it was Chanaka Amaratunga who first brought this to national attention. At the time the UNP, which had just seen the success of its pernicious preference vote system in the first Provincial Council elections, accused us of trying to import foreign ideas. But over the years everyone has come round to the need for change, and has based their proposals on the German system, though all these proposals make adjustments that defeat the basic purpose.

I can only hope then that those entrusted with the task of constitutional reform in these seminal areas, in which the President’s vision seems so comprehensive, will at least consult Chanaka’s monumental work ‘Ideas for Constitutional Reform’, which came out after extensive consultation of all political groupings in the dark days of the late eighties.

All it suggests may not be practicable, but it still remains the only thorough discussion of the issues outlined above, which have so clearly emerged as requiring resolution if the fissures in our body politic are to be repaired.

Igbo and Thamizhar: Biafra in Nigeria and Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka

by A Concerned Tamil

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. - (T. S. Eliot)

Rudyard Kipling said that someone who knows only England doesn’t know England: in order to understand one place and situation, England, one must know other countries, other histories. With this attitude, I draw attention to the Biafran War. The Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War) began in 1967 when the Igbo of the South-Eastern provinces broke away and proclaimed the Republic of Biafra. It ended three years later (1970) in defeat.

BFTC128.jpg

Flag of Biafra

In 1914, the Governor, Lord Lugard, amalgamated the North and the South of Nigeria. This was not done in the perceived interests of Nigeria but in the interest of imperial Britain. The (so-called) “natives” were not consulted: Frederick Forsyth, The Biafra Story, Penguin Books, UK, 1969. Almost a hundred years earlier, Britain had acted in similar fashion in Ceylon. Under Portuguese and Dutch rule, the traditional homeland of the Tamils had been administered separately but this “distinctiveness” was lost under the Colebrooke and Cameron reforms (1833).

Prior to this a variety of kingdoms co-existed side by side on the island. Multiplicity rather than unity was the norm. Sri Lanka’s unitary state is a purely British invention made to satisfy colonial administrative convenience. It “made no pretence of being in response to the wishes, express or implied, of the governed. The British were well aware that two wholly disparate [...] were thus yoked together under their rule but administrative convenience was all that mattered.” (Adrian Wijemanne, War and Peace in Post-Colonial Ceylon, 1948-1991, Sangam Books, London, 1996.)

Having once taught in Nigeria, my impression is that the Igbo tended to be (are?) looked upon by other groups as intelligent but over-industrious, the latter being the product of an over-reaching ambition: the Biafran War taught them to “know their place”. The Igbo (like the Tamils) placed a premium on education as the avenue to advancement. Thanks to the work of Christian missionaries, when Nigeria became independent (1960), the North had 41 secondary schools against the South’s 842 schools (Forsyth, p. 16). Similarly, at independence, the North of “Ceylon” had several schools of excellent repute.

The combination of intelligence and industry, plus ethnic antagonism and suspicion, led Northern Nigerians to the conviction that the covert, long-term, aim of the Igbo minority was to take over Nigeria, colonize the North, and use their talents and energy to run the whole country (Forsyth, page 49) So too, many a Sinhalese, consciously or not, thinks that the Tamils, unless subordinated, will go out of control, and take over the whole Island. Invasions from India in ancient times, the presence of millions of Tamils in the South of that country, fuel this unrealistic, irrational, fear.

Chinua Achebe (author of Things Fall Apart and other novels, internationally recognised writer) says that the paradox of the Biafran War (during which Achebe worked for the Biafran government) was that ”the Igbo themselves had originally championed the Nigerian nation more spiritedly than other Nigerians” (The Guardian newspaper, Saturday, 23 January 2010, page 18). Among several writers, H.A.J. Hulugalle, himself a Sinhalese, notes that several Tamils were in the forefront of Ceylon’s struggle for independence: see, Selected Journalism, Colombo, 2004. He records that when he became a journalist in 1918, Sri Ponnambalam Ramanathan, a Tamil, was still the leading politician in the Island. A leading Sri Lankan historian (a Sinhalese) writes as follows: “In 1925-6, when S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, as leader of the Progressive Nationalist Party, set out the case for a federal political structure for Sri Lanka and made this the main plank of the political platform of his party, he received no support from the Tamils (K. M. De Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2003, p. 513). In 1952, S. J. V. Chelvanayagam (the Gandhi of Tamil, if not of Sri Lankan, politicians) contested the Kankesuntharai as a member of the Federal Party, and was defeated by a UNP candidate.

Colonel Ojukwu, who later led the breakaway nation of Biafra, was originally a staunch believer in one Nigeria. Even after the first anti-Igbo riot, he calmed his people, and went so far as to encourage them to return to the North and other parts of Nigeria where they had lived and worked. The deaths, he argued, were part of the price that had to be paid for the ideal of ‘One Nigeria’ (Forsyth, p. 49). Ironically, it had been the long-standing wish, not of the Igbo, but of the Northern people of Nigeria to quit ‘Nigeria’ and have their own, separate, state. (Of course, Northern attitudes changes with the discovery of oil in “Igboland. Similarly, it was not the Tamils but the Kandyan Sinhalese who, at one stage, demanded a separate Kandyan kingdom.

The massacre of the Igbo caught up (like the Tamils) outside their traditional homeland was appalling both in terms of number, and in the savage nature of the violence unleashed. In a “blame the victim” syndrome, the responsibility was laid on the Igbo themselves (Forsyth, p. 41). So too, after the pogrom of 1983, the Tamils were blamed: They started it (by killing thirteen soldiers). They asked for it. They got what they deserved. The speed, precision and uniformity of the killing of the Igbo refute the argument of spontaneity (Forsyth, p. 54). It was not a “riot” but a “pogrom”. In Sri Lanka, the pogrom was prepared for by the introduction of emergency laws. Lists of voters (revealing “Tamil identity) and address were made available, as was transport for the mobs, often in army and police trucks.

The Igbo received no expression of remorse or regret; no compensation, “no offer to make good the damage in so far as it could be made good. So far as is known, not one soldier was ever given a day’s ‘confined to barracks’ punishment, not one officer was court-martialled, not one policeman was ever retired, and not one civilian faced a court of law, although many had been identified” (Forsyth, p. 82.)

One could think Forsyth was describing not Nigeria and the treatment of the Igbo but Sri Lanka and the Tamils.

Forsyth writes (p. 78) that one can no more explain the present feelings of Biafrans without reference to this massacre than one can account for present Jewish attitudes and conduct without reference to the Nazi holocaust. Similarly, the pogrom of 1983 has left an indelible mark on Tamil minds; a permanent scar on the Tamil soul.

“Far more important, and often overlooked, was a complete volte-face in Eastern thinking on the question of the future form of Nigeria. Previously [that is, before the massacre] the Easterners had been the foremost advocates of One Nigeria, had put more effort into the realization of this concept than any other ethnic group, and had constantly promoted its cause…” (p. 71)

So too, it took a while for Tamils to see federalism as the solution. Later, that turned to separatism.

The defeat of Biafra (as of the Tamil Tigers) is due to a complex of factors. One of them identified by Achebe in the above-mentioned article is foreign intervention: “It was Britain and the Soviet Union that together crushed the Biafran state.” So too, with Sri Lanka: some countries openly helped the government, indifferent to human-rights violations, while others contented themselves with pious protestation. At the end of the war, Biafra was a vast smouldering rubble - as is the North of Sri Lanka.

The future is not known and, there being so many variables, prediction is difficult, risky and even foolish. The Biafran movement is not dead and, what with an assertive Islam in the North, its aims and efforts have, in recent years, gained momentum: see, for example, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra. Two significant differences between the Igbo of Nigeria and the Tamils of Sri Lanka are those of number and, even more importantly, that the traditional homeland of the Tamils is under total occupation.

Video: When does President Rajapakse's second term begin?

There have been a number of confusing media reports after the results of the Presidential Election were announced on 27 January 2010 as to when the second term of Mahinda Rakapakse begins.

Rohan Edrisinha, Head of the Legal and Constitutional Unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) addresses this issue and other key concerns in a short video here:

In the video, Rohan clearly explains the relevant constitutional provisions governing the second term of the Executive President as well as the complex legal precedents (and blunders!) over the interpretation of the start date of the second term.

The "Swan" has been Shot along with Truth, Democracy and Conscience

by Chackravarthy

“It has to be stated with much reluctance that the co-operation received from some of the candidates and their supporters in ensuring a peaceful, free and fair election during the two months period of the election campaign was much less than desired. It became necessary to issue directives and guidelines to prevent misuse of State resources and the State media.

A Competent Authority had to be appointed to ensure observation of the guidelines by the media. The lack of positive response shown to the directives and guidelines is regretted. This attitude was the subject of much criticism and amusement of both the civil society and rival parties,” - Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake.

A Competent Authority had to be appointed to ensure observation of the guidelines by the media. The lack of positive response shown to the directives and guidelines is regretted. This attitude was the subject of much criticism and amusement of both the civil society and rival parties,” Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake.

The Swan supporters have arrived at a conclusion that the Swan is shot considering the Election Commissioner’s above recorded statement -not live as it used to be, and the events that took place from the day of the nomination and till the standoff by the government forces at a five star hotel where the general, opposition leader and few other allies had checked in on the election night for safety as they received life threat calls.

In November, as soon as the election commissioner announced the date of the presidential election, on the advice of the incumbent president, cut outs as high as 60 foot in size and other publicity materials that would generally take many days of preparation, immediately appeared on the streets of the Capital with the portrait of the president. How could this be possible in such a quick time?

It was evident that the decision on the election by the president was already made and kept in the Frigidaire to be served on his convenient or auspicious time. His asking the crowd in party conventions as to which election they wanted this or that were farce. Here was a Bernard Shaw’s man who was acting well on the [political] stage.

The first indication that the government was going off the track and would not play the game by rules was evident when the state announced that the event of submitting the nomination on 17th December could be covered only by the National television Rupavahini, not by any other private channels? Are we still following the free market policy or under the jack boots of the KGB in the USSR or Burma‘s junta Than Shwe, or in North Korea?

There were altogether 22 candidates but the government TV that had the monopoly, while chiefly focusing the camera on the UPFA candidate, never showed an icon of the General’s presence there, though other 20 unknown faces had their slot. In brief, the general was totally blacked out and his handing over the nomination was not seen by any. Is this MR’s demo-CRACY?

Soon violent attacks on the General’s office and his supporters in various parts of the island were unleashed. The Captain as usual made mere lip service, issuing order to the IGP to take action, for name sake.

Ancient kings would lose sleep if a crime was unresolved in the kingdom. Here the king kept snoring and few lives were lost before and after the election as no tangible action were taken on the culprits till now. The UPFA camp was law unto themselves. Misuse of government property and facility was rampant.

“Alarmed by Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy, President Rajapaksa and his followers are using and abusing all of the state’s resources to get the President reelected. The TV propaganda is deafening and the figures we are releasing today are worthy of the Burmese or North Korean regimes.”

This statement from the Paris based Reporters Without Borders which is a real barometer of the governments lop sided handling, was carried by a Sunday paper on the 24th instant.

Also it said that on January 18 and 19, of a total of 472 minutes and 5 seconds of news and current affairs air-time on Rupavahini and ITN, Gen. Fonseka and the other opposition candidates were granted only 7 minutes and 50 seconds, or 1.6 per cent, while the President, his government and his party were granted 465 minutes and 25 seconds.

According to RSF, on ITN one had to wait until the 7 p.m. Sinhalese-language news programme for coverage of opposition activity (Gen. Fonseka for 30 seconds, the UNP for 40 seconds and the JVP for 45 seconds), while President Rajapaksa got 3 minutes on the 9 a.m. programme, 2 minutes on the 10 a.m. programme, 4 minutes 45 seconds on the noon programme and 4 minutes 20 seconds on the Tamil-language programme at 6 p.m.

“The President and his allies have abused other state resources in the course of the campaign. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, for example, forced all mobile phone operators to send SMS messages signed by President Rajapaksa to all their clients, while soldiers have been seen putting up the President’s election posters,” RSF added.

This was a direct flouting of the January 15 Supreme Court ruling and also violates the constitution, above all its Seventh Amendment and Article 104 (b) empowering the electoral commission, the report further said.

Further, even after the Election Commissioner ordered the cut outs to be removed the president‘s cut outs were Omni present and guarded by police while the General’s disappeared.

And also after the campaign was over on the 23rd, radio and TV were endlessly carrying on president’s propaganda without any regard to the regulation. Even on the 26th morning SLBC’s Sinhala 91.20 FM had a talk show, gushing fire like a dragon against the Tigers, Tamils, Diaspora and Tamilnet. One wondered, while Tamilnet is blocked in Sri Lanka, how could they access?

“The Government meticulously planned to rig this election in the most undemocratic manner. It is evident from the results released that the incumbent President suffered a massive loss, but shown the world a totally different result by manipulating the same”.

Mangala Samaraweera, MP said in a press meet that he vehemently rejected the result of the Presidential Elections.

He said, it has been found that the Elections Secretariat was invaded by Presidential sibling Basil Rajapakse and his forces at around 3.00 am on the 27th January 2010 after erecting a chain-link barricade on the Parliament Road, which leads to the Secretariat. He then forced the Commissioner of Elections out of his seat and took control of all the affairs at the Secretariat thus starting to release the election results according to a pre-planned mechanism.”

The statement made by the Secretary of Defense to one state owned media a few days prior to the elections declaring that he would be the one who will issue orders on the 27th January irrespective of who wins the elections is a clear indication of the Government’s vindictive plan to rig the final tally of the election result.

Furthermore, the incumbent President at the last election rallies declared that he would be the “President” on the 27th January irrespective of any result. These are very clear indications of the pre-planned conspiracy.

As there was a great difficulty in rigging the poll at polling stations due to the ever vigilant electorate, the Rajapakse regime finally resorted to the above tactics, which are totally undemocratic and it is astonishing that the civilized world is keeping mum on the situation which is a replica of the Iranian elections said Mangala Samaraweera. There is a talk he may be arrested.

Look what SMS is being sent out:

------ SMS ------
From: +94777399679
Sent: Jan 28, 2010 16:54
Subject: Election is free & fair said...

Election is free & fair said Ranil; R Hakeem says opposition will "bow down to the clear mandate" but Mangala is still active with his rumor campaign, Be Aware!

The president told the nation that he was going for election in order to give a chance to the Tamil population who did not vote for decades. But how could bomb explosions take place on the election day in Jaffna and Vavunia after the defeat of the LTTE? Does not the government owe explanation to the people?

Also there are allegations that a lot of IDPs were systematically deprived of voting. The president has not expressed any concern. Let see how the government handles the soon expected parliament election in the North.

On top of every thing, the president who risked two years of presidency is now unscrupulously trying to extend his term to eight years. He in one of his final meetings declared, raising his both hands like Jesus Christ that “I will be the president on the 26th, 27th and 28th too and I will take oath when I want”.

This showed he was going to drag the country in to a legal tussle. But it is a known fact an executive prime minister or president who goes for election will terminate his present automatically.

Surprisingly, the defense ministry has sent out news that the general was to assassinate the President and his family along Galle road in Colombo or at the Lake house junction in Fort. Is the government’s con web still active even after election is over?.

The president and his family do not go on parade in one Chariot. He moves about closing roads and rarely goes to Lake House junction. How can one have access to his vehicle?

In the mean time, leader of the JVP, Somawanse Amarasinghe said in a press conference today that Defence Secretary and brother of the President, Gotabaya Rajapakse called him around 9.21 am from the mobile 077 – 3501626 which is defense secretary’s number, and threatened him with death but he told him that one dies only once.

“He then asked me if I had not lived abroad and I said yes, I have but so have you. He then said “ I will set your Lanka newspaper on fire – be warned”. The conversation was witnessed by the JVP leader’s driver and members of the staff, he said.

In conclusion, the Swan is shot. Truth is shot. Democracy is shot. Politicians’ conscience is shot. May God save the Democratic Socialistic Republic of Sri Lanka !

Activist apprehended due to information given by LTTE sources

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Subramaniam Sivakumar alias Rajan a top LTTE activist abroad was "arrested" in a South-eastern country & brought to Sri Lanka today (Jan 28).

Sivakumar alias Rajan is reportedly the deputy chief of tiger overseas operations & was apprehended due to information given by LTTE sources.

It is suspected that Selvarasa Pathmanathan(KP) who succeded Prabhakaran as LTTE head may have collaborated with govt in this "arrest".

KP who was himself captured in Malaysia&brought to Colombo last year is under custody in Sri Lanka now &allegedly collaborating with SL govt. [ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Sri Lanka Presidential Poll: A resounding but fractured verdict

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

The electoral verdict, stunning and conclusive on the whole, has some cracks in parts. As the President of the whole country, Mahinda Rajapaksa must take the initiative and reach out to those sections of the people who have been alienated in terms of ethnicity, class, and the urban-rural divide. [click to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com ]

Sri Lanka may 'take action' over opposition candidate

Sri Lanka is considering taking action against defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, the defence secretary has told the BBC.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa - the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa - said that Gen Fonseka had allegedly divulged sensitive information to the public.

His comments came just a day after the president was re-elected.

Gen Fonseka has rejected the result and told the BBC that he wants to leave the country because of death threats.

"The government has informed the airport not to allow me to leave the country," he told the BBC Sinhala service. "I fear that an assassination attempt may be made against me."

'Many mistakes'

The defence secretary told the BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Colombo that he was angry with Gen Fonseka for making false allegations against him in public.

Mr Rajapaksa said that Gen Fonseka was wrong to suggest in a newspaper interview that he had ordered the killings of three senior Tamil Tiger rebels as they tried to surrender in the final stages of the conflict last May.

Gen Fonseka later retracted his statement and said his words were taken out of context.

But in his BBC interview, Mr Rajapaksa said the retraction was not enough.

"He accused me of saying that I gave wrong orders. It came out in the newspapers. So we will follow legal procedures. If he has violated certain laws then we will take action.

"He had done many mistakes, remember. He was a member of the security council. He only left three months ago. He divulged certain security information to the public. He did a wrong thing there.

"But we will not arrest him because he was the opposition candidate."

There has been no immediate response from Gen Fonseka to Mr Rajapaksa's comments.

'Free of threats'

In a separate development, Mr Rajapaksa announced that the man believed to be second-in-command of the Tamil Tigers' overseas operations had been arrested.

Sarath Fonseka
The government has informed the airport not to allow me to leave the country
Sarath Fonseka

He said the suspect, known as Rajan (alias Subramaniam Sivakumar) "had been arrested in a South-East Asian nation" and brought to Colombo on Thursday.

He said that the information regarding the suspect came from Tamil Tiger leader Kumaran Pathmanathan, who is currently being held in Colombo.

Mr Pathmanathan was arrested last August.

Earlier, President Rajapaksa said that his clear victory in Tuesday's presidential elections had answered his critics.

The president won six million votes compared to the four million cast for Gen Fonseka.

"The people of Sri Lanka, democratically and very clearly, have shown that they are now free of threats, free of fear, free of terrorism - and they have shown they support the measures which have freed them."

Mr Rajapaksa told reporters that he would start by focusing on the economic development of the country.

He also promised to focus on the concerns of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority and to discuss devolution of power - a subject his opponents have accused him of failing to address.

"From today onward, I am the president of everyone, whether they voted for me or not."

Analysts had predicted a closely fought contest between the two architects of the government's victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

But in the end President Rajapaksa won the vote comfortably - capturing 57% of the vote in Tuesday's polling, while Sarath Fonseka won 40%, according to the election commission.

The independent Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said that while there were reports of irregularities, there was no evidence to suggest large-scale fraud.

Some 70% of Sri Lanka's 14 million-strong electorate turned out to vote. However, turnout in the Tamil areas in the north-east, where the fiercest fighting occurred during the conflict, was less than 30%. - courtesy: BBC -

Sri Lanka North-East settlements likened to Robert Mugabe policies

Damien Kingsbury, chair in the school of international and political studies at Deakin University of Australia sees parallels with policies of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe in the new enforced settlements being carried out in the North-Easy by Sri Lanka government.

Wrting in an OPED column in The Age of Jan 29, 2010, the academic says:

"Despite economic growth of 6 per cent last year, Sri Lanka has an external debt that has surpassed its annual economic output, and inflation is running at close to 25 per cent. Nor do the nation's poor look like benefiting from proposed economic policies, although the re-allocation of Tamil lands to landless Sinhalese - a policy similar to that of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe's - will help reinforce the President's support base."

Full text of the OPED, "Has Sri Lanka stumbled on path to democracy?" as follows:

The victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka's presidential elections on Tuesday was to be expected, based on the wave of Sinhalese chauvinism that has swept the island state since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May last year. Also to be expected is the spate of issues that now face the country under his continued leadership. Once held up as one of the developing world's most successful democracies, Sri Lanka is now on the verge of entering the ranks of the world's pariah states.

Many of Sri Lanka's problems can be attributed to its battle against the separatist Tamil Tigers, including impoverishing the country to prosecute the brutal war. But Sri Lanka has long been moving away from a more broadly representative parliamentary form of government to an increasingly narrow and authoritarian presidential model.

Having been politically rewarded for a hard-line approach that brought military victory, it is unlikely that President Rajapaksa will soften his approach to Sri Lanka's continuing problems.

Despite having to contest elections, Rajapaksa had earlier said that democracy was a luxury that Sri Lanka could not afford, and his increasingly authoritarian presidential style has reflected that opinion. Rajapaksa's supporters regard anyone who dares to oppose him or question his policies as a traitor to the country.

As a result, when former army chief General Sarath Fonseka challenged Rajapaksa for the presidency, the man who actually led the victory over the Tamil Tigers was branded as a traitor and is now seeking to flee Sri Lanka for his own safety.

Fonseka has been vilified in the rabidly pro-Government media, while more independent, primarily online, media outlets have been blocked. This follows last year's exodus of many of the country's leading journalists, and the murder of others, among Sri Lanka's now infamous litany of human rights abuses and wider allegations of war crimes.

Sinhalese chauvinism has been on the rise for years and has increasingly found little space to accommodate non-Sinhalese, other than as barely tolerated outsiders.

Rajapaksa has only vaguely articulated inclusion for Sri Lanka's 2.5 million Tamil minority and few Tamils hold any hope of meaningful inclusion. He has said that any resolution of the ''Tamil question'' will be determined internally and that external advice, much less mediation, is not welcome.

Since Rajapaksa's initial election in 2005, Sri Lanka has moved away from its traditional but increasingly critical Western allies and trading partners. Its closest allies are now China, Iran and Burma.

Sri Lanka's move towards China is of concern given China's long-standing desire to establish a strategic base in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka's deep water port at Trincomalee. China is also helping to build a port in Rajapaksa's home town of Hambantota.

China's closeness to the Rajapaksa Administration is also of particular concern to India, which is divided from Sri Lanka by just 64 kilometres of the Palk Straits. Both India and the West hoped that General Fonseka would win the election, despite claims that he should be charged with war crimes. Fonseka had promised closer co-operation with the West and to re-balance Sri Lanka's relationship with India.

As chief of the army that crushed the Tamil Tigers, Fonseka was disliked by most Tamils who, despite his reluctant endorsement by some Tamil political leaders, overwhelmingly refused to vote. Had all Tamils able to vote supported Fonseka, the election outcome would have been much closer.

But many Tamils were not able to register to vote following their wholesale displacement last year, so it is unlikely even this would have been enough to secure Fonseka's victory against an increasingly united Sinhalese majority.

Rajapaksa's commitment to building a massive arsenal and marshalling Sri Lanka's military for total war ensured victory over the Tamil Tigers. However, he now faces the problem of rebuilding a ruined economy and a country deeply divided.

Despite economic growth of 6 per cent last year, Sri Lanka has an external debt that has surpassed its annual economic output, and inflation is running at close to 25 per cent. Nor do the nation's poor look like benefiting from proposed economic policies, although the re-allocation of Tamil lands to landless Sinhalese - a policy similar to that of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe's - will help reinforce the President's support base.

The real problem, though, will be how Rajapaksa deals with the Tamil minority. After decades of structural alienation, a genuine political solution would include resettling displaced Tamils in their original homes and a degree of political autonomy for Tamil areas.

It would also include a return to free media, a more participatory approach to governing and a decentralisation of political power to again give Sri Lanka's parliament meaningful political authority. None of this is likely, however, from Sri Lanka's triumphalist President.

Sri Lanka's Tamils will continue to feel outcasts in their own land, and will continue to try to flee, or perhaps again to fight. Sri Lanka's presidential election is over, but the problems that led to its long civil war continue.

Damien Kingsbury holds a personal chair in the school of international and political studies at Deakin University.

What the president’s re-election means for his sorely divided country

from THE ECONOMIST:

Victory for the Tiger-slayer

HAD Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s war-winning leader, lost his island-state’s presidential election on January 26th, it would have been described as a Churchillian defeat.

But that would have underdone the drama. Imagine Britain’s wartime prime minister falling out with his feted general, Montgomery, removing him, then losing to him in the 1945 general election. That is how victory for General Sarath Fonseka, Mr Rajapaksa’s main challenger, would have seemed.

Many predicted this. As army chief, General Fonseka oversaw the rout of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels in a sweeping offensive that ended a 26-year war in a seaside bloodbath last May. When he announced his candidature in November, opposition parties rallied behind him, including the biggest, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). In campaigning, the rather wooden general and his backers gave voice to the serious gripes that Sri Lankans have with their government: economic hardship, after years of high inflation; rampant top-level corruption; and cronyism in a government that includes 109 ministers and allegedly hundreds of Mr Rajapaksa’s neighbours and relatives. But it mattered naught. Mr Rajapaksa won with 58% of the vote.

This included massive support from Sinhalese voters, members of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority. This was most marked in the south. In his native Hambantota district, a lovely southern expanse of paddies and tropical woodland, Mr Rajapaksa got 67% of the vote. His triumph also extended to coastal areas, where General Fonseka, a member of the Sinhalese fisher caste, had been expected to do well. In the general’s home town of Ambalangoda Mr Rajapaksa won with 63%. He also won in several strongholds of the parties that backed his rival. In the southern towns of Galle and Matara, turf of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Mr Rajapaksa got 64% of the vote.

General Fonseka—an American green-card holder, mendaciously accused by Mr Rajapaksa’s supporters of being a foreign plant—suffered embarrassment on polling day when it emerged that he was not registered to vote. Then it got worse. The general, a Sinhalese chauvinist, won almost exclusively in areas with many Tamils and Muslims. In the central Colombo district, for example, he won 76% of the vote. In Jaffna, the crumbling northern capital of Sri Lankan Tamils, who are 12% of the island’s 20m people, he won 64%—though with a low turnout, after hand-grenades were lobbed at several polling stations.

These results were expected. The biggest Tamil and Muslim political parties, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, both backed Mr Fonseka. Having no political party of his own, they reasoned, he could not do as much damage to them as Mr Rajapaksa has. The president, also a Sinhalese nationalist, with a fervent following among the country’s orange-robed right-wing Buddhist clergy, played the war’s endgame with a callous disregard for Tamil lives.

In a divided country, Mr Rajapaksa’s ruthless victory is the main reason the Sinhalese love him. “For the first time in my life, I can go to Colombo without wondering if I’ll make it back; I can send my children to school without wondering whether I’ll see them again,” said V.P. Anand, a small trader in the general’s hometown. Despite their troubles, it seems, most Sri Lankans were insufficiently unhappy to embrace General Fonseka. His political backers also made that difficult. The TNA was formerly controlled by the Tigers. And the UNP, during a ceasefire it brokered from 2002-06, sought an agreement with the rebels that would have given substantial autonomy to the mostly Tamil north and east. Sinhalese opposition to this proposal lives on: many Rajapaksa supporters noted that the general’s manifesto did not refer to Sri Lanka as a “unitary” state.

In truth, the high expectations of General Fonseka had always looked exaggerated—a reflection of his strong support among influential city folk, including Colombo’s pro-UNP businessmen. Over lunch in Matara a few days before the poll Mr Rajapaksa accurately described this, while admitting that General Fonseka’s campaign had struck fear into his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). In a voice feeble with speechifying, he said: “A week or two ago it looked too close to call, my people were very scared, there were lots of rumours. But I don’t think there’s a problem.”

This was reasonable. Sky-high approval ratings had encouraged him to call this election fully two years before it was due. His party has won six consecutive provincial elections, mostly with similar majorities. Mr Rajapaksa had gutted the opposition to form a government, enticing a couple of dozen UNP and JVP parliamentarians to join his coalition. Until it found General Fonseka, it had been in disarray.

Far from the war wreckage in the north, some Sinhalese, albeit a minority, are enjoying a peace dividend. The economy, buffeted by a slump in garment exports and tourism because of the war, is perking up. This year the country is expected to see some 600,000 foreign tourists, compared with 500,000 last year. The New York Times has named Sri Lanka its top tourist destination for 2010. Annual remittances, mostly from hardworking Sri Lankans in Arab countries, have rebounded from a minor slump to around $3 billion. Last year the Sri Lankan stockmarket more than doubled in value, making it one of the best-performing in the world. Food prices remain punishingly high, yet inflation is down. The economy is expected to grow by around 6% this year.

Still, it is not in the character of Mr Rajapaksa’s authoritarian regime, which has terrorised the country’s once-vigorous independent media, to brook dissent. As expectations of a serious challenge from General Fonseka grew, the president’s campaign got ugly. State resources, including armies of public servants and over 1,000 buses, were dragooned into service. At least three unsupportive newspaper editors received death threats, and the star of a popular TV soap was sacked for declaring support for the general. Pro-Rajapaksa thugs tore down General Fonseka’s posters and beat up his campaigners. At least four people were killed.

On a pre-poll drive through Hambantota, almost every roadside wall was papered with the president’s image. The general’s was to be found only in tatters, in the vandalised ruins of one of his campaign offices. In Walasmulla village, an unemployed local youth said he had felt it necessary to volunteer for Mr Rajapaksa’s campaign in order to avoid suspicion—even though he intended to vote for the general. The reason? “No one gets a government job around here unless they’re with the family or can pay for it.”

Yet Mr Rajapaksa’s position is now formidable. His opponents are shattered. Parliamentary elections are due by May; in those, the SLFP and its allies will hope to win a majority and form a more stable government than the current one. That could be good. It would enable Mr Rajapaksa to cull half the current ministerial jobs. He could also bring in some long-promised constitutional changes, for which two-thirds parliamentary majorities are required. But since the most important would be to reduce the powers of his own office, it is by no means certain he will do this. Almost every Sri Lankan presidential candidate has sworn to return executive power to parliament since it was taken away in 1978. Mr Rajapaksa has now promised this in consecutive campaigns. His predecessor did the same.

War and peace
What Mr Rajapaksa means to do about Sri Lanka’s biggest problem, the ethnic division between Tamils and Sinhalese, is also uncertain. This, the root cause of a war that cost more than 100,000 lives, has not gone away with the Tigers’ demise. Yet there was no talk of reconciliation in this election—reflecting the sad fact that most Sinhalese do not consider it necessary. History suggests otherwise.

Almost since Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then called, won independence in 1948, Tamils have suffered discrimination there. This included pogroms in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s, and in 1956 a law to impose Sinhalese, which few Tamils then spoke, as the sole language of government. By the late 1970s Tamil intellectuals were clamouring for an independent Tamil homeland, or Eelam, in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, and Tamil militant groups were forming to fight for it. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), founded by Velupillai Prabhakaran with early support from India—which has over 60m Tamils of its own—was among them.

Prabhakaran, a textbook fascist, went on to murder his Tamil rivals, inspire love and terror in his followers and monopolise the Tamil nationalist cause. He has been credited with launching the first suicide-bombers, among whose thousands of victims were a former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991 and a Sri Lankan president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1993. Having wrested control of a swathe of northern and eastern Sri Lanka, the Tigers expelled thousands of Tamil-speaking Muslims and Sinhalese. The most able Tamils also fled, to Colombo, half of whose 670,000 population is Muslim or Tamil, and to Europe, Australia and America, where a quarter of Sri Lankan Tamils now live. In the way of expats, they grew even more radicalised in exile, raising millions of dollars a year for the LTTE.

Several governments sought to negotiate with the rebels, most recently that led by the UNP’s Mr Wickremesinghe. After first dropping his demand for separation, Prabhakaran sabotaged those talks, which he seemed to consider primarily an opportunity to rearm. Mr Rajapaksa, who was elected president in 2005 largely because the LTTE enforced a partial boycott of Tamil voters, took a harder line. With General Fonseka and his defence chief and brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr Rajapaksa set about doubling the size of the army, to around 200,000 troops, and resumed the war. Their offensive, which began in the east, was ruthless and efficient. In late 2008 the army surged into Prabhakaran’s northern fief. After a terrible battle early last year, Mr Prabhakaran and almost all the LTTE’s commanders were annihilated.

It is hard to exaggerate the benefits of this. For the first time in most of their lives, Sri Lankans can board a bus with little fear it will explode. Tamils may also gain. Rid of the LTTE, they have an opportunity to find more moderate champions. Yet that is so important precisely because their grievances have not ended with Mr Rajapaksa’s victory. Indeed, given the government’s casual brutality towards them during the war’s last convulsions, these have multiplied. Over 8,000 Tamil civilians were killed on the final battlefield early last year. The survivors, some 300,000 inhabitants of the Tigers’ former lair, were until late last year interned in wretched camps. Journalists and aid workers were denied access to them, as the government mulled keeping them captive for a year or so. Under international pressure, it instead released them in a trickle and formally opened the camps in December. But 100,000 are still there, unable to return to their shattered homes until their fields are cleared of mines.

In Vavuniya, near the biggest camps, these folk traipse about in faded saris and sarongs. All have an awful tale—of a husband or children killed, or an aged parent missing. Krishnaswamy, a shopkeeper from Kilinochchi, the Tigers’ now-pulverised capital, says one of his sons and eight of his nephews and nieces were killed by the shelling; another son is missing. “Whoever comes to power, there will be no solution to our problem,” he says.

The parable of the fig tree
In Jaffna, which the army wrested from the LTTE in 1996, there are older grudges. The centre of an ancient Tamil civilisation—until the 1970s Indian scholars and medical tourists flocked to its library and clinics—it has suffered badly. Perhaps a quarter of the pre-war population of 750,000 has moved away. Thousands more Jaffnians live in wretched huts, their houses appropriated by the army for its garrisons. Hundreds of local youths have been murdered or “disappeared”. There have recently been improvements: the army’s checkpoints are being thinned, and there is also talk of some of the displaced going home. Yet Jaffna is seething.

In its central Madathadi area a local fisherman, Siluvithas, scowls at a fig tree that marks the site of a recently dismantled check-post. It was planted 13 years ago by Sinhalese soldiers, in whose Buddhist faith the tree is revered; most Tamils are Hindus. A golden Buddha is to be placed beside it. “First they plant the tree, then they put up a statue. Then they’ll build a temple and the Sinhalese will all move in,” said Siluvithas. The LTTE would never have allowed it, he says: “Without them, we are defenceless.”

Mr Rajapaksa has long promised a political solution to Tamil grievances. At best, this will be less than previous governments have offered. For example, under Mr Rajapaksa, the merging of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces, an important Tamil demand, has been reversed. But what the president has promised is not insignificant. He has vowed to implement a system of regional devolution that has existed on the statute book for over two decades, as well as to establish an upper house of parliament, which would increase the sway of Tamils and Muslims in Colombo. Such steps could go a long way to satisfying Tamil aspirations. Yet there are reasons to doubt Mr Rajapaksa’s willingness. A regional assembly set up in the east in 2008, and headed by an LTTE turncoat, is toothless and unloved. Asked whether he considered devolution important to mending Sri Lanka’s division, Mr Rajapaksa said: “Sri Lankans are not worried about these things, they are only for outsiders and NGOs with nothing better to think about. Sri Lankans want economic development…but a political solution is coming.”

For now, while so many Tamils are ruined and grieving, Mr Rajapaksa must be largely right. And with the economic reintegration of the country, Tamil demands for regional autonomy may weaken. Sri Lanka, with its growing private sector, can afford them an increasing array of opportunities. On a personal level, too, the spiteful racism that once expressed Sinhalese attitudes to Tamils is said to be less evident. But these are mere hopeful thoughts, falling far short of addressing Tamil concerns. Meaningful reform is required.

Tamils, a divided house, also need to unite—preferably also with Muslims. The two groups have much in common. Together they could form a powerful block. Otherwise, it is hard to see who could defend their interests—certainly not, as the wretched survivors of Mullaitivu beach know, Western governments.

Changing partners

Amid that slaughter, America, Britain and the rest all demanded that the government ease up to save civilian lives. Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state, accused it of causing “untold suffering”. In response, the army redoubled its assault. Mr Rajapaksa and his three cabinet-level brothers—two of whom are American citizens—considered America’s concerns at odds with the ruthlessness it has sometimes displayed in its own war on terror. But the government’s defiance, which seemed to signal an historic shift in Sri Lankan foreign policy, was also informed by a calculation that it did not need Western approval.

In recent years, as Western countries expressed their distaste for Mr Rajapaksa by imposing conditions on or cuts in their mostly puny aid to Sri Lanka, he has found allies elsewhere. Iran provided $450m for a power station, and a seven-month supply of oil on tick. Pakistan supplied Sri Lanka with arms for its final push, when America, among others, would not. So did China, which in 2008 overtook Japan as Sri Lanka’s biggest bilateral donor. It has provided over $1 billion in soft loans for an airport and port which Chinese workers are building in Hambantota—a potential haven, it would seem, for Chinese naval ships sent to guard the Indian Ocean sea-lanes. India, spooked by China’s rising interest in its near neighbour, has followed suit. It will extend loans of $700m to improve Sri Lanka’s railways. From a paltry base, its two-way trade with Sri Lanka is meanwhile surging: it was worth $3.9 billion in 2008.

Western countries have allowed Sri Lanka’s dire record on human rights to dominate their relations with the island largely because they consider it to be of little strategic importance. Australia, however, which has wanted help from the Sri Lankan government to staunch a steady flow of Tamil asylum-seekers, has been a gentler critic. In a recent report, America’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recognising the damage American hectoring has done to its relations with Sri Lanka, also recommended a softer line. It noted Sri Lanka’s proximity to sensitive shipping lanes, and warned that “the United States cannot afford to ‘lose’ Sri Lanka.”

Indeed, that would be a shame for anyone. With its able people and natural bounties—including clement weather, verdant landscapes and fertile soil—Sri Lanka could almost be the paradise its travel agents describe. But that requires much better and kinder government. If Mr Rajapaksa, slayer of Tigers, could provide that, all Sri Lankans would praise him. - courtesy: The Economist -

"I should have been the president. I am the people's president."- Fonseka

Charging widespread irregularities took place in the counting process and 1.4 million of his votes were misappropriated, General Sarath Fonseka is quoted as saying , "I should have been the president. I am the people's president," in an AFP report.

Additionally a report on the United National Party website (UNP.lk) says the common opposition candidate is to "launch street protests in the coming weeks" against the “election fraud”.

Full report on the UNP.lk website as follows:

Polls results will be annulled –Gen. Sarath Fonseka

Opposition common Presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka categorically rejected the 2010 Presidential election results as orchestrated and manipulated from the very moment the President said ‘go’ by announcing the Presidential elections January 2010.

The President had flouted all the laws of the country by not implementing the 17th amendment to the constitution – not appointing the independent Commissions including the Elections Commission, the Police commission and the public service Commission which are imperative for a fair and free election. Indeed the President in these circumstances , by taking the law into his hands disregarding the rule of law and the constitution has not presented even himself from a legal substratum. Therefore , in that context , the whole edifice from the legal point of view has collapsed . It is better, the President if he has such a maniacal greed for power, instead of holding foul elections simply declared himself as the self proclaimed President without wasting colossal amounts of people’s money on the elections. This election was not a fair and free election at all , he emphasized.

Gen. Fonseka has sent a letter to the Elections Commissioner not to declare the final results officially until the legal proceedings filed are over. He alleged that he received more than 5 million votes though the Govt. announcement said, he secured only 4.1 million votes.

The Govt. has called back the 70 security personnel he was provided with . He said the Govt. is deliberately laying him bare to dangers to his life. He has sought the support of the International community for his safety .

While thanking all those who supported him braving all odds and coming forward fearlessly to exercise their franchise despite the Govt. intimidations and murderous activities .He added, street protests will be launched against this election fraud in the coming weeks.

U.S. Government Statement on the Presidential Election in Sri Lanka

U.S. Embassy Colombo Press Release, Colombo, January 28, 2010:

The United States congratulates Sri Lanka for the first nationwide election in decades and President Rajapaksa on his victory. We look forward to continuing the partnership between our two countries and working with the Government and the people to support a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.

We note that the turnout was large in most areas of the country and election day was peaceful in most locations. We also note, however, some reports of possible violations of election law during the campaign, voting, and counting, and we urge a thorough investigation of these allegations in accordance with Sri Lankan law and in keeping with the democratic traditions of the country. In addition, we urge the authorities to ensure the safety and security of all candidates and campaign workers.

Government abuses "substantially affect" the election results-Commonwealth observer

by Mr. KD Knight, Chair of the Commonwealth Expert Team

A generally well-administered election day but shortcomings in the pre-election period and incidences of inter-party violence taint election

The Commonwealth was invited to observe the 26 January Presidential Elections by the Commissioner for Elections. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth deployed a five-person Expert Team supported by a staff team from the Secretariat. Our team has been present in the country since 18 January, meeting with representatives of political parties, civil society, media and Commonwealth High Commissions as well as observing the voting and counting in five provinces.

This statement is preliminary and reflects an initial overview of some of the main issues raised during our stay and through our observations. We will issue a final report of detailed findings and conclusions at a later stage.

Sri Lanka has a long tradition of organising elections, and overall the administrative arrangements for voting and counting in this election reflect this, having been well conducted. The Commissioner for Elections and his staff across the country expended great effort to put in place procedures to ensure Sri Lankans were able to cast their ballots and the ballots were properly counted. There have been some reports of violent-incidents, notably in Northern Province, and malpractice in isolated areas, and we hope that all such instances are properly investigated. But based on our team reports and reports from other observers it appears that overall voting and counting have proceeded reasonably well in most areas.

The Commissioner for Elections assured us that every effort had been made to provide Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) the right to vote. However, some problems were reported, including ID card issues and transportation problems for some of those needing to travel to cluster polling stations. As the situation for these communities further normalises, the electoral arrangements for them will hopefully also become more regular.

The main problems facing this election, as for a number of previous elections, were encountered during the pre-election period. The Commissioner for Elections publicly expressed his frustration at the failure of some state institutions, notably state media, to comply with his guidelines and directives as they are legally obliged to do so. In addition, there were widespread credible reports that state resources were being mis-used during the campaign in favour of the incumbent.

President Rajapakse suggests overwhelming mandate makes war crimes inquiry unnecessary

A VICTORIOUS Mahinda Rajapakse has vowed to put tensions with Western critics behind him and transform his war-ravaged nation into a development and tourism hub after his landslide win in Sri Lanka's first post-conflict presidential poll.

But the Sri Lankan President warned Western nations pushing for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by both sides in the last months of the civil war with the separatist Tamil Tigers. "The overwhelming mandate given in this election has given the answer to these critics," he said yesterday.

"The people of Sri Lanka, democratically and very clearly, have shown that they are now free of threats, free of fear, free of terrorism - and they have shown they support the measures which have freed them."

Mr Rajapakse won a second six-year presidential term by a giant and largely unexpected margin of 1.8 million votes, ahead of his main challenger, former army chief Sarath Fonseka. General Fonseka was believed to be in hiding yesterday after a day of melodrama in which he accused the military of placing him under house arrest in a Colombo hotel and the government of orchestrating his assassination by withdrawing his security detail. He hinted he would seek political asylum.

General Fonseka has called for the election to be annulled, alleging vote rigging and government abuse of state resources during the campaign.

But it was unclear who would conduct such an investigation after Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissnayanke, the only man empowered to do so, pleaded to be released from his role saying: "I can't bear this any longer".

Under the present executive presidency, Mr Rajapakse has authority to make all important state appointments including the election commissioner and police chief.

Many analysts yesterday predicted the size of the victory would prove decisive in the April parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka - a country where there is little shame in changing allegiances - and cement his hold on power.

While General Fonseka has vowed to rally street protests against the result, National Peace Council executive director Jehan Perera said he doubted the opposition could mobilise any great force: "Most people are accepting this as an authentic expression of the will of the people."

Mr Rajapakse has called on Sri Lankans to unite to rebuild the war-shattered nation saying: "From today onward, I am the president of everyone, whether they voted for me or not."

But far from pointing to a more united country, observers have warned the voting patterns show a nation more divided than ever along ethnic grounds. Mr Rajapakse captured almost 70 per cent of the Sinhala vote, representing close to 90 per cent of his total vote, in Tuesday's poll, the first post-war election since the government crushed the Tamil Tigers' 26-year armed struggle for autonomy. - courtesy: The Australian -

Additional reporting: Alexandra Cameron

Opposition allegations of counting process needs more proof

Sri Lanka Congratulated for Successful Presidential Election

by Steve Herman

The United States and India are congratulating Sri Lanka for carrying out a successful presidential election this week. But there are also calls from the international community for the South Asian island nation to investigate the opposition's claim of vote-rigging and other election violations.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo issued a statement congratulating Sri Lanka for a mostly peaceful election with high voter turnout.

Sri Lanka's neighbor just across the Palk Strait, India, is pledging to deepen the relationship with Colombo during the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The losing opposition coalition candidate, former General Sarath Fonseka, is demanding that the official results be annulled, claiming rampant illegal use of state resources during the campaign and a rigged vote counting.

The deputy executive director in Sri Lanka for the anti-corruption organization Transparency International is expressing concern about the use of government officials, media, and public transport on behalf of the president's re-election campaign. But Rukshana Nanayakkara tells VOA News the former army commander needs to produce something beyond speculation to support his allegations there was tampering with the vote-counting process.

"Right now, we have no evidence whatsoever to prove what he has said other than the rumors, which are spreading around the country," he said.

Thousands of domestic monitors observed balloting throughout the country Tuesday, reporting the election was considerably less violent than previous years.

There were only a handful of accredited foreign observers, with major international observer groups saying they did not have adequate notification to prepare for the Sri Lanka election.

The mission director of the Asian Network for Free Elections, Ichal Supriadi, speaking to VOA, suggests the government should agree to recount disputed ballots to settle any doubts about the president's nearly 18 percent margin of victory.

"The best we can say right now about Sri Lanka is that the election, yes, was really smooth, but needs real reform of the electoral process," said Supriadi.

A general election to elect a new parliament is expected to be held in several months.

Mr. Fonseka has spoken of continuing his quest for political office, while also noting he might have to temporarily seek exile for his personal safety. The day after the election, the former military chief accused Mr. Rajapaksa of wanting to see him assassinated.

The United States government is urging Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the safety and security of all candidates and campaign workers amid fears some are targets for arrest or retaliation.

The incumbent captured about 70 percent of the majority Sinhalese vote. The top challenger, who is also Sinhalese, enjoyed strong support among minority Tamils. Both of the candidates were touted as war heroes for last year's defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ending a quarter century civil war. - courtesy: VOA News -

January 27, 2010

UN Secretary-General should work for independent international investigation of Sri Lanka's grave human rights violations

Full text of press release by the Human Rights Watch

President’s New Term Time for Accountability

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and key international actors should take steps to bring accountability for Sri Lanka's grave human rights violations so that the thousands of victims will not continue to be denied justice during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's second term, Human Rights Watch said today.

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated markedly during Rajapaksa's first term, and he failed to hold perpetrators accountable. During the final months of the 26-year-long war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, both government and LTTE forces committed numerous serious violations of international humanitarian law, in which more than 7,000 civilians died in what the UN called a "bloodbath."

"The human rights situation in Sri Lanka plummeted to new depths on Rajapaksa's watch," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The president deftly played a false conflict between rights and the fight against terrorism in his first term. But with the war over, the UN and other international actors should loudly insist on justice for victims."

Rajapaksa was elected to a second term on January 26, 2010, in a hotly contested election in which his former army chief, retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka, was the runner-up. Although election day was relatively peaceful, according to election monitors, the campaign was marked by hundreds of incidents of violence in which at least four people were killed.

During and after the war, Rajapaksa's government confined nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons to large detention camps, where they were deprived of their liberty and freedom of movement in violation of international law. The government has separated more than 11,000 LTTE suspects from their families at checkpoints and in the camps, denying them due process, such as right to legal counsel and the right to have a court review their detention.

Threats and attacks against outspoken and critical civil society figures increased, and the government used anti-terror laws and emergency regulations against peaceful critics, further diminishing the space for public debate. The hostile, sometimes deadly, media environment drove dozens of journalists into exile.

Enforced disappearances and abductions, a longstanding and widespread problem in Sri Lanka, sharply increased in 2006, when military operations between the government and the LTTE intensified following the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire. In 2006 and 2007, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances recorded more new "disappearance" cases from Sri Lanka than from any other country in the world.

Politically motivated killings during Rajapaksa's first term also remain unresolved, including the extrajudicial executions of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006 and of 17 aid workers with Action Contre la Faim in Mutur in August 2006.

Rajapaksa took no effective steps to bring accountability for human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. In July 2009, Rajapaksa disbanded, before it could complete its work, a presidential commission of inquiry created in 2006 to investigate 16 cases of grave human rights violations. In April 2008, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) had withdrawn from monitoring the commission because it had "not been able to conclude ... that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

The vast majority of the hundreds of new "disappearances" and politically motivated killings from the past few years have never been seriously investigated, and none of the perpetrators have been punished.

In May 2009 Rajapaksa promised Ban that the Sri Lankan government would investigate allegations of human rights and laws-of-war violations during the war's final months. No such investigation has taken place. Instead, the government has set up a team of lawyers to respond to allegations about rights violations in reports by the US State Department and the UN special envoy on extrajudicial executions.

Because of the government's failure to investigate serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch has long called for an independent international investigation into abuses by all parties to the conflict. Thus far, the secretary-general's office has stated that Ban was "considering" establishing a committee of experts to "assist the government" of Sri Lanka to look at evidence that its soldiers committed war crimes last year.

"The various investigatory bodies set up by President Rajapaksa have spent more energy trying to deflect serious inquiries into abuses than actually conducting them," Adams said. "Ban and key governments should not fall for the same trick again and instead should call for an independent international investigation. The ball is now in Ban's court."

'This year's International Holocaust Remembrance Day is of special significance to Tamils'

Full Text of Press Release by The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC):

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan 27, 2010

The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) joins the world humanitarian community in remembering and paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at the hands of Nazi Germany, honoring survivors and supporting the recognition of this day internationally.

The 2010 observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will focus on a central theme that emphasizes the legacy that survivors pass on to succeeding generations. In solidarity with this theme the UN stated:

“As there are fewer survivors to tell their stories today, it is of primary importance that these universal lessons be shared with all fellow human beings. Only this will ensure that their legacy will continue to promote respect for diversity and human rights for generations to come.”

“Today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is of special significance to Tamils,” according to a USTPAC spokesman. The 2009 onslaught by the mono-ethnic Sinhala Sri Lankan armed forces claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians under the guise of a “humanitarian operation,” ending the armed conflict in May, 2009. Tamils of all ages, women, men, elders, children and families were mercilessly massacred in cold blood by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The government of Sri Lanka succeeded in banning all media and intimidating aid workers in non-governmental organizations. As Nazi Propaganda Minister Dr. Goebbels once remarked, 'He who runs the information, runs the show.' The Government of Sri Lanka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa use these methods to maintain a police state, deceiving their own citizens and the international community on the treatment of Tamils.

The plight of Tamils continues, with internment, separation of children from their parents and the holding of people in detention under secret conditions. The government’s reckless release of interned Tamils without aid or allowing them to return to their original homes has forced them to seek shelter along the roadside and in jungle terrain.

Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon and several UN agencies continue to ignore the Tamil genocide. The General Assembly and Human Rights Council refuse to consider actions to protect the Tamil people and to prosecute war criminals.

PEW017.jpg

Hungarian-born Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel delivers a speech during a symposium of Jewish-Hungarian solidarity in Budapest's parliament December 9, 2009. -REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Prof. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor and Human Rights Activist, in a June 2009 statement on the situation of Tamils today, remarked: “Wherever minorities are being persecuted we must raise our voices to protest. According to reliable sources, the Tamil people are being disenfranchised and victimized by the Sri Lanka authorities. This injustice must stop. The Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland.”

This year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to remember Prof. Elie Wiesel’s words about the Tamils’ plight.

Abuse of power makes travesty of democracy in Sri Lanka elections

by Ralph Michael

Sri Lanka’s presidential election should have been cause for celebration — the first since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May, and the first in peacetime in almost three decades.

Instead, it has descended into such a travesty that South Asia’s oldest democracy — which gained universal suffrage in 1931 and elected the world’s first woman Prime Minister in 1960 — is barely worthy of the title any more.

MR127TUK.jpg

President Rajapaksa: "From today onward, I am the president of everyone, whether they voted for me or not"-pic: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Not only has the poll been marred by violence, apparently perpetrated not by diehard Tamil rebels, but by rival supporters of the two Sinhalese main candidates, but it has also witnessed the kind of flagrant abuse of state resources, most notably state media, that is more often found in former Soviet Central Asia.

Last week the independent Election Commissioner admitted that he had given up warning the police and other public servants to remain impartial because they repeatedly ignored him.

One of the Government’s least subtle attempts to undermine General Fonseka was a film aired on state television at the weekend about Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator.

Another is the new 1,000-rupee note featuring President Rajapaksa — the first living person to adorn a Sri Lankan banknote since Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Now the Government has gone a step farther by challenging the legitimacy of General Fonseka’s candidacy, even after the Election Commissioner has ruled in his favour. Mr Rajapaksa has long argued that his country no longer needs the Western democratic values on which Sri Lanka was founded when it won independence from Britain in 1948.

He has forged new ties with China, Iran, Libya and Burma and has also adopted many of the methods by which they handle media critics and political opponents.

If that is really what Sri Lankans want, then so be it — the West has many more pressing concerns. But the political crisis now facing them is the direct result of this shift in outlook. - courtesy: Times UK -

President Rajapaksa rebuffs question about Fonseka

From Colombo, the twitter pages of Lydia Polgreen ~ NYTimes.com

Hm, local press being ushered in but foreign kept out, what gives.

Finally managed to get in. Rajapaksa answered questions for a good chunk of time, took call from Indian PM, came back for more.

Said 6 mil people voted for me, even those who I didn’t have to look after their interests

Brushed off questions about Fonseka: “why should I get involved in all these petty matters”

Of the IDPs still in camps, he said many don’t want to leave. “They are happy in the camps”

Said he was not stung by Tamil votes against him, only wanted them to participate in elex as a start to reconciliation.

Just to be clear, it was not a 1 on 1/w Rajapaksa, lots of other media there. [ http://www.twitter.com/lpolgreen ]

Fonseka rejects Sri Lanka election win for Rajapaksa

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been declared the winner of Sri Lanka's presidential poll, but the outcome was immediately rejected by his challenger.

Gen Sarath Fonseka promised a legal challenge to the outcome of the ballot, the first since Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated after 25 years of civil war.

The Elections Commission declared Mr Rajapaksa the victor with 57.8% of votes cast, to 40% for his rival.

Troops earlier surrounded the Colombo hotel where Gen Fonseka is staying.

A government spokesman told the BBC they did not intend to hold Gen Fonseka but were looking for army deserters.

A military spokesman said the troops' deployment was a "protective measure".

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan, who is in the same hotel as Gen Fonseka and other opposition leaders, says the troops' presence has created a very tense atmosphere.

An opposition spokesman, Rauf Hakeem, said opposition members had appealed to the government over what he said were "high-handed tactics" intended to intimidate them.

He told reporters there were no deserters inside the hotel.

Gen Fonseka has alleged vote-rigging and has lodged several objections with Sri Lanka's electoral commission.

He has also accused the government of wanting to kill him, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says.

One of the reasons behind Gen Fonseka's challenge to the election outcome may be that he fears for his own safety in Sri Lanka now he has lost, our correspondent says.

Since he left the army the higher ranks have very much rallied behind Mr Rajapaksa, our correspondent adds. Gen Fonseka also does not have his own party base, having stood for election backed by a disparate group of opposition parties.

Independent election observers have been perturbed by two main elements, our correspondent says, one of which is the amount of violence in the run-up to the election - with most complaints about the perpetration of violence laid at the door of the president's side.

The other is what monitors say is the misuse of public resources and state media, particularly state-run TV, which provided blanket coverage of the incumbent president's campaign.

Some 70% of Sri Lanka's 14 million-strong electorate turned out to vote. However, turnout in the Tamil areas in the north-east, where the fiercest fighting occurred during the conflict, was less than 30%.

Lucien Rajakarunanayake, a spokesman for Mr Rajapaksa, told the Associated Press news agency that the president had "won a historic and resounding victory in the first free and fair elections held throughout the country since the defeat of terrorism".

Supporters of Mr Rajapaksa celebrated in the streets of Colombo, waving Sri Lankan flags and setting off fireworks.

After a violent and acrimonious campaign, during which four people died and hundreds were wounded, Tuesday's election was largely peaceful.

But there were serious exceptions, especially in the Tamil-populated north.

In the city of Jaffna, the private Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said there were at least six explosions before and just after voting began.

Later there were two blasts in Vavuniya, the town near the huge camps for people displaced by the war. The

organisation said it feared this was a systematic attempt to scare people away from voting.

There were also grenade attacks in the Sinhala-dominated centre and south.

It later turned out that Gen Fonseka had not been able to vote because his name was not on the register.

The two men were closely associated with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers last May but fell out soon afterwards. Gen Fonseka quit the military, complaining that he had been sidelined after the war.

The president's side accuses the general of courting separatists. The general has accused the president of plotting vote-rigging and violence, something his rival denies.

Both main candidates have promised voters costly subsidies and public sector pay rises.

However, economists say this will make it hard for the country to meet cost-cutting obligations imposed under the terms of a $2.6bn (£1.6bn) International Monetary Fund loan. - couresty: bbc.co.uk -

AT THE SCENE

by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, Colombo

Troops remain outside the hotel where Gen Fonseka is staying.

A short while ago, Gen Fonseka told a press conference he wanted the elections annulled following widespread irregularities in the run-up.

He has written to the Elections Commission listing his complaints and the reasons why he believes the result should be cancelled. He thinks he could have won had it not been for the government's misuse of state media.

He was also critical of the government's withdrawal of some of his security detail, saying there had been plans to assassinate him if he left the building. He said that is why he wanted to go abroad for a short while.

The government said there were no restrictions on him leaving the hotel.

Strange skies over Colombo. What do they portend?

from the twitter pages of Lydia Polgreen in Colombo, The New York Times

Fonseka rejects results. Looks like a standoff

Wow even the thunder over Colombo sounds ominous today.

And now a rainbow, Strange skies over Colombo. What do they portend?

RT @DMbreakingnews Foreign Observers: Local monitors allege fraud and disfranchisement, EC shd investigate, conduct voter registration audit.

Confusing messages from Fonseka camp. R. Hakeem said will bow to large mandate for MR, but SF wants to fight.

Galle Rd deserted not a tuk tuk in sight. Fonseka speaking at his hotel and I am stranded! Helicopters overhead, all v creepy.

Fonseka says he is in danger, not sure what he will do. "First I have to survive, then to act."

Rumors are coming thick and fast in Colombo. Elex commish under house arrest! Counting was rigged! Fonseka massing troops! True? No idea!

RT @Chellaney: After 26 yrs of civil war #SriLanka headed for turmoil under 1 family rule, with peace div and minority rights elusive.

Min of info says no journalists will be permitted to announcement of results only cameras.

Mood among opposition definitely resignation to defeat. Said voting peaceful but many probs during campaign undermines result.

Rauf Hakeem says oppo ready "bow down to a clear mandate from the people" but waiting for official results.

Just leaving hotel where Fonseka is. Surrounded by soldiers. Oppo protesting. "Overreaction to perceived threat" of coup.

MR landsliding, SF holed up in a hotel surrounded by the army. Should be an interesting day.

Click for updates ~ http://twitter.com/lpolgreen

Letter to Commissioner of Elections to urgently address concerns voiced by voters

The Following is full text of letter sent to Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake, Elections Commissioner by Centre for Monitoring Election Violence CMEV:

27th January 2010

BY HAND, FAX & REGISTERED POST

Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake
Elections Commissioner
Department of Elections
Sarana Mawatha,
Rajagiriya

Dear Mr. Dissanayake,

I wish to bring to your urgent attention the concerns voiced by voters and shared by CMEV with regard to the counting process of votes in the 26 January 2010 Presidential Election and the announcement of the results.

In particular, we have received information regarding disruption of the counting process including physical assault of counting officers and agents of the principal opposition candidate in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Matale. The informants insist on anonymity in the interests of their personal security and I am therefore, regrettably unable to furnish you with further details of their complaints and concerns at this moment.

Consequently, I am writing to request you to, as a matter of the utmost priority, publicly acknowledge and address voter concerns and doubts about the integrity of the electoral process and in particular, the process of counting and release of results, before you make the official announcement of the final result.

Please be assured of my cooperation

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely

……………………………………………………….

DR. PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU
CO-CONVENOR

Rajapaksa registers landslide win in Sri Lanka presidential poll

by B. Muralidhar Reddy

The incumbent Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeking a second endorsement two years ahead of his first tenure, registered a landslide victory against his chief opponent and the opposition consensus nominee retired General Sarath Fonseka. According to sources in the Election Commission, counting of votes is almost complete and an official announcement could be expected soon.

A report posted on the Government Information Department Web site www.news.lk said that as per the results released so far, Mr. Rajapaksa leads in the 2010 presidential elections with 59.73 per cent of the votes while his rival General Sarath Fonseka has obtained 38.71 per cent of the votes.

"The President is now marching forward with confidence towards a massive victory over his rival, the retired military General Sarath Fonseka, not only sweeping Gen. Fonseka on postal votes but also at the electorate level in a handsome manner.

"The President swept Gen. Fonseka in the latter's birth place at Ambalangoda, an electorate much boasted by Fonseka of a resounding win for him. Rajapaksa continues to extend his fortune of victory to all parts of the country covering all zones."

The report further said the stronghold of Colombo that backs Gen. Fonseka with an alliance is predicted to fall into the hands of the President at any time when the results are announced. "Mr. Rajapaksa's overall lead on Gen. Fonseka is well over 65 per cent with Gen. Fonseka battling to save face of a humiliating defeat having talked proud during the polls campaign."

In contrast to the upbeat mood evident in the President’s camp, the opposition has gone silent. The last news update posted on the main opposition, the United National Party (UNP) Website www.unp.lk was over ten hours ago.

The only report posted on January 26 under the title 'Presidential candidate General Fonseka answers Govt.’s mudslinging and vilification' talked about the controversy on the former Army Chief not enrolling himself as a voter.

Information available so far suggests that barring two of the 21 districts, Jaffna and Batticoloa, for which the results and trends are known, President Rajapaksa has secured more than comfortable majority. The retired General, who was expected to do well particularly among the postal voters, consisting mostly of government servants and military personnel, appeared in the early hours of Wednesday, taken by surprise at the outcome.

Gen. Fonseka takes shelter in hotel

Hours after the polling ended at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Gen. Fonseka chose to take shelter in a five star hotel along with the leader of the Opposition and the chief of the main opposition party Ranil Wickremesinghe.

"The results in all these districts have been manipulated by the Rajapaksa Government. They want to rig the popular will of the people. I appeal to the foreign missions based in Colombo to take note of the serious electoral malpractices and intervene even at this late stage," he told The Hindu in an informal interaction in the early hours of Wednesday.

The General charged that the government has chalked out plans to go against the popular mandate of the people and place him under detention. "Their ultimate aim is to eliminate me from politics and the globe. There is a grave danger to the democracy in the island nation. I appeal to the heads of the foreign missions based here to wake up to the ground realities and prevail upon the President to accept the reality and hand over the power."

"The Government with the aid of the military and the police intend to surrender my and the Leader of the Opposition House and office. They want to place me and Mr. Wickremesinghe under arrest. The incumbent President is brazenly violating the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral laws."

Asked as to what his next course of his action would be, the retired General said he is waiting for an opportunity to be free. "I am sure once my supporters and the religious leaders realise the fraud, they would take to streets."

Gen. (retd) Fonseka said he was disgusted with the attitude of the government and his only hope now was intervention from the outside. However, the government dismissed claims of the former Army Chief as cheap propaganda and said that in the face of inevitable defeat, the General and those backing him are resorting to cheap tactics to bring a bad name to the government.

Asked for a response Lucien Karunanayake, Media Head of the Presidential Secretariat said, "These are ridiculous allegations by a candidate who lost the election by a large margin in a free and fair election acknowledged by the opposition leaders themselves."

“Let us face the reality. As the voting was in progress, the General and his supporters themselves certified that it is a smooth and peaceful election. We wonder what has made him change his position in the last few hours," Anusha Palipita, Director, Government Department of Information wondered.

A statement posted on the Information Department Website said, "Mahinda Rajapaksa polled a majority of postal votes from the districts of Matara and Trincomalee while Sarath Fonseka got the majority of postal votes from the Jaffna and Batticaloa Districts."

According to tentative statistics released by the Election Commission, more than 70 per cent of the 14 million-plus voters exercised their franchise in the sixth Sri Lankan presidential election on Tuesday. The polling was held from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The counting of postal ballots commenced at 8 p.m. and of the other votes after 10 p.m. in 88 different centres. The final result could be expected by Wednesday afternoon.

The highlight of the day was the 'discovery' that the Opposition consensus nominee, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, had not enrolled himself as a voter. At a hurriedly convened news conference, senior Ministers and leaders of the ruling combine accused him of taking the people for a ride and said they would move the apex court challenging his eligibility to contest, despite the fact that the Election Commission had ruled his nomination papers to be in order.

Given the high stakes involved for Mr. Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second term two years ahead of his first tenure, and General Fonseka, the peaceful poll came as a big relief to the people of the island nation.

Acknowledgement that the voting was calm came from the former Army Chief at a news conference. He said there was ‘unusual enthusiasm’ among the voters.

Mr. Rajapaksa cast his vote early in the morning at the Madhumalana Rajapaksa Maha Vidayalaya polling centre in Hambantota.

Poor turnout in Tamil areas

In contrast to the high turnout in the majority Sinhalese south, polling in the Northern and Eastern Provinces - parts of which were under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the last election - was poor.

In the presidential poll in 2005, the then Prime Minister Mr. Rajapaksa, who contested on a United Party Freedom Alliance ticket, obtained 4,887,162 votes (50.29 per cent) and the United National Party candidate and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, secured 4,706,366 votes (47.43 per cent). Mr. Wickremesinghe lost mainly due to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran's diktat to Tamils to boycott the election.

Now, political and diplomatic observers are pleased that the election was tension-free, particularly given the apprehensions expressed by the Opposition in the last few days of large scale violence and rigging.

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, Director, Campaign For Free and Fair Elections, an NGO monitoring the elections, said there were six minor incidents before polling began. - courtesy: The Hindu -

January 26, 2010

Post-mortem on presidential elections 2010: Please have your say…..

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hello Friends

The Presidential Elections held on January 26th 2010 has concluded. Though the results are not yet officially released at the time this is being written “unofficially” it does seem very clear who has won.

This crucial election at a historic juncture invoked and evoked a great deal of interest and controversy. A great many people were concerned observers of the political scene these past few months.

This interest will not wane in the next few days as events rapidly unfold in Sri Lanka. There is much excitement in the air. [ click here to read in full, have your say and/or read comments by other readers ]

Sri Lanka presidential challenger says fears arrest

By Ranga Sirilal and C. Bryson Hull

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's top opposition candidate said troops had surrounded his hotel on Wednesday, after polling in Sri Lanka's first post-war presidential election ended with the revelation that he was not a registered voter.

Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa's coalition said it would challenge General Sarath Fonseka's eligibility in court, after the Election Commission said the fact he had not registered did not by itself affect his ability to stand for election.

"The government has taken the position that he was cheating the country that he had a vote," Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Reuters. "The legal people are looking at it, but it may be only of academic interest if he loses."

The latest intrigue built after a surprisingly close and bitter contest between two estranged allies who led Sri Lanka to victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists in May, after a 25-year civil war many had deemed unwinnable.

Election observers said between 70-80 percent of Sri Lanka's 14 million registered voters turned out for Tuesday's vote, which went ahead smoothly despite some minor blasts and other incidents in which no one was hurt.

Early counting from postal votes showed Rajapaksa winning most districts with 62.9 percent to 36.1 percent for Fonseka out of more than 320,000 votes. Other candidates had the remainder.

HOTEL SURROUNDED

Early on Wednesday, Fonseka said soldiers had surrounded the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel in the capital, Colombo, where he was staying with former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the official opposition leader, and other opposition party heads.

"These people have surrounded the hotel with military and threatened my security people," Fonseka told Reuters by phone. "They had a plan to surround us and take us into custody and I don't know if this is that phase of that particular operation."

A military spokesman had no immediate comment.

Fonseka in the final days of the campaign said the government had plans to either steal the vote or arrest him should he win. The government laughed it off, saying Rajapaksa would win the race cleanly and had no need to cheat.

Both camps on Wednesday said they were confident of victory.

More than 68,000 police were deployed during voting to keep order after a bloody campaign in which five people were killed and 800 violent incidents were recorded.

A senior military source and a top presidential aide said that Fonseka had been put under watch to ensure he did not attempt to organise a coup with his own loyalists in the army he commanded just eight months ago.

"The government doesn't want him to take the first step towards a coup," the military officer said on condition of anonymity.

The general, 59, fell under suspicion of plotting a coup immediately after the war, which analysts say led Rajapaksa, 64, to promote him to a job with no control over troops.

Fonseka said the sidelining and accusations prompted him to retire and enter the race with the backing of a coalition of diverse opposition parties whose sole aim has been to beat Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa called the poll two years early, hoping to capitalise on his post-war popularity.

On Tuesday, Fonseka found himself in the embarrassing position of telling reporters he "may have voted" but didn't want to say if he had "due to security reasons." He later admitted he was not on the voter rolls.

Fonseka as army commander ran a relentless counterinsurgency campaign to crush the Tigers, while Rajapaksa deflected an international push for a cease-fire and criticism over civilian deaths that prompted calls for a war crimes probe.

Whoever wins will take the reins of a $40 billion (24.7 billion pound) economy which has enjoyed a partial peace dividend, and is on the path to recovery with big Chinese and Indian investments into infrastructure and plans to put $4 billion into development.

Foreign investors have put more than $1.5 billion into government securities, and the Colombo Stock Exchange, turned in one of 2009's best returns at 125 percent.

Both Rajapaksa and Fonseka have pledged to dole out costly subsidies and public sector pay rises, which economists say will make it hard for Sri Lanka to meet its cost-cutting obligations under a $2.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence) ~ courtesy: Reuters ~

2010 Presidential Poll: Oh! God! What a Free and Fair election? Part II

Montage of Election related Media Reports

By Chakravarthy

Sarath Fonseka or family NOT registered voters in Sri Lanka. Legal experts question his eligibility to run for election.

Fonseka dispels rumors over his vote, Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:35

Common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka speaking to Daily Mirror Online a short while ago said that he was fully qualified to contest the Presidential Elections although he could not cast his vote at the elections today.

General Sarath Fonseka said that although he had registered himself in the 2008 voter registration General Sarath Fonseka said that although he had registered himself in the 2008 voter registration list he had not been granted a vote. “I want the people to know that I am fully qualified; under article 13 of the constitution, to contest for the Presidential Election,” the candidate said.

He requested voters to not be misled in any way by the false information propagated by the government. “I am a citizen of this country which is why I was the Chief of Defence Staff and the Army Commander. I want the people to not be misled by the mudslinging campaign of the government but to cast their vote with confidence,” he told Daily Mirror Online a short while ago.

Polls Chief says Fonseka eligible, Tuesday, 26 January 2010 16:10

Elections Commissioner Dayananada Dissanayaka released a statement a short while ago stating that a candidate need not be a registered voter nor cast his vote in order to be eligible to run for office and thereby Sarath Fonseka is eligible to run for the post.

State media had earlier reported that Fonseka was not eligible to vote as he was a US citizen and was also not qualified to run for Presidency. General Fonseka however said the claims were baseless.

President leaves to India, Monday, 25 January 2010 Lankatruth

President Mahinda Rajapakse suddenly left to India today (25th) evening say sources at ‘Temple trees.’ During his visit Mr. Rajapakse has met several government leaders and he has asked Indian leaders to give him and members of his family protection if an emergency situation emerges in Sri Lanka add these sources.

The President has left to India after religious ceremonies at Bellanwila Temple this evening. President Rajapakse is expected back in the island tomorrow at 9.00 a.m. He would take a special Air Force chopper to Beliatta where he would cast his vote.

Polling opens amdist sporadic incidents 2010-01-26

Polling in the Presidential elections opened amidst overnight sporadic incidents including sounds of explosion in the Jaffna district. Voting started at 7.00 am. In Jaffna at least five explosions were heard around 3.30 am, but no damage has been reported. In Anmaduwa unidentified persons removed the weapon of a police officer on duty while in the Gampaha district the board of JVP Mp Viitha Herath's office was attacked.

Terror situation in Jaffna Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A terror situation is being created in several areas in Jaffna by goons of the government say reports. A bomb has exploded in Pallaly but the damage from the explosion is not known yet. Tyres have been burnt on roads near Pallaly obstructing Tamil and Muslim voters from going to polling booths say these reports.

The army had initially been deployed to bring the situation under control but due to orders from above they had been withdrawn. As such, goons of the government carry on threatening voters while the police and security forces are looking on say reports. Due to this situation voting in several areas in Jaffna has been thwarted.

Meanwhile, the buses plying from Colombo to Jaffna used by those who have their votes in Jaffna but residing in Colombo have been suddenly terminated their journeys at Anuradhapura Depot. About 15 such buses have been parked at Anuradhapura CTB depot at the moment denying those voters the right to cast their votes.

Military Police hide buses deployed by EC for the displaced voters, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

As more than 25,000 people living in IDP camps have to cast their votes at centers in areas such as Manik farm and Killinochchithe Commissioner of elections had directed the CTB to provide them with transport facilities by deploying several buses. As such, three buses left the camp for the displaced at Vavuniya today morning but the three buses and all other buses deployed to bring in voters from camps have been detained by Military Police says our reporter at Vavuniya.

Several buses under ‘Special election duty’ were deployed for the use of the displaced voters. When senior officers came to know that most of these voters support apolitical Common Candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka, orders have been sent to Military Police to hide the buses.

Our reporter states voters living in camps for the displaced are at the moment walking a distance of 5 km to the polling centers at Manik Farm and voters in camps at Killinochchi are waiting without any means of going to polling booths. The Commissioner of Elections has been informed of this situation but so far nothing has been done says our reporter.

Govt. deploys police to deny opposition to monitor polling in North 26/01/2010

JVP Parliamentarian Vijithe Herath, presidential candidate Chanda Sugathasiri, officials of NEM HIR and a group of election monitors going for election monitoring in the North are being forcefully detained by Vavuniya Police says our reporter.

The bus travelled by the group was stopped by Vavuniya Police and they were refused to proceed further. An election monitor speaking to ‘Lankatruth’ said when it has been already announced that A-9 road was opened to anyone, refusing to allow a group going for election monitoring is suspicious.

Meanwhile, SMS service of ‘Lanka Puwath’ and ITN say the group was apprehended by Vavuniya Police while they were going to create election violence in the North.

We have, on several occasions, revealed with proof that the government was planning to carry out a mass scale rigging in the North. This has been proved by not allowing any group of election monitors to go to the North while an environment of terror has been created to terrorize voters from going to polling booths. The election monitor speaking to ‘Lankatruth’ said deploying personnel of security services to carry out the plunder of votes by the government is deplorable.

Bus taken to Temple Trees to humiliate Gen. Fonseka Monday, 25 January 2010

The OB bus that belongs to Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation used for outdoor video production and telecasting has been suddenly taken to ‘Temple Trees’ with other equipments for broadcasting. The reason for this is to carry out a degrading campaign against apolitical Common Candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka by telecasting programmes and video films using various individuals say sources at Presidential Secretariat.

Steps have been taken to telecast a video film using several prostitutes and two other video films from this bus. Several prostitutes appear in a video film discrediting Gen. Fonseka. In another video film a person introduced as a LTTE member and several others appear to allege that Gen. Fonseka had dealings with the LTTE. A video film depicting an ‘underworld thug’ stating that Gen. Fonseks had given him money and weapons to intimidate supporters of the UPFA has already been produced and would be telecast.

A radio exercise from Mahinda on 26th

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Presidential Campaign Office of Mahinda Rajapaks has planned to carry out a project for his supporters to get residents in houses close to election centers to play their radios aloud. The campaign office has named channels that should be played.

The directive has been sent by the campaign office to leaders of political parties that support Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, district leaders, electoral organizers, district organizers, PC members, officials specially appointed for the presidential election and organizations attached to UPFA.

They have been directed to get residents in houses near polling centers to play their radios loud on the 26th between 6.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. tuning to Hiru FM, Sath FM, Neth FM, Lak FM and Lak Handa.

The official of the Presidential Campaign Office told ‘Lankatruth’ that Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse has used his executive powers to indirectly influence voters by getting residents near polling centers to tune their radios to selected channels that would broadcast programmes that would be advantageous to him.

SB’s sibling in a devil’s act at Hamguranketha Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Several incidents of terrorizing voters and polling agents being driven away have been reported from Hanguranketha. The gangs of thugs who are involved in these violent acts are lead by Saliya Dissanayake, the brother of S.B. Dissanayake say reports. He had directed bands of armed thugs to break into polling booths and drive away polling agents.

Meanwhile, a gang of thugs lead by a minister of the government has carried out violence and had driven away polling agents from the centers and intimidating voters at Nawalapitiya. Despite complaining to relevant officials and the police, no measures have been taken to stop such atrocities.

One million poll cards not delivered 25/01/2010

Nearly one million poll cards were left undelivered in post offices over the weekend as the deadline for the delivery ended, officials said yesterday. The Northern Province had the largest number of undelivered poll cards with more than 300,000 still stacked up in post offices, they said.

Deputy Post Master General V. Kumaraguruge who is in charge of the north said yesterday that of a total of 876,633 poll cards, 566,857 had been delivered in the districts of Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna by Thursday.

No National Identity Cards for 1 million voters 25/01/2010

An estimated one million people do not have National Identity Cards or other forms of identity papers to vote at Tuesday’s Presidential election, officials and independent poll monitors said yesterday. Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake declared that only about 200,000 people had applied for the temporary NICs that would enable them to vote as the deadlines ended.

Fonseka's supporters prevented from voting in Nawalapitiya 2010-01-26 08:52:00

Voters believed to be voting for Gen Sarath Fonseka have been driven away by armed gangs in Nawlapitiya, election monitors said. They said police had failed to prevent the incidents.

BREAKING NEWS: from 94112512102 23/01/2010 11.28 am

Now U are a proud citizen of a Middle Income Nation. GDP per-capita rose from $1000 to $2200 during my first 4 yrs" said president. Sri Lanka-Asia's Miracle!

BREAKING NEWS: from 94112512102 22/01/2010 12.01 pm

Survey Results: President Rajapaksa 60%, Fonseka 40%, conducted by University of Kelaniya covering all districts, Urban, Suburban, Rural -news.lk

BREAKING NEWS: from 94112512102 19/01/2010 11.18

Majority of Muslims Prefers MR: 65% for MR & 35% for SF (2450 sample). 70% appreciates MR's foreign policy & 65% says MR is the best for SL-asiantribune.com

Mp3 Audio: Interview with Asanga Welikala over Sarath Fonseka not having a vote

A report by The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV):

Interview with Asanga Welikala, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives over the confusion arising from key presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka not having a vote, and the confusion significantly fueled by State media that he is ineligible to be elected as President as a consequence:

The Centre For Monitoring Elections Violence (CMEV) talks to Asanga Welikala, Senior Researcher of Legal and Constitutional Unit at The Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo, on the matter regarding Sarath Fonseka's vote and his candidacy for President.

Government authorities fail to address voter rights of IDPs and other Northern residents

Briefing on abysmal turnout in the Northern Province and the govt. failure to address voter rights, by The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV):

26 January 2010: CMEV was informed that approximately 24,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) presently living in government run camps and with host families were also registered on the 2008 electoral register.

Out of this number, 16,000 IDPs applied to cast their vote within the Vavuniya district while 8,000 were eligible to cast their vote in areas such as the Killinochchi district at today’s Presidential election. CMEV was informed by the Government Agent (GA) Vavuniya that 55% of IDPs in Vavuniya were able to cast their vote with only 8.3% voting in Mullaitivu district. CMEV was also informed by the authorities in Jaffna that there was a turnout of 22% in the Jaffna district and 3.5% in Killinochchi.

CMEV in its Election Day Media Comminque No 3 raised problems faced in the north and especially those faced by IDPs with regard to voting, including insufficient identity documents and the authorities failing to organise transport for them to travel to other areas to cast their vote. CMEV further notes that concerns of IDPs and returnees toregarding the exercise of the franchise were raised with the Election Commissioner and other government officials earlier and proposals presented to them to address these concerns.

CMEV raises continuing concerns regarding the exercise of the franchise by IDPs. These are listed below.

CMEV was informed that hundreds of IDPs were unable to cast their vote in Killinochchi as a direct result of inefficient transport arrangements. For example, in Arunuchalam and Ramanathan camps 300 IDPs waited from 6am till 1pm for buses to arrive to transport them to Killinochchi to vote. The buses only reached the camps at 1.30pm and the IDPs were transported to Killinochchi at 3.55pm, allowing them only 5 minutes to vote. Unfortunately these 300 IDPs were not allowed to vote on the grounds that the polls had closed. CMEV has been informed that they have no way of returning to the camps in Vavuniya and are presently stranded in Killinochchi without accomodation. This is only one case which illustrates the problems faced by IDPs living in Vavuniya with a vote in Killinochchi.

CMEV was also informed that IDPs who were promised transport by the authorities faced several difficulties in travelling to the cluster centres in the Vanni. At the present moment there still remain restrictions on freedom of movement of IDPs which have been previously challenged by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a constituent member of CMEV. CMEV was informed that IDPs were issued tokens for transport on election day on the 25th night and early 26th morning. At around 4am on the 26th, IDPs were informed through the public address system that they were required to be present sharp at 6am at a specific location to board the buses provided by the authorities. As a result all those who were eligible to travel gathered at 6am to board the bus but were kept waiting for several hours with no information as to what arrangements had been made. Only at 10am did the first few buses arrive to transport IDPs to cluster centres. The second contingent of busses arrived around 1.30pm. During the time period between the first contingent of buses and the second, there was no information given to IDPs regarding voting procedures.

CMEV monitors further reported that IDPs who were travelling to Killinochchi were stopped at the Omanthai check point and checked by military which further delayed their travel. This checking seems unnecessary when IDPs had left government camps where they are regularly checked. They should have been directly transported to the polling centres so that they could vote without delay.

There were several cases where IDPs who are presently in camps with a vote in Vavuniya had no public transport to polling centres and as a result had to walk a distance of around 7km. This is an issue that could have been dealt with previously and steps taken to ensure that all IDPs who needed transport were provided with it. CMEV was informed that as a result of not having adequate public transport, many turned back and did not cast their vote.

Further and this is pertinent in the above cited case, IDPs have expresed fear of repercussions if they could not show proof of having voted after having left camps in order to do so, such as the indelible ink mark on the fingers of all those who have.

CMEV received reports that several residing in Jaffna with a vote in Killinochchi were unable to vote. This was mainly due to insufficient transport arrangements for IDPs and those having returned to Jaffna being unable to travel to cluster centres to cast their vote. CMEV has been unable to obtain the exact figure of the numbers involved in this regard.

Upon receiving the above complaints, CMEV contacted the GA Vavuniya and Killinochchi. According to the GA of Vavuniya, 70 buses to transport IDP voters and 40 buses to transport IDPs within Vavuniya as well as 30 to other areas were deployed respectively. The GA Killinochchi stated that efforts had been coordinated with officials in Vavuniya and Jaffna to transport voters. Authorities in Jaffna also confirmed that arrangements had been organised. Though these measures may have been taken, CMEV notes that many were disenfranchised as a result of delays and shortcomings.

Those affected and displaced by the conflict and presently living with host families and in camps and those returned to areas in the North and East need special attention. This has been continuously raised by CMEV and its constituent members. Today’s effective disenfranchisement of several hundred of those most affected by the conflict needs immediate attention.

CMEV also raises concern about the security situation in several parts of the North where explosions took place in the course of election day which impacted voter turnout. The deterrent effects of the resulting fear on voter turnout and the inability of many to cast their vote, has compromised the integrity of the electoral process in the north. It is especially regrettable given the imperatives of reconciliation and national unity in this our first post war election. We strongly urge the Election Commissioner to take the necessary steps to prevent this from occuring in the forthcoming General Election and stop short of calling for a repoll of the north in this presidential election because we are not in possession of the exact figure of effective disenfranchisement.

Provincial-wide update on Election Day violence and law breaking

Presidential Election 2010: Election Day Media Communiqué No. 4, by The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence CMEV:

CMEV has received the following reports from the field:

Eastern Province

Batticaloa District: Kalkudah Electroate: SLMC supporter Mr. Mohamad Ismail was attacked by a group of UPFA supporters at around 10:55 am about 20m away from the Oddamavadi Central College Polling Station (Polling Centre 69). CMEV spoke to Mr Ismail, who informed CMEV that he had been hit by members of the group, resulting in injuries to his face, left leg and right hand. He was admitted to the Mancholai hospital and is currently receiving treatment. No Police report had been lodged as at 10:55 am.

Video at the end of polling day, 26 January 2010

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: At the Ampara/Lihiniyagama Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (21) there had been a long queue of 300 people around 8:15 am and the delay had caused about 30 people to leave the premises without casting their vote. According to the SPO of the polling station the delay is on account of the checking of temporary IDs and the lack of staff at the polling centre.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: CMEV monitors were prevented from accessing Ampara/ Damana Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (151) by the Police at around 10:40 am for 15 minutes after which the monitor was given access. The reason given by the Police was that the Eastern Province Minister for Education and Transport, Wimalaweera Dissanayake was at the polling station.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: CMEV reports that at around 9.30 am the Buddhist monk of Pokunuvita Temple Ven Pokunugala Sri Manarathana stood for about 30 minutes within a distance of 50 meters from the Ampara/ Damana Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (Polling Centre No. 151), and attempted to influence voters in favour of President Mahinda Rajapakse . When the Police had asked the monk to leave, he had continued trying to influence people from within a distance of 200 meters for a further 1 ½ hours.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: Three officials of the Lathpandura Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Centre No. 19) have not reported for duty as of 10.20 am. As a result there is a long queue of about 350 people. In addition to his duties, the SPO has to assist the others in their duties.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: Chairman W.S.W.N Ariyaratne Wijewickrema and the Vice Chairman Udena Chinthaka Navaratne of the Maha Oya Pradeshiya Sabha arrived in a cab (Vehicle number – EP LE 7504) and a van (Vehicle number – EP GR 8672) with another 10 people to Mr. A. M Gunadasa’s shop and have threatened to kill him saying that he is influencing people to vote for the Swan Symbol (Sarath Fonseka). Though Mr. Gunadasa has insisted that he does not support any party, the group have threatened and warned him that he should expect “something” to happen in the night. CMEV also reports that voters have been transported in these same 2 vehicles to the Ampara Kudaharasgala Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Station No. 58).

Trincomalee District – Trincomalee Electorate – at 11.40am the Trincomalee ARO Mr. Vijaya Samarasinghe stated that if the Polling Agents are agreead, people with Postal IDs, Navy Passes, Army IDs and Police Reports could vote. A person with a Postal ID had allegedly attempted to cast a vote and was prevented by the SPO Krishanadas, at which point UPFA Provincial Councilor Ariyawathi Galappaththi had protested. The ARO had subsequently arrived on the scene and pronounced the above. CMEV has received confirmation of this from the SPO.

Northern Province

Vanni District – Vavuniya Electorate – as reported by the CMEV mobile team, yet another hand grenade attack was reported from Amman Road – School Road Junction, Paddirukulam at 12.02pm.

Vanni District – Vavuniya Electorate – 11.50 a.m in Kurumankadu a house at No 25, 4th lane, Dharmadevar, Kurumankadu, Vavuniya was subjected to a grenade attack.

Vavuniya District, Vavuniya electorate- CMEV monitor reported that at 11.43am a van (no57-9138) with around 8 persons including Nasim, Rishny, Larry and Risvan who were identified by persons around the area and supporters of Minister Rishard Badurdeen, came to Muslim MV Pattanichpulliyankulam (centre no 40 ) and hurled a hand grenade at SLMC member Mr. A.L.M Safir within the radius of 500m of the polling station. There were no injuries reported.

Central Province

Nuwara Eliya District – Nuwara Eliya Maskeliya Electorate – at 12.00pm at Vatagoda Tamil Vidyalaya polling station centre no 15, CWC supporters canvassed voters in favour of the UPFA candidate. The Police arrived on the scene and dispersed the group.

Nuwara Eliya District – Nuwara Eliya Maskeliya Electorate – at 1.00pm both UPFA and NDF supporters gathered at the Parpadam Wathu Pasela centre no 26, influencing voters.

Kandy District – Gampola Electorate – at 3.00pm, approximately 70 UPFA supporters were behaving in a manner that disturbed voters at the Atabage Udagama Maha Vidyalaya centre no 32.

Kandy District – Theldeniya Electorate – At 15.20pm at the Abeysinghe Kanishta Vidyalaya centre no 30 in Watapatha, the ARO and SPO prevented CMEV mobile monitors from entering the above polling centre.

Kandy District – Theldeniya Electorate – At 2.15pm at Waradhiwela Maha Vidyalaya centre no 9 the SPO of the polling station prevented the CMEV mobile monitor from entering the polling station.

Kandy District – Gampola Electorate – at 4.00pm at Atabhage Udagama Mahavidyalaya centre no 32 at Maddagam Madda, it is alleged that UPFA Minister D.M Jayaratne’s son assaulted the policeman guarding this polling station.

Southern Province

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – according to JVP Member of Parliament Nihal Galappatti, at 11.00am UPFA supporters influenced voters at the Pagngnananda Prathamika Vidyalaya centre no. 41. The Police Officer appointed to the centre had taken action to remove the UPFA supporters. The IOC of Beliatte Police Krishantha had subsequently arrived on the scene and removed the Police Officer from the polling centre.

Hambantota District – Thissamaharama Electorate – the CMEV monitor has not been allowed into the Yatalathissa Prathamika Vidyalaya centre no 71. He was also denied any information.

Galle District – Galle Electorate- around 10.10 am Deputy Minister Lionel Premasiri, Deputy Mayor of Galle Fawzie Niyas ( UPFA) visited a house close to Katagoda Technical Collage and threatened and intimidated the occupants as alleged by Phillip Nishantha, who also placed an entry with the Galle Harbour Police.

Hambantota District – Beliatta, Kahawaata Polling Station(NO.40), Ajith Mathumanna, JVP member of Pradeshiya Sabha, reported that two vehicles belonging to Blue Force(“NIL BALAKAYA”)of UPFA, were parked near the Polling Station at about 10.00 a.m.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – Gatamanna North Junior School Polling Station (No 35),CMEV mobile monitor Sampath reported that many unauthorized persons were seen in the polling station between 08.30am and 09.15 am.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate -H/Nayaka Rajapakse Vidyalaya (No 34), CMEV monitor reported that many unauthorized persons were seen within the polling station between 8.30am and 9.15 a.m.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – Gatamanna Wijaya Central Collage Polling Station (No 33), CMEV monitor in Beliatta reported that that many unauthorized persons were seen within the polling station between 08.30 am and 9.15 a.m.

Hambantota District – Tangalle Electorate – Kadurupokuna Maha Vidyalaya Polling Station No 23, CMEV monitor reported that the voting booths were positioned in such a way as to make ballot papers visible to the SPO when the voters cast their votes. The incident was reported about 8.30 a.m.

Hambantota District – Tangalla Electorate,Gajanayakagama Junior School(No 50)Polling Station, former MP Kularatne reported that D.R. Pradeep Kumarage who was supposed to continue as a representative in the Polling Station was assaulted and handed over to the Weerakatiya Police Station by M.K.Mahesh, the son of M.K. Ranjith, Member of the Southern Provincial Council and Private Secretary to Minister, Mahinda Samaraweera, complaining that he had illegally collected NICs at about 12.20 pm. The suspect remains under arrest at the Police station.

Matara District – Matara Electorate – Pamburana Saliputhra Vidyalaya Polling Station, JVP organizer for Mathara District reported that UPFA supporters of minister Chandrasiri Gajahdheera came in a procession to the Pamburana Sailputhra Polling Station about 8.50 a.m. .

North Western Province

Kurunegala District – Hiriyala Electorate – between 12.00pm and 1.00pm, CMEV monitors W.A.S.L. Gunawardena and R.S.G. Wijendra were threatened and their documents torn up by approximately 20 UPFA supporters who attempted to assault the monitors, near the Almina Muslim Maha Vidyalaya centre no 36. Police Officers who arrived on the scene had resolved the situation.

Puttalam District – Chilaw Electorate – at 2.40 pm when the Returning Officer was entering the polling station at Pambala Kanishta Vidyalaya centre no 66, some UPFA supporters had also entered the polling station asserting that if the Returning Officer could enter the station, they also had the ability to do so.

Puttalam District – Chilaw Electorate – at 11.20 am: voters at the Bangadeniya Kanishta Vidyalaya Polling Station centre no 23 were assaulted by UPFA Arachchikattuwa Pradesheeya Sabha President Jagath Samantha and others. They also told the Polling Agent to leave the Polling station. Jagath Samantha rejects the allegation.

North Central Province

Polonnaruwa District – Polonnaruwa Electorate – while UNP supporter Lakshman Senevirathne was on his way to the polling centre at 6.00am, A.K.G. Nishantha Harischandra, Ranjan Nanayakkara (Mahaweli Adhikariya) and Prashan had blocked the road and threatened him. A complaint has been lodged at the Aralaganwila Police – CIB I 205/238.

Polonnaruwa District – Polonnaruwa Electorate – UPFA provincial councilor Peshala Jayaratna had been transporting voters in vehicles belonging to Thamankaduwa Pradeshiya Sabha at around 1.30pm.

Uva Province

Badulla District – Mahiyanganaya Electorate – at 1.30 p.m – a group of supporters of the Agriculture Minister of the Uva Palath Sabahva, Anura Vidanagamage, went to the home of Mr Attanayake Mudiansalage Gunaratne in Beligalla, Dambana and assaulted him and his wife. No serious injuries were sustained in the assault. The Mahiyangana Police has received the complaint and were recording statements.

Monaragala District – Monaragala Electorate – at 1.25 p.m. Uva Provincial Council Minister Kumara Siri Ratnayake and his supporters parked his vehicle ( Vehicle No. 59-2041) bearing President Rajapakse’s poster, in front of the Kirawanagoda Kanishta Vidyala centre no 87 and were seen talking to voters.

Digamadulla District, Pottuvil Electorate: CMEV observed two persons on a motor bike (MT 0340) distributing ballot papers outside AI/ Kathariya Vidyalaya (Polling Centre 86) to four women asking them to vote for President Mahinda Rajapaka. One of the women, A.M. Mizaya who had already cast her vote had taken one of the ballot papers and voted again. A CMEV monitor overheard the JPO asking her ”why did you come now, you should have come later.”

CMEV strongly urges the Election Commissioner to consider annulling the poll in this particular polling station.

Disturbances in Jaffna and identity, transport issues at Manik Farm deter turnout

Presidential Election 2010: Election Day Media Communiqué No. 3, by The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV):

CMEV received reports of multiple explosions in Nallur, Uduppidy, Manipay, Vaddukottai, Chavakachcheri and Tellipallai. CMEV’s mobile teams were dispatched to a number of locations where the attacks had reportedly taken place. CMEV teams verified damages at the following locations.

A push bike parked overnight in front of the polling station, J/Chunnakam Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School (Polling Station Nos 28) was damaged.

A tea shop has been damaged on Point Pedro Road, behind Nallur Temple, 500m of J/Nallur Station Church of Ceylon Tamil Mixed School (Hall No 1-3 Polling Stations 35-37).

A tree has been damaged in front of the Jaffna Municipal Council’s Fire Brigade, Point Pedro Road within 500m of J/Nallur Station Church of Ceylon Tamil Mixed School (Hall No 1-3 Polling Stations Nos 35-37).

A shop Arasady Road in Nallur within 150m from J/Kandarmadam Saivapiragasa Vidyalayam (Polling Centre No 41).
CMEV spoke with eye witnesses who said that within an hour of the incident a white van passed by the location in Arasady Road and Point Pedro Road.

CMEV contacted the police station in Jaffna, which is investigating one of the attacks following a police complaint. CMEV also received reports of attacks on polling centres including J/Waddukodai Hindu College(Polling Centre No 21) but observed no damages. These incidents are in addition to the hand grenade attack on the residence of Subramaniam Sharma, SLFP Uduppidi Coordinator, in Valvattithurai at around 3.30 am today reported by CMEV earlier.

CMEV was informed that most internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in Vavuniya and having a vote in other districts were still waiting to travel to their polling centres. CMEV was previously informed by Returning Officers of the areas that transport arrangements would be arranged and IDPs informed of the arrangements. At 11am CMEV was informed that only two busses with IDPs from Ramanathan camp in Vavuniya had left for Killinochchi and many others were waiting by the road outside the camp to be transported to their polling centres. CMEV monitors report that as of 09:00 am, potential voters in zone 5, 6, 7 and 8 (1,098 registered voters) were still waiting for transport. CMEV raised this issue with Assistant Transportation Officer, Mrs Pathmaraanjini who reported that 48 buses had been deployed within the Vavuniya District and 30 buses to transport voters to areas including Killinochchi and Mullaitivu. Sixteen of the 30 buses had arrived as of 11.30 a.m and the 14 are reportedly on the way.

CMEV was further informed that many IDPs had turned up to vote in Manik Farm camps in Vavuniya though not all were in possession of the specified identity documents recognized by the Election Commissioner. As a result authorities had allowed temporary camp cards issued by the Police to be used as identity documents. Though this measure allows those displaced and affected by conflict to cast their vote, CMEV is concerned that the use of temporary camp cards alone can lead to possible abuse.

CMEV was also informed of a case of a released ‘surrendee’ from the PRI Technical College currently living in Point Pedro with a relative who is registered to vote at the College but who has not been notified of travel arrangements. The Assistant Election Commissioner Kugathanan informed CMEV that he has no information from the Government relating to the whereabouts of releases and returnees and therefore cannot inform them about transport arrangements.

CMEV is deeply concerned that the spate of violent incidents in Jaffna immediately before the commencement of polling and in the early hours of polling, indicate a systematic attempt to disrupt voting and ensure a low voter turnout in the peninsula. CMEV’s concern is reinforced by the simple fact of this election being our first post war national election and the one in which the people of the north have an opportunity to demonstrate their faith in and commitment to democratic processes in Sri Lanka. This is especially regrettable given the imperatives of peace, reconciliation and national unity.

We call on election officials to ensure that the transport arrangements for IDPs are met. It is important that delays in transport arrangements do not affect voter turn out adversely.

Low turn out in North-East, Govt. to challenge Fonseka candidacy in court

Tweet bundle from the twitter pages of The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and Lydia Polgreen of New York Times in Colombo:

From Lydia Polgreen: Click for updates: http://twitter.com/lpolgreen

Govt spokesman: postal votes and other early indications point to a return of the incumbent. Results 4 – 5 AM.

Govt. spokesman says govt. will challenge Fonseka’s candidacy in court over voter registration.

Firecrackers in a terror-striken country? I don't get it.

Supports of the two campaigns having rival celebrations a block apart on Symonds Rd. No tension but scary firecrackers!

Just back from talking to voters. Colombo is UNP territory so lots of Fonseka support. Heading to Maharagama in a bit.

Some areas in jaffna reporting 40%. Mostly 25%. Resident regd voters is only somewhere around 60 %.

Fonseka may not get to vote on Technical grounds - Fonseka Aide

Only an hour left of voting. As of noon 25% turnout in N & E, @CMEV says. Am waiting for newer figures.

Low turnout in the N & E would all but assure a Rajapaksa victory. Fonseka must sweep minority vote + get 50% Sinhalese vote.

Daily Mirror quoting elex monitors that turnout in N and E is 20 percent. Seems low, checking now.

CMEV is reporting problems with buses for IDPs in Menik Farm seeking to vote.

No big surprise: voters in Tamil neighborhood of Wellewatte all support Fonseka in interviews.

My NYT story on the early voting now up. http://bit.ly/6jQlEv

From CMEV: click for updates: http://twitter.com/cmev

Elections Comm. Dayananda Dissanayake says not mandatory to be a registered voter to run for president

Dialog mngmt decides to only send election results via SMS, not election related news says JNW. We wonder why

Hand grenade attack in Jaffna on election day: CMEV received information regarding a hand grenade attack to the re... http://bit.ly/7WGOzK

At Kotte polling station, did not see voting guidelines explained in Tamil or English

Defeat of LTTE has breathed new life into the democratic process for marginalised groups in Tamil politics

BY Sergei De Silva -Ranasinghe

For many, the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which brought to a close over two decades of civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives, marked a welcome end to the darkest and bloodiest era in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history.

But the defeat has also left a void in Tamil politics. The LTTE’s intolerance for democratic processes and dissident Tamil opinion saw it spearhead a sustained campaign to eliminate rival Tamils that is widely believed to have included the assassination of more than 50 Tamil leaders from 1975 to 2008.

‘Killing people…opposed to the LTTE was one of the greatest wrongs of the LTTE,’ says SC Chandrahasan, son of the late Tamil leader SJV Chelvanayakam, who founded the Federal Party and who believed in non-violence. ‘It not only eliminated many experienced and talented leaders, but also prevented many up-and-coming people from contributing to the cause of the Tamil-speaking people of the island.’ Estimates vary as to how many rival Tamils the LTTE ‘eliminated’ during the conflict, though most range from between 8,000 to as many as 18,000 Tamils. ‘This is one of the things that prevented the LTTE from becoming a popular movement,’ he adds.

Tuesday’s election--Sri Lanka’s sixth presidential election--is expected to be one of the closest in decades and pits President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), against the United National Party (UNP), which has been revitalised since the emergence of former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka as leader. And both sides have been making significant efforts to secure Tamil votes, a bloc whose support many commentators believe could be decisive if the race is tight.

Rajapakse has so far secured the support of seven Tamil parties, and in an effort to placate Tamil voters has expedited reconstruction and large development projects in Northern and Eastern provinces and pledged to implement the 13th Amendment, which essentially provides for regional autonomy at the provincial level.

The UNP, for its part, has traditionally been seen as supportive of ethnic minority interests and has typically attracted Tamil support and votes. Indeed, as part of his election platform, Fonseka has offered to move beyond the 13th Amendment as a way of addressing Tamil grievances, and the party has also attracted the support of the Democratic Peoples Front, which has a seat in parliament and a Tamil support base in the Colombo District. The most significant boost to the UNPs campaign, though, has been the support obtained through the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka’s largest Tamil democratic party, which holds 22 seats.

However, it remains unclear how the Tamil vote will play out now that the LTTE is no longer trying to stifle rival voices. Opinion was divided among Sri Lanka’s main Tamil parties over the LTTE defeat, although the four Tamil constituents of Rajapakse’s government--the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, the Up-Country Peoples Front, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal and Eelam Peoples Democratic Party--were united on the issue. In addition, the influential Democratic Tamil National Alliance(DTNA), which includes the Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front-Naba (EPRLF-Naba) and People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), also endorsed the outcome.

EPRLF-Naba Secretary Thirunavakkarasu Sritharan, for example, claimed, ‘President Rajapaksa will go down in Sri Lanka’s political history as the leader who ended the fascist violent culture in the country.’

PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan, meanwhile, said: ‘We welcome a new era, the reintroduction of democracy and pluralism to the northeast. The LTTE is finally defeated. Democracy and pluralism were long denied to the Tamil community. They [the LTTE] failed to understand the political reality that a separatist state for Tamils was unattainable.’

However, the TNA, a loose confederation of four influential pro-LTTE parties formed in 2001, essentially denounced the government’s victory and rejected conciliatory overtures such as a meeting with Rajapakse (although some TNA members of parliament met with him on an individual basis). There were similarly mixed feelings among ordinary Tamils. For many, although there was a palpable sense of relief that the insurgency was over, they remained burdened by a sense of uncertainty about the future, feelings exacerbated by concerns over how the Sri Lankan government might use its newfound strength.

N. Suntharesan, president of the Batticaloa District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, perhaps best captured the pervading mood when he told The Nation newspaper: ‘In one way we’re really happy that the LTTE is finished. All these days, successive governments accused the LTTE of being a stumbling block to any development or even power sharing.’

‘But now, with the LTTE no longer in existence, we’re waiting to see what’s going to happen. The Tamil people feel that the victory has given the government and especially the armed forces the upper hand,’ he said, noting the government repression surrounding ethnic riots in the 60s, 1977 and 1983. ‘They’re worried that if the government’s military becomes more and more powerful, they won’t have anybody with military power to counteract this. [But] I think with a proper development plan and a meaningful political package, this fear in the minds of the Tamils could quickly be allayed.’

Such views were in large part down to uncertainty surrounding the fate of the nearly 300,000 Tamil refugees who required urgent humanitarian attention. Legitimate concerns over the length of time for screening and resettlement of internally displaced people aroused suspicion--and provoked some international criticism--over the government’s true motives behind severely restricting refugees’ movements, although the government went a long way toward easing these concerns when it granted the majority of such people freedom of movement from last October.

But the general uncertainty and lack of visible improvement in conditions for Tamils likely influenced the results of the Northern Province’s first local government elections. In the Vavuniya Urban Council, a stronghold of the Democratic Peoples Liberation Front--an affiliate party of the PLOTE--lost out to the TNA, which carved out an unexpected victory.

Despite excessive caution following the LTTE’s defeat, the government still took incremental steps toward relaxing its security posture. This was demonstrated as early as last May, when it launched a major drive to recruit 2,000 Tamil-speaking police constables in Eastern Province. On June 17, 2009, The Island newspaper reported in Batticaloa District that the police still had 74 check points.

However, by September, the situation in Eastern Province had changed markedly, as demonstrated in a report by Sunday Leader journalist R. Wijewardene, who wrote: ‘To travel to Batticaloa through the emptiness beyond Medawachchiya and through the once fraught towns of Valaichchenai, Kiran and Eravur in the darkness – without fear or check points is to experience, in a journey, the magnitude of the changes that have gripped this country over the past few months

January 25, 2010

Three poems for Sri Lanka on presidential elections day

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

January 26th 2010 is upon us!

It’s the Day of decision for Sri Lanka as it faces yet another election to either re-elect or elect the most powerful person in the Country.

My thoughts and prayers with all Sri Lankans as they cast their votes in what is perhaps the most crucial, controversial and colourful presidential poll the Country has seen.

I took some time off from the hustle and bustle of daily life to ponder over this election.

We’ve had many flaws in conducting elections in the past. The present one has already demonstrated its deficiencies. The poll is certainly flawed.

Despite these flaws Sri Lanka can be proud of keeping the light of democracy alive. [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

I tell Tamils, there is no problem - I too speak Tamil - Mahinda Rajapakse

President Mahinda Rajapaksa answered questions put to him by Rajpal Abeynayake on Tuesday’s elections and a host of related issues, at President’s House in Kandy this week. We publish below the transcripts from that exchange.

(A few questions included were from representatives of other English newspapers.)

Mr. president, how confident are you about this election.

Can’t you see my face!
I have already started working for after this. I’m very, very, confident. It’s not a question mark.

What is your main message at this time in this election.

Protect democracy without getting caught to the Goebbels agendas. I believe that the people’s rights will be protected.

I have to add, all races, all parties, everybody should get together with me to develop this country and take it forward after the 27th.

I will win, and I invite everybody to join me in the plan to keep the peace and develop the country.

What can you say about the deaths of media persons, crimes which have been unsolved.

All are the same. The culprits have not been found. Nobody has found who killed Kadirgarmar. It’s upto the police to investigate. Instructions have been given to expedite the process.

There are many allegations that too many members of your family are in high government jobs.

Tell me one, tell me one.

I won’t know all by name

We have relations in Jaffna, we have relations in Akurana — Hameeds and all these people are my relations. So are Nadesans, Sirimannes etc.,

You have so many relatives?

You tell me the name and I will write the relationship. This is a small country and there are intermarriages, etc.,

But you are not favouring anyone

Why should I?

I think there is the Uva province chief minister, defence secretary, etc., etc.,

Those are politicians, no? Uva province man — he was elected by the people. It’s the mandate of the people. From 1956 there have been people like D.M. Rajapaksa.

D. A. Rajapaksa was elected uncontested to the state council. Then Lakshman Rajapaksa, George Rajapaksa were in politics. Then Mahinda Rajapaksa came into politics. If the people didn’t like (the Uva chief ministerial candidate...) he would have been rejected. I came from Medamulana, and people accepted me as the leader of this country. Why so?

Before I became president, Basil, Chamal, they were all in politics. We are a political family.

There is a committee to look into Tamil affairs. What’s the progress there?

What do the people of the north want? Political solution, or to live in a decent house? They want to go and l live in a house - - have basics such as water, electricity, to have a job and to live their life. The priority is to resettle these people in a decent environment with basic facilities. There must be democracy first. We have to live in one country under one umbrella.

You said there are only two kinds in this country.

I say so today also.

Even if they are all patriotic, the needs of people in various regions are different. For example, the Muslim people in the east have different aspirations.

Those who are not in the east have different aspirations. Some people have problems related to education...

These are administrative problems. None of these are policy questions. These are extraneous. Races have aspirations. Their identities are intact. So it’s the same all over. Go to a Sinhala village in Moneragala. They are not taught English. They don’t have Science education. These are problems that are therefore common to all — not unique, say, because one community is Muslim and one Tamil.

Therefore when I said that there are only two races, what I meant was, that I see no difference between Tamils, Sinhalese, and Muslims. There are only people who are patriots. A small child also said that the other day to me — in his own way. The other issues are grievances. Attending to those is a different story. To take those and say the Muslims didn’t get this or the Tamils didn’t get that, is not right. If it’s gold for the north it’s gold for the south. Not copper. The other things are extraneous administrative issues..

Regards the TNA. Don’t you think you could have secured their support for half of those promises (the opposition made) - - even less.

This is the issue. I do not have to lie because of an election. If I cannot give something I say I can’t. If I can, I say I can. I have always been like that - - if I cannot, I do not misguide people. If I can give I give, if not, I say I cannot. About re-merging of the north and east, removing military camps, about autonomy — when these issues are brought up, I say these are not things that can be done.
Sambandan, Adikalanathan, all of them wanted these things. Now Sarath Silva says they signed a letter with Sambandan...

But you have removed high security zones yourself?

High security zones? Those are removed according to plan, it’s a process. Any country has high security zones. Katunayake has a high security zone around the airport.

The issue is that you have removed high security zones after Sarath Fonseka promised to remove high security zones. It’s the same thing he is doing..

No, no. It’s not so. I am not a person who does whatever Sarath Fonseka says. I went according to plan. I have never said anywhere that high security zones will be removed. I’m going according to plan. I keep high security zones when they should be there. Otherwise we resettle people. We have done so in many places.

But the Sunday Times said that you are removing high security zones.

Sunday Times headlines are various. The next headlines would be an even worse four-letter-word. I say clearly that those are political headlines. These are like what you put all of a sudden sometimes — political headlines.

These are political headlines that mislead people. These are not what I say. If there is a plan, we go according to plan. We will not suddenly change those plans. We have not removed high security zones for political reasons. We have removed them according to a plan, announced in May. I have never said I’m removing camps.

Are you saying that a political solution is necessary for the country.

A political solution is needed for anything — anything has a political solution. There is a political solution for any issue in the country.

No no, about the Tamil issue. Is there a time frame for a political solution?

About the time frame, can I say I can give it today? But the problem will be solved in my watch. It won’t go any further.

Is that political, this ‘solution’?

Political of course. What can be solved militarily has already been finished, right? Terrorism has been eradicated; it’s easier now. Now terrorism cannot raise its head — so we will go with a political solution.

We brought forward many formulas. 13th amendment, for instance. But there was no solution. So now we have to see how we can do (this) with all races. But there will be no solution that divides the country. No division of the country into separate pieces - - no such solution.

But don’t the Tamil people have some hope that you will give an indication of this solution at this election, now.

No no. I told you. It’s not the ideology of the old politicians. For thirty years the many new thoughts on this didn’t have space to emerge. For 30 years the Tamil aspirations were suppressed by terrorism. Now, new young leaders will emerge. At future provincial and parliamentary elections there will be new formations replacing the old lot.

Those today do not think the way those others who have been under Prabhakaran think. The ideas of the Jaffna people on the other hand are not the same as those who had escaped to the safe confines of Colombo. There are intellectuals there. So we have to take forward this process, taking into account the aspirations of those who were suppressed before.
The diaspora will also change.

So when will you give an indication about your political solution.

After the elections. I have been involved with the TNA with discussions. So many years ... I have been trying with the TNA ... but they are the people who never (reciprocated.)

What happened to the APRC proposals that were given to you.

Some have signed these proposals, some have not signed them. The TNA, the UNP, were not there (at these deliberations.) The SLFP has not signed it. So it’s not a proposal, it’s a draft.

What are the development projects for the north?

De-mining, water, electricity, housing.. The private sector is coming forward in a big way. There are IT projects, BOI projects... so the development is huge. So there is massive development in the north.
We have signed the contracts for the railway line etc.. If we can’t pay back loans no one will give us loans. Even during the war, all or debts were paid on time upto the minute, upto the second.

When you took oaths as president, you took an oath to uphold the constitution. You have not implemented the 17th amendment

Why was the 17th amendment not implemented? Is it my fault? I’ m responsible for it you think?

Yes

They never sent up the names.

No, all the names have been sent to you. It’s a fact.

No no, even so, somebody has sent a petition saying that one such person named, works in parliament, and draws a salary. This is the thing. When the names are sent, somebody else says one person is working in parliament, how can he be in the independent commission?

So who has sent such a petition? These are people nominated by political parties.

Yes, sent by political parties, but other parties also send other names. They can’t send one name properly. How did it take so long? Previously when he (Ranil) was opposition leader, he did not send (names.) That’s’ because he thought he can do everything by himself when he is president. So there was a delay there.

Then during my time they sent the names after so many years. So I contended that this system, this legislation, is flawed, and that parliament should amend this bill and send it back. So about this name, this one person’s name — he works in parliament and accepts a salary from parliament. He cannot be independent and take a salary from parliament.

This is a flawed amendment. I have always said that. This is why I say these are political needs . amendments based on various people’s political needs. These were promulgated without any study. This is why I say a constitution is not something you do for the day. What is the independence of this? This is not independent. How can you say this is independent?

Now the elections commissioner has officially announced he is retiring. What happens after that?

After that there will be a constitutional change, and a new person will be appointed.

Then about the coming general election what’s the position regarding the commissioner?

We will see. We have to face it at that time. The commission they established recommended a politician. Chandrika was correct at that point — she didn’t want to appoint him.

Your regime was described by the general on TV yesterday as an extremely corrupt regime?

He has the dictatorial madness. Can’t you see that dictatorial insanity in the way he talks? If he, on a stage, at a press conference, utters words such as kalavedda, padadaya..(bastard no?) ...etc.,

No he did not say padadaya he said paharaya

Paharaya. Paharaya. What is paharaya? This language. He says prisons will be filled. That he will have bones licked... Idi Amin also did that. Pol Pot, Hitler, also did that. Why would he fill jails? IGP’s uniform will be removed, army commander’s uniform will be removed, he says.
He says he will bring people by the ear and shoot them. What are these statements?

But he says there is anarchy now, today.

He? I’m the one who is governing, right? After the 26th, on the 27th, I will look after that.

Yes, but the opposition points to extreme corruption .. the misuse of state property..

Whose property is he using? Not state property is it? Whose car is he using? Whose security vehicle is he using?

Not those.. but the contention is that the government is on a massive scale misusing state property to steal this election.

What these people are trying to do is to show the world there is something like that. Because I am winning, and because he cannot bear that up, he is speaking out insanely. They are the ones who are corrupt. They are the ones who are corrupt along with NGOs and their henchmen. This is what they are getting at. Because I am winning, these people are insane. Because of that they are repeating: corruption corruption corruption. Is it the first time? What is the large scale (malpractice) that you see??

Many allegations. The Ranna Tangalle murder for instance

Tangalle murder? The victim is a SLFPer. The bus is SLFP. The shooter is SLFP.

It was a UNP rally.

No it was not. Do not lie. This is the thing no? What news that comes to the paper... get it correct.. They were going to distribute spectacles for Sajith’s birthday, and SLFPers went along. My photograph is at her (the victims) home. This is not a political killing. Everybody’s killing is not political. That woman is mine.

You are talking of Tangalle. You are not talking of Ranga Bandara shooting at people going for one of my meetings. You are not talking of bombs being thrown at an election office. You are not talking of one individual’s neck being severed.... it was in no paper. A provincial council member’s neck was severed. It was not in a single newspaper. What are you talking? You are taking of a SLFP woman dying in Tangalle. When they came to claim the corpse we realized it. They are SLFP. The victim is SLFP, the bus is SLFP, my picture is on it... Look at the newspapers.

This is the thing. The story that comes out first stays. This is the Goebells method. Their propaganda is splashed by you people in big ways in the papers. So it is that first round news that goes to the country. They say that a person pasting posters was shot. But he was shot from the side. If what they say was right he would have been shot in the heart. Look at the line of shooting. What’s wrong is when you people are always pointing the finger at the government.

No, it’s we who are at the receiving end. We have not started anything, we are the ones getting attacked.

Sometimes the problem is that even the government MPs do not send these complaints to the elections commissioner. They send complaints to NGOs. But who are these NGOs? They are connected to the UNP. This is one group that is talking of human rights, independent commissions etc.,

How about the free lunches given to public servants by you. It’s not legal; that’s not permitted?

It’s not just today that I have given people to eat .. from the day I was born, in our house, people are been given to eat.

Not anybody who comes .. you have fed public servants.

No, no, I have not fed public servants. I have not fed a single public servant. If it’s a public servant I have not endangered his job. Whether it’s a public servant, whether you are a journalist ..anybody who comes to my house, is given meals. I do not change my traditions due to politics.

You have treated customs officers for instance to lunch.

No no, I did not treat customs officials. They sent a letter saying they are coming for a discussion. I did not get them down. I told them not to send them. I do not know whether customs people came separately. I cannot remember who comes. There was a separate discussion planned with customs, not over lunch. But they did not come. They have said they want to meet the elections commissioner, I said do so but I did not ask them to come. They wanted to come from their unions.

All doors are open to people who come to my house ... here .. and in the village. They eat even in the kitchens, in our house, in the village. They even sit in our kitchens and eat, in our houses. Am I to stop it?

This is with my money. I am not like one of the Colombo 7 people who eats and then, wiping his mouth, comes out and asks, “ah machang, how are you?’’ I can remember that that sort of thing happening during my school days.

I am not that type. I am from the Giruwawa, I say. I am not a Colombo 7, Kollupitiya person, born in such places.

What is the message you give Tamil speaking people.

For those who speak Tamil ..(I say..) , now I too speak Tamil. So there is no problem at all. - courtesy: Lakbima News -

Colour Revolution Strategy and Sri Lankan Presidential Election 2010

by Nalin Swaris

"It's not the NGOs driving the government’s agenda; it's the US government driving the NGO agenda." - As Julie Mertus

Various interest groups and individuals have become united for one purpose – not so much to make Sarath Fonseka win but to oust Mahinda Rajapakse. Is the scenario being prepared in Sri Lanka for what has come to be known as “a colour revolution”.

First, let us consider the meaning of the term.

Secondly, the evens that led up to General Sarath Fonseka nominating himself as a candidate for the Executive Presidency an office that would entitle him to be Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Thirdly, let us consider the signs that a ‘colour revolution” for regime change is planned by Sarath Fonseka and leading opposition political figures. Chandrika Kumaratunga waited till the last day of the campaign to declare her support for Fonseka’s candidacy, in symbolic act signaling a return to Horagolla from Medamulana.

In the seventies the United States engineered military coups against democratically left wing governments especially in Latin America. Popular resistance against these regimes was intense and most of those countries which suffered under military regimes now have left wing governments. The US government and the World Bank began to advocate a ‘return to democracy’ from the mid eighties of the last century. Building up of ‘civil society’ became a principal condition for granting loans to Third World countries. Foreign funded NGOs with liberal agendas mushroomed in developing countries. Many of the NGOs functioning locally have their headquarters in Washington. These are referred to as QUANGOS ‘quasi non governmental organizations’ or GONGOS ‘government non governmental organization, like USAID. In Sri Lanka these Colombo based NGOs made ‘civil society’ a household word even in the vernacular Many use the tautological term ‘civil puravsiyan’ in Sinhala! The referent of ‘civil’ and ‘purvesi’ is ‘citizen’

Colour Revolution refers to the strategy of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of citizens to flock to city centres demanding restoration of democracy and resignation of the government in power. The Clinton administration deployed this strategy to bring down communist block regimes in Eastern Europe. George W. Bush added to the trilogy of democracy, good governance and human rights, the fundamental civic right to spread Christianity, meaning conversion to the right wing fundamentalist evangelist variety. There is no indication that the Obama administration and the State department headed by Bill Clinton’s wife has made a ‘credible change’ with regard to this policy of regime change by ‘democratic’ means.

According to Wikpedia: “Colour revolutions is a term used to describe related movements that developed in several societies in the CIS (former USSR) and Balkan states during the early 2000s. Some observers have called the events a revolutionary wave.

“Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance to protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative nonviolent resistance.”

“The precursor of colour revolutions was the ‘Velvet’ Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. “Colour Revolutions have been successful in Serbia's ‘Bulldozer Revolution’ of 2000 thereafter there was Georgia's ‘Rose’ Revolution (2003); Ukraine's ‘Orange’ Revolution (2004). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.”

‘Blue Revolution’ was a term used by some Kuwaitis to refer to demonstrations in Kuwait in support of women's suffrage beginning in March 2005’. Since there was no call for regime change, this cannot be categorised as a true colour revolution.

‘Purple Revolution’ was a name first used by some hopeful commentators to describe the coming of democracy to Iraq following the 2005 Iraqi legislative election and was intentionally used to draw the parallel with the Orange and Rose revolutions. The name comes from the colour with which voters’ index fingers were stained to prevent fraudulent multiple voting.”

“Green Revolution was a term widely during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The 2009 Iranian protesters adopted the colour green because it had been the campaign colour of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. It is also being referred to as the "Twitter Revolution"and the "Facebook Revolution", in reference to the websites Twitter and Facebook, which have been used to organize many of the protests”.

The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan - also sometimes called the ‘Pink Revolution’ - was more violent than its predecessors and followed the disputed Kyrgyz parliamentary election, 2005. Since the protest was led by different political groups it was more fragmented than previous ‘colour’ revolutions in East Europe. Protesters used the colours pink and yellow.

Sri Lanka’s planned revolution is also multi-coloured: ‘Swan White’, ‘Red’, ‘Green’ and with the latest entrant, ‘Chandrika Peacock Blue’.

Democratisation, NGOs and "Colour Revolutions”

In a research paper published under the above title, Sreeram Chaulia, analyses the modern face of global democratic politics. Samuel Huntington, summarising the mix of primary causes for the "third wave" of democratization, listed a new but not decisive factor that had been absent in the preceding two waves: "Changes in the policies of external actors…a major shift in US policies toward the promotion of human rights and democracy in other countries…. American international NGOs ("INGOS") were prominent mechanisms through which this causal link between superpower foreign policy interests and regime change worked out in many transitions from authoritarian rule in the twenty-one-year-long "third wave".

In Learning from Color Revolutions. Stephen Gowans writes, “Western-assisted revolutions have also been aided by the efforts of Western governments to destabilize target countries through economic warfare. The West imposed sanctions, as destabilizing efforts are accompanied by signals to the besieged population. “Topple your government and the threats and sanctions end.” These conditions (blackmail, in straightforward language) give birth to an incipient movement to overthrow the government, coalescing around the existing opposition; grants to establish “independent” media to shape public opinion and further tilt public sentiment away from the local government, the hardships imposed by the West’s economic warfare, the training of activists in techniques of popular insurrection, diplomatic maneuvers to isolate the country internationally — these things together establish the conditions for the success of an engineered insurrection. At the same time, they challenge the idea that color revolutions are pure, spontaneous, and grass-roots-organized - not contrived, nurtured and facilitated from without.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from attempted and successful color revolutions.

There are two important lessons to be learned:

o Funding, and the organization that generous funding enormously facilitates, cannot be underestimated in its power to bring about disciplined mass mobilizations guided by clear and specific goals.

o Organizers serve the interests of those who provide the funding.

From this it can be concluded that for a revolution to serve popular interests, its funding, unlike that of color revolutions (which have served Western corporate and military interests), must be popularly and locally sourced. The prejudice against unarmed, mass based and popular struggle seems more based upon the assumption that as it is not controlled by the ‘party’ then someone else surely must be pulling the strings. Fortunately, ordinary people can take political action, even non violent political action, through their very own volition.”

Personal Note

I have repeatedly called for a new type of politics after the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. We have to give up the obsession on the political Right and the Left that one must capture State power – which means capture of the means of coercion through ‘legitimate’ control of the instruments of violence. I have argued that the political rot begins in the much eulogized ‘civil society which throws up our politicians. The so called civil society NGOs are hardly paragons of democracy in their internal relations, These NGOs like left political parties are generally dominated by what Latin Americans of the Old Left proudly called caudillos – flamboyant ‘great leaders’ who determine their organizations policy priorities and agendas. For society to be civilised civil society must first be civilised. What we need are not political vanguards but people based social movements for the moral reform of society and the democratization of every day life.

For further readings on “Color Revolutions’ see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colour_revolution;

Democratisation, NGOs and "colour revolutions" [Open Democracy]

http://gowans.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/learning-from-color-revolutions/

Application of the Colour Revolution scenario to Sri Lanka will be dealt with in a following article. All the signs of a projected colour revolution are visible in the selection of General Sarath Fonseka as the strong man to oust President Rajapakse and affect regime change. A group of Tamil professionals led by Dr. Devanesan Nesiah openly called for regime change as the necessary condition for resolving the problems of the minorities (The Island 20/01/2010)

What has been threatened during the election campaign and what Fonseka and opposition leaders have warned they would do if they lose the election indicate that the attempt at a ‘colour revolution’ is not as far fetched as one might think. In fact a Fonseka defeat is a prospect they seem to greatly desire to launch their colour revolution.

Video: Lives of many of the Tamils in Sri Lanka's north remain difficult

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay has gained rare access to refugee camps in the north, to take a look at the challenges still faced by the Tamils living there. [January 25, 2010]

Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka led the campaign that finally defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers that ended a quarter-century of war.

However, since the end of the war in May, the two have become bitter political rivals in what is expected to be a tight presidential race on Tuesday.

That division is likely to split the vote of the majority Sinhalese, leaving the minority Tamils to decide the outcome of the race.

Rajapaksa and Fonseka have both courted the Tamil minority, who make up about 18 per cent of the population.

Both candidates have tried to cash in politically on their popularity among the Sinhalese majority for crushing the LTTE.

2010 Presidential Poll: Oh! What a Free and Fair election?

Montage of Election related Media Reports

By Chakravarthy

**The Colombo Magistrates court today refused to grant a search warrant requested by the Criminal Investigations Department to search UNP leader Ranil Wickremesighe’s office and the Biyagama press of Wijeya Newspapers, publishers of Daily Mirror. 25/01/2010

**Common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka yesterday called on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the Bandaranaike ancestral home in Horagolla Nittambuwa. 25/01/2010

**A bus carrying a group of journalists on their way to cover an event at Horagolla, has been detained for some time in Kadawatha police yesterday. A photo journalist who was among the media team who covered the event said they were stopped earlier by the Military Police at Kiribathgoda and were released. He said their names and addressed were recorded by he military police.

They were again stopped when the vehicle reached Kadawatha and the driver and the cleaner were taken inside the police station and questioned. Later the journalists too were called in and kept at the police station for an hour.

He said the police received calls from the respective media offices which they belonged to and they were told that the journalists have been released. Later the journalists were transferred from the bus to vans by those who were taking them on the coverage.

The bus was sent back to Colombo after having being made the necessary payments. The journalists said however managed to cover the event without any delay. 25/01/2010

**The temple of Buddhist monk who invoked blessings on Presidential candidate Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka in the Ambalangoda area was attacked early this morning, the chief monk of the temple said.

Ven Ambalangoda Siri Dhamma thera said that his temple Sugathabimbaramaya, in Poramba, Ambalangoda came under attack around 1.00 am. "I believe that as I recently invoked blessings on Gen Fonseka our temple was attacked", he said.

He said that the attackers had first demanded that they wanted to meet him, but as he did not comeout his temple was extensively damaged. He said he was threatened by the persons who had come. 25/01/2010

**A journalist attached to the Lanka e news website was reported missing since last night. Prageeth Eknaligoda was on his way home from work late last night at the time he went missing. The Editor of Lanka e news speaking to Daily Mirror online said that a police complaint has been lodged. 25/01/2010

**The CID visited the house of a top aid of Presidential Candidate General Sarath Fonseka this morning to arrest him. However he was not at the residence at the time. The CID is accusing Fonseka’s aid of having illegal weapons in his house.

General Sarath Fonseka’s Secretary Dr. Senaka Arnold Haripriya de Silva said that around 20 CID officers had visited his house early this morning. “Around 1.00 am CID officers came to my mother’s house which is in my name in the hope of arresting me,” De Silva told Daily Mirror online. The CID again visted his house a short while ago.
25/01/2010

**A SMS campaign has began using news stories that have not originated from the Daily Mirror but carrying the Daily Mirror as the source. Daily Mirror would like to distance itself from these SMS’s and requests the general public to be aware of such campaign in future. 25/01/2010

**Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayaka has ordered the cancellation of the transfer of Northern Province senior DIG Nimal Lewke. The polls chief has informed the IGP in this regard, the election monitoring body PAFFREL said. Lewke, who is in charge of operations in the North, had been recalled to the police headquarters in Colombo.

Police transfers ahead of a Presidential election is a violation of election laws. However when contacted a senior police source insisted the DIG was not being transferred and will continue to hold on to his previous post but will operate from Colombo and be given additional duties. The Election Commissioner on 7th December ordered all government departments, institutions, corporations and other entities not to hire, promote or transfer any employee until the presidential election results are released. 25/01/2010

**The Elections Commissioner has been called to intervene and stop a radio programme "Kalaguna Selakeema" (paying gratitude) which is to be aired over the state radio on Monday in favour of Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa, the CMEV chief D.M.Dissanayaka said.

Mr Themiya Hurulle, on behalf of Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka in a letter to the Commissioner said that the programme was being recorded on Sunday night and the broadcast of such programme was a violation of election laws, he said.

The Elections Commissioner issued a fresh order on Sunday calling the media not to broadcast or print any election propaganda material as campaigning has ended. 24/01/2010

**The controversial Officer in Charge of the Rattota Police Station in the Matale district has been replaced with immediate effect after allegedly interfering with the postal voting of subordinates. The officer in question is currently out on sick leave and has been replaced with another OIC, the Government Agent (GA) for Matale Mr. Gamini Senivaratne said.

The OIC is alleged to have intimidated a Civil Defence Guard (CDF) attached to the station after he refused to show the marked ballot paper to him. Earlier the OIC is alleged to have told his subordinates to vote in favour of a selected candidate at the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for January 26. 24/01/2010

**A stock of sand bottles, swords and scurrilous posters against common Presidential candidate Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka has been detected in Matara, a reporter in the area said.

He said the van with four persons was detected last night was currently at the Police and local politicians have called the police to release the van while JVP members have protested about the move. One of the politicians has removed the key of vehicle. 24/01/2010

**The Kurunegala Police yesterday seized a lorry carrying scurrilous posters against Gen Fonseka following a tip-off. The lorry also had bottles of arrack. The lorry driven by two navy personnel was stopped at Malkaduwawa, off the Kurunegala town. A group of supporters of Gen Fonseka had followed the vehicle after informing the police who stopped vehicle and took it to the Police. 24/01/2010

**At least six election propaganda offices belonging to the common candidate General (Retd.) Sarath were vandalized late last night in separate incidents in the Gampaha district, a spokesperson for the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) said today.

They said armed mobs smashed and destroyed the offices after threatening those present with bodily harm and even death. The incidents took place at Galwela Junction in Mahara, Mahabim at Biyagama, Makola, Galwala Junction, Pamuniwila and Malwana Junction, the spokesperson said. He said the party had lodged complaints with the respective police stations and the Office of the Commissioner of Elections. 24/01/2010

**Police have searched United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya’s wife’s ancestral home late last night for ‘arms and ‘other articles of a defamatory nature’ but had found nothing, Jayasuriya told Daily Mirror online.

Speaking to Daily Mirror online, Deputy Leader Jayasuriya explained that the premises situated in Ranmuthugala, Kadawatha was occupied by his wife’s brother but was being temporarily used as the office for George Perera; the area coordinator for the common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka.

Deputy Leader Jayasuriya said that he had been shocked to receive reports that a police team armed with a search warrant had entered the premises looking for weapons and other articles.

He said however that this was the not the first time that tactics of this low nature had been employed by the government, and said that he hoped an end to incidents of this nature would come soon. 23/01/2010

**Popular actress Upeksha Swarnamali of ‘Paba’ fame claims fans of the television series are being misled and made to believe she is back to continue her role. She insists she had not returned since she was removed from the series following her decision to support Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka.

Upeksha told Daily Mirror online that some old scenes played by her in ‘Paba’ and telecast several months ago, were now being integrated to the ongoing story and the script changed accordingly to give the audience an impression that she was back in the TV series. Upeksha said she thoroughly condemned such low-grade tactics and urged her fans not to be misled by such ploys. 23/01/2010

**The police have received information that around 300,000 fake ballot papers are circulating around the country and sought public support to crack down on its distribution. Senior DIG of the police elections unit Gamini Navaratna, speaking to Daily Mirror online, said that the revelation came following the detection of 21700 fake ballot papers this week.

He said that the police are now trying to identify where the nearly 300,000 fake ballot papers are being distributed. The police had this week detected two ballot boxes in Pettah filled with 21700 fake ballot papers which were being prepared to be transported to Puttalam. 23/01/2010

**The Nawala residence of businessman and opposition member Tiran Alles, who is the General Secretary of the SLFP Mahajana wing, came under a grenade attack early this morning damaging his house and vehicle, an opposition spokesman told Daily Mirror online.

Alles had reportedly managed to escape any harm as a result of the attack. The house and vehicle of Alles, caught fire after the attack. The fire brigade was called in to douse the flames.

Meanwhile speaking to Daily Mirror Tiran Alles said that the main reason behind the attack was that the government thought he was responsible for leaking the photograph of the Presidents son Namal Rajapakse together with LTTE operative Emil Kanthan. 22/01/2010

**The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has delayed recording a statement today with Danuna Tillekaratne; son-in-law to presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka, as their work load for today has kept them too busy.

Police Spokesman SSP I.M Karunaratne told Daily Mirror online that the DIG in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department while speaking to him had said that they had ‘too much work’ to do today, and had put off the meeting for this reason.

Danuna Tillekaratne had been asked to appear before the CID today to record a statement, sources close to General Sarath Fonseka told Daily Mirror yesterday. The government has claimed that it possesses documents to prove that General Fonseka's son-in-law profited from arms procurements during the war with the LTTE. 20/01/2040

**A man who was pasting posters of Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka in Wariyapola was killed early this morning when he was attacked by a group using clubs, DIG Elections Gamini Navaratna told Daily Mirror online.

A group of ten supporters of General Fonseka were pasting posters, when they came under attack by a gang on seven motorcycles. They ran away to escape the attack but one of them was killed in the incident.

The victim H.M.Dhammika Herath (33) was a businessman in the area a son of the former Principal of Amakadawara Vidyalaya. The body was to be referred to the Kurunegala teaching hospital. Police attested five suspects over the incident. This is the third pre-election related death reported. 19/01/2010

January 24, 2010

"Today we have a tremendous opportunity for change, and work towards lifting our beloved Lanka"

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga pledged her support to Gen.Sarath Fonseka after a discussion with him at her residence in Horagolla.

"Today we have a tremendous opportunity for change, and work towards lifting our beloved Lanka, from the quagmire of hatred, intolerance, inequality, lies, corruption, nepotism and bad governance", Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga says.

Mahinda gave Rs. 180 million to the LTTE through Basil, charges Tiran Alles

National organizer of the SLFP Mahajana Wing Tiran Alles says Basil Rajapaksa personally handed over, at his office, Rs. 180 million to the then LTTE financial controller Emil Kanthan to ensure that the people of the north refrained from voting at the 2005 presidential election.

Mr. Alles added that the deal took place at the request of the then presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Speaking to the media at his Koswatte home yesterday (24th) that was attacked by UPFA goons two days ago, Mr. Alles said he first came to know Emil Kanthan, then an employee of the Ministry of Rehabilitation, in 2002 when Parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena introduced him.

Following a request by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to introduce him to a person capable of doing a deal with the LTTE, Mr. Allas said he had introduced Emil Kanthan to Basil Rajapaksa.

After Emil Kanthan was told that Basil Rajapaksa wanted to meet him on behalf of Mahinda Rajapaksa, a meeting was held at Mr. Alles’ office. After several such discussions between the two, one day Basil Rajapaksa wanted to know from Emil Kanthan what sort of support the LTTE wanted from the premier to strengthen their link.

After consulting the LTTE leadership, Emil Kanthan had come back and said the outfit wanted Rs. 180 million to buy boats. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa said they only wanted the LTTE to get the people of the north to boycott the presidential polls.

The money sought by Emil Kanthan was handed over a few days later in dollars, given by a neighbouring country for the presidential campaign, and rupee notes said Mr. Alles.

He said he had revealed all these in his statement to the TID in 2007 subsequent to his arrest by them, and as a result the attorney general had withdrawn all charges against him. Speaking further, Mr. Alles said he had informed president Rajapaksa on February 14, 2007 about all these through a sworn affidavit signed by Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera who supports the president.

Mr. Alles said he was now compelled to expose Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa's deal with the LTTE as the president and Mr. Basil Rajapaksa were attempting to kill him, the first such attempt being the grenade attack on his home.

SLFP (M) leader Mangala Samaraweera too was present at the media briefing. COURTESY:LANKATRUTH

I look forward to a tomorrow that brings about change, a believable change

by A.J.M. Muzammil

The outcome of the Presidential election on the 26th of January is going to be very significant. Whatever the outcome, there will be huge implications on the people of Sri Lanka. Both main candidates will certainly have differing styles of governing.

The incumbent will most likely continue with his style of appointing family members to strategic positions of power, kissing babies, attending funerals and performing the variety of other PR stunts he is known for; which has absolutely no bearing on the commoner. In addition, the suppression will reach heights not witnessed before and any dissent will be crushed with brute force. Autocracy will be the order of the day.

The challenger is known to be a disciplinarian who transformed the SL army into a professional force, which crushed terrorism, and is as good as or better than any other army in the world. His popularity has risen as the populace believes that there needs to be a change, especially in the public sector, and given his unmatched and unquestionable integrity, he is the man for the future.

Given his track record in the army, the citizens of Sri Lanka are hoping he can be the impetus that changes this country into an efficient and harmonious nation where the rights of all will be safe guarded and racial discrimination, corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, suppressions, and the vile behaviour of ministers and their goons will be a thing of the past. The need of the hour though certainly is change.

Why MR won’t deliver

Proponents of MR argue that it has only been seven months since the war has ended and that is not enough time to make changes. This implies that they also see a need for a change; however, they believe that MR will deliver.

From them, I ask; if seven months isn’t enough, how long does MR need?

He could have had two years and seven months to make changes?

Why did he call for the elections two years in advance?

Is it because he knows that the country would be ruined further in another two years?

Is that why he opted to try and capitalize on any popularity he has left right now?

I agree that it’s hard to see results in seven months but I think that even 7 days is enough to fall in line, and start implementing measures in order to make the changes we all want; and that certainly hasn’t happened.

MR and Co. seek support by trying to sell stories about patriots and traitors. I am sure that a minority will buy it, but the tide has changed and he won’t be able to market it to the majority anymore. The biggest joke is that anyone who opposes him is labeled as a traitor and bitterness and hatred are brewed. We must never forget that bitterness and hatred are unacceptable, even under the guise of patriotism. If he can label General Fonseka, a man who almost died for the sake of the country on multiple occasions, how will you be branded? Let’s not confuse dissent with treachery.

Those of us who oppose MR’s brand of governance are doing so because we love our country and are tired of watching it being debauched. We are not bad citizens turning into crime; we are merely raising our voices as a last resort, after being led into despair over the last four years. As the saying goes, Patriotism is the last refuge of every scoundrel, and it certainly is getting old.

General Fonseka transformed the army into a professional unit which is as good as or better than any other army in the world. He has been hailed by our Sri Lankan leaders (including the President) and international leaders as the best army commander in the world. He has certainly delivered on his promises thus far. Even his opponents will not question his ability and integrity, and there are no indications why he wont deliver on the promises he has made thus far on his campaign.

The War is over now

The general consensus is that the war is over and the economy is what matters now. On that front, MR’s team is certainly not capable of fixing that. Look at the past four years and see what has happened. Read about the people around him. Listen to their interviews and you will be shocked. An accountant who had no prior experience in managing a bank is the head of the Central Bank.

A person who was found guilty by the Supreme Court for being involved in corrupt deals is the Secretary of the Treasury. He had to resign from his post but somehow has been re-appointed. How ethical is this? It is ludicrous in my opinion.

Let me give you some facts. The government has borrowed more money in the last four years than what Sri Lanka has borrowed from 1948- 2005. We have printed more money during that time than any other period before. And at the end, what do we have to show for it? Is it surprising that the cost of living and prices of essentials have soared despite a reduction of prices of commodities on the world market?

Health and Education

The health care sector of Sri Lanka is crippled and many innocent people have become victimized due to the atrocious management by the Government of Sri Lanka. Importation of low quality drugs is the norm and we have had to pay dearly as a result of the corrupt practices at the Health Ministry. It is tiresome and heart breaking to read the numerous stories about the fate of our Health Services department. It was one of the things that we as Sri Lankans were proud of in the past and recognized internationally.

I am confident about General Fonseka’s proposals relating to the health sector. We as Sri Lankans can look forward to a system which will ensure even distribution of quality healthcare and upgraded peripheral hospitals to internationally acclaimed standards once again.

The misery that has fallen upon the Education system over the last four years is despicable. Those in charge of governance are incapable of providing a proper exam question paper. This is an issue that has cropped up on numerous occasions. Can we expect any better in the future by such an inept administration.

The General is committed to enhancing the education system of the nation and preparing our coming generations for success in academics and employment.

Unemployment

Students that graduated four years ago are still unemployed. When they seek redress, what do they get? Police brutality and imprisonment. Is this what is expected of a government. Isn’t it the responsibility to at least lend an ear to those with grievances? Suppression is never an answer, although this government cleary thinks otherwise.

The General’s Mission

His mission is to "usher in a new era of change, where all Sri Lankans, regardless of race, religion, caste or creed, will have equal opportunities to better their lives in an environment of peace, freedom and security."

His propositions include; a government that is financially responsible and fiscally accountable to the people of Sri Lanka. According to the General, "The government will no longer be the problem for Sri Lankans and businesses - Your government will be the solution."

National Security is of paramount importance, and even his most ardent opponent will agree that there is no one in this country who is more capable than him to protect our country’s economic, military, and political needs.

Currently, our country faces serious issues relating to transparency, power without accountability, politicization of the entire public sector and having flawed laws and procedures in place.

Even the most ardent fan of the government will agree with this, and desire a change. The government of Mahinda Rajapakse has failed miserably on this front. In fact, it is this government that has been the biggest offender. The General promises an era with an increase in transparency, a government that is accountable to its people, and most importantly, legal redress will be sought after for those involved in corruption.

Do not lose hope

I believe that Sri Lanka is the best place anyone could ever be in and Sri Lankans, for the most part, are the nicest and friendliest people. Even during the worst times, you will be able to see a smile on their faces. To me, that is hope and I am sure that this country will change sooner rather than later. Some will say that it is just wishful thinking; to me, that hope makes me look forward to tomorrow. We can either act on history and past events or we can act to shape our future. I choose the latter and I hope you do too.

Before you use that precious vote of yours on the 26th of January, ask yourself one question; Why did the incumbent President call for this election 2 years in advance if he is so confident of fulfilling his promises and bringing about the changes you desire?

I look forward to a tomorrow devoid of racial discrimination, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, intimidation and chauvinism. I look forward to a tomorrow which will bring in a new political, social, economical, ethical and moral era. I look forward to a tomorrow that brings about change, a believable change.

January 26, 2010 : A Decisive Moment In Sri Lanka’s Destiny

by Gnana Moonesinghe

All human beings have this burden in life to constantly figure out what’s true, what’s authentic, what’s meaningful, what’s dross, what’s a hallucination, what’s a figment, what’s madness. We all need to figure out what is valuable constantly. As a writer, all I am doing is posing the question in a way that people can see very clearly." - Maxine Hong Kingston

A little more than a week remains for the presidential elections. By then no more brickbats will be left to be aimed by the candidates or at the candidates.

That in any case is a relief as we have been at the receiving end of hearing this onslaught day in day out. For over a month, the main discussion or main attacking points have been on the shifting role of leaders as traitors or patriots, government record of poor governance, the rationale for political alliances, the reemergence of the ethnic issue in its original format of right to self determination, homelands, re-merger et al and the strategies to improve the quality of life of the people. By the time the country goes to the polls, it is almost certain that the main issues for nation building would have been tackled very much as the peripheral concerns.

Today the politicians as a class are a discredited group who are known to rank low in fulfilling promises to the people. Many are seen as self seekers using their power to benefit themselves and to give a psychological boost to their egos. There is widespread disillusionment with the way in which democracy works or does not work in Sri Lanka – not only in the present context but over the years since Independence. Year by year the slide down towards less and less democracy and more and more of individualized politics has been the evolving pattern. The identification of ruling families with the state and the nation had taken place with apologists for the system ever willing to give explanations for any omissions and commissions.

The dynastic build up was visible from the beginning. D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister opting for his son, Dudley Senanayake instead of his able lieutenant of the time, SWRD Bandaranaike who saw the coming colour, Sir John Kotelawela and perhaps J.R. Jayewardene. Many can recall the tribulations of Prime Minister’s Stakes as it was referred to then. There followed the Bandaranaike’s who held sway for most of the period since 1956 except for the intervening years when J.R Jayewardene, D. B. Wijetunga and R. Premadasa were Presidents. The latter two, were the only outsiders, distinct from the ruling elite families.

There were no dearth of family members, brothers, sisters, in-laws, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces and many other near and dear members of the politicians, holding high profile positions in the state administration. The rationale had always been that it was possible to depend on their commitment and loyalty to hasten the development of the country. On the basis of this assumption the independent civil service was abolished under the 1972 Constitution. The politicization of the cadres continued unabated under every government and none had attempted to change it. At every election the charge of family bandyism and politicization of the governance institutions has been a part of the agitation for change as much as it is today.

It is said that Rajapaksa family is seen as "symbolic and symptomatic of a gradual merging of the ruling family and the State, a superimposition of the interests of the Rajapaksas on the Lankan State." It is therefore considered imperative that this threat be arrested in the ‘national interest.’ There is no denying that there is today as it was in previous times, a superabundance of ‘the family’ visibility. However, the Rajapaksa brothers holding high profile positions have delivered the ‘goods’ to an extent that similar instances of family bandyism in the past, did not result in such dividends. This statement is made more as an apology rather than a statement of praise. There obviously is corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in governance. But these accusations must be cited with proof for it to be accepted as a fact. Otherwise anyone can hurl accusations as is happening on all sides today, but none can be or should be accepted as valid until sufficient proof is placed before the country.

2010 is significantly different from previous presidential elections in that for the first time the candidate contesting the incumbent president is not drawn from a recognized political party or a coalition of parties but is a retired general entering a democratic contest. The army commander had at no time shown overt signs of interest in politics. The only comment that could be construed as a political statement is the one when he said, "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese" and that the minority communities "can live in this country with us but they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things."(Hindu Editorial of November 30 , 2009.) This may have been an unrehearsed bounce of patriotism which is passed off by some Tamils as an "occasional gaffe". At the time this comment was made the army commander had not indicated any inclination to enter politics. Certainly, as a soldier, he could not have professed any such intentions either. Serious note must be made of his comments as they are pregnant with grave concerns to the minorities and cannot be lightly passed off as a ‘gaffe’. It is therefore difficult to understand comments that Sarath Fonseka is the man who offers "at least a little hope" for the resolution of the ethnic conflict by "peaceful political means."

From the time the 13th Amendment was introduced in 1987, the provisions have been implemented except for the land and police powers. In its implementation many shortcomings and encroachments have been observed. But with all the imperfections provincial council elections have been held as it has today especially in the East and the Municipal elections in the North. The charge that the 13th Amendment has not been implemented is not valid; that parts of the Amendment are not implemented is correct and needs to be remedied. )

When Gen. Fonseka was unceremoniously relieved of his command without any prior intimation, a situation was created where his unique position was open to exploitation to revamp an opposition which had internal problems and consequently could entertain very little hopes for victory on its own steam. The JVP, the other unexpected entry into a coalition with the UNP, until then ideological adversaries of the UNP, the Muslim Congress, the Mahajana Wing of the SLFP, and a few other individuals with contestable vote base have joined the fray, recognizing the possibility of a CONTEST in this equation with the general as the candidate. But what is bewildering is that a conventional democratic opposition as represented by the UNP could conceive of politicizing the military. The outcome cannot be predicated until the very end.

Sarath Fonseka is an unknown in the Lankan political calculations. His claim to victory over the terrorists has to be shared with others - the President and the Defense establishment, the Air Force, the Navy and others not often referred to, like the Indian and American Navy that prevented arms from reaching the LTTE from the seas. Here lies the contention: who is or who are responsible for the victory? One does not know if this is a question the country should be asking at a momentous time as this, when the nation stands high having vanquished the world’s most lethal terrorist outfit. It is sad that the inheritors to this great achievement instead of celebrating this stupendous success, have put themselves in this unenviable position of trading abuse, charges of human rights violations, corruption in procurements and worse giving fodder for international intervention to investigate this country about rights abuses. This country has done what many other powerful nations who are victims of terrorist attacks have not been able to despite their financial advantage, their superior military intelligence, combat training and arsenals at their command. We should be holding hands and rejoicing and not clenching our fists to fight destroying what we have secured after 30 years of war.

The Sri Lankan constitution is not viewed as a sacrosanct document to be observed to the letter and the spirit. Although we have a constitution it is practiced without "a commitment to the principle and restraints in that hallowed charter". In fact our constitutions at various times have been ‘defiled’ throughout our 60 years post-Independence history. At this election we witness another violation and yet another precedent being set up - that of a combat between the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and his immediate past Commander of the Army. This is an unhealthy precedent that opens the door to ambitious army officials to remove the elected governments (however flawed they may be), and establish military rule. The traumas of the countries in the South Asian region provide sufficient examples for the chaos created by military men who have overthrown the civil administration and set up military regimes. Sri Lanka and India have been two countries in the region to be fortunate in having nursed democratic governments regardless of obvious imperfections in their performance.

This election is witness to yet another hallowed institution that is toppled from its pedestal. Many are the instances of interference with the judiciary, yet the system functioned with acceptable credibility after independence. This is the first time a retired Chief Justice is an active participant of the political campaign. According to the Sunday Leader of 17 Jan, 2010, Sarath N. Silva, ``one of the most contradictory and confusing personalities" came actively onto the presidential campaign during Mangala Samaraweera’s website "Dare to Dream" was launched. It is true that the former Chief Justice had skirted on the periphery of political activism since Chandrika Bandaranaike’s tenure and until the last lap of the present incumbent in 2009. His partial political visage went unchallenged and now remains exposed as a fellow traveler of the opposition who continues to comment on good governance. The military and the judiciary have become a part of the ‘witches’ brew’ in politics!

Mahinda Rajapaksa is a known political entity. His performance as president includes both the good and the questionable aspects. As is wont to be in Sri Lanka, the negative aspects have had greater exposure – lack of transparency and accountability, high levels of corruption, family bandyism and cronyism, intolerance of dissent, unlawful acts that seriously undermined the freedom of the media and restricted the space for right to information, breakdown in law and order and an ineffective law enforcement authority that permitted the unrestricted violation of the law by ‘unseen hands’ ; the recourse to justice consistently beyond the reach of the victims as investigations have been tardy and all too predictably failed in bringing the culprits to justice; the distortion of the delivery system of justice through the continued application of the Emergency Laws and Prevention of Terrorism Act and the failure to put into operation the constitutional provisions of the 17th Amendment to the constitution.

Over and above all these the most lethal clause that helps to create an all powerful president is the immunity he/she has from prosecution for any act during his/her tenure in office. The interplay of all these factors has produced an ethos of insecurity jelling a demand for the removal of the presidential system that permits intrusions into societal freedoms and the working of a democratic society.

The worst offence seen by the concerned public has been the indifference of the Head of State who never felt the compulsion to appease an agitated and frightened public with some words of condemnation for the restrictions placed on dissent and the lack of personal security. Yet on the positive side there remains much to commend in the administration. Many of the development programs that make a gigantic contribution to the build up in the infrastructure in this country have been overlooked. Infrastructure development is the foundation on which investments will flow into the country. In fact this is tossed out as a non-event on the basis that commissions have been paid out to various people. Regardless of this the constructive work that is being implemented cannot be ignored. It is more than likely that the charge is true but to date remain unproved.

This is the way propaganda works "which pleads, sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause or issue at the expense of the total truth." Cleanth Brooks suggests that we use "moral imagination" which will "arm us to resist the little lies and fantasies of merchandising, the big lies of power, and the ghoulish products of nightmarish minds they open us to the lived experience of others."

The president’s major contribution to nation building is the peace dividend successfully secured despite the many stumbling blocks on the way, particularly so, in the face of incessant calls from international power centers to stop the war and initiate renegotiation with the Tigers. These calls were made in the face of repeated failures at negotiations with the LTTE in the past. The president along with his co –contributors persisted and delivered peace to the people. In almost all cases when success is gained, the Head of State is positioned as the symbol of that achievement while everyone else falls in line as a team responsible for the total effort. Yet in this case a situation has arisen where the need to apportion credit for an indivisible function of state duties is called upon. Sadly, we are now unable to rejoice but are again forming political alliances for verbal combat. As quoted above the apologists for both the candidates are as usual bereft of objectivity. On poor governance it is admitted that all of these omissions and commissions existed previously, under the UNP governments too but that the "Rajapaksa regime has surpassed them". How much worse is it now or how much better was it before becomes one of assessing the degree of variance!

Periods of terror have been many in the past starting from communal riots of 1958 to post election violence from the 70’s , the political masochism of J. R. Jayewardene in pushing the referendum on the country to cling on to his massive 1977 majority without an election , the organized violent trade union confrontations of the 80’s, the ethnic pogrom of 1983 and JVP uprising in 1987 to 1989. The trend continues with the present regime’s sad record of kidnappings, disappearances, death and the white van syndrome. It is time to demand that personal security is non negotiable and the relevant authorities be held responsible.

A major election plank today as it has been in the previous elections (after the 1978 constitution) is the abolition of the Executive Presidency. There is a general presumption that if this institution is removed, the organs of governance will function smoothly and the country will be on its way to making great strides in the future. This may well be, but is it the whole story? Also what is the assurance that the constitution that is substituted is going to be foolproof and that the checks and balances will be in place? The alternative propositions have not been spelt out to the public as yet. Confusing sound bites reach the public. Is it plausible to think that Sarath Fonseka will go through this gruelling contest merely to win the elections and then hand it over to the UNP; or to Sarath N. Silva, who has also emerged as a contender to the post of prime minister.

Quite frequently Sarath Fonseka refers to the task ahead of him to remove corruption and instal good governance systems, and bring about discipline and efficiency as he did in the army; so with strategies to improve the quality of life for the people especially the pubic officials (increasing their salary by Rs.10.000, the increments to Samurdhi awards etc) the reduction in tax levies to benefit the private sector, to free them from the political grip and regaining the GSP+ facility as well. Priority is to be accorded to the resolution of the ethnic problem. It does not appear that he is talking of a short term project for himself. All what he has outlined will take the concentrated attention of a full term presidency or longer.

While resettlement and development work is proceeding, the government has refrained from making reference to the political resolution of the conflict. It may be surmised that the Rajapaksa government hopes to wrap up the presidential and parliamentary elections, secure themselves and then tackle the political concerns of the Tamils. Without a common goal or commonly agreed upon strategies for the post war period, the Tamil community is confronted with manifold complications. The TNA and a section of the diaspora seem to have become the visible torchbearers of Prabhakaran’s vision where the talk of Tamil nationalism, self determination, Tamil rights as distinct from national rights and national entitlements are being rekindled and renegotiated as if the 30 year war has had no impact on the minorities. Logic similar to what prompted the LTTE to withdraw support from Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2005 and make the Tamil community boycott the election seem to operate once again in extending support to the common candidate Sarath Fonseka with the sole purpose of defeating the president. The government forces fought the war against the LTTE and not the Tamil community. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the savy politician, knew that speaking in Tamil to the people of the North and the East was a sure passage to winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils. The president has achieved an appreciable level of proficiency. This is a major encouragement in bringing all communities together within a non abrasive union to build the nation.

It is not clear on what basis charges of racism is levied at the president when many of the Tamil parties have extended their support to him. EPDP, PLOT, EPRLF, CWC, The Upcountry People’s Front, the TMVP of the Chief Minister, Pillayan have made common cause with him. It is the TNA with the Tamil Congress and a few other groups who have extended their support to the common candidate. The TNA has the legitimacy to support whoever they wish even if it is mind boggling to know that they could support a candidate who has openly spoken in racist overtones prior to his entry into politics. This is a democratic country and there need be no necessity to hurl abuse at the TNA for making their choice. The division among the Tamils appears to be clear. It is between those parties who have been working with the Tamils in the North and the East throughout the period of LTTE terror and those who were sympathetic to Prabhakaran. It should be left to the discretion of the Tamil community to make up their minds as to what is best for them and hope they make the choice that will give them permanent benefits.

No opportunity should be given for narrow parochialism to raise its head and heap more burdens on the Tamils. They are solely in need of space to stretch their minds as well as their limbs and it is imperative that the Tamil politicians give leadership to achieve their goals. In an interactive global world, there is no time to think within small enclaves of ethnicity for differentiation or group pride. The world is moving closer and narrow divisions of race, religion or even nations seem to matter less and less. What is necessary is to concentrate on economic development that will empower individuals through better education, better quality of life and greater individual and group security.

The urgent need of the time is to move away from the polarization and bitterness of party politics and renew the ethical values that will transform people’s attitudes and behaviour. Changing constitutions or systems of government will make no difference for it is the individual and individuals at the helm who dictate the manner in which governments conduct its business.

The vital need is to engineer change in values towards tolerance, remove suspicion and create trust among the people and rulers. Elected men and women must see themselves as temporary repositories of the people’s sovereignty and take this task seriously to conduct governance in a fair and just manner subject to the responses of the public. Alienation between the politician and the people are widening and the people no longer place too much faith on the politicians.

Nationalism and liberalism have coexisted and are not always mutually exclusive

Setting them as oppositions (as contradictory desires that drive the support for the two different candidates) is not entirely convincing

Response to “Liberalism Poses Severe Challenge to Sinhala Nationalism at 2010 Presidential Election” by Kathika study circle

By Buddika Bandara and Prabha Manuratne

It is indeed refreshing to see a political mediation that transcends the immediate political wish to support the “victorious camp,” and insist on discussing the crucial political implications of what SF and MR represent as presidential candidates.

The article titled “Liberalism Poses Severe Challenge to Sinhala Nationalism at 2010 Presidential Election” by Kathika marks the dichotomous relationship between nationalism and liberalism and show that the two presidential candidates represent these “two different ways of organizing our collective life.” Our response comes in the recognition that this dialogue merits serious investigation, and that its crucial implications extend far beyond the immediate question of who wins the elections.

As the author(s) of the article rightly point out, it concerns the choices we make, as “it is we who determine our existence. We can organise the world in which we live in a different manner” (Kathika). We take such hope as a positive sign of a new social space for democratic dialogue and engage with it in this spirit. Moreover, the response from Kathika to our blogpost titled “Politics Elsewhere . .. .” has helped us to reconsider our political position seriously, and helped us to clarify where we stand. We believe such democratic engagement should be the norm rather than the exception.

We take three major ideas from the essay:

That liberalism and nationalism represent two political desires of the Sri Lankan people and that the two main candidates, MR and SF represent these two political trends. They argue that nationalism centers on the organization of collective life that has been undermined by consumerism and the economic liberalization policies of 1977. Liberalism, on the other hand, centers upon individual freedom.

That elections are important and that we must take the people’s engagement with them seriously.

That a democratic politics based on citizen dialogue which excludes, neither individual freedom(s) associated with liberalism, nor the desire for community associated with nationalism. Such democratic participation should replace the desire for a top-down power model to establish law and discipline represented by an autocratic leader.

We will begin with the third proposition. Citizen participation is a salient feature of any democratic endeavor. Such engagement, where it does exist, ensures that all people participate in the decision-making process, and would, ideally allow all citizens a voice. The election of representative leaders is only one aspect of many other possible avenues within which such democratic engagement can take place. That the people are still interested in elections is indeed a healthy sign, embodying their need to feel that they do have a say in the election process. It is equally encouraging that at least a few civil organizations such as trade unions have come forth, not simply to bargain with the people on behalf of candidates, but to bargain with political candidates who will potentially be the leaders of the country and demand social welfare and social accountability from them. While it is disheartening that several veteran political activists have gone back to defending two allegedly fairly equally corrupt candidates, that does not mean that the election should not become a venue to discuss the political choices we make as a people. Thus, we agree that democratic participation at the level of citizen is indispensable for the more equitable society that we envision.

The opposition drawn between nationalism and liberalism, as represented by the two candidates according to Kathika, is less clear. While it is a reasonable assumption that nationalist ideas represent a desire for community and the emphasis on the liberal (historically associated with the U.N.P.) signals interest in personal freedom and personal wealth, it is unclear whether these two candidates represent these independent of the 2007-2009 ethnic war. Both manipulate their image as war heroes. Mahinda Rajapakse seems to sport the idea of national gratitude. Both candidates have extreme liberalist and extreme nationalist politicians and political parties around them.

A far less nationalist and far more liberalist leader than Sarath Fonseka, Ranil Wickramasinghe must have, we suspect, had a reason to step down from candidacy. Whether any Sinhalese leader who was not a part of the recent military victory against the L.T.T.E would have posed any serious challenge to the “natonalism” of Mahnda Rajapakse is doubtful. We argue that nationalism and liberalism have coexisted and are not always mutually exclusive. Setting them as oppositions (as contradictory desires that drive the support for the two different candidates) is not entirely convincing. Although successive governments have espoused the rhetoric of both, more often than not, their thrust has been to articulate the two in non-exclusive ways.

The policy-level differences between the different governments of post-independence Sri Lanka must not blind us to the truth that even in its most “liberal” moments (for example, JRJ) the state is still an extremely powerful force centered upon what only seems like individual freedom. A careful examination of the history of the 1980s in Sri Lanka belies the idea that the liberalist government represented freedom of all individuals. Political freedom was brutally curtailed (from the militarization of the north-east to the 1980 strike break, the 1983 pogrom of the Tamil people etc. the list may go on), while the cutbacks on social welfare and privatization of national corporations and national assets led to the massive proletarianizaton of rural populations. The spectacular freedom associated with the 1980s spring, instead, from the liberal media culture that sprang with the introduction of television, video, cassettes etc., and of course, the economic liberalization policies. These policies were not as deregulatory as they were thought to be. Instead, what they did do was change (but not dispense with) the earlier system of state-patronization that existed in both public and private industry, commerce, and the job market. Moreover, these policies did not originate with J.R. Jayawardene, who is the easy effigy that must take the fire for the larger global structural adjustment taking place at the time. The state acted definitively, not in the interest of individual freedom (or even the benefits of the commercial/industrial classes at the time), but in the interests of the IMF and World-Bank sponsored global Structural Adjustments that led to economic globalization. This is not to suggest (with the JVP) that this is a global conspiracy against the Sri Lankan people. Instead, our argument is that the 1977 economic liberalization policies need to be situated within the larger global context to understand how it has led to the greater proletarianization of people across the globe. Moreover, by gradually commodifying many social spaces, many areas in the public and private spheres that sustained democratic social organization, both individual and collective freedom was gradually compromised.

We may return to the idea that citizenship action plays a key role in democratic engagement. What becomes apparent since the 1980s is the gradual erosion of the space for such democratic practices. The public spaces that were once the platform for democratic participation were either suppressed or politicized. A case in point is the suppression of the uprising of the Tamil people in the north, which was crushed with unparalleled brutality. Had the state provided early avenues to the democratic participation of the Tamil people, the tragic decimation of a large Tamil population (who are, and must be recognized in unequivocal terms as citizens of our country) would not have occurred. Instead, both JRJ, and subsequent presidents of all hues and colors repeatedly engaged in a constant attack upon the rights of democratic Tamil political participation. The emergence of the L.T.T.E. as the most vocal Tamil liberatory group did not happen until nearly after a decade of the origin of the war. Although this is not the place to rehearse this history, our point is that citizenship was denied to a vast majority of people; the racially marginalized, the poor, particularly working women who were forced into near-slavery in Free Trade Zones and n the Middle-East. The state played a significant role in all of this. Thus, the “individual freedom” associated with apparently liberalist economic policies have, at best failed to deliver what they promised, and at best, worked consistently to disrupt the democratic participation of all citizens of our country. To equate liberalism with a centering on individual freedom does not bear out in reality. While agreeing with Kathika that we must indeed engage with and promote the participation of citizens in matters of government, we also argue that citizenship must be conceived as a way of holding the state accountable.

We may now return to the idea that nationalism represents a desire for collective life. When we argued in an earlier post that the emergence of nationalism in Sri Lanka in 2004 signaled social anxieties about the material breakdown of social structures stemming from the economic neoliberalism of the 1980s, we were not using the term “anxiety” as a value laden i.e. negative or positive, term. Instead, anxieties can lead to both positive and negative social action. In the case of the emergence of nationalist ideas around 2004, propelled largely by the urban popular Buddhism (signified by the victory of the Jathka Hela Urumaya at the parliamentary election of 2004), we identified such anxieties as a potential force that may induce a desire for an authoritarian leader. What we recognized was directly relevant to the relation that Kathika builds between collective life and nationalism. Not to belabor the point, we will rephrase it more clearly than we perhaps did before: the economic liberalization policies of 1977 specifically, but modernization of society in general has led to the restructuring of various social and economic institutions that afforded relative stability and collective engagement to people. Below are a few examples:

-The culture of consumerism, the commodification of social and cultural spaces.

-The massive migration of women to urban centers and to the Middle East as new proletariat workers led to the restructuring of rural families. The resultant changes in gender roles are yet to be fully assessed. The increasing participation of women in the industrial workforce and the service sector, the gradual decline of communal agricultural work which once functioned in set gendered terms, were all a part of the larger assault on the earlier organization of the family structure. In addition, the military recruited large numbers of young men, and this had significant cultural implications particularly in rural areas.

-The privatization of essential social services such as health and education has led to widespread irresponsibility and lack of accountability on the part of their practitioners (the establishment of private hospitals that are not subjected to public scrutiny, widespread tuition and international universities etc. We are not opposed to these institutions. Instead, our point is that they destabilized existing social norms about health and education because they were commodified with no public responsibility).

-The dissipation of the strong trade-union movement. Along with this, one sees the monumental emergence of non-wage labor in the informal sector, the state-sanctioned politicization of major trade unions, the prohibition of trade union activities in the Free Trade Zones where the most brutal exploitation occurs. The structures that once existed to seek redress for the grievances of working people were suppressed outright, or replaced by non-functional institutions.

-The civil war and the 1987-89 JVP uprising left most democratic social engagement crippled. The state, the JVP, the LTTE, and several of the smaller political groups that were caught in the conflict contributed to breed violence and hatred, and terrorist attacks and fear became more effective political weapons than democratic social engagement. Several potential democratic minded leaders were either outright murdered, expelled, or exiled (particularly at the grassroots level). The cost of such terrible political brutality is yet to be assessed in any definitive way. No doubt, many of you remember the way we held our breath when the first burning corpses appeared in street corners, and how during the 2007-2009 Eelam war, the unidentified bodies discovered in mass graves were easily forgotten. Such changes in collective psychic life—where the death of thousands of civilians ejects the cynical statement “they asked for it”—signal a deep crisis in collective values that make us human beings above everything else. No national leader, no candidate has yet come forward to admit their complicity in the brutal repression directed against racial minorities, political dissenters, and unarmed civilians of all ethno-religious groups in our country. The consequences are indeed a general restructuring of the “structure of feeling” that is deeply psychological but also intensely political.

-These are a few among many other social and institutional crises that we had in mind when we argued that social anxieties may lead to the desire for the re-establishment of stability through a “strong” militaristic leader. Our own personal experience in a political cult-like organization alerted us to the way people identify with leaders that purport “law and order.” For us, the idea of transposing collectivity onto a leader or leaders of groups/parties who will perform our rights on our behalf spells political disaster. What we saw with the emergence of ethno-religious chauvinism in 2004 that mobilized the Sinhalese against our Tamil brothers and sisters was not any true sense of collectivity, inasmuch as the JVP or the LTTE never represented participatory democratic politics that should be the hallmark of true people’s movements. At best, it was a way to imagine “the Sinhalese” nation by opposing it to religious and racial Others (Tamils, Christians, Muslims etc.). It did not entail any political engagement to make social spaces more democratic. It systematically closed off democratic dialogue, and continued a repressive path towards anyone who opposed it.

-However, to argue that the reemergence of Sinhala nationalism in 2004 did not necessarily entail collective social life, is not to disagree with Kathika, that it had the potential to do so. Kathika does not, we assume, see MR as a representative of collective social life although he may represent the desire for community in the popular imagination. We are thus only clarifying our point, when we say that people identify with chauvinistic leaders when they feel social stability slipping from beneath their feet, and that such identification is symptomatic of far deeper, socio-cultural and economic phenomena that structure our social/cultural experience.

-We agree with Kathika that people’s interest in elections alone is a sign that there is space for the creation of new democratic spaces. What we would like to add is that we believe in long-term and sustained attempts to regenerate social institutions and structures that facilitate the propagation of democratic ideals and restabilize society. If, as Kathika points out, the support for MR comes from desire for collective social existence (and not chauvinist gratitude for “ending the war”) we may still be hopeful.

-We also argue that individual freedom is not the opposite of collective social existence, but the fundamental principle of democratic social life. The individual is not the opposite of society, but its necessary precondition. We believe that the move by Kathika to identify and work in potentially democratic spaces reflects the kind of engagement that can trigger democratic change. Democracy requires changes at the most fundamental levels of society that begin, not as a rhetorical device of presidential candidates, but as direct collective practice on the part of individual citizens.

-To this end, we argue that we must negotiate with all candidates to bring back, not the militaristic establishment of “law and order” but the strengthening of democracy; we ask that they return to more humane values that respect human life and dignity of all races and religions; that they help level the economic playing field by protecting jobs, businesses, and labor rights (and not write the whole country away to multinational corporations as Free Trade Zones that exploit the labor of our men and women in harrowing ways); and finally, that they reestablish high quality public health and education for all people in the country. However, these changes will never merely come from the top. They begin with each individual, each equitable practice and organization, and the active participation of people from below.

Sri Lanka President’s New Challenge: Fending Off Insurgent Voters

General Puts Up a Fight in Sri Lanka’s Election 

by Lydia Polgreen

When President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced late last year that he would move the presidential election up by two years and seek a fresh mandate from Sri Lanka’s war-weary electorate, he seemed like a shoo-in. 

A rally for the retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka last week in the southern coastal town of Kalutara.-pic: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Having vanquished the fearsome Tamil Tiger insurgency in May with a no-holds-barred assault on its last stronghold, Mr. Rajapaksa enjoyed widespread adulation. The opposition parties were fractured and in disarray. No one, it seemed, could match the president’s popularity, despite deep unease about what seemed to be the increasing concentration of power in the hands of his family and rising corruption.

But to near-universal surprise, an alphabet soup of political parties has rallied around the retired general who led Sri Lanka’s army to victory against the Tamil Tigers, Sarath Fonseka.

On Tuesday, voters here will go to the polls in what has been one of the most bitterly contested elections in Sri Lankan history. The winner will preside over the reconstruction and reconciliation of a country torn apart by more than a quarter-century of ethnic conflict.

Mr. Rajapaksa has argued that he delivered on his election promise, made in 2005, to end the war, and that he can be relied upon to mend the country. But his popularity has waned in the months since the end of the war as Sri Lankans have grown impatient for prosperity. Mr. Rajapaksa has also given powerful positions in the government to relatives, rankling many Sri Lankans.

“Sri Lanka has always been a democracy,” said Waskadwa Dhammarana, a Buddhist monk who supported the president in 2005 but is now planning to vote for General Fonseka. “I am against corruption, nepotism and the antidemocratic attitude prevalent in the Rajapaksa regime.”

General Fonseka has pledged to reduce the powers of the presidency and give more authority to Parliament, a cherished goal of many parties in the fractious coalition backing him. But he is untested as a political leader, and many question his ability to lead beyond the regimented sphere of the military.

Indeed, the alliance behind General Fonseka’s candidacy is a grudging coalition that includes more than one set of archenemies. It includes hard-line Marxists and laissez-faire capitalists, hard-core nationalists who argue that minorities should submit to majority rule as well as the main Tamil and Muslim parties.

“The opposition parties have come together with the single purpose of effecting regime change,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a research and advocacy institute here. “Fonseka is the instrument of that change.”

The campaign has unfolded in a tense but hopeful nation that seeks to put its violent past to rest. The Tamil Tigers took up arms to defend the Tamil minority from government discrimination, but eventually became a ruthless insurgency best known for its use of child soldiers and suicide bombers.

Violence has punctuated the campaign. Election monitors have counted more than 100 episodes of violence involving firearms. At least five people have been killed.

General Fonseka has struggled to find his footing as a politician. In speeches his clipped delivery is that of a man accustomed to giving orders, not asking for votes.

“The country in the future will be free of corruption,” he commanded from the stage at a rally in the southern coastal town of Kalutara. “Democracy will be restored. Your children will have a bright future.”

For many of the general’s supporters, the concern is more a matter of ousting Mr. Rajapaksa.

“He has constructed a power center that is controlled only by his family,” said Japudaya Nagoda Kanutara, a 47-year-old supermarket clerk who voted for Mr. Rajapaksa in 2005. “At that time we only wanted to end the war, but after that sacrifice we feel we are getting nothing. Sri Lanka needs a change.”

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, center, prayed with Buddhist monks in the capital, Colombo, on Sunday. He moved up the election by two years for a new mandate-pic: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Mr. Rajapaksa, a flesh-pressing politician whose flashy rallies draw huge crowds, has found himself on the defensive, and his campaign has pulled out all the stops. His grinning face beams down from billboards and posters all across the country. The government has even added his portrait to a new 1,000-rupee note.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group, said in a report that the two main state-owned television channels devoted 98.5 percent of their news coverage to Mr. Rajapaksa.

“He ended the war,” said A. D. R. Premarathna, who owns a small printing shop. “Now we can live without fear.”

One issued that has hardly figured in the election campaign is the question of human rights violations that may have been committed by the military in the fight against the Tigers. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped on a small stretch of beach where they were held hostage as human shields by the ragged remains of the insurgency’s leadership.

No matter who wins, the competitiveness of the election has already had a profound effect on Sri Lanka, said Rukshana Nanayakkara, deputy executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, an anticorruption advocacy organization. The emergence of a credible opposition candidate pushed the government to speed the release of displaced Tamils held in camps, and ease restrictions on journalists, he said. [courtesy: NY Times]

The voter in the North-East, election politics and promises

Those in the North East who cast a vote on January 26th, are likely to do so based on the reality of living in the 'temporary' physical space of a refugee camp -- rather than the possibility of a 'permanent' political space for all disenfranchised minorities. While the latter remains an admirable, if optimistic, goal -- it can only be achieved through a vigorous political debate rooted in the underlying historical issues of land, dignity, and language. Rather than one driven by the geopolitics, ego, and rhetoric of the moment.

The Space Between Politics and Reality: A Minority View of the Sri Lankan Elections

by Nimmi Gowrinathan

On May 19, 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka announced that it had defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending one of the longest civil wars in South Asia.

The legitimacy of this victory for President Mahinda Rajapaksa could only be measured in the ability of the ethnic Sinhalese majority to address the political grievances of the ethnic Tamil minority (300,000 of whom were isolated in internment camps).

The legitimacy of this victory for President Mahinda Rajapaksa could only be measured in the ability of the ethnic Sinhalese majority to address the political grievances of the ethnic Tamil minority (300,000 of whom were isolated in internment camps). In late November, when then-Army Commander General Fonseka announced his bid for President, credit for the victory (and responsibility for its aftermath), was suddenly divided. It is within the slim cracks of this divide that a new political space has emerged, offering some hope for the articulation of minority interests at the national level.

While analysts place a significant amount of electoral power in the hands of a minority community (roughly 17%) recently rendered powerless by a brutal military campaign co-directed by both Presidential hopefuls -- most anticipate historically low voter turnout rates across conflict-affected districts in the North East of the island. A common, if condescending, view claims that after years of living under various forms of political oppression the Tamils cannot think for themselves. Others cite the paralysis of a collective memory: the traumatizing large-scale loss of lives and livelihoods in the final months of the conflict.

As agendas and priorities for the national election are debated and determined amongst superpowers, politicians, and donors -- how do we gauge the political will of the Tamil people? Residents in the Northern town of Jaffna, enjoying a curfew-free existence for the first time in fourteen years, are surprised to find imported versions of locally-produced basics (rice and daal) for sale in the markets. A Tamil woman living in a displaced camp washes dishes in a nearby home, earning the meager amount necessary for travel to visit her detained husband. A recently released Muslim family arrived home with their 5000 rupee (USD $50) stipend to find that their ancestral land had again been appropriated.

While Tamil politicians work to represent the concerns of this population in Parliament, an ear closer to the ground might hear Tamil voices demanding much simpler, more immediate, concessions. These voices remain unheard as alongside battered homes and hospitals, the war also saw the near complete destruction of a once-vibrant Tamil civil society. Rather than push for the revitalization of Tamil political activism through community based organizations, most find it easier to develop misguided top-down solutions that threaten longer term damage in their implementation from the outside-in.

Amidst the murky complexities of this national election, one thing is clear. Those in the North East who cast a vote on January 26th, are likely to do so based on the reality of living in the 'temporary' physical space of a refugee camp -- rather than the possibility of a 'permanent' political space for all disenfranchised minorities. While the latter remains an admirable, if optimistic, goal -- it can only be achieved through a vigorous political debate rooted in the underlying historical issues of land, dignity, and language. Rather than one driven by the geopolitics, ego, and rhetoric of the moment.

Pushing for a hard line Buddhist nationalist agenda, the ruling party (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) led Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa has enjoyed a near deity-like status. As one Tamil scholar put it, in Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka one could "be Tamil, so long as you understood your place". While General Sarath Fonseka had for years served as the faithful military arm executing this policy, his bid for candidacy has spurred unexpected alliances (an opposition coalition including the more moderate United National Party and the Marxist People's Liberation Front, or JVP) and even more unexpected promises (general amnesty for those detained and the devolution of power to Tamil provinces).

Despite politicians' desperate efforts to narrow the gap between the elitist majoritarian politics of Colombo and concerns in the rural areas of the majority Tamil North Eastern provinces (most have recently taken the 8-10 hour road-trip multiple times) -- there remains a general disinterest amongst minority communities. Election monitors note that even amongst those interested, citizens displaced prior to 2008 have been unable to register. Despite a justifiable mistrust in domestic political actors, those that do vote may not be aware of the extent to which their decision will also determine the role that international actors will play in shaping their future.

Though Sri Lanka has been heavily dependent on foreign aid in various forms since its independence, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami increased both the size and influence of both donors and implementing organizations -- permanently shifting the political landscape of the island. Some local groups decry the neo-colonial nature of intervention by INGOs and donor countries, while others feel this excuse conveniently allows for violations of humanitarian and human rights norms to occur without repercussions. In recent weeks, the pre-election vote grab has opened avenues of access and information that reveal elements of both to be true.

While domestic political enemies strategically chose to ally under the umbrella agenda of regime change- linkages between outside actors, as framed by contentious campaign politics, may find some surprised at their supposed bedfellows. Those opposed to the ruling party are pro-U.S./pro-India/pro-INGO/pro-Tamil. While not as explicitly stated as such -- those who support the ruling party are the logical opposite to each (with pro-China challenging the pro-India position).

In reality, each remains protective of their own interests. The United States, wary of China and India's increasing influence, has provided humanitarian support, (gently) pushed for an independent inquiry into war crimes, and explored post-conflict investment opportunities for U.S. companies. India responded rhetorically to the concerns of its domestic Tamil constituency, but in the end backed the policies of the current administration. Neither the Tamil community nor the ruling party trust India's intentions as Indian companies partner with local companies across the North East. China (perhaps the only major donor to act with no humanitarian pretense) is heavily invested in state development projects across the island. The United Nations and large INGOs hope that regime change, or the space for discourse in the electoral process, will push the Government of Sri Lanka to adhere to basic humanitarian and human rights norms in the rebuilding process --a condition that they have thus far been hesitant to attach to donor funds. Regardless of the election results, The International Crisis Group urges international actors to "strengthen voices for reform by collectively pressing for democratization and demilitarization throughout Sri Lanka". (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6462&l=1&m=1)

The lasting impact of election politics and promises can only be fully understood after the completion of this election cycle (late spring). The best-case scenario would see a larger and more permanent political space that welcomes cross-ethnic progressive agendas, the inclusion of women as at every level, and a civil society free from the bonds of self-censorship. While the prospect is appealing, the disillusioned voter in the North East is more likely to expect that the historic patterns of Sri Lanka's top-heavy Presidential system will persist - and when the polls close, the barbed wire around this nascent political space will be resurrected...once again excluding the voices of the minority.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post

Nimmi Gowrinathan is the Director of South Asia Programs at Operation USA and a Phd Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UCLA, writing her dissertation,"Why Women Rebel? State Repression and Female Participation in Sri Lanka."

Irish PPT wants international investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations

Final Report by the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka

Press Release, 24 Jan. 10

The following is preview of the report completed by the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal following their investigation into alleged human rights abuses and war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The findings fall into four broad categories:

1. The Sri Lankan Government and Security Forces and aligned paramilitary groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity;

2. That the international community, particularly the UK and USA, share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process.The European Union has been complicit in the obstruction and dismantling of the peace process and stigmatizing Tamil groups in banning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam;

3. Numerous countries have facilitated the Sri Lankan Government in perpetration of the above-mentioned crimes by bolstering its military capabilities;

4. The International Community has neglected its duty to promote peace in the region.

The Tribunal goes on to make the following recommendations to the Sri Lankan Government:

1. The establishment of an authoritative Truth and Justice commission;

2. The immediate repeal of Prevention of Terrorism Act, 1979;

3. Ensure the protection and welfare of the 12,000 political prisoners currently being held in Sri Lanka;

4. Disband all paramilitary forces and reduce military presence in Tamil areas;

5. Implement a political power sharing solution with the full participation of the Tamil people.

Further, the Tribunal makes two core recommendations to the International Community, including the Sri Lankan Government:

1. Appoint a UN special rapporteur for Sri Lanka to investigate and identify responsibilities for human rights violations, violations of humanitarian law and war crimes committed by all parties in conflict;

2. Support the establishment of an independent group of eminent persons to investigate the responsibilities of the international community in the disruption of the ceasefire agreement and subsequent war crimes and crimes against humanity and provision of the Sri Lankan Government with weapons during the ceasefire.

The Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka welcomes the findings of the Tribunal. However, the abuses continue and this is only the first step in the process. It is hoped that international community and the media will continue to pay attention and fulfil their obligations to those who are suffering due to needless violence in Sri Lanka.

To that end, we request that all recipients of this email read the report attached and assist in the dissemination to the information contained therein.

The Tribunal concludes its report as follows:

"Therefore, the PPT declares that any harm that might happen to those that testified or to their families should be considered as the exclusive responsibility of those authorities and actors addressed within our judgement. We commit ourselves to maintain a sharp attention to the safety of the witnesses who have courageously contributed to the fact-finding task of the tribunal. If anything would happen to any of them, we will hold the government of Sri Lanka responsible for that."

Mr Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General to the United Nations and member of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, has offered to do interviews with any media organisations who wish to cover the recent work of the tribunal.

Mr Halliday can be contacted in Ireland at (00353) (0)95 21341 until 29th January email: djhalliday@msn.com

Prof. Francois Houtart, Chairperson of the Tribunal on Sri Lanka and Prof. Emeritus of Catholic University of Louvain is also available to interviews. He is currently in Ecuador and can be contacted at 0032 476 31 50 53. Email: francoishoutart@yahoo.fr

(We remind all those wishing to make contact with Tribunal members of time zone differences)

Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
www.ifpsl.org

peoplestribunalsl@gmail.com

Exhibit: Unpacking the complexities and liminality of the Tamil Community

Imag(in)ing 'Home' at The Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver):

This installation tries to unpack the complexities and liminality of the Tamil Community by weaving together 300 individual stories about the idea of "home."

Shanaathanan Thamotharampillai, a Tamil artist from Sri Lanka who is currently completing his PhD in art history at Jawaharlal Nerhu University, New Delhi.

Imag(in)ing 'Home'

When asked by the curator of Museum of Anthropology, how he would describe "Imaging home" in terms of a question it asks, Shanaathanan answered, "How do the emotional and material boundaries of a Diasporic home exist? And how do they interact and transform each other?"

This installation tries to unpack the complexities and liminality of the Tamil Community by weaving together 300 individual stories about the idea of "home."

Each personal story or memory is represented by a mundane or everyday object. The resulting installation is a collage of diverse and contested identities, of memories and histories of a lost homeland, and of different mechanisms of home making.

The exhibition opened at the Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver) on January 23, 2010, and runs for about 8 months.

100,000 Tamils still limbo in camps, families forced to take refuge on the roadside

A journey north along the severely bombed A9 road reveals hundreds of families forced to take refuge on the roadside, finding shelter in the remains of someone else's home.

Excerpts from report by Wayne Hay of AlJazeera:

TC124AR.jpg

A journey north along the severely bombed A9 road reveals hundreds of families forced to take refuge on the roadside, finding shelter in the remains of someone else's home.

Trying to survive in houses that no longer have roofs and with what is left of the walls pitted with bullet holes and bearing the scars of heavy artillery fire, it is difficult, if not impossible, to put the past behind them and begin looking forward.

"The whole episode makes me very sad," says Sellaiah Thainabalasingham

Sellaiah and his extended family lived in refugee camps for six months before being released, but have not been able to return to their property.

"When we were getting on the bus to leave the camp, they told us we were going home. We didn't know we were coming here. It's not good enough that we have to live like this."

They have been told they can go back to their farm in two weeks but Sellaiah thinks it will be a lot longer than that.

When they get there, they are expecting to find that they have lost all of their possessions.

According to the army, the population remaining inside the refugee camps stands at just under 100,000. At its peak, it was more than a quarter of a million.

TC124BR.jpg

pic by: EPA

We were taken inside what is known as Zone Zero for a closely guarded tour. There is a large school, which shapes the minds of the young victims of war.

There are food handouts from international aid agencies and what appeared to be a regular supply of water that is trucked in.

But some of the residents, like Kanakasahai Rukmani, say it is not enough. In tears she told us she just wants to go home.

"They keep promising to send us back, but it never happens. We're struggling here.

“We don't get enough food and we don't have enough clothes."

The residents can now leave temporarily to stay a few nights with nearby friends or relatives, but they still cannot go back to their homes.

In the nearby town of Vavuniya, the population has almost doubled because of the influx of refugees.

At the market, many come to sell the handouts they receive from the aid agencies inside the camps.

"In the camp we only get rice, flour, dhal and oil. We can't cook what we want with that. We don't get any vegetables," says Nallaih Koneswari.

"We don't have jobs either so we come here to sell things like flour to make money to buy better food."

Mahinda's insolent message to Tamil speaking people

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

"Lakbima News" editor Rajpal Abeynayake asks President Rajapakse a serious question "What is the message you give Tamil speaking people"?.

MRTC1123I.jpg

President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks at a final political rally for his presidential campaign in Piliyandala January 23, 2010-Reuters pic.

Here is Mahinda's Insolent answer - "For those who speak Tamil ..(I say..) , now I too speak Tamil. So there is no problem at all"-

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga pledged her support to Gen.Sarath Fonseka after a discussion with him at her residence in Horagolla

SFCBKTC124.jpg

Presidential candidate and former Army chief, General Sarath Fonseka (L) shakes hands with Sri Lanka's former President Chandrika Kumaratunga (R) at her home in the town of Nittambuwa, January 24, 2010.-Reuters pic

Sarath Fonseka met Chandrika Kumaratunga on Sunday 24th morning and explained his position in detail after which she pledged full support

Former Muslim Congress MP&Presidential candidate Dr.AM Illyas announced his withdrawal from elections&extended support to Gen Sarath Foneka [ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Who won the war ; the military leadership or the political leadership?

By Chakravarthy

I need not tell the readers that this debatable question that was born after 19th May 2009 has been the centre point of the present presidential election in Sri Lanka.

The president who turns each and every event to his political advantage - even if a child cries or laughs, in other words, politicize, was the chief claimant of war victory while the military commander who physically conducted the war is his challenger or competitor.

This is really another subject of whether the chicken came first or the egg came first.

The innocent public is confused and neither understands nor redeemed from the dilemma by either party. But the time has come for them to decide on the 26th.

Let us see what Sun Tzu tells about the ruler and the general in his book “The Art of War”. Who is Sun Tzu and what is Art of War?

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general during the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BC). Most scholars surmise he lived from 544 BC to 496 BC

Around 2,000 years ago, China was in turmoil. A series of wars left a third of the population dead and the leaders were in search of a new way of governing.

Confucius and Lao Tzu had developed their solutions but Sun Tzu's philosophy, born of his direct experience of war also gained a popular following amongst the ruling class.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu recommended a rarely required strategic method to win war.

He said “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, [means state or ruler] collects his army and concentrates his forces. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory“.

When he talks about the ruler, he does not praise the ruler in any chapter, instead says that it is the duty of the ruler to provide food and armaments to his forces. ‘Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished‘.

Further he says there are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army;

1.By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.

2.By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds.

3.By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.

Since it was the Chinese rulers who wanted a strategy from him to win war and govern the country, Sun Tzu mentions little about rulers but rests the entire responsibility of winning a war on the general who commands the battle. The ruler is to provide the army with food and weapon.

When talking about general he says ; the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete at all points; the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

That may be the reason in the history, there is no arm chair politician - a prime minister or a president ever claimed responsibility for the war victory like Sri Lanka‘s president claims. Instead they honored their the generals who were in the battle field and were proud of their achievement.

In history we learn that at Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffered defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington. At that time George III (George William Frederick), 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820, was the King of Great Britain and King of Ireland. He never claimed any war glory.

Indira Gandhi, who was determined like a goddess to win Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, that created Bangladesh, never sought credit for herself, but honored Sam Manekshaw, by promoting him as a Field Marshal for he showed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The emergency Indira introduced in 1975 with authoritarian excesses, similar to that of in SL today, brought her down fall in 1977 election.

Sri Lanka’s president’s war claim and assertion that it was his political leadership gave the victory is unacceptable and laughable. Government media and few others shower him with endless appreciations but the reason is well known. No doubt he is the owner of the armed forces and he could be proud of the achievement of his forces. He could have provided all the assistance sought to fight, but it was not he who fought.

Has he, a 40 year experienced politician, ever handled a gun? I mean not to kill any. Has he ever seen the fire ball coming out of cannons? Has he ever fired a rocket? Has he ever touched a grenade by hand? Has he ever heard the thunderous sound of bombs? Has he ever carried a bleeding dead soldier's body?

If you say no to all these, I wonder how he can qualify to claim war credit? Can you say that it was the minister of sports who was responsible for the Sri Lankan cricketers to win the World Cup in 1996?

Further a war glory is not bound to give long lasting political dividends. Look at Winston Churchill, it was said, “Between 1940 and 1945 Winston Churchill was probably the most popular British prime minister of all time. In May 1945 his approval rating in the opinion polls, which had never fallen below 78 per cent, stood at 83 per cent.

With few exceptions, politicians and commentators confidently predicted that he would lead the Conservatives to victory at the forthcoming general election.

In the event, he led them to one of their greatest ever defeats. It was also one for which he was partly responsible, because the very qualities that had made him a great leader in war were ill-suited to domestic politics in peacetime.

Politicians are often rejected by voters because they have failed in office. But one of the reasons why Churchill lost the general election in 1945 was because he had succeeded in completing the almost superhuman task he had taken on in 1940, and in a way this made him redundant.

The conduct of the war, however, was his overriding passion, and military victory was by far the most important of his goals - thus everything else, including party politics, was secondary. As a result, when the war came to an end and party politics resumed, Churchill suddenly found himself without a clear sense of purpose or direction.

Well, in SL also the conduct of the war, however, was the overriding passion, and military victory was by far the most important of goals - thus everything else, including cost of living was secondary. That way people have their right to support a leader issue by issue.

Besides there is no guarantee that a war victory would give a bumper political harvest. It might disappoint too. Let us count time to see the people’s verdict for ; Who won the war ; the military leadership or the political leadership?

Sarath Kongahage’s petition in Courts Seeking Sarath Fonseka's Disqualification as Presidential Candidate

Here is the full text of petition filed in courts by Sarath Kongahage against Sarath Fonseka’s presidential candidacy:

In the matter of an application under Articles 17 and 126 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Sarath Upali Kongahage of Prajapathy Road, Baddena, Battaramulla I. Petitioner SC [F. R.] Application No. 12010

Vs.

1. General [Rtd.] Sarath Fonseka No.1 /3, Rajakeeya Mawatha Colombo 07.

2. Dayananda Dissanayake Commissioner of Elections Elections, Commissioner’s Department Sarana Road, Rajagiriya

3. Ms. Shamila Perera, 9/6, Jayanthi Mawatha, Pelawatta, Battaramulla.

4. Hon, Attorney General
Attorney General’s Department Colombo 12 Respondents, On this 13th day of January, 2010

TO :

HIS LORDSHIP THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND THE OTHER HONOURABLE JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA

The Petition of the Petitioner, appearing by Mr. Athula De Silva his Registered Attorney-at Law, states as follows:

1. The Petitioner is a citizen of Sri Lanka and stands nominated as a candidate of the .... Party at the forthcoming election to the office of President of Sri Lanka. The said election is scheduled to be held on the 26th of January, 2010.

2. The Petitioner states that he is an Attorney-at-Law by profession and a former member of Parliament and the Central Provincial Council and first leader of the opposition to the Central Province Provincial Council from 1988 to 1992 and thereafter became its chairman from 1993 to 1995. He also states that he is a honours graduate of University of Kelaniya on mass communication and also held the position as Director of the stations for Sirasa and Shakthi channels Chief Executive Officer of Rupavahini Corporation and Sri Lanka Broadcasting corporation and thereafter, as acting Chairman and Director, Editorial of the AssociatedNews papers LTD, which is famously known as Lake House.

3. The Petitioner states that the aforesaid Presidential election is contested by 22 candidates and the principal contenders are H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa the incumbent President who is contesting as a nominee of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA] and the 1st Respondent who is contesting as a candidate of the National Democratic Front (NDF].

4. The 1st Respondent was the former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and after the conclusion of the war against the LTTE terrorists in May 2009 was appointed the Chief of Defence Staff on or about 12th July 2009 by the President His Excellency - Mahinda Rajapaksa. The 1st Respondent is about 40 years and throughout his adult life he has been a member of the armed forces and is a newcomer to politics.

5. On or about 1st of December 2009 the 1st Respondent retired from service and almost immediately publicly announced his intention of taking part in active national politics and to contest for the office of President of Sri Lanka.

6. The 2nd Respondent is the Commissioner of Elections who is empowered in terms of the Presidential Elections Act No. 15 of 1981 read with the provisions of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution to accept nominations for the conduct of the election of President and to secure the enforcement of all laws relating to the holding of such election.

7. The 3rd Respondent is the secretary of the National Democratic Front which said party has nominated the 1st Respondent as its nominee for the said election of President. The 3rd Respondent has been made a party to these proceedings for the purpose of giving notice of this application.

8. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent submitted his nomination paper to the 2nd Respondent on the date fixed for nomination -viz- 17th November 2009 and after the said nomination paper was submitted by the 1st Respondent, the Petitioner, as a rival candidate, took up an objection to the candidature of the 1st Respondent on the ground that the 1st Respondent is a citizen of the United States of America and hence disqualified from contesting for the office of President under the provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

9. The 2nd Respondent after a momentary consideration of the Petitioner’s objection overruled it on the ground that it was not within his power to decide this issue at that stage and that the only alternative to the Petitioner was to petition the judiciary. The Petitioner annexes hereto “a photocopy of the Island Newspaper of 18 December 2009 marked P1 in support of this averment.

10. The Petitioner states that issue raised by him is of grave and utmost concern to the entire country as, in the event of the election of the 1st Respondent as President of this country, it will bring far reaching consequences to the governance of Sri Lanka in allowing the introduction of “foreign influence” to the nation’s highest executive bodies as the 1st Respondent has pledged his allegiance to the United States of America by obtaining permanent residence rights in that country.

11. The Petitioner further states that unfortunately several political parties and more particularly the United National Party -which is the main opposition party in Parliament and which was considered the alternative government- had singularly failed to appreciate the grave danger that would befall this country in the event of the election of the 1st Respondent and has, in what is perhaps a desperate and a reckless endeavour to prevent its unlucky leader from being humiliated for the umpteenth time, decided not to field a candidate of its own but to support the candidature of the 1st Respondent purportedly as a ‘Common Candidate’ along with the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Party [JVP] much to the consternation of its traditional supporters.

The office of President and the Constitutional and other statutory provisions governing the eligibility to be nominated as a candidate for election to the office of President.

12. The Petitioner states that the most outstanding feature of the present Constitution is the enormous concentration of power in an Executive President who, inter-alia is the Head of the State, Head of the Executive and of the Government, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He is elected by the People for a term of six years. -Article [30].

13. Besides the extensive powers and functions of the President as set out in the Constitution and other laws he :

a) Is the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers [Art-43[2]]

b) Declares war and peace-[Art-33[e]

c) Appoints the Prime Minister and the other Ministers and can remove them from office [Art-43 and 44]

3 d) Appoints Ambassadors and other diplomatic agents. [Art 33[c]

e) Is immune from suit in respect of acts done in his official capacity [Art-35[1]

14. Having regard to the awesome concentration of power in the President the constitution mandates that to be eligible to be nominated for election as President the candidate must first and foremost be a ‘citizen’ of Sri Lanka. [Article 31 [1])The other requirements relating to eligibility are that the candidate must be qualified to be an elector [Art-92) and not subject to any disqualifications specified in Article 89 of the Constitution.

15. The Petitioner states that under Article 26[1] of the Constitution there shall be only one status of citizenship known as “the status of a citizen of Sri Lanka”

16. The Citizenship Act No 18 of 1948 provides for the acquisition of citizenship in one of the following two ways only

i. By right of descent as provided by the Act.

i1. By virtue of registration as provided by the Act or by any other Act authorising the grant of such status by registration in any special case of a specified description.

17. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent was a citizen of Sri Lanka by descent until he ceased to be a citizen in circumstances as set out more fully hereinafter.

18. The Petitioner states that the concept of citizenship has several dimensions but the important consideration here is the intention of the framers of the Constitution in mandating the requirement of citizenship in order to be eligible to contest the Presidency of the country. In this context the Petitioner respectfully states that a narrow and pedantic approach will defeat the intention of the framers of the Constitution and that the Constitution should be interpreted as a whole taking into account the changing course of events and the paramount national interest.

19. The Petitioner states that as stated by Bindra in the well known text book “Interpreter of Statutes” _10th Edition at page:- 1274

“A- Constitutional provision will not be interpreted in the attitude of a lexicographer, with one eye on the provision and the other on the lexicon. It is the duty of the court to determine in what particular meaning or particular shade of meaning the word or expression was used by the constitution maker, and in discharging the duty the Court will take into account the context in which it occurs, the object to serve which it was used, its collocation, the general congruity with the concept or object it was intended to articulate and a host of other considerations”

The Petitioner annexes hereto a photo-copy of the relevant page in the said treatise marked “A’ for convenience of reference.

20. The Petitioner respectfully states that a ‘citizen’ in the context of this constitutional requirement for eligibility to contest the Presidency of the country must necessarily be a person who is totally and transparently free from any hint of any allegiance to any foreign state or entity. The Constitution when it gave the power to the President to declare war and peace and made him the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces did not intend to entrust this exalted office to a person who has sworn allegiance to a foreign state or even has divided loyaLTTEs.

21. The Petitioner states that under the Constitution of the United States a citizen must be “natural born” to become the President of that country. This requirement is insisted upon to prevent anyone with the possibility of having a foreign allegiance from, becoming Commander-in-Chief of US forces-which will be disastrous for the country.

22. Article 32 of the Constitution mandates that the person elected or succeeding to the office of President shall assume office upon taking and subscribing the oath or making and subscribing the affirmation set out in the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution: In terms of the said Fourth Schedule the President is required to solemnly affirm or take an oath ‘to faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions’ of his office. A person with allegiance to a foreign state will not be able to faithfully perform the onerous and solemn duties of the President as set out in the Constitution.

23. The Petitioner states that a person with allegiance to a foreign country in whatever form will not come within the meaning of the term ‘citizen’ in Article 31 [1] of the Constitution and will be ineligible to be a candidate at a Presidential election. The Petitioner further states that sole and exclusive allegiance to this country is a sine’ qua non for citizenship for the purposes of Article 32 of the Constitution.

The 1st Respondent is not a citizen of Sri Lanka within the meaning of Article 31 [1] of the Constitution

24. The Petitioner states that to the best of his knowledge and belief the 1st Respondent has permanent residence rights in the USA [Green Cardholder] and is not a citizen of Sri Lanka and is either a citizen of the USA for a Green Card ‘holder’ who has voluntarily manifested his intention to migrate this country and become a citizen of the USA. It has now been revealed that the Green Card issued to him bears the Number-AA-055-090-192. In proof of this averment the Petitioner annexes hereto marked P2 -a True copy of the Ceylon daily news of January 5, 2010 wherein the said number is given in the news item under the heading” Fonseka\ Arms deal bared “

25. The Petitioner states that to be eligible for a Green Card issued by the US Immigration authorities the applicant must in the first instance make an application to emigrate from this country and to seek citizenship of the United States. The Green Card gives the holder permanent residence rights in the United States which is a prelude to the obtaining of full US citizenship. A Green Cardholder is bound by the Laws of the United States. According to Section 237 and 212 of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, a permanent resident must follow all US laws, including the laws against war crimes. In this connection the Petitioner annexes an Article by Michael Hardy published in the Sunday Leader of 15th November 2009 marked P3 wherein it is stated that the 1st Respondent is keeping his Green Card in case he loses the Presidential Election and is chased out of the country.

26. The Petitioner states that according to United States Immigration Law a Green Cardholder is a permanent resident of the United States and has most of the rights of a citizen of the United States citizen. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services [UCIS] a Green Cardholder is protected by all the laws of the United States, his state of residence, and local jurisdictions. The Petitioner annexes hereto a statement containing Information to Green Cardholders (Permanent Residents) provided by the UCIS marked P4

27. In the aforesaid circumstances the Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent has lost his citizenship by descent and would come within the ambit of section of 20[5] of the Citizenship -Act which provides
“A person who is a citizen of Sri Lanka by descent shall cease to be a citizen of Sri Lanka if he voluntarily becomes a citizen of another country”

28. In any event the Petitioner states that the matter of his citizenship is essentially within the personal knowledge of the 1st Respondent and the material available would suffice to establish that the 1st Respondent is not a citizen of Sri. Lanka within the meaning of the Constitution and that it is for the 1st Respondent, if he canvasses this fact, to establish the contrary

29. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent who at an advanced and mature age has manifested his intention of migrating from his Motherland permanently and to set up his permanent home in a foreign country-more particularly a country like the United States whose ethos is diametrically different to that that of Sri Lanka cannot claim to be a patriot or a person who has any love or regard for his country of birth.

30. Such a person even from a pure commonsense point of view is totally unfit to be the President of his country -which office requires -apart from several other considerations- patriotism of the highest order. The Petitioner states that it is unthinkable that the Constitution permitted a person who owes allegiance to a foreign country to be the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services of this country.

31. The Petitioner states that by his conduct in seeking to migrate permanently from Sri Lanka the 1st Respondent has openly demonstrated his disgust for this country, its people and its culture and has held out to the country and the world that he is ready and willing to sever his nexus with the Motherland permanently and to seek greener pastures by embracing subversive alien cultural and moral values totally in conflict with the ethos of this country and to pledge his allegiance to some other country for. personal gain. The aforesaid conduct necessarily disqualifies the 1st Respondent from being considered a citizen of Sri Lanka for the purpose of eligibility to contest the Presidency of this country - which office undoubtedly requires a person who loves his motherland and has the welfare of the country at heart.

The basis of the Petitioner’s assertion that the 1st Respondent- is not a citizen of Sri Lanka for the purpose of eligibility to contest the office of President.

32. The Petitioner states that his belief that the 1st Respondent is not a citizen of Sri Lanka and is a citizen of the USA is based on the following grounds:

a) The 1st Respondent though represented by senior lawyer Mr. Wijayadasa Rajapaksha PC - at the nomination proceedings before the 2nd Respondent did not register any protest or objection when the Petitioner objected to his nomination on the ground that he is not a citizen of Sri• Lanka and that he was a citizen of the United States of America.

b) The 1st Respondent has strong links to the USA. His two daughters are American citizens and are resident in Oklahoma USA. One of the daughters is married to an American citizen of Sri Lankan origin.

c) The Petitioner states that just two months prior to the brutal and mysterious killing of the Editor of the newspaper ‘Sunday Leader” Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunga on 8th January 2009 the late Editor published an editorial in the said paper of 5th October 2008 under the Heading “Fonnie Plays the Green Card”. The said Editorial which was a scathing attack on the 1st Respondent for his statement to a foreign newspaper that Sri Lanka belonged to the Sinhalese. In the said Editorial the late Editor stated, interalia,

(i) That the 1st Respondent had applied for emigration to the USA and that the Americans had given him a Green Card - A Diversity Visa.

(ii) That the 1st Respondent is the only surviving military commander in the world who has applied for and taken a residence -visa in a foreign country

(iii) That the 1st Respondent is not a patriotic son of the soil

(iv)That the United States welcomes ‘oddballs’ - even alien army commanders - and that all they need is a secondary Education.

(v) That the 1st Respondent has been a victim of Tamil persecution and that repeated harassment at the hands of ill willed Tamils had left its mark on him has brought out ‘the Sinhala Nationalist in him’

(vi)That it is time “Sarath Fonseka was told to put his Diversity Visa to good use and go unless he tenders an unqualified apology to all the peoples of Sri Lanka”

The Petitioner annexes hereto a True copy of the said Editorial marked P5.

33. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent did not contradict the contents of the said Editorial with regard to the Diversity Visa obtained by him nor did he, to the best of the Petitioner’s knowledge and belief lodge any protest about it to any authority

34. In November 2009 the 1st Respondent whilst holding the office of Chief of Defence Staff left to the United States ostensibly on an official visit. He was required by the US Department of Homeland Security to present himself for an interview on the 4th of November 2009 to question him on alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan forces during the conflict with the LTTE. This was an attempt on US soil to implicate Sri Lanka’s incumbent Defence Secretary for alleged human rights violations and war crimes, an agenda pushed by the pro-LTTE ‘formation’ in the U.S. which has established a close rapport with officials of the State Department such as former American Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake now the head. of the , South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau of the US State Dc:pr,ftl1lcnl. The said pro-LTTE ‘formation’ has vowed to implicate the President of Sri Lanka and the Defence Secretary in War Crimes allegations as revenge against the killing of the terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

35. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent, having regard to his Green Card/citizenship obligations, had necessarily to oblige the US authorities and was ready to make serious disclosures affecting the national security and integrity of Sri Lanka despite his holding the position of Chief of Defence Staff when the Government of Sri Lanka got wind of this and immediately intervened with the US authorities and directed the 1st Respondent to forego the interview and return to Sri Lanka.

36. The Government took ‘immediate steps to prevent the 1st Respondent from volunteering any statement to the US Department of Homeland Security and instructed the 1st Respondent not to make any statement and to ‘return immediately to Sri Lanka. Accordingly hurried arrangements were made for the immediate return of the 1st Respondent to Sri Lanka through the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington. The Petitioner annexes hereto the text of a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs marked P6

37. The Petitioner states that in connection with the aforesaid attempt by the 1st Respondent to volunnteer a statement to the US authorities the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka stated that “The Chief of Defence Staff is a high level position within the Sri Lanka Government. He travelled to the United States on a diplomatic passport for pre-arranged appointments. Moreover, whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his service with the Government of Sri Lanka.

38. The Petitioner verily believes that if not for the timely intervention of the Government of Sri Lanka the 1st Respondent would have, in keeping with his legal obligations to the United States Government as a Green Cardholder and/or citizen, divulged highly sensitive official secrets to the US Department of Home Security despite being the Chief of Defence Staff of this country. The Petitioner states that this is a clear illustration of a conflict of interest threatening the security and integrity of this country by reason of the 1st Respondent being a ‘Green ‘ Cardholder/citizen of the USA. The Petitioner states that immediately after his return from the US it was reported that the 1st Respondent visited the Embassy of the United States in Colombo for a reason which has not been disclosed.

39. The Petitioner states that the Government of Sri Lanka was under severe pressure from the United States and other Western countries at the instigation of the overseas pro-LTTE lobby to halt the war against terrorism and to negotiate a cease fire with the LTTE but the Sri Lankan President and the Defence Secretary successfully and with great courage and determination withstood this unprecedented international intimidation and coercion and successfully completed the elimination of LTTE terrorism from this country. The elimination of the LTTE caused tremendous resentment against the Sri Lankan Government -more particularly against President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa - among the overseas Tamil diaspora who were frantically lobbying the US and other Western Government for reprisals against the President and the Defence Secretary in the form of charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

40. The Petitioner states that disappointed by the defeat of LTTE terrorism the US together with some other Western countries are now making a frantic and determined effort to drag the Sri Lankan leaders and armed forces personnel to an international tribunal upon the allegation that War Crimes have been committed by the Sri Lankan forces during the last stages of the conflict. The Petitioner annexes hereto a news item appearing in the Island Newspaper of 8th January 2010 marked P8 in proof of this averment.

41. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent who as a Green Card holder has close links with the US Embassy in Colombo is keen to be in the good books of influential US officials and in keeping with his and his family’s allegiance to that country has set the stage for the US and other Western countries to pressurise the UN Human Rights Agencies for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes , committed by the Sri Lanka during the recent conflict with the LTTE and to bring the purported perpetrators before an international war crimes Tribunal. To this end the 1st Respondent has made the following ‘contributions’:

(i) At a celebratory meeting held on July 18 2009 at Ambalangoda the 1st Respondent is reported to have said that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE. This statement appears in the US Department of State “Report to Congress on incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka’ issued in June 2009 on page-46. The Petitioner annexes a True copy of the said page of the Report marked P9.

(ii) The said Report at page 45 and 46 further alleged that on May 18, 2008 the US Embassy in Colombo as well as other press and foreign governments reported that LTTE political leaders Nadesan and Pulidevan, along with other LTTE leaders, were killed while surrendering to Government Forces. The said report alleged that the aforesaid persons and others were killed when they led a group of approximately one dozen men and women out to the SLA troops, waving a white flag. The Petitioner annexes hereto True Copies of the said pages of the said Report marked P9 and P9A.

(iii) In mid December 2009, the 1st Respondent at an interview with Ms. Fredrica Jansz the Editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper made a voluntary disclosure which the newspaper itself described as ‘explosive’ alleging, interalia-

a. That the Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa instructed Brigadier Shavindra Silva, the Commander of the Army’s 58th Division that all LTTE leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender.

b. That on the night of May 17, 2009 desperate attempts were made by three senior leaders of the LTTE trapped in the war zone to save their lives but were shot dead as they prepared to surrender to government forces. The Petitioner annexes a photo-copy of the news item which appeared in The Sunday Leader of December 13, 2009-marked P10.

c. The aforesaid unsolicited and treacherous information volunteered by the 1st Respondent after he has submitted his nomination papers for the exalted office of President of Sri Lanka has created an international uproar against the Government of Sri Lanka, Defence Secretary, Brigadier Shavendra Silva and the military establishment of Sri Lanka. The Petitioner verily believes that this is a calculated move by the 1st Respondent at the instigation of hostile foreign elements in the US to haul up the Sri Lankan President, the Defence Secretary, Brigadier Shavendra Silva and other military personnel before an international War Crimes Tribunal.

d. The Petitioner states that the said statement was tailor-made to please the US backed pro LTTE formation and has sparked off a fresh and vigourous campaign by the US and the pro-LTTE diaspora to agitate for an international investigation in respect of alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lanka.

e. Within five days of the said publication of the 1st Respondents’ disclosures in the ‘Sunday Leader’ of December 13, 2009 the UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions -Philip Alston -wrote to the Government of Sri Lanka calling for its observations based entirely on the said statement made by the 1st Respondent. A True copy of the letter of the UN Special Rapporteur is annexed hereto marked P11.

f. Though the 1st Respondent made feeble and ineffective attempts to deny and/or clarify the said statement due to the disastrous effect it had and continues to have on his political campaign¬the outspoken Editor of the said paper-Ms. Fredrica Jansz- has stoutly maintained that what was ‘published was correct and that the 1st Respondent has not been misquoted at all. True copies of the purported ‘clarifications’ issued by the 1st Respondent and the statements made by the said Editor in response are consolidated and annexed hereto’ marked P12

42. Having regard to the aforesaid background the Petitioner states that If perchance the 1st Respondent is elected at the January 26 presidential poll it will have far reaching and momentous consequences for Sri Lanka by enthroning “foreign influence” to the nation’s executive councils and to its relations with all friendly Asian countries -more particularly its close and friendly relations with India will be gravely imperilled. In this connection the Petitioner annexes hereto an Article that appeared in the Asian Tribune of January 1, 2010 under the heading “Sarath Fonseka’s divided loyalty to US and Sri Lanka: High risk of foreign manipulation” marked P13 which underscores the fears entertained by the Petitioner.

43. The said Article points out that the prohibition by constitutional law or by tradition of a person with dual-loyalty to become the Executive Head is a fundamental policy of all governments to exclude foreign influence from their executive councils and duties.

44. The Petitioner states that having regard to the above, if the 1st Respondent is elected Executive’ President of this country it will be a national calamity as the 1st Respondent has already by his conduct demonstrated to the People of this country that he has no qualms in divulging military secrets and betraying fellow army officers and thereby imperiling the security and integrity of Sri Lanka.

45. The Petitioner states that national interest should take priority in determining the question of the eligibility of the 1st Respondent to tender his nomination for the office of President and that the national interest clearly demands that the 1st Respondent with allegiance to a foreign state is unfit and ineligible under the ‘ constitution to be nominated as a candidate for the office of President of Sri Lanka.

46. The Petitioner states that the 1st Respondent having regard to his demonstrated allegiance to the United States is already acting according to the interests of his foreign handlers and if elected the sovereignty and integrity of this country will be seriously threatened and the hard fought victory obtained by the security forces will suffer a serious setback by reason of foreign manipulation, more particularly by the US backed L TTE diaspora, and the willingness of the 1st Respondent to act as a puppet of sinister US interests in this part of the world.

47. The Petitioner states that the ‘unconditional’ support that has now been announced by a section of the Tamil National Alliance -the proxies of the LTTE in Parliament - to’ the candidature of the 1 st Respondent despite its earlier accusations against him of serious human rights violations and despite his, notorious anti-minority credentials is evidence of the role that has been assigned to him by the US backed LTTE diaspora. The Petitioner annexes a True copy of a news item under the heading “TNA backs Fonseka” appearing in the Island Newspaper of 7 January 2010 in proof of the position taken up by the TNA marked P14.

48. The Petitioner states that the acceptance of the nomination of the 1st Respondent by the 2nd Respondent is violative of the Fundamental Rights of the Petitioner guaranteed by Article 12[1] of the Constitution.

49. The Petitioner states that he has not previously invoked the jurisdiction of Your Lordships’ Court with regard to this matter.

50. The Petitioner respectfully states that he is advised to reserve the right to furnish any further material that may be relevant to the subject matter of this application and to add any material and/or affected parties and consequently amend the’ Petition if necessary.

51. The Petitioner pleads that having regard to the extreme importance and urgency of this matter, Your Lordship’s Court be pleased to act in terms of Article 126 [5] of the constitution and finally dispose of this petition within two months of the filing of this Petition.

52. An affidavit of the Petitioner is appended hereto in support of the averments hereof.

Wherefore the Petitioner prays that you’re Lordships’ Court be pleased to:

a) Grant leave to proceed with this application:

b) Declare that the Petitioner’s Fundamental Rights as guaranteed by Article 12[1] of the constitution have been violated by the 1st and 2nd Respondents,

c) Declare that the 1st Respondent is disqualified to tender his nomination to the office of President of Sri Lanka,

d) Declare that the acceptance of the nomination of the 1st Respondent to the office of President is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution,

e) Declare that the 1st Respondent is disqualified from being elected President of Sri Lanka.

f) In the event the 1st Respondent is declared elected:- declare that the said election of the 1 st Respondent is null and void and of no force or effect in law: and

g) Direct the 1st Respondent to declare elected the candidate who has obtained the 2nd highest number of votes at the said election and/or direct the 1st Respondent to give appropriate directions with regard to further steps’ to be taken in such circumstances.

h) Grant such other and further declarations, directives to the Respondents

Haste to conclude the war had a political motive rather than a military or strategic one

By Charles. P. Sarvan

Over and over, one reads of the patriotic soldiers who laid down their lives fighting the Tigers. This mantra is repeated and repetition, as we know, transforms a statement into fact. Over time, it becomes truth, is no longer examined but handed down as axiomatic. This is not to deny that the army displayed courage. This is not to deny that many lost their lives on the battlefield, succumbed to their wounds or live on handicapped in body and / or mind. However, while acknowledging, admiring and applauding courage and patriotic sacrifice, one must remember that often the truth is more complex and less palatable.

The Tigers were few in number, without jet fighters and helicopters, without the assistance of foreign governments, and yet the conflict dragged on for more than thirty years. While it is asserted that the historical memory of a people is long and persistent, it is also observed that their memory is very short. The contradiction is resolved by the recognition that we choose what to remember, and what to forget.

The fact of the matter is that the bulk of the army’s rank-and-file was made of those who were unemployed or found it difficult to make a living; those from the working class and the rural poor. The army was badly led, and its rank-and-file indifferently looked after. These two factors help to explain the large number who deserted, and the difficulty in recruiting more soldiers: what Shakespeare calls “cannon fodder”, food for the ravenous machines of war. I heard about a Sinhala film where the father insists on opening the coffin said to contain his son’s body, even though that act would deprive him of compensation paid by the government: the body in the coffin was not that of his son. I gather the film was banned in Sri Lanka, but some readers will surely remember it.

I recall the desperation of a friend from Balapitiya, Dharmasiri de Zoysa, both of whose sons were in uniform. He explained that his sons had not cared to finish their education, work was scarce, the conflict with the Tigers then was of a “low-level intensity”, and so donning a uniform seemed to offer a good way out for them. But with time, the war had intensified and casualties were high. Stories of economic hardship leading to enlistment are not peculiar to Sri Lanka.

Young men in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places join the police or the army knowing they place their lives on the line. They see no other way of earning a regular income, and of looking after their respective families. (Women leave children and family; go abroad and work as housemaids; not infrequently, under extremely unpleasant circumstances. The state sees them only as lucrative foreign-exchange earners.) I quote from my review of Elmo Jayawardena’s novel, Sam’s Story (2001), published in the Daily News, 2 September 2005, page 28.

Poverty and the ethnic war are related: it is unemployment, and economic desperation that drive Sam’s two brothers to join the army. One is killed in action: the army paid for the funeral but that brother “paid” with his life (110). The hero’s picture is posted on a tree trunk, with his “silly clothes and the funny hat that went sideways. And he was dead” (112). The other brother returns in the night, like a thief (112), a deserter, a bitter and angry man. We are called cowards, but at least we fought for a while. What of the sons of the rich? It is their country, but not their war (113-114). Those who support the war most vehemently are not on the frontline - neither they, nor their sons and close relations. Soldiers on “the other side” of the conflict are worse off: “Most of them are just children […] A lot of them are young girls” (p. 115). “They never went in big vehicles with big guns jutting out […] They didn’t even have shoes to wear to go to war.” (p. 136).

The rhetorical question above, “What of the sons of the rich?” must remind some readers at least that there was once talk of introducing conscription, not only to fill the depleted ranks but so that the ruling classes would also experience the war as the poor, the rural folk and those from the working class did. (Understandably, motivated by parental love and care, some families began to make contingency plans to send their sons of recruitment age abroad.)

This is not to deny that, once enlisted, most fought with courage. Nor is it to deny that some from the middle and upper classes participated (usually, at the officer level) and made a terrible, if not the ultimate, sacrifice. But the fact remains that the war was conducted by the ruling classes (urged on by the clergy) but paid for, in terms of suffering and loss, by the poor.

Wars and conflict are, for some, a commercial opportunity: “Praise the gods, and pass the ammunition.”

The Tigers were completely and tightly encircled, and their doom was certain. A little patience would have avoided needless and extreme civilian suffering and death. The haste to conclude the war had a political motive, rather than a military or strategic one.

Compassion and humanity were callously and casually thrown aside in a Machiavellian calculation of propaganda potential leading to electoral gain. Now some hope that they, riding on the crest of the wave of the euphoria of military victory, will be swept to, and deposited on, the golden beach of political power, status, influence and monetary opportunity.

The sons of the poor and the working class who were made use of during the war, and did the actual fighting, will not be numbered among them. Now, with peace and electioneering, the ruling class and the clergy will again manipulate and exploit the poor, win their votes and come to power. As at a cricket match, a few play and score runs for themselves, and their “team” (of family and friends, supporters and sycophants) while thousands remain what they always were – spectators.

A better analogy is from Orwell’s political fable, Animal Farm, where the hungry animals look mutely through the window at the pigs feasting inside: to use a colloquial expression, the pigs were “making pigs of themselves”, while the other animals struggled for existence.

Elmo Jayawardena, in a message titled ‘Vote and Hope’ (received 17 January 2010) wonders what will happen if electoral promises are, yet again, broken. “The only thing left for us would be to mock and laugh at ourselves for promises heard and believed and voted, then weep once again for our dearly beloved mother land.”

But those of the middle and upper classes will not be weeping: there are wonderful restaurants and beautiful hotels for their delectation. The poor, made use of during the war, and now made drunk on military victory; will be yet again deceived and misled, betrayed and neglected. They will be too preoccupied with the stress and strain of daily life either to laugh or indulge in self-mockery.

Will they, with patient endurance, accept their karma and struggle on, as they’ve always done? Thomas Hardy (though in an entirely different context) wondered, “When wilt thou wake?"

Should at long last that morning of awakening, understanding and realization come, how will the people react?

Will they be destructive, or will they, with wisdom and patience set about mending matters?

Or will the ruling classes (secular and religious) again succeed in finding excuses, in deflecting their anger, and channelling it onto scapegoats or the hapless Other?

Both Rajapakse and Fonseka Following Strategy of "Indirect Approach" in Electoral War

By Col. R.Hariharan

Both President Rajapaksa and General Fonseka appear to be following the strategy of ‘indirect approach’ in their “electoral war.” Sir Basil Liddell Hart, one of the great military thinkers of 20th century propounded this key military concept as early as 1929. In his famous work The Decisive Wars of History he explained the indirect approach as seeking “a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by battle is guaranteed to do so".

Adopted in the election campaign, perhaps unwittingly, this strategy can produce a host of problems not only during the election but in the aftermath also. Unfortunately, violence and thuggery adopted as weapons of electoral war in Sri Lanka will have a bitter aftermath of the election. And that could be a destabilizing development impacting the parliamentary poll due to be held after electing the new president.

The transformation of democratic election into a war is the last thing Sri Lanka needs as it has to rebuild itself first. But it has become a war; that is the impression one gets while reading the latest media note of the Centre from Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) of Sri Lanka. It shows a definite trend of targeted violence using weapons of war against supporters of the opposition candidate across the country. Already at least four people have been killed.

Nothing illustrates the situation better than the “bomb” attack on the house of Tiran Alles, one time friend of the President and now the Secretary and National Organizer of the SLFP Mahajana Wing rooting for General Sarath Fonseka. Although the bomb did not harm either Alles or his family, it caused “severe” damage to his vehicle and house.” Alles had been hounded in the past also.

The attack came just a day after Mangala Samaraweera, the leader of the SLFP (Mahajana), alleged that the Rajapaksa regime had hatched a plot to assassinate Alles. His allegation appears to have come truer than the predictions of astrologers swarming around politicians.

And attack on Alles was not the only one. Opposition UNP’s Southern Provincial Councilor Gayan Sanjeewa was shot at while traveling in a car and he believed that it was an attempt on his life. Two UNP workers were injured.

A few days back a grenade was thrown near the house of a supporter of Sri Lanka Muslim Council (SLMC) Buhari Mohommed Mubharak in Ottamavadi in Eastern Province. In another shooting incident the UNP North Central Provincial Councilor Prasanna Mahindarathne was targeted. He alleged that miscreants of ruling alliance had fired as many as 30 shots on his home and car in Kalundegama on January 22. According to him, soldiers of nearby army training camp have identified the bullets as those used only by the police.

Significantly, all these acts of violence against the opposition have happened in the last few days.

Of course, other less violent but equally undemocratic misuse of the state machinery including the media had been going on for sometime. Senior government officials have been making partisan statements in favour of the President. In fact the Supreme Court had to intervene to order the state and private media to obey election commissioner's guidelines on such misuse.

The Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake had appointed a Competent Authority to oversee the conduct of state media during election campaigning following complaints from the opposition parties. But their utter disregard for his representative vexed the Election Commissioner so much that he withdrew the officer. He has also announced that he would not be available to conduct the parliamentary election that is to follow the presidential poll.

The increasing incidents of violence and lawless conduct and the tendency of authorities to ignore such aberrations have triggered fears of large scale violence among people as the day of election (January 26, 2010) approaches. There could also be obstruction of voting on the Election Day by lawless elements.

In a joint statement, civil society representatives have called upon both the President and General Fonseka “to jointly issue a statement for a cessation of violence and restoration of law and order with regard to the current election campaign. The government needs to immediately implement this call.” They have also drawn attention to an issue not usually expressed in public - politics of revenge - “the fear that they will become victims of the politics of revenge if they choose to go with the side that does not win.” This factor also might result in people abstaining from voting. Stuffing of ballot boxes is a real possibility in case people abstain from voting.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern at the violence during the run-up to the election. He has appealed to all parties to refrain from violence and to avoid provocative acts. As the U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis has cautioned a violent election is sure to tarnish Sri Lanka’s international image. But are the rival candidates in the mood to care for international image?

Unfortunately South Asian elections are increasingly determined by “coercive persuasion” using extreme tactics. But what is happening in Sri Lanka’s pre-election scene of violence and lawlessness, and intimidation and misuse of state apparatus has been unprecedented. As Rajapaksa is in office and in a better position to restore public order and governance, it has affected his reputation more than his rival. By default, the General - never known as a champion of liberalism - is suddenly being looked upon by many to change in a complex mess of authoritarianism, corruption, lawlessness and poor governance that Sri Lanka has become.

Only six months back many people had hailed the President as the great king (maharajanani) for winning the war; but many among them see him as seemingly helpless leader to restore good governance in a period of peace. Why is this? Although poll predictions are far from accurate a recent pre-election poll has predicted a healthy lead for Fonseka. Is this triggering nervous act of violence? Or is it the desire to put the fear of god in the minds of opposition supporters? Whatever be the cause, there is no doubt that each and every act of violence against the opposition brings down the President’s image little by little.

There are only a few days left for the people to decide their choice. To say it is will be a close race is probably an understatement; if we go by the virulent passions the election has unexpectedly generated it has all the makings of a bloody fight. One can only hope the winner would succeed in canalizing this passion into constructive energy to restore confidence in the government and amity between the various ethnic groups. And that is going to be a tall order for either candidate if the election run up is any guide.

Fonseka may be unknown devil or angel but he represents change

by Socrates

Was it glorious history in the making or the enactment of a comedy, tragedy or farce during the 40-day period between nominations day and elections day with just one day to go for the poll? We would know it all by Wednesday if the exasperated Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake goes ahead with the election where a great majority of election laws and regulations have been blatantly violated, particularly by the ruling party. Those who have seen many major election campaigns assess this as the most hysterical of campaigns where quite a lot of heat, sound and fury including some killings resulted but very little sense has been generated.

Watergate or Billingsgate?

Wordsmiths are still scouring the horizons in search of catchy adjectives and phrases that would bring more votes to their masters. We have witnessed the hilarious scene of a hitherto lesser known MP being offered a said Rs 30 million as a bribe, if he supported General Sarath Fonseka. If true, it must be the highest bribe offered to a little known legislator. On this basis what would be the assessment of a hot shot in the upmarket be? Whatever the names given to such alleged deals be called, Watergate or any other gate, the entire campaign deserves the name Billingsgate, the name given to that old English fish market language in use just like our Mariyakade market with its associated lingo.

This election campaign has also resulted in the severe devaluation of the intelligence assessments of voters, particularly those supporting Mahinda Rajapaksa. Spearheading the campaign was JVP renegade Wimal Weerawansa who was not taken seriously even by the party that created him. Other SLFP veterans like Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and D.M. Jayaratne appear to have been ordered to the sin bin.

This was a party that boasted of orators like S.W.R.D. B, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, T.B. Ilangaratne, Maithripala Senanayake, Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake and brother Dharmasiri, Chandrika Bandaranaike along with coalition allies such as NM, Bernard, Colvin, Pieter and Leslie. They are all gone save for Chandrika but she too seems to have been confined to the Rajapaksa sin bin.

Saviour of our sovereignty

The best known argument made for Mahinda Rajapaksa is that at the final stages of the military onslaught by Sri Lankan forces against the LTTE, he resisted the tremendous pressure of the international community to call off the military offensive which would have left the terrorist outfit intact to be exploited by the international community to make Sri Lanka dance to their tunes. Rajapaksa is such a leader, it is said, who can be entrusted to protect the sovereignty of the nation and the unitary state whereas all previous heads of state have succumbed to such international pressures and let the LTTE off the hook.

No right-about-turn

This point of view, however, overlooks that fact that at the final stages of the military onslaught, Rajapaksa just could not have called it off. For one whole year, having beaten the war drums of ‘fighting to a finish’ and with the armed forces as well as the majority of Sinhalese awaiting the end to LTTE terrorism, Rajapaksa and his brother, Gotabaya could not have given the ‘right about turn’ order to General Fonseka and other commanders because there could have even been a mutiny particularly among the lower ranks.

Even President J.R. Jayewardene when he was pressured to call off the Vadamarachchi operation and sign the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement feared an uprising not only by the people but also from some sections of the armed forces.

Former Indian High Commissioner J.N. Dixit says that he had assured Jayewardene that if the agreement was signed and if it resulted in any political and security threat to President Jayewardene, Rajiv Gandhi would have guaranteed his government’s stability and his personal security.

The simmering anger of the lower ranks of the armed forces came to a head when a naval rating swung his rifle but at the head of Gandhi which had it connected would have imperilled Gandhi’s life.

We recalled these events to indicate that to reverse orders given to the armed forces on matters of national interest is no easy task even though military discipline demands that orders be obeyed. Thus a halt to the military offensive demanded by the international community could have had tremendous repercussions and President Rajapaksa may have been apprised of that.

War as extension of politics

Besides the war was a plain demonstration of the Clausewitzian observation of war being the extension of politics by other means. Nine provincial council elections were won convincingly on the cry of liberation of the north and east by war. If you want the war to be successful the government has to triumph at the polls was the political cry.

And now why hold a presidential election two years ahead of the scheduled time? Strike while the iron is hot or eat the kokkis before it gets soggy? So while the Rajapaksa patriotism may have inspired the war on terrorism let us not forget the political agenda was equally inspiring and compelling.

By May when the war ended and with Pirapaharan dead, Rajapaksa’s stars were clearly on the ascendant. Every thing was rosy in the Medamulane garden. But there appeared a Saturn on the horizon in an army uniform in the form of Gen. Sarath Fonseka who led the army to victory. And then a war of words flares up. Fonseka is no orator but his terse one-liners are more than enough: ‘I accomplished in 40 days what he took 40 years,’ he says.

Sovereign ruler?

Even if the contention is upheld that Rajapaksa saved and protected the sovereignty of Lanka and ensured the continuation of the unitary state, should the voters give him the sovereign right to rule like a sovereign for another six years?

During his four-year rule scant regard was paid to the main provisions of the constitution. Today, the police chief, chiefs of the armed services, heads of most key government institutions are not only his personal choices but many are his relations and friends. Today from the Ambassador in Washington to the Basnayake Nilame of some temple are his personal choices. Rules and regulations are cast aside. Parliamentary control of finance has been reduced to a myth. Key legal and judicial appointments are made by him. The Foreign Service is packed with friends and relatives. Instances of bribery and corruption are too well known to be recalled.

Journalists have been killed or abducted but in most cases only an announcement of ‘investigations’ have taken place. Not only have leading journalists like Lasantha Wickrematunge been killed but even reputed academics like the Vice-Chancellor of the Batticaloa University disappeared into thin air and nothing more has been heard of him. Law and order is fast deteriorating.

Do voters want a change or can or will Rajapaksa change? Fonseka may be the unknown devil or angel but he represents change. This columnist prefers a change for the better or worse. - courtesy: The Sunday Leader -

January 23, 2010

Transfer of Vavuniya Police official days before the election raises suspicion

Special Media Release on Transfer of HQI Vavuniya Police Station by Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), 23 Jan, 2010:

CMEV learnt that the HQI of the Vavuniya Police Station, Saman Sigera, has been transferred to the welfare division of the Police Head Quarters with immediate effect from 23rd January 2010.

CMEV contacted Saman Sigera on 23rd January at around 05.30 pm who said that he received a fax from the Police Head Quarters, Colombo today at around 11.30 pm instructing him to report to the Welfare Division of the Police Head Quarters with immediate effect. He further stated that no reason has been mentioned for his transfer in the fax.

CMEV contacted the police spokesman SSP I.M.Karunaratne today at around 06.15 pm and he stated that he is not aware about the transfer and he has not been informed anything regarding it by the Inspector General of Police. CMEV contacted the Police Spokesman again at around 07.30 pm and then 10.30 pm he stated that he has yet not received any information regarding the transfer.

CMEV contacted the Department of Election at about 06.30 pm an officer, who did not reveal his name, informed CMEV that all the responsible officers are in a meeting and asked to contact later. CMEV’s attempts to contact the Department of Election failed as no one responded to the telephone thereafter.

CMEV contacted DIG Lalith Jayasinghe at around 10.40 pm who instructed to contact acting DIG-Personal & Records Division, Mr.Fonseka to verify the reason for the transfer order.

At around 11.00 pm CMEV contacted DIG,Fonseka, who confirmed the transfer order and stated that HQI Saman Sigera, was transferred with the approval of the Election Commissioner. He further told CMEV that he was transferred due to the allegations leveled against him.

CMEV also received a telephone call from Paikianathan Ranganathan, UNP Vavuniya District organizer, at around 05.15 pm regarding the incident.

CMEV underscores the commissioner’s notice on 07th December 2009 regarding the appointments, transfers and promotions. According to the section 104B (4) and 104(J) of the 17th Amendment to the constitution the commissioner has the power to suspend the appointments, transfers and promotions. CMEV requests the Election Commissioner to disclose the reason for the approval of the transfer to the public to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

Working people will have to rely on themselves to face situation after 26th January

by Bala Tampoe, General Secretary C.M.U.

President Mahinda Rajapakse is seeking re-election for a second six-year term as Executive President. He has cut short his present term of office in order to do so, without having abolished the Executive Presidency, as he had pledged to do, before the end of his first term.

What will be decided on 26th January next, therefore, is whether President Rajapakse is to continue to exercise the powers and enjoy the privileges of the Executive Presidency for another six years, or not. A majority of the millions of voters will exercise their voting rights either to vote for him, or for General Sarath Fonseka. Though the latter has made a pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency, President Rajapakse has evaded making any mention of his former pledge in that regard, in this election. It is not likely, in any case, that the issue of the abolition of the Executive Presidency will prove to be a crucial one for most of the voters. They will probably vote for President Rajapakse to continue in office, or for General Fonseka, in consideration of other matters that are of concern to them.

The Executive Committee of our Union, nevertheless, considers that the abolition of the Executive Presidency is of vital importance to the promotion of the basic social and economic interests, as well as the defence of the human and democratic rights and civil liberties of the masses of the people of this country. Unfortunately for them, they are caught in a trap under the present Constitution, under which their “Sovereignty” can be exercised only on 26th January. The next day, they will be back to where they are now, whether President Rajapakse obtains more than fifty percent of their votes, and continues to be vested with the powers of the Executive Presidency for six more years, or General Fonseka is elected, and is vested with those powers, likewise.

President Rajapakse used his power to proclaim a State of Emergency, soon after he first took office in December 2005, and has extended it, with Parliamentary approval from month to month, up to now. The Emergency Regulations that he has made have served to suppress or repress fundamental democratic rights and civil liberties; and human rights have been violated to a greater extent under his regime than under any previous one.

He has gained and retained control of a stable majority in Parliament by appointing 109 of its Members, belonging to the Government Party, or who have crossed over to it from the Opposition, as Cabinet Ministers, non-Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers, at huge public expense. They have provided him with the required Parliamentary approval for the Proclamation and monthly extension of the “State of Emergency”. They have also insured him against the possibility of his removal from office, even for flagrant violations of the Constitution, such as have been publicly pointed out by the recently retired Chief Justice, without contradiction.

Previous Presidents, like most professional politicians, have exercised their powers and privileges and the influence that they have gained thereby, to advance their own interests and those of their kith and kin, in the first place. They have also rewarded various other people who served their interests, in various ways, politically or otherwise. President Rajapakse has done so, quite blatantly. He has promptly awarded Ministerial portfolios and very lucrative “projects” to several former UNP Ministers for their cross-overs from the Opposition in Parliament. Caligula, the Roman Emperor, was said to have made his horse a Senator. President Rajapakse has appointed a “Tiger”, the former commander of Prabhakaran’s “terrorist” army, as a Cabinet Minister, after nominating him as a Member of Parliament. He has also had him elected as a Vice-President of his own party, the SLFP.

Bribery and corruption have increased to such an extent under his regime, that it is an issue that will undoubtedly weigh with voters against President Rajapakse. His Government seems to have realized this: His non-Cabinet Justice Minister, has just announced that a Bill would be tabled in Parliament, soon after the Presidential election, “to fight waste, corruption and irregular activities in the public sector”.

Our Union has not supported any candidate at any previous Presidential election. We have always held the view that the powers of the Executive Presidency would not be exercised by any President who may be elected under the present Constitution, to promote the economic and social interests of the vast majority of the working people in this country, or to protect their democratic rights.

We did not support Mahinda Rajapakse at the last Presidential election, because we saw no good reason to change our view in the above-mentioned respect.. The only promise he had given in his Mahinda Chinthanaya” to the millions of workers in the private sector, was that a low interest housing scheme, would be introduced “with the participation of the Employees Trust Fund and private banks”. The loans that could be obtained under the legislation enacted in that regard, were only by a limited number of employees. Even that promise thus proved to be empty for the vast majority of workers in the private sector.

We had then pointed out that there was no mention in “Mahinda Chinthanaya” of the Workers’Charter, which he had advocated and had been adopted by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’ Government, when he was Minister of Labour. We have to point out that the Workers’ Charter has remained a dead letter under President Rajapakse’s Government, and that he has nothing to say now about any legislative protection for several millions of workers, employed on a casual basis, directly or through labour contractors, on low daily rates of pay, with no paid leave or security of employment. Others are employed on “fixed term” contracts, renewable from time to time, but without any assurance of continued employment.

The Rajapakse Government has also failed to implement the two most important ILO Conventions, relating to the fundamental rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, that Sri Lanka has endorsed and the Goveernment is bound to implement “in law and in practice”.

With regard to the so-called “National Question”, our Executive Committee observes that President Rajapakse has made no commitment, up to now, to implement even the limited degree of provincial autonomy that President J.R. Jayawardene had agreed to grant to the Tamil-speaking Tamil and Muslim peoples of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, under the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Having achieved the complete destruction of the LTTE by the Armed Forces, last May, and subjected the people of those two provinces to military rule, the President sacked the Sri Lankan Representative to the UN in Geneva, when the latter published a statement in favour of the full implemention of the 13th Amendment, which the Jathika Hela Urumaya had completely opposed. When President Rajapakse repeats his catch-phrase of achieving a settlement of the “National Question”, “acceptable to all”, it is obvious, therefore, that he has no intention to “settle” that crucial question on any basis that would be acceptable to the vast majority of the Tamil and Muslim peoples in the North and East. His true attitude to them was revealed at the “Victory Parade” of the Armed Forces, last year,.when he proudly declared that there were no “national minorities”, in this country, and that all its people had been reunited under the “National Flag”.

In any case, whatever assurances President Rajapakse may now consider it expedient to give to the Tamil and Muslim peoples in the North and East, they cannot expect him to introduce any amendment to the Constitution to accord them any recognition of their fundamental democratic rights to self-determination, even on a limited basis.

The numbers of civilian deaths and casualties caused by the War in the North and East, have not been revealed by the Rajapakse Government, nor the numbers of Tamil youth, including child soldiers, who were killed or injured by the Armed Forces in armed combat. The extent of the destruction of public buildings and private homes by aerial bombing and by artillery bombardment have also been unreported. The kidnappings and killings of Tamil civilians, including journalists, suspected of having LTTE connections or sympathies, have never been acknowledged by the “Security Forces”.

The population in the rest of the country has thus been kept in ignorance of the sufferings and miseries of the hundreds of thousands of people in the North and East. The deaths and destruction caused by the sporadic “terrorist” attacks or “suicide” bombings, on the other hand, were highly and repeatedly publicized. The fear of LTTE “terrorism” so engendered, was magnified by continuous media propaganda. It was also sustained by the deployment of thousands of police and military personnel, to carry out daily “security checks”, which have been reduced but not yet ended up to now.

The severe hardships suffered by the entire population because of the phenomenal rise in inflation and the cost of living caused by the War, have not yet been reduced. The huge “Security” expenditure involved, amounting to hundreds of billions of rupees, continues with the continuing “State of Emergency, and financial corruption in that regard, too, no doubt. Furthermore, the huge debts incurred by the Government will remain as a burden on the masses of the working people. The huge loan of 2.6 billion US dollars (approximately 286 billion rupees) that the Government found it necessary to request from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the conditions for its grant will have to be met. The IMF Chairman has explained that the loan was granted to prevent the collapse of our country’s economy.

Having regard to all the above-mentioned facts and circumstances, our Executive Committee considers that the re-election of President Rajapakse will only mean the continuance or even worsening of the living conditions of the working people, under the continuing political conditions of an already militarised society, in which democratic and human rights are no longer respected by the ruling regime. We have no reason to believe that General Fonseka will end this situation, and change it for the better, for the working people, with the political support of the UNP and the JVP.

It is our considered view, therefore, that our own Union and other organizations of the working people, in urban as well as rural areas, will have to rely on their own strength and their capacity to combine their forces to deal with the situation that they will have to face after 26th January, whether President Mahinda Rajapakse is re-elected, or is displaced by General Sarath Fonseka.

(CMU Statement on the Presidential Election 2010: Issued for publication on behalf of the Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial & General Workers’ Union)

Our choices in the political battle on Jan 26th will tell us who and what we are or have become

By Dayan Jayatilleka

“And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.”
- “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

If you can’t take my word for it, take that of Eric Hobsbawm, regarded not only as Britain’s greatest living historian but as ‘one of the outstanding historians of our age’ (Independent on Sunday). The Guardian says “Hobsbawm is one of the leading authors of the concepts and language in which all of us now discuss our situation”.

It is indeed his language and concepts that help us understand why Mahinda Rajapakse is certainly my choice for president this time, given the choices available. Rajapakse’s achievement exceeds by far, his failings and failures -- and I say this as a victim of one of those failures, a Pontius Pilatesque assent to a (resumed) attempt to dismiss me notwithstanding an important international mission in the country’s defense, successfully fulfilled. Rajapakse’s success was historic, and not merely from the point of view of this island’s history, but more notably, in achieving a victory that is rare in contemporary (or post modern) world history.

In his most recent book ‘Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism’ (2007), Hobsbawm includes an inaugural address delivered at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2004, in which he notes that: “Today the full armed power of governments has proved incapable of maintaining unchallenged control of their territory for decades – in Sri Lanka, in India’s Kashmir, in Colombia, in the Gaza strip and the West Bank, or, for that matter, in parts of Belfast. There is indeed, a general crisis of state power and state legitimacy, even on the home territories of old and stable European states such as Spain and the United Kingdom”. (p 81).

Earlier, in Chapter 1, in a paper delivered on the centenary of the Nobel Peace Prize, Hobsbawm writes “Armed conflicts within states have become more serious and can continue for decades without any serious prospect of victory or settlement – Kashmir, Angola, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Colombia.” (p25). And again in Chapter 7, “society has descended into permanent civil war (as in Sri Lanka).” (p117-8). In Chapter 8 Hobsbawm says the LTTE “have been conducting an effective civil war since the 1980s. They are best known as one of the great pioneers and probably the largest operators of suicide bombing…” (p122).

That then is the measure of Mahinda Rajapakse’s achievement: not only having overcome a formidable foe and ended a situation which had persisted ‘for decades with no serious prospect of victory or settlement’ according one of the world’s foremost minds; not only having shouldered and completed a task left undone by four notable predecessors; but having succeed in a task that many have not elsewhere in the world including in states far more powerful than Sri Lanka—the task of restoring state sovereignty and the monopoly of violence over its whole territory, thus resolving “the general crisis of state power”, that historian Hobsbawm identifies as one of the most daunting challenges of our time.

The authentic, detailed televised testimony given in public lectures and interviews by the frontline combat commanders Shavendra de Silva, Kamal Gunaratne, Prasanna Silva and Chagi Gallage, supported by intelligence chief Kapila Hendawitharane - arguably the finest group of officers of that rank serving in any military anywhere in the world today—means that the verdict is in about the decisive role of the national political leadership in winning the war.

For this achievement and the possession and use of those political strengths needed for it, should Mahinda Rajapakse be deprived of a second term; thrown out? While his lapses in the arena of domestic governance are legion, which error, malfeasance or collection of them outweighs his positive historic achievement?

Whose “Deveni Meheyuma”?

‘Deveni Meheyuma’ or ‘Second Operation/Second Offensive’ is the challenger General Fonseka’s campaign slogan. The problem is that there seem to be several such ‘second wave’ or ‘second strike’ operations. One of them is that of the overseas Tigers. The other is that of those external circles which wanted the war to stop (or to stop the war) before we finished off the Tigers.

This election has an external dimension and strategic aspect which is now surfacing in newspaper reports. The innocuous title of Asia Correspondent Andrew Buncombe’s January 7th piece in The Independent (UK), “TAMILS THROW WEIGHT BEHIND GENERAL WHO CRUSHED THEM”, had as revealing a “strap” as Liz Hurley’s, which read “TIGERS’ POLITICAL WING TRYING TO OUST INCUMBENT PRESIDENT AT JANUARY POLL”, while the identical piece running in the New Zealand Herald went all the way: “TAMIL TIGERS THROW WEIGHT BEHIND GENERAL WHO CRUSHED THEM”.

Now comes an AFP report “SRI LANKA VOTE RAISES HOPES IN WASHINGTON”, dated Sun Jan 17, by Shaun Tandon Shaun Tandon filing from Washington DC, which discloses significantly that:

‘…The US official was upbeat about pledges made by Fonseka including greater media freedom and independent commissions to oversee the judiciary and other key institutions.

"I'm hesitant to make predictions about the future, because candidates promise all sorts of things and then they don't deliver, but certainly General Fonseka has been making some good pronunciations," he said…

…"The Tamil Diaspora wants Mahinda to be defeated," said David Poopalapillai, national spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress. "The climate would change and the rays of hope would come. It would bring some change in the country in the political climate," he said.’

So the line-up is clear: our enemies the Tamil Tigers want a certain outcome and in this their views seem to converge with some elements in the West who wanted us to stop the war. The choice before the Sri Lankan voter is also clear: do we line up with the overseas based Tamil Tigers and pro-Tiger tendency of the Tamil Diaspora, as well as those elements in the West who wanted us to stop the war before Prabhakaran and his army were defeated and destroyed? Or do we line up with and defend that leader whom the Tamil Tigers want to see ousted? Do we side with the remnants of the unreconstructed, Sri Lanka hating secessionists and those who sought to deflect our victory over them, or do we side with the man who defeated the Tigers and stood up to those powers which tried to forestall that triumph of our people and nation? Do we line up with those who sought to exercise “the imperialism of human rights” (again, Hobsbawm, p7) over Sri Lanka as they did in Kosovo or with those who stood in their way?

I’d be ashamed if I were to do the former rather than the latter.

I believe that the negative phenomena of nepotism and corruption are secondary to the need to reward the incumbent for his unparalleled dedication to the war effort, decisive success in the war, refusal to blink in the face of Western pressure and safeguarding of the country’s independence and sovereignty. I also believe that corruption and nepotism are not reason enough to award the Tamil Tigers and their proxies a political victory and posthumous validation. I finally believe that these ills and secondary dangers in comparison to that of harshly authoritarian and coercive, possibly ruthlessly tyrannical rule.

The great modern political philosopher Hannah Arendt, herself the sister-in-law of that subtle Marxist thinker Walter Benjamin, once said somewhere that we unconsciously cross invisible lines in the sands of History which we become aware of only when we look back and find that they have grown into walls behind us. The election that beckons conceals just such an invisible or barely discernible line. If we cross it we not only venture into the unknown, as dangerous as a desert or a minefield; we move into a terrain from which there may be no going back for decades, because the lines we have crossed have grown into walls behind us. Now that we have overcome the worst of threats, that of separatist terrorism, why should we take a risk of such magnitude?

Our choices in this political battle will tell us who and what we are or have become; what we hold most dear and what we downgrade; how far we have come from what we were or what we have always been under the skin. The choices of January 26th are, in that sense, nothing less than existential.

Presidential Elections, The Sinhala Mindset And The Future Of Sri Lanka

Prof. A. R. M. Imtiyaz

It is likely that who ever wins the ethnic problem will not be solved.

The voters in the island of Sri Lanka will meet the sixth presidential elections on January 26. Though the island of Sri Lanka is a home to two nations and some minorities, its elections are often carefully directed to absorb the attention of the Sinhalese. This is mainly due to competitive nature of Sri Lanka’s electoral system and the size of the Sinhalese population.

One key feature of Sinhala political establishment’s election campaign is anti-minority, particularly the anti-Tamil policies in strict political science language, ethnic outbidding policies. These ethnic outbidding polices radically helped politicise Sri Lanka’s ethnic relations and eventually led the Tamils to lose the trust in the system.

Mahavamsa: the Sinhala ideology

Elections in deeply divided societies can generate tensions and conflict. This is particularly true when politicians on their part resort to emotional politics. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala political establishment to exploit the support of the poor Sinhala masses tactfully speaks to the Sinhala mind set, which is largely a result of the Mahavamsa.

According to Mahavamsa, Sinhalese people are the preservers of Buddhism and the entire island is the sacred home of the Sinhalese and of Buddhism and explicitly preaches violent messages against the Tamil nation.

Therefore, in this election, the key three questions, as far as the minorities are concerned, need to be answered. They are (1) is Sinhala polity ready to accommodate the aspirations of the minorities and the Tamil nation (2) how much does Sinhala mentality play into the agendas of the major candidates? and (3) will the winner take meaningful measures to reform the Sinhala state by providing genuine power-sharing and autonomy to win ethnic reconciliation among the masses of the Tamil and Sinhala nation as well as the Muslim community to win real peace?

The major candidates: two Sinhala actors

There are 22 candidates in the field. However, the major competitors of the elections are incumbent Rajapaksa who came to power on November 17, 2005 on an anti-peace and anti-Tamil agenda and Fonseka who was carefully recruited to the Sri Lanka’s Army by the ruling Sinhala political establishment led by Rajapaksa to defeat the violent form of the Tamil resistance movement, led by the Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Moreover, Rajapaksa represents the UPFA, the combine political vehicle of Sinhala extremists and the traditional Marxist parties as well as some minority parties while Fonseka portrays himself as a common candidate and contests the elections, using the swan symbol. The major opposition parties, including the UNP and the JVP endorse the candidacy of Fonseka. Also, Fonseka won the endorsements of the major parties, representing the minorities such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Both Rajapaksa and Fonseka were able to win the support of the minority political establishment. But the election polices and promises of these candidates do not recognise the special problems of the Muslims, existence of the ethnic conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, or for that matter the Tamil national question. In fact, it is unreasonable to expect such progressive attitudes and polices from these major candidates since they are the different representatives of the Sinhala mind set and hegemony, which aim to consolidate the identities of primordial rights of the Sinhalese.

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President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks at a final political rally for his presidential campaign in Piliyandala January 23, 2010-Reuters pic.

Rajapaksa: the brutal face of Sinhala hegemony

For Rajapaksa, the major problem of the island is the LTTE, which successfully challenged state terrorism since 1983. The LTTE is militarily defeated, and Rajapaksa has been capitalising on the war victory to secure a second term to further fill his family and friends’ pockets in the name of narrow Sinhala patriotism and nation building.

Rajapaksa and his ardent supporters need to understand the fact that the LTTE is the product of Sinhala polity’s spiteful outbidding policies against the Tamil nation.

In 2005, Rajapaksa, employed the anti-peace and anti-Tamil policies to win elections.

This time around, Rajapaksa has been aggressively pursuing war victory against the LTTE to maximise the Sinhala votes. During his tenure, Rajapaksa did not do any serious political actions to seek political solutions and thus it is safe to assume that he will not commit to any solutions (beyond the failed 13th Amendment) to win peace. In fact, his actions are logically compatible with the interests of the 5th century Sinhala mindset.

Coming conflict with the Muslims

The Muslims of the east suspect the government plans to “Sinhalise” the east – through development projects that will bring in new Sinhala settlers, environmental regulations that will remove public lands from use by Muslims.

In Ampara District, there are serious tensions between local Muslims and Sinhalese, with the government ally and Sinhala nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) accused of working against Muslims interests. (International Crisis Group, 2008) JHU inspired Sinhala settlements are being progressed in Kurangkuppaangnchaan in the Kinniya DS division in Trincomalee District.

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Presidential candidate of the common opposition and former military chief, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, center, gestures to supporters from behind bullet proof glass, during an election campaign rally in Negambo, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010-AP pic

Mr. Fonseka: neo-Dutugemunu

On the other hand, Fonseka, the atrocious Sinhala warrior is seeking to deny the second term for his former boss — Rajapaksa. Fonseka wants the people of Sri Lanka to believe him as an agent for change. Also, he is assertively trying to represent himself as a human face of Sinhala compassionism.

It was reported in the media that Fonseka strongly believes that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese. According to an interview in Canada’s National Post newspaper in 2008, Fonseka said that “ We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country…We are also a strong nation … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things…In any democratic country the majority should rule the country. This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74% of the population.”

Believable change or believable deception

Fonseka’s above statement represents his desire to transform the island of Sri Lanka only for the Sinhalese. His election manifesto, what he describes as believable change for Sri Lanka, does not recognise the existence of the Tamil problem nor does it come close to seeking ethnic reconciliation and peace by reforming Sri Lanka’s unitary state structure and its Sinhalanised political institutions.

Political reforms and changes are serous business in any human society. Such reforms and changes inexorably require genuine human actions to lead the process. Average politicians cannot emerge as an agent for any serious believable changes, because the major purpose of politicians is to win elections at any price. Therefore by and large, politicians need to understand the mood of voters and formulate policies and promises to win votes.

Hence, it is extremely unlikely that Fonseka will seek genuine measures to transform the island of Sri Lanka to accommodate the needs and aspirations of the minorities and the Tamil nation. Hence, it is politically naive to depict him as an agent for regime change in Sri Lanka.

Real Change: beyond the Mahavamsa mentality

The military campaigns, led by Fonseka what Tamils considered as an accelerated agenda of genocide led to dehumanise the Tamil life, and thus the war uprooted people from a normal life of peace and reduced them to wartime refugees.

The bottom line is that Sri Lanka needs progressive political actors to challenge the Mahavamsa mentality and to embrace human modernisation. These changes should recognise the aspirations of the minorities and the Tamil nation. It is very unlikely the major candidates who are fighting over the split Tamil blood will be committed to such a historical task.

When democracies fail…

Democracy is a beautiful political practice, but it also can produce protracted political instability when politicians manipulate the system to gain power. The major candidates in Sri Lanka’s presidential election provide no real programmes to liberate the island of Sri Lanka from the prison of the Sinhala mentality. Therefore, it is very likely that the island of Sri Lanka would confront the serious polarisation regardless of who wins the power. Moreover, Sri Lankans during election period are often confused with the theory of the lesser evil. What Sri Lanka’s experience proves is that the lesser evils become nasty leaders when they win power. The one result of such politics of deception is the brutal ethnic civil war.

(The author teaches Ethnic Politics and Foreign Governments and Politics at the Department of Political Science, Temple University, USA.)

Fonseka factor and the creeping politicization of military in Sri Lanka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Last year when speculation was rife about former Army commander Sarath Fonseka announcing his candidacy for the Presidential elections this columnist was among those who warned of adverse consequences befalling the Country as a result of this unprecedented move.

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Sarath Fonseka posters in Jaffna-pic: indi.ca

Chief among these was the very strong possibility of an escalation in the continuous process of the military being politicised and society being militarised in the Country. I perceived the Fonseka phenomenon as the logical outcome this. [ click to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

Blatantly false and misleading coverage of Centre for Policy Alternatives and Social Indicator on website

Statement by Centre for Policy Alternatives:

It has been brought to our notice that the website titled SF Balakaya hosted at the URL http://www.sfbalakaya.com currently features a blatantly false story involving Social Indicator (SI), the survey research arm of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

A story posted on the aforementioned website (accessible at http://www.sfbalakaya.com/story.php?nid=n20100122_04 at the time of writing) claims that SI was contracted to do an opinion poll survey on the presidential election by the United National Party (UNP), and that survey results have been withheld by the Executive Director of CPA, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on account of the results showing a victory for President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Social Indicator and CPA categorically deny this report as one without any basis in fact. We have not done and nor were we asked to do any survey on the presidential election by any political party or partisan group.

We remain committed to the highest standards of professionalism in our work and wholeheartedly condemn this attempt at inventing a story for short -term political gain.

We demand a full and immediate retraction of this story by this website, which misleads the public with incorrect information.

January 22, 2010

Different elections, different locations: Countdown in Colombo and a new Boston Tea Party

by Rajan Philips

As Sri Lankans are anxiously getting ready to cast their votes in Tuesday’s presidential election that is turning more violent than ever before, the voters in Massachusetts have peacefully sent a shockwave through the American political establishment. It is countdown time in Colombo for Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka.

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[Sen. Scott Brown, in Boston Jan 20 ~ Gen Sararth Fonseka, on Jan 11, Colombo-pic: Reuters]

In far away Boston it is a different tea party as the Republicans celebrate their historic victory over their Democratic rivals in the by-election to fill the US Senate seat that the late Edward Kennedy held for forty seven years without a break. There is no connection at all between the two elections except to compare the workings of democracy, electoral politics, and government in vastly different circumstances.

President Obama could not have expected a worse first anniversary rebuff than the election of a little known Republican, Scott Brown, in one of the safest Democratic sanctuaries in the country, which is also the home of the Kennedys. Before Brown and Massachusetts the Democratic Party had 60 out of 100 Senators in the US Senate, the procedural benchmark required to overcome filibustering by Republican Senators. With Brown’s election the Democrats are reduced to 59 Senators and the Republicans can filibuster and delay any and every legislative initiative in the Senate.

Obama’s first mid-term test

Obama’s initiatives on health care, climate change and the regulation of financial institutions can now be delayed by the Republicans. To move ahead in the Senate with any of the President’s initiatives the Democrats will have to reach or win over a few Republican Senators who will extract concessions to please vested interests affected by the new initiative or to get some additional benefit for their particular States. A stand off in the Senate could tie up the Obama legislative agenda, or significantly weaken it.

Obama carried Massachusetts by over 60% in the 2008 presidential election. In the stunning reversal last week, the Democratic voters were not energized enough to go out and vote while independent voters crossed over to the Republicans. The Brown campaign took a page from the Obama handbook – using the internet to mobilize support and raise funds at a million dollars a day. One of the criticisms against Obama is over his abandoning the grass roots connections that carried him to power and his failure to mobilize them to support a radical legislative agenda.

Without public pressure he has been forced to compromise even with Senators from his own Party and weaken the controversial health care reform proposals. After Massachusetts, he might be forced to reconnect with the people and vigorously pursue a more populist agenda. He is already ratcheting up the rhetoric to re-regulate the deregulated banking and financial institutions whose passion for paper profits brought about the current global recession. He will have the people behind him but whether the Senate and the House will have the backbone to support him is a different matter.

In the canonically regular American system of elections the President is elected every four years, and the House of Representatives (Congress) and one third of the Senate are elected every two years. While each Senator has tenure for six years, the two Parties have the opportunity every two years to take control of the Senate and of course the House. The mid-term elections that come between Presidential elections are the barometers that indicate how a new President is faring and how good are his chances of reelection.

Obama’s first mid-term is due in November and the Massachusetts set back has already created concerns over November prospects. The Democrats lost control of the Senate and the House in Bill Clinton’s first mid-term in 1994, and the parallel is not lost on the two Parties and political pundits. Paradoxically, Obama has to perform better legislatively to regain his standing but he could be stifled by the Senators and Congressmen of his own Party facing re-election especially if they perceive that supporting a controversial agenda may cost them their seats. The government could become temporarily dysfunctional.

Sri Lankan Dystopia

The experience of a dysfunctional government is not new to Sri Lankans, although the causes of dysfunctional democracy in Sri Lanka are not the regularity of elections but the self-serving timing of elections, not the tying down of presidential powers but the abuse of them, and not a surfeit of checks and balances but the disregard for what are already there and the need for more. It is now conventional to trace the deterioration of our systems of politics and governance to the parliamentary tyrannies of the 1970s and the presidential system that followed them and now has the country in its grips.

Every President has contributed his or her mite to Sri Lanka’s systemic deterioration that now borders on a wholesale dystopia. The statement of the Ceylon Mercantile Union that was published in the Sunday Island last week is a stinging indictment of the current presidency and its record over the last four years. Pointed and comprehensive, the CMU statement is a rare manifestation of the diagnostic tradition of the Old Left by one of its dissident stalwarts, while the official residues of the Old Left are now folded among the back benches of a decadent regime, silent and invisible for the most part.

The ostensibly Left voices defending the regime are tiresomely old and for the wrong reasons. Their warnings of destabilization and circumambient imperialism are forty years too old. While the CMU statement takes to task the Rajapakse regime on the “National Question”, some of the Old Left and Post-Left commentators are whipping up ‘racial politics’ accusing the opposition candidate, a decorated soldier, of endangering national security.

The conclusion of the CMU statement is also a reflection of the helplessness of the whole country and the Hobson’s choice it faces: “… the re-election of President Rajapakse will only mean the continuance or even worsening of the living conditions of the working people, under the continuing political conditions of an already militarised society, in which democratic and human rights are no longer respected by the ruling regime. We have no reason to believe that General Fonseka will end this situation, and change it for the better, for the working people, with the political support of the UNP and JVP.”

I have taken a different tack in my last few articles – focusing objectively on the Fonseka candidacy as an opportunity for the people to revolt against the establishment with which the candidacy of Mahinda Rajapakse is politically and personally identified. Two weeks ago I wrote that the election is not a one one-horse race for Mahinda Rajapakse but a real contest between him and Sarath Fonseka. With only two days to go the election still seems too close to call.

The closeness of the contest might explain, although it cannot be the excuse for, the outbreak of violence and the abuse of state resources. The irony of the situation is also illustrated by General Fonseka’s warning that the government might stage a coup after the election – a retired General accusing a civilian President of plotting a coup. Tit for tat, it might seem in light of the government’s earlier claim that General Fonseka posed a military threat to civilian rule. But they are not funny – the charges and counter charges.

Tuesday’s election will be the sixth presidential election since 1982, when the first presidential election was held. In the 63 years after 1947, there have been 13 parliamentary general elections and the country will be going to the polls again before April this year, for its 14th general election. Sri Lanka was the first non-western country to exercise universal franchise starting in 1931, thanks to the experimental initiative of British colonial rulers giving all adults the right to vote regardless of gender, ethnicity, caste, income, property, education, or employment status. That could have been the formation of a modern Sri Lankan identity and the basis for an inclusive Sri Lankan citizenship. Karl Marx would have been ‘partially’ impressed by this development in a potty little, nascent political society under colonial rule.

Writing “On the Jewish Question”, in 1844, a very young Marx had held out the example of the then young United States of America as the model to follow for old Europe in the transition from feudal society to a bourgeois democracy centered on the concept of political citizen. Marx of course critiqued this as partial emancipation as opposed to total human emancipation. That would be too sublime a digression for this Sunday.

In 1931, the Sri Lankan experiment was ahead of what the US was not only in 1844 but also for nearly a hundred years later. Although Marx did not specifically point this out in his 1844 essay, the suffrage in America excluded women deemed less than equal to men, and the African Americans who were slaves and therefore not born equal or human. It would take a civil war and a century of struggle before these wrongs could be righted and the American Union could be more perfected.

Sri Lanka, in contrast, was given democracy on a far more perfect platter, but it has been growing more imperfect over the years. May be it was my wishful thinking that coming Tuesday would provide an opportunity to at least arrest the trend to imperfection, let alone reverse it. The CMU statement is not as wishful. But there is no disagreement that the people must have their say in a free and fair election unimpeded by violence in the South and vote-rigging in the North.

Total break-down of law and order feared as election day approaches

Joint Civil Society Statement on Election Violence

With the race for the presidency getting increasingly close and uncertain, there has been a considerable increase in tension throughout the country.

This gives rise to the danger that there can be obstructions to the exercise of the franchise on the day of election which needs to be effectively countered as the electoral process is the main source of legitimacy in a democracy. Election monitoring and media organizations have been reporting a sharp increase in election-related violence including several killings accompanied by a flagrant disregard of election laws including abuse of state resources.

The violation of election laws and the practice of violence at election time are not new phenomena and have taken place in previous elections under previous governments as well. However, on this occasion our concern is greater as the Election Commissioner himself has publicly bemoaned his helplessness and has threatened to give up his duties as his orders are being disregarded.

We, the undersigned organizations, believe that the impunity surrounding election-related practices, if further tolerated, will lead to space being created for a total breakdown of law and order as Election Day approaches. We call on the two main presidential candidates to jointly issue a statement for a cessation of violence and restoration of law and order with regard to the current election campaign. The government needs to immediately implement this call.

A further factor that may influence some sections of the electorate not to participate in the elections is the fear that they will become victims of the politics of revenge if they choose to go with the side that does not win. We therefore call on the rival candidates to make a pledge that they will not engage in the politics of revenge after the election, but strictly adhere to the rule of law. This will encourage voters from all communities to participate in the forthcoming elections and be stakeholders in the outcome, as empowered citizens of a real democracy. We trust that the candidates would by immediate actions demonstrate their commitment to the values outlined (which by their words they profess an adherence) and thereby create a path to a peaceful and fair election process as well as the future development of the country

Signed by

Association of War Affected Women
National Peace Council
R.M.B. Senanayake
Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
Mannar Women for human rights and democracy
Center for Policy Alternative
M.C.M. Iqbal
Smathi Sivamohan
Sunila Abeysekara
Alliance Development trust
Equal Ground
Saradha de Seram
P. Saravanamuttu
Service Civil International
Tony Senevirathna
Visaka Dharmadasa

An Appeal to the Two Key Candidates Contesting the Presidential Elections

We write this letter on behalf of the Friday Forum, which is an informal gathering of concerned citizens who have voluntarily come together to deliberate and make representations on vital issues of national concern. The Forum includes a considerable number of elder citizens who have served the country with distinction in various capacities.

This letter is addressed to you both -- the two major candidates contesting the first national election as the country emerges from a devastating war. Having carefully examined your manifestos, we write to appeal to you to demonstrate vision and leadership to address the most pressing issue in the sixty-odd years of our country’s independent history. While you both contributed to winning the recent war, you should be aware of the dangers of losing the peace. We note with distress a major lacuna in both manifestos. Neither manifesto adequately addresses the basic rights of many communities living in Sri Lanka, and particularly the Tamils, Muslims and Up-Country Tamils and other minorities. Their long standing grievances and aspirations are not given due attention. Nor have you articulated a credible process of restructuring our state and writing our constitution to ultimately arrive at a plural and cohesive society, where all our people feel they can with equality and justice participate in national life.

The failure to address this issue of great historical and national importance does not bode well for the future of our country. We may be condemned to the scourge of community tensions and a divided society for many more years to come unless sincere and meaningful political guarantees are made at this moment. We, therefore, urge you even at this late hour to present the contours of such political proposals. We trust that you both have given extensive consideration to this most pressing issue facing the country.

In our opinion, the various debates and the numerous proposals on aspects of our constitution, our state and our society are sufficiently rich for you to put forward an informed set of political proposals for public consideration. We must not lose this historic opportunity.

We wish to emphasise that this is no mere plea on behalf of minority groups. Those of us of the majority community, for the sake of our own sense of self respect and self worth, most earnestly need and desire to live in a society based on justice and equity for all Sri Lankans.

Please reflect on this appeal made by a non-partisan group of concerned citizens on this issue of national concern.

Yours sincerely,


Jayantha Dhanapala

On behalf of the Group of Concerned Citizens

Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, Rev Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratne Thero, Archbishop Oswald Gomis, Bishop de Chickera, Rev. Dr. Leopold Ratnasekera, Ms. Jezima Ismail, Professor Savithri Goonasekera, Mr. Justice Vigneswaran, Mr. Neelakandan K, Mr. Godfrey Gunatilleke, Prof. W D Lakshman, Mr. Ranjit Fernando, Ms. Sithie Tiruchelvam, Mr. J.C. Weliamuna, Dr.A.C.Visvalingam, Ms Manouri Muthetuwegama, Mr. Namel Weeramuni, Prof.Gananath Obeysekere, Prof.Arjuna Aluwihara, Dr. Anura Ekanayake, Mr. Mahen Dayananda, Dr. Deepika Udagama, Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Mr. Suresh de Mel, Mr. Prashan de Viser, Mr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Dr. Ms. N. Selvy Thiruchandran, Mr. R. Surendran PC, C. Jayaratne.

Once Considered Walk Over this Election Could Well be Nemesis of Rajapakse

By Kshama Ranawana

Deeply divided Sri Lankan citizens go to the polls on Jan. 26 to vote in a president in its first major post-war electoral exercise.

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A supporter of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, garlands him during an election rally in Colombo, Friday, Jan. 22-AP pic

Ironically Sri Lankan voters are now divided not between the majority Sinhala community and the minority Tamils who fought for a separate state. The top contenders to the post of executive president, from nearly 20 candidates, are the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapakse and his one-time army commander and Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka both Sinhalese.

These two men were, until less than a year ago, on the same page in their quest to destroy the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). With that victory in May 2009 they went on to become the greatest heroes for many within the Sinhala majority. Rajapakse thumbed his nose at both the international and the human rights community and permitted his armed forces -- the army led by Fonseka -- to bomb the north of the country, killing, maiming and displacing many Tamil civilians to militarily defeat the LTTE.

Speaking to the National Post in September 2008, Fonseka said "We (the Sinhalese) being the majority of the country, 75 per cent, we will never give in... They (Tamils) can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things."

Canada's interest in Sri Lanka is due to the presence of some 400,000 people of Sri Lankan heritage living here. Canada has invested funds, diplomatic capital and human resources into helping the Indian Ocean island out of its fratricidal war between the state and the separatist LTTE. But at the bloody closing of the 30-year long civil war that drove more refugees to Canada's shores, this country had been sidelined even though the rebel group is banned here as a terrorist organization.

Within months of defeating the LTTE, the president and the general were bickering over who should take the credit for the victory. The general resigned his post as Chief of Defence Staff, citing several instances of distrust between him and the president. For his part, President Rajapakse, basking in the glory of the war victory called for a presidential poll two years before the end of his term, confident of crushing any rival candidate.

The country's main opposition, the capitalist United National Party (UNP) has lost almost every election it faced, be it national or provincial since 2004 in the face of Sinhala chauvinism partially propagated by Rajapakse. Now, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) (People's Liberation Front) which unsuccessfully led two revolts in the 1970s and the 1980s has joined the UNP to woo the general to contest the election as their "common candidate," a neophyte in politics.

Amazingly, the Tamil National Alliance the party considered closest to the defeated Tamil Tigers has in these last weeks announced its support for the general.

There's more to it. The alliance cobbled together with several other ethnic minority parties has since also won the backing of even some members of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party led by Buddhist monks, traditionally the shrillest voices behind Sinhala nationalism. While the main body of the JHU continues to be a member of the ruling coalition, the JVP too was a member until recently. It is this coalition, one that would have never seemed possible just a year ago that is pitted against the incumbent.

Obviously, Rajapakse hardly expected such a sea change from those believed to revere him. What he once considered a walk over, this election could now well be his nemesis and has resulted in desperate measures to thwart a defeat.

Soon after the general resigned, his address to troops on the 60th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Army was blacked out on State media. The run up to the election has seen large scale polls violations and election monitors have already reported harassment and malpractices during postal voting that took place on Jan. 12 and 13.

Both contestants have been busy trading allegations rather than focusing on the issues of resolving the ethnic problem, restoring genuine law and order and clipping the powers of the Executive Presidency. Taking center stage in these allegations was the revelation made by the general to a Sunday newspaper that the Defence Secretary, who is also President Rajapakse's brother had instructed a division commander of the Army that all LTTE cadres should be killed, in the last days of the war. He was referring to the controversial report soon after the end of the war that some LTTE leaders who were apparently attempting to surrender had been shot dead. Even though he backtracked on the statement within 24 hours, the damage to a government fighting calls for a war crimes investigations had been done.

It seems Rajapakse has only the war victory to ride on. Allegations of wide spread corruption dog his rule, and he has appointed his siblings and relatives to key posts both within and outside the country. He has waited far too long to capitalize on the peace dividend and win the hearts of the Tamil people; attempting to relax many of the restrictions placed on them,only after the the polls were announced.

Fonseka too, while promising better governance has assured rapid resettlement of the internally displaced Tamils and development of the neglected war-torn Tamil majority regions. But, would the Tamils who have faced years of hardship, and at the hands of both these men been subjected to incessant bombing and displacement elect either one of them?

As reported by AFP "All of a sudden, we seem to be important to Sinhalese politicians," said retired postmaster G. Sinnathurai, who was shopping on the streets of Jaffna. Sri Lanka's Tamils wary of election spotlight.

Not exactly a new phenomenon. Successive Sinhala politicians have sought the support of the Tamil vote, only to cast aside those promises once in power.

The platform on which these two men conducted and won the separatist war was to deliver a united country to the people. Yet their refusal to share that glory has resulted in a divided Sinhala south, sparking fears of instability in the days to come. - courtesy: Rabble -

Why I am voting for Sarath Fonseka

By Samanmalee Unanthenna
University of Colombo / University of Heidelberg

When rumours started circulating some months ago of the possibility of Sarath Fonseka being a Presidential candidate, I was horrified. As the rumours at the time linked him to the JVP, I immediately contacted a couple of my JVP friends and berated them soundly for what I believed at that time to be a disastrous decision.

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Anoma Fonseka campaigning in Beruwela, Jan 15, 2010 ~ http://www.sarathfonseka.com/

My main argument was that a battle between SF and MR would leave ethnic minorities with no presidential candidate to choose between and more dangerously provide a clear signal of their increasing marginalisation from political power. The nomination of SF confirmed to me that the Sri Lankan state was unabashedly and arrogantly strengthening itself as a Sinhala state.

SF had not won my respect as a military commander. While I had always been a critique of the totalitarian and despotic nature of the LTTE, I did not believe that a brutal state military response that appeared to have little regard for civilians and was brutal towards dissenters was any better.

The brutality of the last few days of the war, the erosion of democratic freedoms as a condition for winning the war, the ease with which words such as patriot, traitor and terrorist were bandied around, the arrogance with which the state denied any civilian casualties, the suppression of the media and the suppression of any dissenting voices did little to endear me towards one of the main architects of the war. When at the conclusion of the war, the self satisfied and insensitive celebrations which followed without any reflections on the horrors and the brutality of war and the loss of lives disgusted me.

However, I still hoped that with the end of the war, the Rajapakse regime would have the sagacity to change tracks; to understand that the urgent need of the moment was reconciliation and repairing the wounds of war; to seize the moment to ensure that past mistakes would not be repeated. Instead, what I saw was arrogance of an unimaginable scale. Instead of reassuring ethnic minorities of their place in the nation, what I saw was the unleashing of an idea of a brash and insensitive Sinhala nation.

The President erased minorities in his ‘victory’ speech and created a new enemy (those who do not love the country as defined by the state, we presume) and at no point was there any acknowledgement of the cost and the suffering of the 30 years of violence. Indeed, the insensitivity was so great that the large projects to develop war ravaged areas, which were touted widely as the ‘peace dividends’ were named in the language that was not of the majority of the area! It seemed that racists of the most virulent kind had been unleashed within the regime.

Equally worryingly, the totalitarian characteristics of a regime at war were being institutionalised and reaffirmed in these supposed times of peace. There was still no space for dissent; democratic processes and institutions that had suffered during the war continued to be suffocated; continuing emergency regulations, further strengthening of the military, the militarisation of civil administration, the promotion of the cult of personality, the continuous allegations of mysterious and unspecific external and internal threats signalled a strengthening of totalitarianism rather than its weakening.

And then there was the corruption and the nepotism. The sheer scale and complete shamelessness was of a scale and intensity that Sri Lanka had never before experienced. And we had experienced corruption and nepotism before. It was clear that this was not a political regime but a family regime.

It was embarrassing to see the impotence of the jumbo cabinet. Stories of Namal Rajapakse already behaving like he was an elected official, Gotabhaya Rajapakse violating all codes of conduct of public service by openly commenting on political issues, the ubiquitous presence of Basil Rajapakse at every turn and the seemingly unending supply of Rapapakse relations and friends being appointed to state funded positions was sickening to say the least.

This regime had to go- of this i was certain. But I was despairing whether the opposition would be able to get its act together and more importantly field a candidate that could challenge the sitting President. It felt as if we were going to be stuck with the Rajapakses for a good while and it seemed like a good time to think of a long exile abroad.

However, when the opposition named its common candidate I was still unconvinced. My doubts regarding Sarath Fonseka had still not changed. And they haven’t changed. But what has changed is my optimism regarding the space that has been created for the first time in as many years as I can remember for the citizens of this country to actually influence the kind of government we want. For the first time in my life, there seems to be a campaign that is based not on extravagant promises but a set of common, achievable targets. Targets that we can all work for, believe in and desperately need if this country is to have any hope at all.

There is another reason why I am voting for Sarath Fonseka: when I watch the TV debates, read the newspapers or watch the political rallies there is a clear difference among the calibre of people surrounding the two main candidates. MR is surrounded by thugs, racists, opportunists and fear mongers. Their ability to spew filth is astounding. They seem to be consumed by anger and hatred. By contrast, at the very least, the key people in the SF campaign have managed to present themselves as far more principled and decent. Certainly, both the JVP and the UNP seem to be better off after the rats have deserted them.

And when I look at the SF campaign, I see an alliance of people I would like to see in power in a post war Sri Lanka. I certainly do not want to see the likes of Wimal Weerawansa, Champika Ranawaka or Mahindananda Aluthgamage in charge of anything. I did not think it was possible for the JVP, UNP, TNA and the SLMC to stand on the same platform and agree to a common agenda of urgent national issues while agreeing to disagree on other issues.

It fills me with hope to see the diversity of political views and positions in that campaign and the way they have managed to rise above their disagreements in the face of major national challenges. I want to see that diversity in future governments.

But don’t get me wrong: I am not a hopeless optimist or a romantic. When SF wins on the 26th of January, 2010, I know that this country will face huge challenges. I know that it will be then when the divisions among the opposition will start to appear. More seriously (and worryingly), it will be then that the true nature of SF will emerge.

But I believe that my role in this election will not end after I cast my vote on the 26th. I believe that I will have a greater responsibility than ever to ensure that the government I elected fulfils its mandate. And that if it means I have to get on the streets to do that I will do it. What this election has done is provided us with a chance; a chance with a risk, but a chance, nevertheless.

The alternative is too frightening to even contemplate.

Electing the general as president would be a decidedly a risky adventure

by Atticus

It is said that large sections of the country —-people from different communities, religions, classes, regions, occupations and gender —-are supporting the General at the Presidential elections. Why is this so? Is it that the public mood, at least among the affluent, the educated bourgeoisie and urban workers, is for change in the way the country is run?

Is there a feeling, conditioned by 500 years of foreign rule and the open economy in recent decades, that post-war peace and prosperity require a set of more western-oriented values and qualities than that held by Mahinda Rajapakse, who is too committed to home grown ways of doing things, and too imbued by the Nation’s 2500 years of traditions and customs?

Interestingly, the JVP appears to have buried their martyrs for good and have come out strongly in praise of western bourgeois rights, freedoms and values.

So why has one doubts about the General’s suitability to become the next Executive President? The reasons for these misgivings are not hard to enumerate.

The General is without a party. It is the Coalition that sponsored him that is mobilizing support for him in the country, and controls his words in public, his actions and his policies. He reflects the Coalition consensus. Where there is none—-an example is the 13th Amendment—-he says nothing whatever his personal views may be. When he talks out of turn his minders in the Coalition make him repudiate his statements e.g. implicating the Defense Secretary and Army Commanders of War crimes. If the Coalition has its way the General seems destined to be in office but not in power.

The General has embraced as his key sponsors those who are on record as reviling and ridiculing him when he was Army Commander. He is now at one with his erstwhile opponents. He has turned his back on those who made him what he was and enabled him to become a War Hero. Worse still he has buried many ideas and views he believed in before, as Army Commander. Then, he advocated a large increase in the armed forces after the War was over. This and many other views have disappeared without trace from his vocabulary. Do the General’s chameleon like qualities command trust?

His Coalition consists of parties, with the exception of the JVP, who sought a negotiated peace with Prabharkaran, a perfectly legitimate view to hold. But the General, as Army Commander, fully subscribed to the President’s singular determination to "fight to the finish" and destroy the LTTE once and for all militarily. He is now said to have made a string of promises to the TNA, the long time surrogates for the LTTE. "My enemy’s enemies are my friends" seems to be the message. Unwittingly no doubt, the General is sowing the seeds for the re-emergence of separatism. Not one Tamil party that courageously opposed the LTTE supports him.

Another negative for the General is the total lack of political experience to be the President, let alone the Executive President, of the country. Some have expressed the view that 40 days of political experience is no disqualification to challenge the incumbent President with 40 years of political experience. Few would give preference to a surgeon, a lawyer or any other professional with 40 days of experience over one with 40 years of experience at the top of his profession. Why is a General turned politician considered to be different?

The General has also been prone to be economical with the truth (the Mandarin’s language for lies). He has dissembled in public for example that no heavy weaponry was bought under the Rajapaksa presidency. Another is the claim of a conversation with an unnamed journalist purely to implicate his bête noire, the Defense Secretary, of war crimes. His speeches are flooded with boast (the real war hero), bombast (the ego is noticeable regarding military victories) and simulated triumphalism, not to speak of barrack room language at times.

Another negative is the likelihood of great instability in the country should the General become President. Heads would almost certainly roll far and wide in the armed forces, police and the public service with what consequences one does not know. Given the track record of some of his sponsors, the country would also be swamped with "aliens", from multifarious structures of the western international community, bearing gifts and telling the natives how the country should be organized and run. Tactically brilliant, the General has been made the instrument to deeply divide the home grown, mainly Buddhist, nationalist strand in the country. One can only speculate on the consequences.

What is of most concern is that the General might cause divisions in the armed forces. Up to the present, the armed forces have been totally under civilian control. The danger is that he would do what he knows best—a military man tightly controlling the armed forces. The politicization of the armed forces and the militarization of politics to provide the General a power base independent of his current political Coalition is a potential threat. Nobody knows whether or when he would try to break loose from the stranglehold of politicians and follow the road trodden in Pakistan with such disastrous results.

The content of the General’s manifesto, admittedly crafted in its entirety by politicians in his Coalition, can best be described as somewhat duplicitous. One says that advisedly because it appears that, knowingly, promises are being made that could, or would, not be implemented. Far from being a manifesto of Reliable Change it reads like a manifesto of Unreliable and Unbelievable Change. The list of individual promises from abolishing the Executive Presidency in one month through setting up a Constitutional Council, abolishing the Press Council Bill, amending the emergency regulations, establishing new regulations to combat fraud and corruption investigating judicial killings and disappearances right down to Women’s Rights Bill beggars belief that these promises can be delivered by the General. In addition there are a whole host of economic promises of which more anon.

Are these promises credible? The General, if elected, would have at best two months to deliver on his promises. After that there will be a General Election and a new scenario. As of now, his Coalition has no parliamentary majority. To assume otherwise is a matter of conjecture. Yet he issues a manifesto as if he would be head of Government for years ahead with a parliamentary majority to carry out his promises. He has now gone even further than the manifesto. He says defense, finance health, education and employment would be under his direct control. This latest may not amount to megalomania. Surely, it constitutes a rather troubling military trait that the General knows best in areas where he has no knowledge or experience?

Can the General deliver his promises much beyond the next General Election? What policies are implemented after the General Election, and how, depends on which Coalition holds the majority in Parliament. Decisions would be made by the leader of that Coalition and his parliamentary supporters and not by the General. It happened when Ranil Wickremasinghe was Prime Minister, who sidelined the Executive President without a parliamentary majority. Even more so under a General who would have at best little support on his own in Parliament.

The salient specifics of his 10 point programme show them to be promises of "magisterial vacuity". The General promises to abolish the Executive Presidency in one month without knowing whether he would have a parliamentary majority, let alone the required two-third majority in Parliament, to do so. Can he appoint the Constitutional Council without going through the procedure of obtaining a new list of nominees in the stipulated manner? Has he the powers by fiat to abolish the Press Council Bill and amend the Emergency Resolutions, and establish the institutional framework to eliminate fraud and corruption without parliamentary approval?

The one area the General can act administratively if elected President (and is Finance Minister) pending the General Election is to implement temporarily the economic promises he has made in his Manifesto. The cost of these promises is staggering. The increase in budgetary expenditure exceeds Rs 300 billion a year not counting the contingent liabilities on pensions. The loss of revenue would be in the tens of billions a year. The giveaways imply a budget deficit of 11% of GDP in 2010 compared with the IMF Loan Agreement commitment of 6.5%.

The consequences of the implementation of the General’s economic policies for the state and non-state sectors would be immediate—-inflation and the cost of living increasing sooner than later, exports becoming uncompetitive, a consumption induced rise in imports, a widening imbalance in the current account, a flight of capital, a balance of payments crisis in the offing and a continuous fall in the value of the rupee against other currencies.

Many of the General’s supporters among the business community, the affluent and the thinking Middle Sri Lanka should ask themselves whether his economic policies risk their own interests and the economic well being of the country. Their belief in "Vote the General, Get Ranil" and, consequently, the economic programme would be implemented in a prudent manner over time is a gamble. The JVP, the architects of the General’s economic package, may well hold the General to his promises before the General Election.

Electing the General as President would be a leap in the dark, a voyage in unchartered, rocky waters, a decidedly risky adventure. Continuity and Change rather than Regime Change is the safer and better option.

“Gramarajya”: The Utopian vision of Ukku Banda Wijekoon

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Three days from today(23rd) the nation will be going to the polls to elect the most powerful person in the Country

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Ukku Banda Wijekoon

Twenty-Three potential candidates handed in their nominations on December 17th 2009but with the Commissioner of Elections rejecting one there were only twenty-two in the fray.

Of these two dropped out from the race with one-a Buddhist priest-transferring his support to Mahinda Rajapakse and the other-a Muslim parliamentarian-extending his solidarity to Sarath Fonseka.

Of the twenty contestants for the Presidential stakes,Sixteen are contesting from big, huge, medium, small, tiny and miniscule parties. Four are Independents. [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

Pre dawn attack causes severe damage to house and vehicle of Secretary, SLFP Mahajana Wing

The following is full text of media Communiqué No 21, issued by Centre from Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) on Jan 22, 2010:

Western Province

Bomb Attack in Colombo

At approximately 4.50am this morning, an explosive device was thrown at the home of the Secretary and National Organizer of the SLFP Mahajana Wing Mr. Tiran Alles, located at Galpoththa Road, Nawala, resulting in severe damage to his vehicle and house. Mr. Alles and his family were unharmed.

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Tiran Alles speaks on his phone as he walks past his burned out car at his home after an early morning explosion in Colombo, January 22, 2010-Reuters pic

According to the OIC Welikada Police CI Neville de Silva a complaint has been lodged in this regard bearing the number EIB/07/25. SSP Mirihana Division Deshabandu Tennekoon, the nature of the explosive has not yet been confirmed, and the forensic report is pending. It has therefore been identified as an explosive device. The Kotte Municipal Council Fire Brigade said that two fire engines were deployed to contain the fire.

When contacted, Mr. Alles told CMEV that at approximately 4.50 am, his Security Officer Mr. Nalaka Liyanage had heard the sound of a vehicle outside the gate and had seen something being thrown over the wall, subsequent to which there was a large explosion. Mr. Alles added that he suspects President Rajapaksa and Chairman of the JNP Mr. Wimal Weerawanse of being behind the attack.

This attack comes in the wake of statements to the media yesterday (21st) by Leader of the SLFP Mahajana Wing and Member of Parliament Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, alleging a plot by the Rajapaksa regime to assassinate Mr. Alles.

Southern Province

Attempted Murder and Assault in Matara

According to Southern Provincial Councilor Mr. Gayan Sanjeewa (UNP), at 1.45am the vehicle (64-209) in which Mr. Sanjeewa was traveling in, was shot at by a group of unidentified persons who arrived in 3 vehicles (white car, white van, black double cab), resulting in damages to the vehicle. The attackers had initially shot at the vehicle from behind, while Mr. Sanjeewa was in the back seat, and subsequently shot twice at the rear right door of the vehicle. Mr. Sanjeewa told CMEV that he firmly believed that it was an attack on his life, but Mr. Sanjeewa was not injured in the incident.

However, as Mr. Sanjeewa’s vehicle sped forward in order to escape the attack the assailants had subsequently assaulted a supporter Mr. Muditha Gayashan who was not traveling in a vehicle, resulting in Mr. Gayashan suffering bruising. Mr. Gayashan is currently receiving treatment in ward 3 of the Matara Hospital. Mr. Sanjeewa and his supporters were in the process of decorating the road leading from Kamburugamuwa to Matara with campaign material when the attack took place.

When contacted, Official of the Elections Branch Matara Police SI Chaminda told CMEV that the vehicle had 3 bullet holes and the weapon used was a T-56. He added that as the attackers’ vehicle numbers were not identified by the victims, the vehicles had not been traced as yet, but that investigations are underway. A complaint bearing the number EIB 388/83 has been lodged at the Matara Police by Mr. V.A. Lalith Anuruddha, Personal Secretary to Mr. Sanjeewa.

Mr. Anuruddha confirmed to CMEV that the initial shots were fired from the back of the vehicle targeting Mr. Sanjeewa. He added that he also heard the attackers yelling to each other to kill Mr. Sanjeewa. Mr. Anuruddha and Mr. Sanjeewa both told CMEV that they suspect the UPFA of the attack, though they did not name a specific person.

When contacted, a staff member of the UPFA Matara Office told CMEV that they had not heard of the incident, and that they were in no way involved. The staff member refused to provide his name or designation, and no longer picks up CMEV’s calls.

Eastern Province

Grenade Attack in Batticaloa

According to SLMC supporter Mr. Buhari Mohommed Mubharak, at 3.00am this morning, a grenade was lobbed at the front of his home located at Chemmanodai, Ottamawadi, by unidentified persons, causing damage to walls and windows of the house. No one was injured in the attack. Mr. Mubharak added that neighbours had seen a motorbike leaving the vicinity of the premises. He added that he called 119 at 3.05am, the Army arrived on the scene at 3.20am and the Valachchenai Police arrived on the scene at approximately 3.40am. Mr. Mubharak also stated that while he had not seen the attackers, he suspected UPFA supporter Mr. Y.S. Mansoor may be involved as Mr. Manoor had on several occasion tried to get Mr. Mubharak to work for the UPFA.

When contacted, Elections OIC of the Valachchenai Police SI Bandara Balasuriya confirmed the grenade attack to CMEV, adding that the damages were not severe.

Valachchenai Police CI Kodisinghe told CMEV that a complaint has been lodged in this regard bearing the number EIB 98-109. CI Kodisinghe told CMEV that Mr. Mubharak seemed very afraid and did not initially name the suspects, but that he subsequently spoke of several threats from UPFA supporter Mr. Y.S. Mansoor. The complaint for the incident was initially recorded as a GCR, but moved later to the EIB.

North Central Province

Shooting in Anuradhapura

According to North Central Provincial Councilor (UNP) Mr. Prasanna Mahindarathne, at 1.05am this morning, a group of unidentified persons had arrived in a van, parked in front of Mr. Mahindarathne’s house located in Kalundegama, broken the lights on the gate, and fired approximately 30 shots at his house. The majority of the shots had struck a canter (NCLD 4377) that was parked in front of the house, while approximately 4 shots had struck his house. One of these shots had entered a room through a lattice. No one was injured in the attack.

Mr. Mahindarathne called 119 right away, but the Police only arrived at the scene at approximately 2.30am. Mr. Mahindarathne stated that 3-4 soldiers from the Kalundegama Army Training Camp located in the vicinity of his house, had visited his home this morning, and that they had identified the weapon as being a T-56, based on the bullet casings and the one bullet that entered the house. He added that the soldiers had stated that this particular type of bullet was only used by the Police. Based on eyewitness description of the attackers by his Secretary Mr. Alexander, Mr. Mahindarathne suspects Mr. Ajith Kumara, Secretary to the Non Cabinet Minister of Petroleum Resources Mr. Duminda Dissanayake, and Mr. Shaman Pradeep, a UPFA supporter, are responsible for the attacks.

Mr. Mahindarathne added that he had not named the suspects in his complaint to the Police, citing previous incidents of partiality. CMEV previously reported an incident on the 17th of January, in which the suspects named in this incident, allegedly attempted to assault and then threaten Mr. Mahindarathne with a fire arm, while in the premises of the Thambuththegama Police.

When contacted, the OIC Thambuththegama Police IP Thalwatte told CMEV that the Police visited the location twice, and that the weapon used has been confirmed as a T-56. He said that no attackers were identified in the complaint. He confirmed that Mr. Mahindarathne had requested Police protection citing death threats, but that they were unable to provide such protection without an order from the DIG. CMEV was asked to call back later to obtain information regarding the complaint.

Subsequently, when CMEV contacted the Thambuththegama Police as requested, an Officer who refused to provide his name also refused to provide the number of the complaint, or state whether the complaint was recorded in the Elections Information Book or the Crimes Information Book, citing orders from above to not provide any info to anyone other than the Police Media Spokesperson.

35 Muslim Organizations Appeal to Make 2010 The Year of Return of Expelled Northern Muslims

Full text of media release:

As Sri Lankan Muslims civil society groups we are deeply concerned by the lack of urgency and recognition of the Northern Muslims’ right to return. Despite the end of the war in May 2009 and on-going efforts to resettle Internally Displaced Persons, the expelled Northern Muslim community is still waiting for the announcement of a program that will facilitate their dignified return to their places of origin, free of further trauma.

2010 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the expulsion of the entire population of Muslims from the Northern Province by the LTTE. It will hopefully also be the year of return for the Northern Muslims to rebuild their lives, livelihoods and a shared future with all communities of the North.

With the end of the war there was an expectation within the displaced Northern Muslim community, currently numbering over 100,000, that they would be allowed to and assisted to return. When resettlement did commence in the North it focused on the recently displaced Tamil IDPs. While recognizing and supporting the urgency for the resettlement of Wanni Tamil IDPs, Northern Muslims are worried that there is hardly any acknowledgment of their existence and needs and they are left out of any planning of the entire resettlement process. The Muslim IDPs have had to use their own resources and to negotiate at an individual level to secure permission to return. While there are many challenges to resettlement including de-mining, re-building infrastructure and providing basic assistance, the delay in resettling the Northern Muslims has raised fears that they will be excluded from the current resettlement process; which could result in their losing assistance both at a family and community level, increased conflicts between those currently settled and Northern Muslims trying to claim their original properties. Reintegrating the returning Northern Muslims with the Tamil community should be the priority; unfortunately so far little progress has been made.

In order to ensure a peace that will benefit and create co-existence among all communities, we the undersigned organizations demand of the next President:

Immediately implement parallel resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs with the resettlement of the Vanni IDPs.

Recognise and ensure the right of return of all Northern Muslims, be they those expelled or the children who were born in displacement.

Give the choice to all Northern Muslims whether to return or opt for local integration in areas where they are currently living.

-Opening of Mannar- Puttalam road to facilitate Muslim IDP return.

-Equally prioritize Muslim villages and expedite the landmine clearance.

-Ensure equity in terms of returnee assistance, rehabilitation and development resources to areas which were inhabited prior to the conflict.

-Ensure community consultation and participation in the rehabilitation and development of the war affected areas.

-Create mechanisms and processes to address potential land problems and disputes, including allocation of public (crown) land, demarcation of village boundaries and sharing and allocation of public resources through inter-community mediating boards.

-Expelled Muslims who have lost their land and public resources due to resettlements that happened after their eviction in 1990 need to be duly compensated.

-Give access to local organizations from the affected districts, and national and international organizations, to areas where resettlement is taking place so that they could play a more proactive role in rebuilding communities. Current restriction on allowing only a handful of relief and rehabilitation agencies should be eased to bring in more help.

-In the event of villages and lands of the Muslims being declared High Security Zones, alternative land and infrastructure should be rebuilt and handed over to the people.

-Devise means of settling land disputes arising from land transactions and land allocations done by LTTE and government in the absence of Northern Muslims in their areas of residence, giving full recognition to the land rights of the Northern Muslims.

-Appoint a truth commission that includes civil society group with a cross section of all communities to investigate the forcible eviction of the Northern Muslims.

-Amend the Prescription Ordinance in the North and East, where large scale displacement had taken place and the inability of the displaced to reclaim the land during the last nineteen years.

Currently Muslims are returning to the north without much assistance from anyone, simply in the hope that they can restart their lives from scratch and co-exist once again with their Tamil brothers and sisters. On behalf of the Northern Muslims the undersigned community based organisations and members of the Muslims community request all the Presidential candidates and others who are involved in northern resettlement, rebuilding and development to fulfil the above requirement to reintegrate the expelled Muslims as part of the northern communities after twenty years.

Dated: January 22, 2010

Signed

Civil Society Organisations:

Citizen Committee for Forcibly Evicted Northern Muslims,
Community Trust Fund Puttalum,
CTF Women’s Forum Vavuniya and Mannar,
ORDER - Sri Lanka (Organization for Relief, Development, Education and Equal Rights),
Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy,
Musali Civil Societies for Rights, Media forum for Musali,
Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, National Muslim Assembly,
Mullaithivu welfare Society,
Al Ameen Islamic Cultural Development Association,
Asian Muslim Action Network,
Asian Resource Foundation,
Women Bureau Periyamadu- Mannar,
Peace Networking Committee Puttalam,
Organization for Peace and Education Development (OPDE),
Child Vision Puttalam, APDC- Puttalam,
Social Aid Puttalam,
Social Improvement Foundation- Alankuda Puttalam,
Al-Kafala and Unity Lanka International

Religious Institutions:

Federation of Mullaithivu Mosques,
Fathuwa Committee Puttalam,
Jaffna Mosque Committee,
Mohideen Jummah Mosque Mannar,
Mannar District Mosques Federation,
Mullaithivu Masjith Trustee Board,
Mullaiihivu District Jammiyathul Ulama,
Killinochchi District Trustee Board, Periyamadhu Mosque Federation,
Veppankulam and Vidathalthivu Mohideen Jumma Mosque,
Periya Karisal Mohideen Jumma Mosque
Periyamadu Ilmiya Arabic College Committee.

Report on election monitors' visit to Jaffna, Kilinochchi & Vavuniya, Jan 17- 19

by Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) conducted a field visit to the Jaffna, Killinochchi and Vavuniya districts from 17-19th January 2010 to monitor the situation prior to the 26th January Presidential election. CMEV met with residents of the area including those who had recently returned, internally displaced person (IDPs), civil society groups, agencies and government officials.

Travelling North on the A9

Consequent to the announcement of the Presidential election many of the restrictions imposed on movement have been lifted and a greater freedom of movement to and within the North was evident. The A9 road is open 24 hours and with very few check points along the way. The check point in Madawachchiya, from which during the war, people had to obtain a pass to access the North has been completely dismantled with only a few security personnel present. Accessing Vavuniya by road is now easy. The only two check points on the A9 north of Vavuniya are based in Omanthai and Elephant Pass. Here security personnel question those proceeding north. The heavy war time and immediate post-war checking seem to have disappeared, at least temporarily.

As a result of the easing of travel restrictions on the A9, there is a constant stream of people visiting Jaffna, mostly from the South and travelling to see the area and visit Nainathivu, an island which has religious significance for Buddhists. The relaxation of travel has also increased commerce and trade in the area. Many more items are available in the market and Sinhalese traders have also set up stalls. One resident told CMEV that certain days saw as many as 15,000 persons from the South visiting Jaffna. Residents of Jaffna commented that while it was positive to see people from the South visiting the area, there were very few resources and structures in place to host this influx and as a result people were sleeping in buses and public buildings. Generally the mood of visitors and hosts was one of mutual acceptance.

Restrictions were also relaxed within Jaffna. Accessing islands was easy with no military approval or registration needed. Security personnel also seemed more relaxed and friendly, compared to the tense situation seen in previous years. CMEV was also informed that certain areas in the High Security Zone (HSZ) such as Kirimale were accessible. Though freedom of movement has been welcome by residents of Jaffna, there is an apprehension that such relaxations may end after the Presidential elections and that previous restrictions will be enforced. This fear and the novelty of travelling on the A9 have increased traffic on the road throughout the day and night.

Between Omanthai and Elephant Pass a number of small tea stalls have cropped up. An area that was sparse during the period of LTTE control is changing, with returnees setting up small shacks including small shops, demining activity continuing and old structures being replaced with new ones. What is most striking on the drive north from Omanthai are the military and police posts, camps and structures that have been set up. Both sides of the A9 have been cleared and demining activity either completed or continuing. Cleared areas have been settled with returnees who have makeshift shacks. Around these shacks and in other areas, there is heavy military, police and STF presence. It is also evident that several shops and structures selling refreshments have been established and run by the military.

The Vanni landscape reflects the rapid and dramatic change in the area. Previous landmarks are fast disappearing, with new structures and sites coming up. Former LTTE administrative structures such as the LTTE Police have been taken over for Government offices and other buildings such as the UNCHR building in Killinochchi now houses the Police. CMEV was informed that the development taking place in the area comes under the Northern Springs project and is controlled by the Presidential Task Force. There were two very large victory monuments built by the side of the A9 road. They are heavily guarded by the military.

One is in Elephant Pass and the other is in Killinochchi. The latter was surrounded by military personnel and did not seem to be accessed by civilians. CMEV also noted the Buddhist temples and shrines built along the A9 road. CMEV saw three such structures during the trip which were visible from the A9. It is unclear as to what has been done in the interior as movement to these areas is restricted. The new structures and controls in the Vanni including the large military presence, new military installations, monuments and Buddhist temples, raises the question of the plans envisaged by government for the area and in particular as to whether these plans involve the establishment of military cantonments there.

Though there is developmental progress in Killinochchi and the other towns along the A9, the lives of returnees are yet to improve. Many continue to live in temporary shacks and face hardship in accessing basic services. Though children are able to go to school, buildings are damaged, there is no furniture and classes are conducted in makeshift structures. Farming and other livelihoods of returnees have been halted due to restrictions. Many resort to having small shacks by the side of the road and have to manage with the assistance given to them when returned.

Whilst damage and destruction was still evident in most places in Killinochchi and Jaffna, many of the people seemed more relaxed. Concern was nevertheless expressed that the new found freedom may not last beyond the election and that many restrictions could be reimposed.

Campaigning for Elections in the North

CMEV noted that in the areas visited there were few posters of the candidates and that most election material that was put up seemed to have been removed. A few posters of Mahinda Rajapakse were evident in Jaffna town, areas in the Killinochchi district and Vavuniya. A poster of the President and Minister Douglas Devananda was seen in the islands. Posters and cutouts of the two main candidates were visible in party offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya. CMEV did not come across campaign materials or party offices of the other candidates. CMEV was informed that public meetings were held by several of the candidates in Jaffna and Vavuniya but no campaigning was visible in the Killinochchi district. The team was also informed that state resources were used - several CTB buses were used to transport people to the Duraiappa Stadium for the public rally held by Mahinda Rajapakse in Jaffna town.

The CMEV team was informed that campaigning by local MPs and other politicians was limited in Jaffna and Vavuniya and there was no campaigning in Killinochchi. In Jaffna and Vavuniya many stated that the UPFA campaign was spearheaded by Minister Douglas Devananda with the involvement of other politicians. There were also reports that the previously detained and recently released TNA MP Kannagaratnam was brought to Vavuniya, given a government bungalow and vehicle and asked to campaign for Mahinda Rajapakse. The team was also told that recent returnees were provided with dry rations and asked to vote for Mahinda Rajapakse.

This was said to have occurred in areas in Vavuniya including villages in Chettikulam DS. The CMEV team was informed of three villages in Chettikulam DS where around 1200 were provided dry rations by Minister Rishard Badurdeen in January 2010. There was no visible presence or campaign by the TNA in either district and many stated that the TNA campaign will commence after 20 January. Several individuals though aware of the TNA support for Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, stated that none of the elected TNA MPs from Jaffna were actively campaigning, communicating with the public at large or engaging in advocacy on behalf of those who are unable to cast their vote. Whilst there was criticism of local politicians and political parties for not advocating the rights of the disenfranchised, many indicated that they will vote. There were also several who stated that the Tamil media such as the Uthayan and Veerakeswary newspapers were influential as well as proactive in providing voter information and in these respects more active than most of the local MPs.

Interest for Elections in the North

The interest among Jaffna and Vavuniya residents seems much greater compared to those living in Killinochchi whose priority at this moment is the rebuilding of their lives, returning to their land and resuming their livelihoods. Many in Jaffna saw the Presidential election as an important event which provided them the opportunity to directly participate in deciding their future through the exercise of the franchise. There were others who felt that this election would not make a difference to their lives and had little confidence of change. Though there was a difference of opinion on the elections, there was general agreement that the relaxation of restrictions in the area and greater freedom for the residents was positive. Several though questioned whether the present status was only an election gimmick by the present government. Many predicted a voter turnout of at least 50% in Jaffna and Vavuniya respectively.

From the discussions held with the various stakeholders it seems a large number of voters, mainly IDPs and returnees in the three districts, will not be able to vote for two main reasons – not being on 2008 voter list and not possessing the relevant voter identification documents. There was division among the IDPS and returnees CMEV spoke to on the importance of the exercise of the franchise at this point. Many among this group stated that elections were not priority for them and that rebuilding their lives were the most important.

Voter List and Related Issues

According to Mr. Kuganathan, the Assistant Election Commissioner in Jaffna, there are 721,359 persons on the Jaffna electoral list which includes Jaffna (629,458) and Killinochchi (91,901) districts. Although there are 91,901 registered in the Killinochchi district very low numbers are back in the district. According the Government Agent in Killinochchi, only around 17,000 have returned to the district and only 5000 have applied to vote at this election. The majority of the population continues to live in displacement in camps or with host families.

On the Vanni electoral list there are 266,975 persons. This breaks down as – Mullaithivu: 68,729, Vavuniya:112,924 and Mannar:85,322

Many of the people the team spoke to in Jaffna peninsula informed that they were registered in the 2008 voter list. Those who were unable to register are those who were displaced prior to 2008 and returned subsequently (discussed in detail below). According to UNHCR figures, as at 7 January 2010, there were 69,541 who were displaced from the Vanni and have returned to Jaffna. The majority of those who have returned are interested in voting but were informed by the GS that they are not on the list and can only be included when applications are called in June or July 2010.

This means that a significant number of those who were displaced and returned to Jaffna will be unable to cast their vote in the Presidential elections and any other elections that are to be held in 2010. CMEV notes that special steps need to be taken by the Election Commissioner and political parties to address this situation. Sri Lanka is at an unprecedented post war situation. Over 200,000 persons were directly affected by the conflict, displaced and unable to register in the voter list of 2008 in the districts of their residence. While the present framework states that only those registered in 2008 will be able to vote in 2010, this special category requires special consideration.

Documentation Required for Voting

Residents of Jaffna who spoke to CMEV informed that they possessed the necessary documentation to cast their vote. The Election Commission has recognised that seven forms of documentation are recognised to be able to vote which are-

1. National Identity Card issued by Department of Registration of Persons.

2. Valid Passport.

3. Valid Driving Licence.

4. Government Pensioner’s Identity Card.

5. Elder’s Identity Card.

6. Identity Card issued to the Clergy by the Department of Registration of Persons.

7. The temporary identity card issued through the Department of Elections for the previous Provincial Council Elections. (These cards will be-revalidated and re-issued to the holders though Grama Niladharis).

In an announcement made by the Commissioner of Elections on 2 December 2009, it was stated that if a person does not possess the above forms of documentation an application needs to be made prior to 15th January to obtain a temporary identity card.

Around 8000 in Jaffna who did not possess documentation were issued temporary identification cards by the local DSs which can be used to cast their vote. Several government officials stated that identification documents will be issued till the 25th or even 26th so that as many persons could apply. Similar initiatives were taking place in Killinochchi and Vavuniya.

CMEV was informed that those who had recently returned from IDP camps were not in possession of NICs or other required documents to cast their vote. Many showed temporary camp identification cards that were issued by the government and signed by the police and included a photograph of the person. Those in Allaipiddy that the CMEV team spoke to stated that they had applied for temporary documents and the GS had informed that these would be issued in the near future. Unfortunately, these IDPs were not registered in the 2008 voter list as they were displaced prior to this. They are therefore not able to vote in the Presidential election.

Election Day Arrangements and Concerns

The CMEV team was informed that the GA who is the Returning Officer for the respective district and his officials in the district were working with the Election Commissioner and his officials to make arrangement for the forthcoming Presidential elections. CMEV was informed of the polling centres and cluster centres set up in the different districts. The polling centres are as follows:

Jaffna Electoral List 624

Jaffna 529

Killinochchi 95

Vanni Electoral List 222

Mullaithivu 50

Vavuniya 91+ (13 centres for surendees)

Mannar 68

Cluster Booths:

Jaffna

Sixty eight (68) centres will be clustered in the Killinochchi Public Playground, 19 centres will be located in 13 selected places and another 08 centres will be located in 4 selected places. Kankasanthurai will have 34clusters and 8 centres clustered in Kudathanai Relocation Centre, Point Pedro

Vanni

Vavuniya:

8 centres will be clustered in Puliyankulam Tamil Maha Vidyalayam

4 centres in Vavuniya Tamil Maha Vidyalayam

Mullaithivu

35 Centres will be clustered in Vavuniya Tamil Maha Vidyalayam
Mannar

4 centres will be clusterd in Vannamodai G.T.M.School

2 centres will be clusterd in Kaddaiyadampan R.C.T.M School

Many of the people CMEV spoke to indicated that they had received polling cards. Those who had not received polling cards stated that they were waiting for the cards and if they did not receive them that they would raise the issue with the GS and check at the local post office.

The Returning Officers in the three districts visited stated that measures had been taken to raise awareness of where the polling centres will be located through the GSs and local media. There was also information disseminated through Tamil media as to where the cluster booths will be located in the three districts. While this has taken place, CMEV came across several persons including recently returned persons in Jaffna who were unaware of where they had to go to vote. CMEV urges relevant government officials to widely disseminate information of where the respective polling centres and cluster booth are to be located.

The Returning Officers also stated that transport will be arranged for returnees and IDPs who are presently residing in a particular district but registered to vote in a different district. In Jaffna it is estimated that 400-500 persons will be voting in cluster booths in other districts including Killinochchi, Vavuniya and therefore transport will be arranged for those who have applied for this facility. What is unclear is the location from which persons in need of transport can access the facility and the time at which the facility will be available. This information must be widely circulated to persons who are eligible for transport to avoid confusion on Election Day.

Further, many persons CMEV spoke to stated that they were confused about how to mark the ballot paper and ensure the validity of their vote. There was confusion among voters of how to proceed with preference votes and whether a cross or numbers should be used. This is an issue that the Election Commissioner, district officials and political parties need to address to ensure that voters follow the recognised form of voting.

CMEV was informed that in Jaffna, training for polling agents had taken place to educate the polling agents on how to conduct the elections on the day and to be aware of steps to be taken when a problem arises. Several in Jaffna stated that polling agents and other officials were brought in from the South for the Municipal elections held in Jaffna in August 2009 and that a similar initiative should be introduced for the forthcoming Presidential elections to avoid malpractices. CMEV was not informed of persons being brought from the South for the Presidential elections. We urge the Election Commissioner and the Government Agents to assess the situation in the districts and take the necessary steps to avoid election malpractices.

The Returning Officers stated that displace persons who had applied to vote will be able to do so in polling centres which are set up outside of the camps. Polling cards have been sent to the camps. There was confusion with regard to how those who have returned to their land will receive polling cards if they had applied for them while residing in camps and had given the camp address on their application. Confusion remained as to whether they would have to travel to the camps to collect the polling cards or whether the polling cards would be posted to a new address. Though polling cards are not mandatory for voting, this is an example of the confusion and lack of planning when it comes to the voting rights of IDPs and returnees.

According to the National Action Plan that was formulated by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights in October 2009, there remain around 11,000 ‘surrendees’. These persons fall under Emergency Regulations No 1405/14 of August 2005 and No 1462/8 of September 2006 which provides that a person who surrenders can remain in rehabilitation camps for upto 12 months with a possible extension of another 12 months. Surrendees fall within the purview of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. CMEV was informed that there are presently discussions to allow ‘surrendees’ to vote. Following booths are set up for ‘surrendees’ based on the applications accepted;

1.V/Pampaimadu Campus Hostel-137

2. V/Technical College,Nelukkulam-272

3.VMuslim Maha Vidyalayam Paddanichchur,Hall No 04-141

4.V/Gamini Maha Vidyalayam-81

5.V/Kandapuram Vani Maha Vidyalayam-189

6.V/Vavuniya Tamil Maha Vidyalayam(Primary)-153

7.V/Rambaikulam Girls Maha Vidyalayam.Hall No 02-106

8.V/Hindu College,Kovilkulam-112

9.V/Velikkulam Junior School Hall No 03-111

10.V/Poonthodam Maha Vidyalayam Hall No02-164

11.V/Omanthai Maha Vidyalayam Hall No 02-370

12.V/Mudaliyarkulam G.T.M.School Hall No 02-336

13.V/Pampaimad Zone I -137

Votes are to be counted in counting centres identified by the Election Commissioner in each district. Therefore votes casted under the Jaffna electoral list will be counted in Jaffna. Killinochchi district falls within the Jaffna electoral list and CMEV was informed that arrangements have been made to transport ballot boxes from polling centres and cluster booths in Killinochchi to Jaffna. Ballot boxes are to be transported by road accompanied by the Election Officials, Police and Political party agents.

Right to Vote of the IDPs and Returnees

IDPs and those who have returned have the same constitutional right as every citizen of Sri Lanka including the right to vote. Those who have directly borne the brunt of the conflict and been displaced from their homes have been unable to obtain proper documentation and register due to the hardships faced as a result of the conflict. They need special attention.

This is an unprecedented situation, with more than 100,000 IDPs still remaining in camps. Around 150,000 have been returned, though CMEV discussion with these groups indicate that many are unaware of their right to vote or unable to cast their vote. CMEV is concerned that several thousand could be disenfranchised due to several reasons including lack of registration, lack of proper documentation, not being aware of being able to vote in the district of their current residing and of the location of their polling station.

CMEV welcomes steps already taken by the Election Commissioner to address the rights of IDPs and those returned including the newspaper advertisements informing voters where to vote which appeared in the Tamil press in January 2010 and the extension provided for IDPs to register to vote. Though these measures have addressed concerns somewhat, the visit to Jaffna, Killinochchi and Vavuniya highlighted that problems still persist.

CMEV met with several persons who were previously residing in Jaffna and had been displaced to the Vanni as a result of the conflict. According to UNHCR figures, as at 7 January 2010, there were 69,541 who were displaced from the Vanni and have returned to Jaffna. With such a large number returning and returns still continuing, there are concerns about these returnees being eligible to vote. Several persons CMEV spoke to in Allaipiddy and Kayts indicated that they were registered to vote in Jaffna prior to being displaced. All confirmed that they were present in Jaffna when the 1981 census – the last census in Jaffna – was conducted.

They felt that this should be considered as evidece of their residence in the district. CMEV raised these concerns with government officials who stated that if persons are not on the 2008 Jaffna voter list, they are not eligible to vote in any of the elections in 2010 which includes the Presidential election, Parliamentary election and Northern Provincial Council elections. The 2008 voter list was compiled with applications accepted in 2007 and therefore leaves out persons displaced or who migrated prior to this date. With the conflict, many were displaced, unable to register and lost their documentations. Special consideration needs to be given to this group of people who have faced severe hardships as a result of the conflict and who now face disenfranchisement on account of a legal framework which does not take on board the impact of conflict and displacement. CMEV urges all stakeholders to formulate new legislation to recognise the difficulties faced by those who are affected by disasters and accordingly unable to register in the voter list.

Though the census is a starting point to verify whether persons resided in Jaffna prior to displacement, this does not address those who were born after 1981 and are presently over 18years of age and not recognised in any list in Jaffna. CMEV urges the Census Department to conduct a census in the whole of Sri Lanka as soon as possible.

The CMEV team was informed that the older IDPs in Jaffna such as those displaced from the HSZ are in the Jaffna voter list of 2008 and will be eligible to vote in cluster booths that are to be set up near the HSZ.

Lack of documentation is another issue cited by IDPs and returnees which may lead to disenfranchisement. CMEV was informed that 8000 temporary identity documents have been issued in Jaffna for the forthcoming elections and that more are to be issued before elections.

CMEV also notes that those returning are registered with several government ministries due to their displacement and return. Those who return have previously been issued a temporary camp card by the Police, are in the government database of those having returned, received the return assistance of Rs 25,000 which includes a deposit to a bank account by the government and have received dry rations from the government. They are therefore in at least one government database and their status verified by government officials.

A special case can be made to ensure that those IDPs and returnees who are on previous voter lists, registered with the government as IDPs and returnees and in possession of at least the temporary ID with a photograph, should be able to apply to their respective Division Secretary who in turn certifies a letter confirming that the person is either an IDP or returnee and gets it approved by the respective Government Agent who is also the Returning Officer for the district. CMEV recommends that the certified letter and a photo ID such as the temporary camp ID issued by the Police should be allowed as valid voter identity documentation for this special category of persons.

Out of over 100,000 remaining in displacement, only 31,000 have applied to cast their vote at the Presidential elections. CMEV was informed that of the above number only 23,000 applications were accepted. The low number of applications could mean several things – lack of interest among IDPs to lack of awareness among IDPs and confusion on what needs to be done to be eligible to vote. CMEV recognises the steps taken by the Election Commissioner and his officials and other civil society organisations to raise awareness and to encourage IDPs to register. Unfortunately, several interviewed stated that many of the politicians and political parties were inactive and did not advocate IDP voter rights. It is hoped that those representing the interests of these affected groups will show more interest in the future and play a more active role in advocating their rights.

As mentioned in the previous section cluster booths and transport is to be arranged for those who are displaced. CMEV urges the authorities to publicise arrangements made so that IDPs and returnees are aware of the arrangements before election day and there is no confusion on the day itself.

CMEV welcome steps taken by the Commissioner of Elections to raise awareness of the ID’s that can be used to cast one’s vote. CPA, a constituent member of CMEV also conducted a public campaign in all three languages to raise awareness on the issue. CMEV notes that further awareness is required so that voters are aware of the forms of identification recongised to cast their vote and this is something that should be continuously done by the authorities and media groups.

Conclusion

CMEV welcomes the lifting of restrictions on movement on the A9 road and on restrictions within Jaffna, though there is as yet no real change with the HSZ. Many have been able to return to their lands in Jaffna – the Killinochchi and Mullativu case loads are not moving as fast.

CMEV is deeply concerned with the effective disenfranchisement of IDPs and returnees in this Presidential election, the low number of applications from IDPs and the inability of many to vote due to not being on the 2008 voter list or not having the required documentation. This needs urgent addressing. The Government, Election Commissioner and political parties need to formulate proposals to ensure that rights of IDPs, returnees and those affected by disasters are respected in future disaster settings and that all are able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Though there have been comparatively low level of violence reported from the North in this Presidential election, CMEV is concerned with reports of state resources that may have been used in the election campaign of President Mahinda Rajapakse. CMEV is also concerned of possible malpractices on Election Day including voter intimidation, impersonation and ballot box stuffing. The high interest shown among Jaffna and Vavuniya residents is to be welcomed and CMEV encourages all those who are eligible to vote to cast their vote. These elections are the first to be held in the entire Northern Province in a post war situation and are a test on what people in the area want for their future. It is hoped that all citizens who are able to exercise their franchise will do so on January 26.

January 21, 2010

State media turned into presidential propaganda outlets

by Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders)

Flouting a 15 January supreme court ruling, state-owned TV stations Rupavahini and ITN continue to openly favour President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign to win another term in the presidential election to be held on 26 January with a total of 21 candidates taking part.

Detailed monitoring by Reporters Without Borders has established that 98.5 per cent of the news and current affairs air-time on these two stations on 18 and 19 January was given over to the president and his supporters. This violates the constitution, above all its seventh amendment and article 104 (b) empowering the electoral commission.

“Alarmed by Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy, President Rajapaksa and his followers are using and abusing all of the state’s resources to get the president reelected,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The TV propaganda is deafening and the figures we are releasing today are worthy of the Burmese or North Korean regimes.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We urge the supreme court and the electoral commission to use all the powers at their disposal to force Rupavahini and ITN to come to reason. This glaring media imbalance shows that the incumbent is benefiting from an advantage that is unacceptable in a democratic election.”

The Reporters Without Borders monitoring on 18 and 19 January found that, of a total of 472 minutes and 5 seconds of news and current affairs air-time on Rupavahini and ITN, Gen. Fonseka and the other opposition candidates were granted only 7 minutes and 50 seconds, or 1.6 per cent, while the president, his government and his party were granted 465 minutes and 25 seconds, in other words, nearly eight hours of air-time in just two days.

On ITN, one had to wait until the 7 p.m. Sinhalese-language news programme for coverage of opposition activity (Gen. Fonseka for 30 seconds, the UNP for 40 seconds and the JVP for 45 seconds), while President Rajapaksa got 3 minutes on the 9 a.m. programme, 2 minutes on the 10 a.m. programme, 4 minutes 45 seconds on the noon programme and 4 minutes 20 seconds on the Tamil-language programme at 6 p.m.

Rupavahini is giving the government an overwhelming air-time advantage. In the 8 p.m. Sinhalese-language news programme on 18 January, for example, the government got 8 minutes and 30 seconds and the president got 7 minutes and 10 seconds, while Gen. Fonseka, the UNP and the JVP got a combined total of just one minute. And it is deplorable that the twenty or so other candidates are totally ignored by the state media.

Granting so much time to propaganda on behalf of the incumbent is not new. On 11 January, for example, Rupavahini carried a live broadcast of President Rajapaksa’s election programme launch that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.

Even if some privately-owned media are campaigning openly for the opposition or are giving more space to the activities of all the candidates, the extremely biased coverage on the main TV stations is having an undeniable impact on the campaign. Meanwhile, Sirasa TV, a privately-owned station based in Colombo, has not resumed its independent style of coverage since it was attacked by gunmen in January 2009.

The coverage imbalance is being accompanied by a smear campaign against Gen. Fonseka, the former army commander, in certain pro-government media, prompting him to write to eight newspapers requesting apologies for articles he regards as libellous. And the website of the defence ministry, which is headed by the president’s brother, is openly campaigning against him.

Control of the state media has become crucial to the election campaign. The Commissioner of Elections has issued several reminders about the rules requiring balanced coverage and tried to introduce a Competent Authority to monitor the TV stations, but the president’s office resisted. The supreme court’s ruling has also been ignored.

The president and his allies have abused other state resources in the course of the campaign. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, for example, forced all mobile phone operators to send SMS messages signed by President Rajapaksa to all their clients, while soldiers have been seen putting up the president’s election posters.

Cases of intimidation and violence against the media have also increased. Thakshila Dilrukshi, a journalist with the BBC’s Sinhalese-language service, was hospitalised after being attacked by supporters of a minister in the central city of Polonnaruwa on 13 January. Her equipment and personal effects were stolen during the assault, which occurred after she covered a clash between Rajapaksa and Fonseka followers.

The Colombo-based Sunday Leader, outspoken weekly, was raided the same day by police bearing a warrant who claimed to have been tipped off about the printing of "defamatory" posters.

Freelance journalist Jude Samantha was assaulted while covering clashes between government and opposition supporters on 16 January in Madurankuliya, in the western district of Puttalam.

Reporters Without Borders issued an appeal for calm in early December, after the first incidents: http://www.rsf.org/Reporters-Without-Borders-calls,35277.html

In Pictures: Taste of Sri Lanka New York City

by Elisa Mala

The seaside enclave of Tompkinsville sits on the north side of Staten Island, but, with a significant population of Sri Lankan immigrants, the neighborhood could easily be half a world away. To sample that nation’s cuisine or just enjoy the area’s grand shoreline vistas, take the subway to South Ferry, hop on the ferry and, at St. George, take the Staten Island Railway one stop. Or opt for the scenic path: a casual 10-minute stroll along Bay Street.

At Lanka Grocery, 31 papers bring news from Sri Lanka in Tamil, Sinhalese and English. And they move quickly: "Monday, the papers come in. Tuesday, they're all gone," said Jeewn Jayatunga, the owner.

Popular dishes at New Asha include kottu roti, a dish of shredded noodles topped with vegetable or meat curries, and appam, paper-thin rice-flour pancakes that are also known as hoppers. Pair them with wood-apple juice, a wildly popular beverage in Southeast Asia.

 

Fried Sri Lankan delights at New Asha Restaurant.

 

On Sundays, the all-you-can-eat buffet ($11 per person) at San Rasa includes half a dozen curries and sambals, which are chili-based sauces often flavored with fruit or vegetables. Sip some faluda ($5), a Sri Lankan answer to an iced latte: it's a hodgepodge of milk, ice cream, rose syrup, gelatin and poppy seeds. Mr. Handapangoda occasionally dines alongside his customers.

Translation of the storefront sign: "San's Taste." "Rasa" is the Sinhalese term for "taste," while "San" is the nickname of the restaurant's chef and owner, Sanjay Handapangoda.

The needs of Sri Lankan customers are met at Lanka Grocery, but to accommodate the growing number of Mexican immigrants, one corner is packed with snacks from south of the border, like Takis, a rolled corn chip.

One small step for your feet, one large step for your tastebuds: Scour the shelves of Lanka Grocery for breadfruit swimming in brine, cans of lotus root or pickled mayom. [courtesy: NYTimes.com]

Photos by: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times ~ click for NYTimes Multimedia

Despite promises to the UN, the Sri Lankan government has yet to investigate the serious crimes of Sri Lanka's civil war

by Peter Bouckaert

Despite verbal acrobatics reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, Sri Lankan officials have been unable to dismiss a shocking mobile phone video from last January purportedly showing Sri Lankan soldiers summarily executing naked and bound captives.

The government has consistently claimed the video is fake, without providing any evidence that the gruesome scene was staged or the footage tampered with.

Now, the top United Nations envoy responsible for investigating extralegal executions around the world has added his voice to those believing the tape to be genuine. After commissioning three experts on forensic pathology, video analysis and firearms to review the tape, the envoy, Philip Alston, told the BBC, "You cannot fake the precise sort of reaction which the human body makes when shot at close range by such a weapon."

Of course Sri Lanka's public relations team went into its usual overdrive, denouncing the "bias" of the UN expert and suggesting that he was on a "personal crusade" to force a war crimes investigation over the allegations.

The response was unsurprising. The Sri Lankan authorities have a list of "biased" organisations that includes just about anybody who reported critically on the final months of the fighting last year against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in which at least 7,000 civilians died. The villains include my own organisation, Human Rights Watch, other international human rights and humanitarian groups, several UN agencies, the European Union, the BBC, Channel 4 and many other media outlets. For our Sri Lankan human rights colleagues and journalists, the situation is even graver, of course: many have fled the country fearing for their lives, and some have paid the highest price.

But the Sri Lankan spin is starting to fray. General Sareth Fonseka, the man in charge of last year's offensive and who is challenging his former boss for the presidency, said that the orders to execute surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders in the final days of the war had come directly from the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the powerful brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The general later claimed to have mis-spoken, but it is difficult to imagine what he meant to say instead.

The atrocity captured in the video was not an aberration, but sadly an all-too-common occurrence during the 26-year civil war. Both government forces and the Tamil Tigers were responsible for summary executions and targeted killings for which no one has ever been punished. Hundreds of people, primarily ethnic Tamils, have "disappeared". During those dark days, local newspapers on a daily basis ran ads such as "White Van Disappearance – Information wanted," placed by desperate relatives of the latest victims. As hard as they try, Sri Lankan officials cannot hide the reality of what happened during this brutal conflict and its continuing impact on Sri Lankan society.

When you really dig into the "disappearances," as Human Rights Watch has done, the truth becomes all too apparent. For our March 2008 report, Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for "Disappearances" and Abductions in Sri Lanka, our investigators spoke to families and witnesses in more than a hundred such episodes. In most cases we were able to establish direct state responsibility. These were just a small fraction of the disappearances and executions carried out by state security services over the course of the armed conflict. But no one has ever been held responsible.

The government's record of investigating allegations of war crimes by both government forces and the Tamil Tigers during the final months of the conflict has been no better. Human Rights Watch and others reported the Sri Lankan army's repeated indiscriminate shelling of civilians, including packed hospitals, and the blocking of humanitarian assistance to the trapped and desperate population in the war zone. One reason the government locked nearly 300,000 civilians fleeing the fighting in closed camps apparently was to keep their stories from coming out.

The Sri Lankan government continues to believe that aggressive denial is the best policy. But the price it is paying in lost credibility is rising. The European Union is considering ending textile trade benefits to Sri Lanka over its human rights record, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took the extraordinary step of delaying an emergency loan for months. At the direction of the US Congress, the US State Department produced a report detailing alleged violations of international humanitarian law during the final months of the conflict.

When the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon visited Sri Lanka shortly after the conflict ended in May, President Rajapaksa promised him that his government would investigate, but it has not kept that promise. The ball is now in Ban Ki-moon's court: he should establish an independent international investigation to establish the truth of what happened in Sri Lanka, an essential step toward accountability for the serious crimes committed there. - courtesy: The Guardian, UK -

(Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crises, is responsible for coordinating the organization's response to major wars and other human rights crises)

Both candidates are ignoring what should be their priority: national reconciliation

Sri Lanka's presidential election: Between a rock and a hard man

From the print edition of THE ECONOMIST

THE presidential election in Sri Lanka on January 26th should have been a cakewalk for the incumbent. Last May, when his government defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, bringing an end to a bloody 26-year insurgency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity among the island’s Sinhalese majority knew no bounds.

As for the Tamil minority, thwarted of the independent homeland for which the Tigers had been fighting, it was, at just 12% of the 21m population, too small to sway an election. Yet, as an ugly and at times violent election season nears its end, the outcome is now on a knife-edge. Despite the advantages of incumbency—such as fawning state-controlled media—the main challenger, Sarath Fonseka, might yet sneak home. Whoever wins, the prospects for a decent settlement for the Tamils, most of whom shunned the Tigers but nurture legitimate grievances, seem remote.

The danger to Mr Rajapaksa does not stem from Sinhalese voters’ sympathy for foreign criticism of him. The ruthlessness with which his government prosecuted the final stages of the war, and then interned some 300,000 Tamils for months, alienated many in the West. But the then General Fonseka led the army that committed the alleged war crimes. He was the architect of a plan for ensuring peace by hugely boosting the size of the army after the war. And Mr Fonseka’s biggest mistake as a candidate may have been to appear disloyal to his own soldiers by accusing the defence secretary (who happens to be the president’s brother) of having ordered extra-judicial killings (before withdrawing the accusation).

No, Mr Rajapaksa is under threat because Mr Fonseka, by his very presence, trumps his best card, that of the conquering hero. And without that card, Mr Rajapaksa’s hand looks weak. His government is widely seen as high-handed, corrupt and crudely nepotistic. Gotabaya, the defence secretary, is just one of three well-placed brothers. A legion of other members of what Sri Lankans have taken to calling the “royal” family have also thrived. Although the economy is well-placed to bounce back from a slowdown this year, rising prices and mismanagement in health and education have made the government look inept. So has its clumsy handling of relations with the EU, where it is poised to lose valuable trade privileges and thus thousands of jobs in the garment industry.

All of this has helped forge an extraordinary coalition behind Mr Fonseka. It includes the mainstream opposition, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, or JVP, which espouses an improbable amalgam of Sinhalese chauvinism and Marxism, and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), once seen as a front for the Tigers. What unites these groups is a hatred for the Rajapaksas even deeper than the one they hold for each other.
Casting votes going cheap

In a close race, Tamil votes are vital. Just as the Tigers won the 2005 election for Mr Rajapaksa, by enforcing a boycott of the polls in areas they controlled, so Tamil voters could now unseat him. But neither candidate has offered a proper power-sharing deal to Tamils in the north and east, where most of them live. Tamils have little reason to expect their lives to improve under Mr Fonseka. Even as a serving soldier, he ventured that “Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country.” He said minorities should not make “unreasonable demands”.

Tamil demands for equality and for a real devolution of power in the north and east are far from unreasonable. They are also in the interests of the Sinhalese majority. If Sri Lanka’s next president wants to rule a stable and prosperous country, his first priority should be to take steps to turn military victory into a political settlement that ensures lasting peace. - courtesy: The Economist -

Tamil émigrés follow the election campaign with jaundiced eyes

Sri Lanka's Tamil diaspora-Next year in Jaffna

From the print edition of THE ECONOMIST

IN THE dingy back office of a Sri Lankan grocery shop in Harrow, north-west London, sales assistants pore over a Tamil newspaper, while a customer says he is going home to follow events on the internet. Having watched from afar as the Sri Lankan army crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, British Tamils are again transfixed by a campaign on the island—this time for an election. On January 26th the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, will seek to capitalise on his military victory at a presidential poll called nearly two years earlier than it need have been.

The news, however, has been mostly grim for the 1m or so members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. Most supported the rebels and the independent state for which they battled. As the Tigers were defeated, thousands of Tamils were killed. Now, the choice is between two candidates: Mr Rajapaksa, who launched the final bloody phase of the war; and Sarath Fonseka, who led the army that waged it.

For Tamils that constitutes a dispiriting contest. Both candidates are Sinhalese nationalists; neither seems likely to hurry towards the national reconciliation they have promised. But with the Sinhalese vote apparently closely split between Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Fonseka, Tamils, who constitute only 12% of the population, may have the deciding say. In Sri Lanka the Tamil National Alliance, once seen as a proxy for the Tigers, has announced its backing for Mr Fonseka, as the only way to thwart Mr Rajapaksa. Many Tamil émigrés say they grudgingly support that decision. Without votes, however, they can do little to sway the outcome.

They were not always so powerless. Until May, when the war was won and lost, the Tamil diaspora, which accounts for one-quarter of Sri Lankan Tamils and has large populations in Canada, Britain, America and Australia, exerted huge power back home. By financing the rebels—to the tune of $300m a year by some estimates—overseas Tamils sustained a well-armed guerrilla force, which by the end had even a primitive air force able to bombard the main city, Colombo.

The Tigers’ overseas network flourished after many Tamils fled their homeland in the 1980s. It controlled many aspects of diaspora life, including schools and temples. In Tamil-populated areas such as Harrow, the Tigers’ defeat is sharply felt. Stories abound of humble shopkeepers made millionaires as the Tigers were wiped out before collecting their loot. But most lost out. “Everyone gave money to the Liberation Tigers,” says a 30-year-old waiter in Sambar, a Sri Lankan café in Harrow. “And we lost everything.”

Some Tiger supporters have tried to reignite the campaign for a Tamil “Eelam”, or homeland. The Global Tamil Forum, one of several new outfits, says it is planning elections for a “transnational government” in April. Around the world, referendums are being organised on the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution, a document adopted in 1976 by a group called the Tamil United Liberation Front, declaring the Tamils’ right to statehood.

The Tigers’ former following, however, is now rudderless, allowing dissenters to speak up. Brutal towards the very Tamils they claimed to represent at home, the Tigers also put heavy pressure on exiles, threatening to harm their relatives. Raghavan, a founder of the Tigers in 1974, who left them a decade later and now lives in London, says their defeat is allowing more moderate views an airing on diaspora radio stations and websites.

His greater hope is that a moderate Tamil voice, without the Tigers to silence it, will now be heard in Sri Lanka itself. Overseas, the diaspora will keep up the calls for investigations into alleged war crimes, and press for a political settlement to ensure lasting peace. But there are fears Tiger activists overseas may seek to undermine Tamil politicians who press for devolution rather than a separate Tamil state. They might, for example, finance rival political parties. The government has always argued that support for the Tigers among the diaspora was almost entirely a result of extortion. Not so, for they have one other selling-point that survives the evisceration of their coercive powers: the government’s refusal to make real progress towards reconciliation with its Tamil minority at home. The election may not change that. [courtesy: The Economist]

The Two Elections in 2010: End of History for the NE Tamils or, A Fresh Beginning?

By Jolly Somasundram

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." - W B Yeats" - The Second Coming."

A daughter is not given in marriage on assurances of future good behaviour by the bridegroom, but, only after a critical scan of what he has done in the past. Promises, undertakings and manifestos are not worth a bucket of warm spit: they are not justiciable, just bedazzling lover's promises, to be abandoned once the objective is gained.

Table of Contents

1. The Problem- The End of History

2. Strategic Thinking

3. Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: An Opportunity

PART 1- PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

4. Presidential Election: Two Choices

5. Criteria for Evaluating The Two Choices

6. Issues for The South: Issues for the NE Tamils

1. Issues for the South

2.Issues for the NE Tamils

7. Election Approaches for the NE Tamils

1. Boycott- The Pornography of Politics

2 Quislingam

PART 2- PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

8. The Nature of Parliament

9.Opportunity Available for the NE Tamil Parties (NETAP

10.Conclusion

1. THE PROBLEM- THE END OF HISTORY

"War does not determine who is right: it just determines who is left," wrote Bertrand Russel. The NE Tamils (who include those from this region living elsewhere in the island), never had it so bad. Toronto and London had replaced Jaffna as the two largest population centres of the NE Tamils. For twenty years, the NE had undergone de-development, becoming the most backward part of Sri Lanka (worse than Uva) under any criterion of development- poverty, educational achievement, health, infrastructure etc.The position of first minority, in numbers, has been ceded to the Muslims. For over two decades, the NE Tamils were unable to exercise their free franchise, a position to which they had fallen, after supporting the disenfranchisement of the Plantation Tamils.

They had been helpless- except to bleat- when 300,000 of their civilians were incarcerated in foetid military prison camps in the Wanni (jokingly called humanitarian centres by the government) without even their elected representatives having access to them, not to mention the media or the UNHCR. (The army would not dared have such massive camps in the South, after the end of the two southern uprisings.)

These camps, with more than half its population composed of women and young girls, were under the iron control of the army (with possibilities invitingly open for misuse of power against these defenceless girls), with no external access, accountability or judicial review. Anecdotal evidence of what transpired within is not for delicate ears. In the South, full of animated discussions of ill-governance and the desirability of applying Dasa Raja Dhamma forms of Governance, there wasn't a comment: getting the 17th amendment implemented was of greater priority.

NE Tamils have no friends in S. Asia. Asia's arch enemies- India and Pakistan- banded together to assist Colombo and, later, Tamil Nadu Tamils acquiesced with the Wanni incarceration. A NE Tamil's passport is viewed with the same intense suspicion in India as Muslim's is, in the United States. It will not be long before the diaspora- which is onto their second generation- drops the NE Tamils. The once empowered NE Tamils, who engaged themselves vigorously in the politics of entitlement, are now a bereft, depowered people, stranded on the centre island of a busy highway, participating shamefacedly in the politics of supplication, aka as the begging bowl. For the NE Tamils, history seems to have ended.

2. STRATEGIC THINKING

But there is upside. It is only when there are no options that difficult decisions could be taken. The stitch, whose time has come, should enable the NE Tamils to abandon emotional orthodoxies and vainglorious ideas of their past (no one cares a damn for them) and take a hard, inward, pragmatic look at themselves. If they decide that they have an identity which deserves preserving, then, based on a SWOT analysis, they need to take strategic long, medium and short-term steps to preserve this identity. Instead of hard or soft power approaches they should adopt smart power methods. Lessons could be learnt from Thondaman, of how he pulled his despised Plantation Tamils in from the cold, to make them a proud part of the Sri Lankan polity, enabling them to become an important segment in her governance, even of making and sustaining governments. And Thondaman (snr) did not have a diaspora!

3. PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: AN OPPORTUNITY

The forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections are not video games played in virtual space but chess games played in real time, with the NE Tamils as human stakes, normally wooed only at election time and then dumped. These two elections offer the despairing NE Tamils a live opportunity to reverse the situation, by taking the initial concrete steps towards a strategic readjustment that would ensure an eventual rebirth of their history.

PART 1- PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

4. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION- TWO CHOICES

The real Presidential choice (2010) is between an incumbent President- with 40 years of political experience- and a challenging General- with 40 days of it. To use a gynaecological term, the General is an ectopic Presidential candidate. In gynaecology, it is possible for the fertilised germ cell, prevented from reaching the womb for the foetus to grow- because the fallopian tubes were blocked- to grow on its linings. So has the General! Not having political experience, he has now decided to attach himself to political linings and grow political skills with on-the-job-training.

Both main candidates appeal to the same core Southern constituency and will be elected by the South. In respect of the NE Tamils, a Collective of Tamil Professionals- inexperienced in the hurly-burly of actual electioneering and, therefore, unfamiliar on how voters make their decisions- has said that "the voter needs to know the positions of various candidates so as to assess their suitability and credibility on several critical issues and, collectively, seek to make a difference to the outcome." Spoken like professionals! This Collective, no doubt, thinks that each voter will draw up a table, give weightages for each critical issue, produce a variety of equations and use the differential calculus to mathematically optimise who would be the best candidate. The two main candidates have now issued their sound bites- called manifestos. What now then? Professionals are a political unintelligentsia!

This neat Weberian rationality is not how the political world works, no such model is operational any where in the world. Politics works on dysfunction and is extremely untidy. Tony Blair, lied unashamedly about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and declared war. Even after his mendacity was proved, he won the next election. In the recent Health Care vote in the US Senate, Obama purchased the critical 60th vote of Senator Nelson by bribing his State of Nebraska with a $100 million investment. This is called 'pork' in the United States. Even if it were called Organic Vegetable Tikka, the taint of bribery will not be buffed. In Sri Lanka, the practice is to buy over, recalcitrant legislators with Cabinet portfolios much to the chagrin of professionals.

But, this is part of the downside of democracy: it comes with the territory of an electoral process, based on proportion that gives the advantage to smaller parties. Jumbo cabinets will not exist if proportion were abolished. Bismarck equated politics with sausage making, where rejects and offal are bundled within a sausage skin. In the governance skin all manner of divergencies have to be accommodated. If not, the current UNP and JVP common candidate, is inexplicable. Virtue, principle or gourmet taste do not apply to sausage or Cabinet making.

5. CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING THE TWO CHOICES

The main candidates should be judged, not on what they promise but how harshly they ruled the NE Tamils when exercising power. A daughter is not given in marriage on assurances of future good behaviour by the bridegroom, but, only after a critical scan of what he has done in the past. Promises, undertakings and manifestos are not worth a bucket of warm spit: they are not justiciable, just bedazzling lover's promises, to be abandoned once the objective is gained. Just to give an example. One of the main candidate's promises is to increase the salary of public servants by Rs 10.000 a month. This is plain impossible. There are 1.2 million public servants. This payment would cost Rs 140 Billion a year, that is three times the total education budget. At present, the salary, pension and the interest on the public debt is more than the revenue. To meet them, it is necessary to print money. This salary promise has been cynically made, knowing full well that it can never be implemented. So also the promises to abolish the Executive Presidency, implement the 17th amendment, abolishing Jumbo cabinets. None of these can be implemented for structural, processual, systemic and financial reasons.

The valuelessness of political promises was shown by Chandrika Kumaratunge. In the 1994 Presidential election, she gave a written undertaking to the JVP that she would abolish the Executive Presidency within three months (fixing a date) of her assumption of duties. Based on this promise, the JVP withdrew its candidate. Unwisdom has not left the JVP. It imagines that their present presidential candidate- a General who commanded an army- would self-sacrificially relinquish the Presidency if he were to win it, and then revert as a mere citizen like Cincinnatus- an anti-Bonapartist action. A study of history by the JVP may not go amiss and, indeed, that of sausage making.

Politics is about power, its acquisition and retention. Its grammar is deal-making, accommodation and the cashing of IOU's, to backbiting, clashing stakeholders, conducted with nuance filled equivocation. It certainly is not a spiritual quest. The Elephant- the symbol of the UNP- the other party backing the General, does not seem to have shared its reputed long memory with that Party. Only recently, this Party supported a group at the Colombo Municipal elections, in the vain hope that it would abdicate power to the UNP, once victory were gained. The group did win the elections but the UNP is waiting longingly for the abdication. Suckers are not born every minute but voters are!

6. ISSUES FOR THE SOUTH: ISSUES FOR THE NE TAMILS

1 Issues for the South.

Two separate constituencies would be contributing to the election of the President. The decisive choice will be by the South, for whom good governance, size of Cabinet, corruption, integrity, nepotism, implementation of the 17th amendment, media freedom, dynasty, law and order are hot issues. The South would be electing, whom it considers to be, the better of the two lead candidates.

2 Issues for the NE Tamils

For the NE Tamils, these issues of the South are luxuries. The down-to-earth concerns for the NE Tamils are mundane. They are,

1 The immediate return of the Wanni Tamils to their homes,

2 The treatment of the insurgent war-wounded on the same basis as that of the Ranaviru, as the United States did after the end of her secessionist war (1894). ( Insurgent war wounded are, after all, human beings who also suffer the effects of the war very much the same as the Ranaviru). The costs of both need not be met by taxing the South. Earmarked funds are available on grant or near grant basis from bilateral and multi-lateral sources. In addition, there is a tidy sum available under the frozen funds of the LTTE and inert LTTE assets. NE Tamils inherit these funds since they were contributed by the NE Diaspora or extracted by the LTTE by taxation of the NE Tamils. (The LTTE has a reputed 14 ocean going ships as against nil by the Government, though it has a well funded Shipping Corporation.)

These frozen funds or liquifiable assets should not be treated as war reparations and used by the Government to finance budget deficits.The pipe line flow of these funds to meet NE Tamil development requirements should be under the close supervision of the Government, to which accounts will have to be rendered.

3. The removal of all Pass laws. Pass laws under which the NE Tamils lived were reminiscent of the pass laws of S African apartheid ( This writer, who had lived over 60 years in Colombo and held high posts in government, was expected to register himself at the Police Station purely because he bore a Tamil name.)

4 The establishment of a Anti-Harassment Committee, preferably under the Chairmanship of a senior Southern politician. (Such a committee existed in 1999 and did excellent work.)

It should be mentioned, in the straitened conditions that the NE Tamils find themselves in, hoping for the implementation of the 13th amendment, the re-merger of the North and the East, providing equitable employment for the NE Tamils in the public service and the implementation of the language laws (all desirable and valid demands), are so much pie-in-the-sky. Politics, like comedy, is all about timing. The weak NE Tamils are hardly in a position now to make these demands which, for some atavistic reason, arouse primal opposition from the South. Starting with the two 2010 elections, the NE Tamils should patiently build power value, to, in some future date, make and obtain these demands.

7. ELECTION APPROACHES FOR THE NE TAMILS.

1. Boycott- The Pornography of Politics.

Boycott is an aphrodisiac for the NE Tamils. While, in other countries, citizens are fighting- and dying- to obtain the vote, these boycotters wish to deny it to themselves. They imagine that the world revolves round themselves, a view unshared by outsiders, (one of their MP's- a Presidential candidate to boot- was recently summarily deported from India despite he having a diplomatic passport and a valid visa). Boycotters wish to draw attention to themselves, even momentarily, by organising these disruptive withdrawals, irrespective of their repercussions. Immediately after universal franchise was introduced in 1932, they boycotted the first elections. The impact was nil on the national scale but led indirectly to the formation of the Pan-Sinhala ministry.
In 2005, they boycotted the Presidential Elections which led to the Mullaitivu debacle and the reduction of the NE Tamils to the margins. Some canvassing is now taking place for a 2010 Presidential Election boycott. Boycott advocating NE Tamils, resolute about irresolution, decisive about indecision, committed to non-committal, are waiting for God only knows what. If the NE Tamils respond to the cry of boycott, it must be suffering from a severe case of death wish.

2. Quislingam.

Sivajilingam, contesting the Presidential Election as a NE Tamil candidate, is the manifestation of this death wish, in another form. It is unlikely that he would consider himself an Obama, breaking through prejudice to win the Presidency. His political party- the TNA- does not support his candidacy nor does it wish to field a candidate. His candidacy is either due to ego, immaturity or, fielded for pure mischief. But the effect on the NE Tamils would be severe. In a closely contested Presidential election, as is this case, every vote matters.

On an earlier occasion, Kumar Ponnambalam irresponsibly contested the Presidency, making no impact on Governance. It will be remembered that mature Thondaman (Snr) never thought of contesting the Presidency though he was revered by the Plantation Tamils. The NE Tamils have the sorry option of rejecting the worse of the two Presidential candidates. Since the election is tight, the NE Tamils, if they vote strategically, could determine the President who would be better for them.

Sivajilingam's insurgency candidature, of a small man caught in a undertow much too strong for him, could help elect a wrong candidate. This would place the NE Tamils on a downward death spiral, perhaps never to recover.

PART 2-PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

8 THE NATURE OF PARLIAMENT.

Much false glamour and power has been vested on the President. It is claimed that he can do anything except make a man a woman or vice-versa. Bosh! A President is powerful only so long as he/she controls Parliament. The all-powerful President Premadasa was shaken to his roots when the impeachment motion was presented. President Chandrika Kumaratunge had to smell the roses when Ranil Wickremasinghe was the Prime Minister with control over a Parliamentary majority. Sect 40 of the Constitution states that "The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and the discharge of his power, duties and functions---". A President who has lost control of Parliament is neither man or woman, just a neuter. What the NE Tamils should concentrate on, is maximising their strength in the 2010 Parliament and, thereby, tie up or make beholden to them, a President, whose actions or policies could be deleterious to the interest of the Tamils.

Under the present electoral system of proportion, no single Party can gain a 2/3rd's majority and, as most likely, even a simple majority. Either of the governing parties of the South will have to strike coalition arrangements with many minor parties- the generator of jumbo cabinets.The future of NE Tamils would lie, as Thondaman(Snr) did, in coming into coalition agreements with the appropriate majority South Party.

9. OPPORTUNITY AVAILABLE FOR NE TAMIL PARTIES (NETAP)

Since 1977, Thondaman had been a member of all governments though they were from different Parties. He was able to lever his political and economic advantages (heading the Trade Union that could cripple the plantation sector) and maximise advantages for his community. NETAP does not have the economic advantages Thondaman enjoyed, but, it could, if it plays the electoral game with finesse, manage about thirty seats (Western Province, national seats etc). NETAP should remember that in the next round of elections, the seats available for it will reduce drastically, since there will be a delimitation based on the 2011 Census.

The NE Tamils, while voting to elect a President should make the necessary inner electoral contest arrangements to optimise their clout in the next Parliament.

10 CONCLUSION.

There have been two inflection points in the electoral history of Sri Lanka, where, a specific election changed paradigms. The first was 1956, which changed the cultural paradigm. Sinhala culture, which includes the Sinhala language and Theravada Buddhism, replaced Western culture as Sri Lanka's dominant form. The second election was in 1977, which changed the economic paradigm into a decisive open market model. The third could be 2010 when the issue at hand is whether the form of Governance continues to be the democratic one or other forms of Governance. Some of these other forms are, monarchy eg Thailand, theocracy eg Iran, one party eg China, military eg Myanmar. It would be in the best interest of the NE Tamils to plump firmly to continuing the democratic form, though turbulent and chaotic-( Sri Lanka is the talk shop of the world)- despite it causing them their many woes.This dual approach, of voting for the Presidential candidate who would support their aspirations and, simultaneously building power value through the Parliamentary process, would enable them to painfully start on the fraught journey to re-establish their history.

(Jolly Somasundram was a member of the former Ceylon Civil Service.)

Poll violence in several towns; Fonseka campaigners assaulted in Kilinochchi

The following is full text of media Communiqué No 20, issued by Centre from Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) on Jan 20, 2010:

Eastern Province

Hurt and Arson in Ampara

According to NC supporter Mr. Saleem Raniz, at 3.30am this morning, he was assaulted and his motorbike (GQ 9978) was set on fire, by SLMC supporters Attalachchenai Provincial Councilor Mr. Mazoor Sinnalebbei (who arrived in a dark blue vehicle), Mr. A.L. Makkeen, Mr. R. Nawaz and Mr. Nauzath, at Noor Mosque Road, Attalachchenai.

Mr. Raniz had fled the scene when assaulted, leaving his motorbike behind, at which point it had been set on fire by the attackers. According to a staff member at the Akkaraipattu Hospital, Mr. Raniz was admitted to ward 5 of the hospital, and is receiving treatment for injuries to his arms and knee.

As has been the case on several previous occasions, the Akkaraipattu Police did not provide any information to CMEV regarding the incident. When contacted, the Akkaraipattu Police gave CMEV the mobile number of the Elections Branch OIC Dissanayake. OIC Dissanayake when contacted, told CMEV to contact the Akkaraipattu Police station. When subsequently contacted the OIC cut the line on CMEV twice.

When contacted, Mr. Mazoor Sinnalebbei told CMEV that he was in no way involved with the incident.

Hurt in Batticaloa

According to the CMEV monitor, at approximately 10.15am on the 19th of January, UNP supporter and Former Member of Parliament TNA Mr. Gnananuttu Krishnapillai (a.k.a. Vellimalai) was assaulted by TMVP supporter Mr. Thayagan and 2 others in the vicinity of the Palugamam Kandumani Vidyalaya, Kalavanchikudi, resulting in head injuries. The attackers had arrived in a white van. According to a staff member at the Batticaloa Hospital, Mr. Krishnapillai had three stitches to his head.

At approximately 9.15am, Mr. Krishnapillai received a phone call from an unidentified person, threatening him to stop his work for the UNP if he wished to remain safe. Mr. Krishnapillai was in the process of organizing transport for supporters to attend General Fonseka’s rally that was due to be held at approximately 2.00pm in Batticaloa, when he was attacked. Mr. Krishnapillai had obtained treatment from the hospital and proceeded to General Fonseka’s rally. Later that evening at approximately 4.30pm, another call was made to Mr. Krishnapillai’s house, which was answered by his son. The caller had said that this was the final warning given to Mr. Krishnapillai and that he should stop his activities for the UNP immediately.

According to an Officer at the Kalavanchikudi Police, a complaint has been lodged in this regard, bearing the number EIB 05/22.

When contacted Organizer for TMVP Batticaloa Mr. Prasathan told CMEV that he had heard of the assault, but claimed he did not know if their party supporters were involved.

Western Province

Attack on Party Office and Assault in Colombo

According to a fax received from Sirikotha, at approximately 12.45am, Mr. M.A.D. Roshan Chanaka was struck at the back of his neck, by an unknown person at Ihala Bomiriya, Kaduwela. According to a staff member at the Navagamuwa Hospital, Mr. Chanaka was admitted to ward 1, had received treatment for bruising, and has been discharged subsequently.

According to Western Provincial Councilor Mr. Jayantha Katagoda, at approximately 12.40am, the UNP party office located at Ihala Bomiriya was attacked by a group of unknown persons, and Mr. Chanaka who lives in the vicinity, had come to the location upon hearing loud noises, at which point he was assaulted.

When contacted, Election OIC of the Navagamuwa Police SI Muditha told CMEV that a minor assault had taken place, adding that the complaints related to both the party office attack as well as the assault, had been recorded in the Crimes Information Book, CIB II/302/273 and CIB II/301/272 respectively.

Northern Province

Hurt and Damage to Property in Jaffna District

According to a fax received from Sirikotha, at approximately 4.00pm on the 19th of January, UNP supporters Mr. M. Lawakumar, Mr. R. Ramesh and several others who were returning from campaigning for General Fonseka, were assaulted by a group of unidentified persons at the Iranamadu Junction. The attackers had also caused damage to the vehicle (WPG0792) in which the victims traveled.

When contacted, OIC Elections Branch Kilinochchi Police SI Ratnayake told CMEV that 2 persons were injured in the incident, and taken to the Kilinochchi Hospital for treatment. A complaint bearing the number EIB/01/2010 has been lodged at the station.

When contacted, Nursing Officer Mr. R. Rahavan told CMEV that Mr. Lawakumar was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Unit, received treatment, and has now been discharged.

Southern Province

Hurt in Galle

According to a fax received from Mr. Themiya Hurulle of the NDF party, at approximately 12.30am on the 19th of January, JVP supporter Mr. Lamal Gamlath was assaulted by Mr. Manoj and Mr. Nalin who arrived on a motorbike, while he was decorating a JVP party office located at Thalgaspe, Pitigala. Mr. Gamlath suffered injuries to his forehead and was admitted to ward 1 of the Elpitiya Hospital as confirmed by the CMEV monitor. Mr. Gamlath was then moved to the Karapitiya Hospital by his relatives and presently remains in ward 9 as confirmed by a hospital staff member. Two other persons Mr. Anura and Mr. Vijay were also with Mr. Gamlath, but fled the scene upon arrival of the attackers.

When contacted, the OIC Deepal of the Pitigala Police told CMEV that they could not provide any information regarding the incident as it was lodged as CIB. He asked CMEV to obtain information from the Media Spokesperson.

OIC Amarasinghe of the Election Branch of the Elpitiya Divisional Police Station told CMEV that they have received information regarding the incident, including the names of the attackers. He added that there are other allegations against Mr. Manoj, who is currently being sought by the Police, but he has thus far not been apprehended. He told CMEV that investigations into the incident are currently underway.

Mr. Gamlath had told the CMEV monitor that he suspects the attackers to be UPFA party supporters. According to Pradeshiya Sabbha member for Elpitiya Mr. Amila Kariyawasam, they have received information regarding the incident, according to which they believe that the attack was personal and not election related.

Grave concerns for a free and fair presidential election and the rule of law

Statement by The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is deeply concerned by the developments this week that suggest the remainder of the election campaign and the presidential election itself would not be conducted according to the legal procedures and limitations established by the Constitution and the law.

The Commissioner of Elections appears to have given up on his attempts to enforce the law in terms of his powers under the Seventeenth Amendment. He has withdrawn the Competent Authority appointed to regulate the state media institutions due to the refusal of those bodies to implement the directions of the Competent Authority. He has also publicly stated that he would not be issuing any more directions to the Police, because his directions are not being followed. On other matters regarding the misuse of public property, in particular over the misconduct of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, the Commissioner has not taken any demonstrable measures.

We unequivocally maintain that the failure and/or refusal of public officials and other persons to follow the directions of the Commissioner and the Competent Authority is a clear breach of a legal duty imposed by the Constitution. That such officials feel able, by refusing to act according to the directions of the Commissioner, to violate the Constitution and election laws illustrates the contempt and disregard with which the Rule of Law is held in Sri Lanka today.

However, we also state that the Commissioner himself is under a constitutional duty to duly exercise his powers under the Seventeenth Amendment, notwithstanding any pressure brought upon him or in the face of non-cooperation from public officials. We note that the Commissioner has recourse to the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to have his directions enforced in this regard; a course of action he has chosen to ignore. The result is that an undesirable perception is created that the Constitution and the law can be broken or disregarded with impunity. Moreover, more transparency and public information from the Commissioner’s office would have helped the Commissioner by generating public support for his endeavours.

In the context of a keenly contested election in which there is a rising trend of violence and the possibility of widespread election malpractice (including serious unresolved problems and public confusion over voter registration, electoral lists, voter identification and other matters), it is critical that the powers of the Commissioner are not neutralised in any way.

A free and fair election according procedure established by law is in the interests of all the citizens of Sri Lanka. It is also in the interests of those contesting this historic first post-war presidential election that there is no scope for question of the integrity of the electoral process and the legitimacy of the outcome. This election is a litmus test of our continuing commitment to democracy and the Rule of Law. It is also the basis of our commitment to post-war peacebuilding and reconciliation.

CPA therefore asks the Commissioner of Elections to exercise his powers without fear, that public officials discharge their duties impartially and according to the law, and requests the candidates and their supporters to desist from conduct that is against the law or inimical to democratic values. We also call upon voters to actively condemn instigators of election violence and malpractices, irrespective of party affiliation, in order to ensure an electoral process and outcome more reflective of essential democratic values shared by all.

January 20, 2010

Rajapakse and Fonseka were treated as respected guests by Tamils in Jaffna

A response to Gunadheera

By S.Udhaya

Mr Somapala Gunadheera raised an interesting issue in his piece titled Exclusivity of the Sri Lankan Tamil Psyche dated January 19, as to why the Tamils were "mellow, forgiving, tolerant" in their treatment of the two 'Cup' claimers. I must credit Mr Gunadheera for having asked such a fascinating question.

It is a very important aspect of Tamil culture (by this I mean the prevalent Hindu culture) and even though the current militant conditions that prevailed in this country may have corrupted it to some extent it is still part and parcel of every Tamil’s ethos. The essence of this is always treat your guests with honour and respect even if they have done harm to you or even if they are your worst enemies (it is not implied that the ‘Cup’ claimers are the Tamils worst enemies but they are no friends either).

The Virunthombal Kalacharam as it is known is an inbred characteristic of Tamil culture and it is even said that there is no greater sin than to disrespect the guests who have come to your house. Our parents and teachers taught Virunthombal to us from the time when we were very little. Therefore, even if your worst enemy were to come to your house, you should welcome them in with an open heart and make sure that they have all the necessary comforts and that they are well fed.

Thiru Valluvar (the god poet as he is known) said this better than anyone else when he said Inna seidhaarai oruththal avarnaana, nannayam seidhu vidal meaning "The (proper) punishment to those who have done evil (to you), is to put them to shame by showing them kindness in return, and forget both the evil and the good done (by you)".

I do not know why the Indian Tamils behaved the way they did (since this is part of their culture as well) but I can guess. This protest was not organised by normal Tamils but was organised by Dravidian elements and nothing is more abhorrent to them than proper Tamil (Hindu) culture.

I have never read the Jathika Chintanaya by Gunadasa Amarasekara so I cannot comment on that, but all I can say is it is people like that who are directly or indirectly responsible for this country’s present predicament. The LTTE (as it did with many things) did not follow Tamil culture, and this was one of the main causes of its downfall.The concept of Virunthombal is not limited to Tamils as such but is an integral part of Hinduism and is mentioned in the Vedas. The verse Atithi Devo Bhavah from the Taittiriya Upanishad means that the "guest is God" and should be treated like a deity. As I mentioned earlier there is no greater sin then to disrespect the guests who have come to your house.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Tamils treated them as such and even after all that they have been thru if someone asks them about it, they harbour no hate towards their liberators or subjugators (whatever way someone may want to look at it).

S Uthaya
Colombo

Why do Tamils in India hurl slippers at Lokubandara but Tamils in Sri Lanka garland Rajapakse and Fonseka?

By Somapala Gunadheera

Two news items appearing in the Island of Monday, January 11, 2010 took me by surprise. One read, "Members of pro-Eelam organizations hurled slippers at the convoy of Sri Lankan Parliament speaker W J M Lokubandara and tried to attack him when he was visiting the Vaitheeswaran Temple (in India) on Saturday. The police prevented them from nearing the Sri Lankan". And the other entitled, "President takes Jaffna by storm" said, "Thronging crowds were waiting to welcome the president with garlands"

Obviously the Indian Tamil wrath against Speaker Lokubandara was caused by communal hatred left over by the war against the Tigers. But Lokubandara had no specific role to play in the war. By nature he is a peace loving man whose mental make up is furthest from that of a warmonger. To the best of my knowledge, he has never harmed the Tamils by word or deed. On the contrary, as his itinerary indicates, Lokubandara shares with his attackers a deep admiration of their rich Hindu culture.

Here in Sri Lanka, the man who claims the ‘Cup’ for demolishing Prabhakaran is warmly received by his blood relations with bouquets and garlands. Only a couple of days back his rival claimant for the same ‘Cup’ had been similarly received. Reportedly there had not been a hoot or a jeer, not even that international symbol of reproach, an item of footwear. Perhaps each of them might have conceded the other’s claim, at the peak of the welcome jubilation!

My puzzle is to reconcile Lokubandara’s experience in India with that of the rival Warriors in Sri Lanka. Why did the Indian Tamils who had not lost a pin in the war against the Tigers try to avenge their distant kinsmen here on an innocent pilgrim, whereas the latter that had lost many a life and limb in the venture, resorted to garlanding, granted that the garlands were no part of the visitors’ luggage?

The difference between the two responses appears to reflect the evolution of Tamil culture since its arrival from India. It has become more mellow, forgiving, tolerant and understanding in the process. I have personally noticed this finesse in the culture of Sri Lankan Tamils, over a good part of my career that I spent among them. But how did this happen? Frankly I do not know the answer. I am not a Historian or a Philosopher. Has Gunadasa Amarasekara’s Jathika Chintanaya anything to do with this evolution?

I look forward to an informed discussion on the subject and an unbiased, plausible answer to my question. Perhaps in that answer lies the key to National Reconciliation.

Only 4 Presidential candidates answer CIMOGG’s 14 questions; Rajapakse,Fonseka,Karunaratne among those who failed to respond

By Dr.A.C.Visvalingam

In the interests of voters, the media gave valuable exposure to the 14 questions that the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) was in the process of addressing by direct mail to the 22 Presidential candidates. The letters themselves were sent out on December 26, 2009, followed two days later by a Sinhala translation (except in the case of the sole Tamil candidate).

The purpose of the questions was to secure the candidates’ answers to the implementation of certain tasks relating to good governance, the Rule of Law, willingness to conform strictly to constitutional requirements, transparency, accountability, depoliticisation of the public services, re-drafting the Constitution, and so on. The proposed timetable for action was worked out by CIMOGG so as to be reasonable and practicable.

The candidates were not required to commit themselves to any course of action which would immediately require a two-thirds majority in Parliament and/or a referendum - for example, if one were to try to abolish the post of Executive President within a few weeks or months.

The first 13 questions required just a YES or NO answer and the 14th question could be answered in four (4) words or less. This format was adopted so as avoid unwieldy processing.

By Tuesday, January 19, two candidates were reported to have withdrawn from the contest. They are Battaramulla Seelarathana Thero and Meera Mohideen Mohomed Musthafa.

Of the remaining 20 candidates, only four took the trouble to respond to the questionnaire. They are M/s Sirithunga Jayasuriya, Upali Sarath Kongahage, Muthubandara Theminimulla and Wijekoon Mudiyanselage Ukku Banda Wijekoon.

However, Mr Theminimulla’s response consisted only of a few leaflets and does not provide YES or NO answers to any of the first 13 questions, and no answer at all to the 14th.

Those who did not respond are Mohomed Casim Mohamed Ismail, Achala Ashoka Suraweera, Kiriella Gurunnanselage Ravindralal Perera, Sarath Manamendra, Wickramabahu Karunarathne, Wekada Vitharanage Mahiman Ranjith, Sanath Pinnaduwa, Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, Heethaka Oswald Aruna de Soysa, Wije Dias, Panagoda Don Prince Solomon Anura Liyanage, Dina Aduruge Senarathne de Silva, Idurus Mohomed Ilyas, Channa Janaka Sugathsiri Gamage, Kanagalingam Sivajilingam and Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa.

We regret that these candidates did not consider it fit to make use of this opportunity to be more specific about the promises they have been making to the public.

In analysing the responses, only unconditional YES answers are reported here unless the qualification of the YES refers merely to the need for a little more time to act on the candidate's undertakings. YES answers qualified in any other way are treated as being tantamount to a NO.

The last names of those who have answered YES are given below against each question.

1. Within 30 days of assuming office as President, will you implement the 17th Amendment as presently set out in the Constitution, by appointing to the Constitutional Council, your nominee and the persons whose names have been duly proposed by the relevant nominating authorities? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

2. Within 60 days of assuming office, will you provide the Constitutional Council with the support and resources required to enable them to appoint all members to the Elections Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission, so that the next Parliamentary elections would be conducted with these Independent Commissions in place? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

3. Within 60 days of assuming office, will you submit to Parliament, a Constitutional Amendment to remove Presidential immunity from prosecution? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

4. Within 60 days of assuming office, will you replace the Press Council with a Media Commission, in consultation with the Constitutional Council? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

5. Within 60 days of assuming office, will you have the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law amended so as to make such declarations compulsory when submitting nominations for any elected office, with provision for annual updating, all of which would have to be submitted to the Elections Commission, which would publish this information on its web site? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

6. Within 90 days of your assuming office, will you set up, in consultation with the Constitutional Council, a Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee, of whom not more than one-third shall be lawyers, to prepare a new Constitution which will, inter alia

a. maximise the separation of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, with Parliament having full control over public finance? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

b. limit the number of Cabinet Ministers to not more than twenty-five (25) and all other categories of Ministers (Deputy, Project, District etc) to not more than 15? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

c. remove the right of the President to dissolve Parliament as and when he wishes and, instead, fix specific dates for all elections at intervals of either four or 5 years? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

d. provide, as in the case of all State employees, for the automatic suspension of any elected representative from functioning in his office if he is faced with criminal charges, unless and until such time as he is acquitted? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

e. provide more realistically workable constitutional procedures for dealing with a President or Member of Parliament or Judicial Officer who violates his oath or affirmation to uphold and safeguard the Constitution? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

7. Within 90 days of your assuming office, will you bring before Parliament a Right to Information bill and include in it comprehensive protection for whistleblowers/ ? . Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

8. Within 90 days of your assuming office, will you take concrete steps, to ensure that the 16th Amendment (relating to Official Languages) is brought into full implementation over the following 12 months? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

9. Within 90 days of your assuming office, will you take steps, to publish the full contents of the reports of all the Commissions of Inquiry which have been paid for from State funds from the date of Independence? ... Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

10. Within 120 days of your assuming office, will you take steps, to pass laws conforming to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional Protocol, both of which were ratified by Sri Lanka in 1976, and the Second Optional Protocol, ratified in 1991, which would, inter alia, protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and create a favourable ambience for building national unity?.. Jayasuriya, Wijekoon

11. Within 180 days of assuming office, will you appoint a Commission to recommend specific programmes to reverse the damage done to national unity as is happening at present by separating school children into differing ethnic and religious streams? .. Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

12. Within 12 months of assuming office, will you ensure that the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption is provided with its own Investigation and Prosecution Unit and all necessary resources to examine the Declarations of Assets and Liabilities of those who are required to submit and update them, taking into account all information received from whatever source, and to take steps to have legal action instituted against those who do not submit the annual updates or cannot explain how they came by their assets? ... Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

13. Within 18 months of assuming office, will you pass the necessary laws and make the requisite administrative arrangements to enable our expatriate citizens to vote in Sri Lankan Presidential and Parliamentary elections? .. Jayasuriya, Kongahage, Wijekoon

14. Is it your intention to implement the 13th Amendment in part, in full or in full and more? ....... In part - In full –

In full and more - Jayasuriya, Kongahage

In the light of the hundreds of millions of rupees (if not billions) spent on publicity by the two leading candidates in disseminating vague election promises, it is a matter for the public to reflect on why not even one responsible person in their respective publicity units did not feel secure enough to spend, say, 20-30 minutes of his/her time to answer the very straightforward and precise questions asked by CIMOGG or to state why they did not wish to answer them.

The failure to furnish answers gives some indication to voters as to how much reliance we may place on these candidates' campaign promises.

The questions and the YES answers given above will provide some useful supplementary guidance to voters, in addition to whatever may be published in the candidates' manifestos or said by them on TV, radio or in print to help the voter mark the order of preference in a constructive manner to help send a powerful message to the front runners not to take the public for granted.

Once again, CIMOGG calls upon all eligible voters not to fail to vote nor to waste their franchise by spoiling their votes .

Dr A.C.Visvalingam
President, CIMOGG

Presidential contender put in the fray by Rajapakse regime quacks on divided loyalties

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

It's an open secret that Former UNP national list MP Sarath Kongahage was put up to contest presidential elections by the Rajapakse regime.

Both candidates are SARATH. Their names are similiar. The idea is to confuse voters & cut into potential Fonseka votes.

SKTC120.jpg

Sarath Kongahage

Kongahage is also used by Mahinda to raise objections against Fonseka that the general is ineligible to contest as he has US green card.

Kongahage has filed action saying Sarath is US citizen by having US green card & cannot hold high office on grounds of divided loyalties.

Hilarious to see Kongahage saying US residency is equal to citizenship. Does the poor blighter really not know the difference between both?

Kongahage, If dual citizenship is divided loyalty then how can US citizen Gotabhaya Rajapakse hold sensitive Defence secretary post then? [ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Basil Rajapakse allows LTTE leader's mother and mother-in-law to leave the country

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

LTTE leader Prabhakaran's mother Mrs. Parvathy