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February 28, 2010

SBS Dateline, Feb 28, 2010 ~ Video and Transcript: Sri Lanka War Stories

It’s almost a year since the Sri Lankan government defeated the Tamil Tigers after 27 years of civil war, but survivors on both sides are still seeking answers over accusations of war crimes.

Video journalist Ginny Stein tracks down Tamil civilians who were trapped, along with the Tigers, in the tiny enclave where the rebels made their last stand.

Witnesses allege the Sri Lankan government deliberately shelled safe zones and hospitals, and restricted supplies in order to starve out and execute the rebels.

But equally, there are reports that the Tigers forcibly conscripted children, killed parents who objected and used civilians as human shields.

Now, two senior United Nations officials are calling for an international investigation into possible war crimes in the closing stages of the conflict.

Watch Ginny Stein's report as she hears both sides of the story to try and find out what really happened:

REPORTER: Ginny Stein

Sri Lanka's national day is being celebrated in New York. Amidst the polite chit-chat at this diplomatic soiree on Park Avenue, there is also a barely contained note of triumph. It's almost a year ago that the Sri Lankan Government finally defeated the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE - the separatist militants it had been fighting for almost three decades. Leading the celebrations is dual Australian/Sri Lankan citizen Ambassador Palitha Kohona. He cut his diplomatic teeth working for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs, but is now Sri Lanka's representative to the UN.

PALITHA KOHONA, SRI LANKA'S REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UN: It's a new beginning for Sri Lanka because we've ended the conflict and we've had an election where a president has been elected with an overwhelming majority, so now it's a question of moving on with life, rebuilding the country.

But not everyone in the international community is as keen to move on. Concerns about war crimes are being raised at the highest levels of the UN and hard questions are being asked about the government's conduct.

PHILIP ALSTON, UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS: It suggests a determination to simply wipe out as many people as possible and not to follow the rules of international humanitarian law.

PALITHA KOHONA: I think it's ridiculous to suggest that somehow the Sri Lankan Government did something to the LTTE which has to be accounted for.

This is the man credited with crushing the Tamil Tigers - General Sarath Fonseka. He's currently under house arrest, but last month General Fonseka was here, in the Tamil-dominated north of the country, for a political rally. Fonseka was making a run for the presidency against the incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse.

GENERAL SARATH FONSEKA (Translation): Looking at this area now, the civilians are happy and free. When I see the change in people's lives, I feel very happy.

He lost the election, and two weeks ago, Fonseka was arrested on military charges which included engaging in politics before he'd resigned as chief of the army. During the bitter election campaign Fonseka had dropped a bombshell of his own, accusing his former political masters of committing war crimes.

DR PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU, CENTRE FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES: If you look at the recent controversy over remarks that Sarath Fonseka made and then hastily retracted in a press conference, and the government's reaction to it, now they're saying that, "No, Sarath Fonseka never said that there were war crimes committed, and there were no war crimes committed." Now, this confuses everyone.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is a political analyst in the capital, Colombo. Today he's attending a candlelight vigil for a journalist slain in broad daylight just over a year ago on a busy street. His assassins remain at large.

DR PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU: The death of Lasantha Wickramatunga is something that people remember as a particularly horrible seminal event in the stifling of dissent in this country.

More than 30 journalists fled the country during the war's final months, others have been abducted or jailed. Dr Saravanamuttu believes that intimidation and closing off the war zone to all outsiders made this a hidden war.

DR PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU: No independent actors were allowed in to come up with independent, impartial reports. There was no question of verification. So now we have to wait for IDPs to get over their trauma and begin to talk, and again, they will be contested.

This man is one of those IDPs, or internally displaced persons. He doesn't want to be identified, so I'll call him Ambalan. He says he and his wife left their home in August last year.

'AMBALAN', EYE WITNESS: We have to just move from that area in order to save us from the shelling and firing, and we stayed in that place with the intention that it will be over in one or two days, or within one week. But it continued. So we have to move constantly in order to save our lives.

As the frontline swept eastwards, Ambalan and his wife ended up in the tiny enclave where the Tigers made their last stand and where hundreds of thousands were pinned down. Foreign aid sources say the government denied Red Cross requests for larger, more frequent evacuations so Ambalan's family waited to flee via the only ferry.

'AMBALAN': On this day I had the chance to send my mother and my wife through the ship, but on the morning, at the time we heard a big noise. And immediately we saw people were screaming and crying. And at that time I was told that some people died where my wife stayed.

Ambalan found his wife among the 15 dead - her jewellery, damaged by the shrapnel that killed her, is all he has to remember her by. He believes the attack came from the army's direction. It's impossible to verify his story, but there are many others like it.

This is a video which supporters of the Tamil Tigers say shows an army assault on a hospital in a designated no-fire zone. It includes the audio of a purported phone call with the Red Cross coordinator for the area.

WOMAN (OVER PHONE): The patients, the medical staff have left the hospital because they are not safe there anymore.

Tamils say 9 people were killed here and 15 wounded. But according to the Sri Lankan Defence Force, this edited video released a few days later shows the hospital was untouched.

REPORTER: Hospitals. Were they targeted?

PALITHA KOHONA: There was only one hospital that anybody had ever marked on a map in that whole area and we have got pictures to show that hospital was never targeted.

REPORTER: Those pictures, I have seen those, that video was edited.

PALITHA KOHONA: If a hospital had to be shelled, Ginny, I know the way we took out LTTE officers, their camps, with such clinical precision - if we wanted to do that to a hospital we could have done that also. Why do a half-hearted job if you wanted to really finish it off?

It's impossible to know what actually happened, but this wasn't the only hospital to allegedly come under fire.

GOBI KRISHNA: I know for sure once in Puthukkudiyiuppu Hospital, the hospital itself was bombed. Luckily, if I was five minutes earlier, I would not be talking to you today.

For the past 2.5 years, he was a volunteer with a Tamil charity – an organisation the Sri Lankan Government accuses of being a front for the Tami Tigers. Krishna's now back home in Australia, but was inside the war zone as refugees moved from one safe zone to another.

GOBI KRISHNA: The government announces "Go to these towns," in the radio. Sometimes it put leaflets from air to "go to this no-fire zone, and you'll be safe." But you go there and settle, in two, three days time, they will start shelling that area then people have to move.

Krishna's experience backs what many foreign aid organisations believe was a deliberate strategy to sweep hundreds of thousands of Tamils across the country. And he claims that not only were safe zones attacked, but that controversial weapons were also used.

GOBI KRISHNA: Cluster bombing - the bombs coming in clusters - and I also, after bombing I have seen also at least four times there are white fumes coming. Very intense thick, white fumes. And they say that is phosphorus chemical bombs. But I have seen with my eyes that white fumes.

REPORTER: In your view, were war crimes committed?

GOBI KRISHNA: For sure - I think, you ask people to go to a safe zone and nothing will happen, and bombing that - I think that's a war crime in my way of thinking. And hospitals have been bombed, I have seen that. I thought that's war crime.

REPORTER: Were war crimes committed?

PALITHA KOHONA: Now, this is a difficult question to answer because nobody really knows whether war crimes were committed. There is no evidence. There are suggestions, there are allegations but beyond that there's nothing concrete.

In the last desperate stages of the war, relief organisations estimated 300,000 people were hemmed into a narrow war zone. The government insisted the number was just 70,000 and restricted food and medical supplies accordingly.

GOBI KRISHNA: Definitely I was weak, because I had lost 25 kilos during this time.

REPORTER: Were people getting enough food?

GOBI KRISHNA: No way.

REPORTER: Were you hungry?

HUSBAND EYE WITNESS: Yah, yah. Because we couldn't get enough flour, we couldn't get enough rice, and equally we couldn't get enough vegetables or fish or meat, or anything for cooking.

PALITHA KOHONA: How could that allegation be made? For 27 years, during 27 years of conflict the Sri Lankan Government actually fed every single person in the north.

GORDON WEISS, FORMER UN SPOKESMAN: We were trying to deliver humanitarian aid consistently inside the siege zone and we were consistently stonewalled at various levels.

REPORTER: Were they starving the people out? Was that what was going on?

GORDON WEISS: Yes. That's what happens in sieges.

Gordon Weiss is an Australian who was the UN's spokesman in Sri Lanka during the war. He was engaged in daily tussles with the Sri Lankan authorities.

GORDON WEISS: The Sri Lankan Government was masterful at controlling information and in refuting information. So if we take forward a piece of information about people being killed and then the government responds firstly by denouncing it publicly and secondly by calling in people to the Foreign Ministry, and browbeating them and threatening them with expulsion, now that sort of pressure every day, it's extremely difficult for people to operate in those circumstances.

So difficult, in fact, that two months ago when Gordon Weiss's work visa expired, he decided not just to leave, but to quit the UN. On his way to the airport to leave Sri Lanka for good, Weiss was clearly frustrated.

GORDON WEISS: It was a secret war, but, you know, the war is over and that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

As the fighting raged on, the government maintained no civilians were being killed and that no heavy weapons were being used.

GORDON WEISS: Now for months, the Secretary General was told by the President "We're not using them, there are no heavy weapons used." When one leader speaks to another you speak in good faith and accept assurances. If you are told a bare-faced lie it's very difficult to work against that.

Weiss says he was under pressure not to add up or publicly declare just how many people had been killed. The UN's official death toll at the end of the conflict was 7,000. Weiss says the real figure could be more than five times that.

GORDON WEISS: I believe that between 10,000 and 40,000 is a reasonable estimate. I think most likely it's somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000.

PALITHA KOHONA: If that number died, I do not know where they were buried, because to bury 40,000 you would have had to have an army of people working day and night, digging graves and putting them in. That certainly did not happen.

One of the few pieces of hard evidence from this war emerged three months after it ended, and sparked immediate international outrage. It's a video showing a naked man, blindfolded and bound, in the final moments of his life.

MAN (Translation): He must have seen it. That's why he turned and looked.

Another seven bodies can be seen already lying in the dirt and there's more gunfire. While, it's impossible to tell if the dead men are Tamil, their executioner appears to be wearing an army uniform. Towards the end of the video, another man is brought to the same spot - and murdered. The footage has prompted an investigation by the UN's Special Rapporteur for Extra-Judicial Killing, Philip Alston.

REPORTER: Does it fit a war crime?

PHILIP ALSTON: Oh, very clearly, because you've got people who had been arrested, they are completely bound and gagged and so on. There is no attempt to escape, they were not armed, that is straight out murder on a significant scale and it's clearly a war crime.

But the video's authenticity was quickly dismissed by the Sri Lankan Government.

PALITHA KOHONA: The government has experts on its side who categorically said this was fabricated. On the other hand, we have Professor Philip Alston's experts saying perhaps not.
PHILIP ALSTON: These technical experts, the highest qualified, all said that accords exactly with what one would expect in a real-life situation. And they came up with a whole range of reasons why it could not have been staged, So every pointer indicates, very strongly, that the video is authentic.

The videotaped killings are not the only incident being investigated by the UN. There was also an international outcry over the death of this man, Puleedevan, and another senior Tamil Tigers leader who attempted to surrender as the conflict ended.

REPORTER: The surrender process the UN did have contact, what contact are you aware of?

GORDON WEISS: I'm aware that the UN was involved in some way, that the Norwegians were involved in some way, that there were independent parties, such as a couple of journalists who had contacts with the LTTE, who were also involved.

One of those journalists was Marie Colvin, a respected foreign correspondent for London's 'Sunday Times'. She says that for several days she was an intermediary in the surrender negotiations, taking phone calls from the Tigers leadership and the UN.

REPORTER: Was there a deal?

PALITHA KOHONA: In my view, there was absolutely no deal. In fact, it would have been impossible to have done a deal at that time.

But by Colvin's account there was a deal, and it involved the highest levels of government. She says the UN Secretary-General's Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambia, told her that he'd been: "assured by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering." All they had to do was "hoist a white flag high".

PHILIP ALSTON: And the assumption was that they would then be taken into captivity, they would be prisoners of war, whatever.

Instead, they were shot dead. In his hastily retracted remarks during the election campaign, General Fonseka said orders to shoot came from the President's brother, Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse.

PHILIP ALSTON: Was there, in fact, an order given that if you capture any of these LTTE fighters you should simply execute them as soon as possible? If there was such an order, then that's a real problem.

There is little doubt that extreme acts were committed by both sides as this bitter conflict drew to an end. Many survivors say the Tamil Tigers forcibly conscripted children in the final weeks. This woman fought to save her son being taken away, but failed.

MANEK FARM REFUGEE (Translation): They wanted the boy to go with them. I said I wouldn't give him up. They grabbed him by the hand. Me and my daughter tried to pull him back. We pulled, It didn't work. Nothing worked. We threw chilli powder. We threw that and beat them. I bashed four or five. After I'd bashed them, they detained me for 15 days.

It was while she was a prisoner of the Tigers that she heard news of her son's fate.

MANEK FARM REFUGEE (Translation): Eight days later, we heard on the radio that he was dead.

Later, in the final weeks of the war she watched as two Tamil Tiger soldiers shot dead a woman who was attempting to flee with her two sons. Other eyewitnesses who had been sheltering at a church, claim the Tigers marched away 600 young people, and that other civilians were used as human shields.

REPORTER: The government and the Tigers, they both have blood on their hands?

'AMBALAN': Yeah, yeah. That is, yes - both were having blood on their hands.

For now, the victors are showing off their spoils. This captured ship south of Colombo is drawing crowds of curious onlookers. According to the army it was waiting to whisk away the Tamil Tigers' leader who's now dead, along with most of his fighters. Sri Lankans are enjoying peace for the first time in decades but it's come at a cost. Their leaders are keen to move on from the past, so the question now is whether the international community has the will to make alleged war criminals pay the price

GORDON WEISS: Certainly, the evidence is out there. The evidence lies in the testimony of hundreds of thousands of people who survived the siege.

DR PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU: We can't just draw a line under this. We need to really look at it, and ask ourselves the serious, hard questions of how we could do these things to each other. That's the only way that you can heal, unite and move forward.

GEORGE NEGUS: Ginny Stein filming and reporting there. And you may be surprised to know that Sri Lanka's biggest post-war donor has been Australia - $72 million so far, with another $30 million promised.

Reporter/Camera
GINNY STEIN

Producer
AARON THOMAS

Researcher
MELANIE MORRISON

Editors
ROWAN TUCJER-EVANS
MICAH MCGOWN

Translations/Subtitling
EDILBERT N RAJADURAI

Original Music composed by
VICKI HANSEN

The Physical Assassin in Front and the Soul Assassin at the Back

by Pragneeth Eknaligoda

Letter from journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who was abducted on 24th January 2010 in Colombo Sri Lanka

(This personal letter written by Prageeth Eknaligoda to a non relative daughter living in abroad provides window to his perceptions on political - military terror that has engulfed Sri Lankan Society. Written two months after he was abducted for the first time and later being dropped in a quarry in August 2009,. this is a personal narrative of his life after the abduction. The context of this narrative is the popular pro war sentiments in Sinhala society in the aftermath of war victory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which made people like Prageeth a traitor. He was abducted for the second time and so far all efforts to trace him has failed .This is an English translation of his original Sinhala letter.)

03 November 2009

My daughter Ruwandi,

I read your email you sent me. Please excuse this late reply. Today you are not the small cute baby whom I cajoled in my lap. Now you are a grown-up person who understands things. My heart is full of joy for that. I didn’t have time to write you back in peace because I became isolated among thousands of human beings. I had again to adopt to tedious safe life patterns whether I liked it or not. I had to leave my job which made me loose my income. Even my closest ones didn’t have any other option than leaving me alone. This is not a personal fault of anyone. It is a logical reality. In these times no one can support anyone else. Furthermore, no one dares to help someone like me who has become a target of the sacred military regime. But if there were not two, three persons who were courageous enough to help me, my situation would have become unthinkable. The terror can even change the way a person thinks and acts.

What we have in this country today is a terror aimed at individuals. This is not like the generalized terror on society which we faced in 1988/89. It is a terror that is not visible because everyone tries to take care of oneself but does not pay attention to others. Like in those days no one helps the ones who became targets. The dependents become helpless. Although there is no open discussion among people fear is lurking in everyone’s mind. Instead of facing the fear in an organized way in this country people are living making fear a virtue. In this way, cowardness is masqueraded as tactical intellect or cleverness. They say that one is facing danger because of his foolishness. If not this, they look for some errors which he has made or they look for justifications for the suppression he is facing. Accordingly I am now confirmed as a fool or wrongdoer or sinner even among my closest ones. I am not going to make efforts to change this belief or argue to justify my stand.

I look at them with compassion. I am not going to use the terror as a reason to change or degrade the politics I believed as just and right and in which I was engaged in accordingly. I cannot act against my conscience. The government has a power stretched towards New Delhi , Beijing , Islamabad and Tel Aviv. I know they have a torture-army trained in methods of placing the body on nailed beds, picking up body parts and liquidating them in acid basins to destroy the opponents. And I know that puritan, common society is ready to provide billions of rupees to carry out those crimes. I know that killing me, being a patient and physically week to the lowest level, is easier than killing an ant. But just because of that I cannot support building a cruel autocratic state. I cannot support killing thousands including infants and old, humiliating them, imprisoning them, and grabbing their property and land. I cannot be a wise man who pretends not to see these actions. I cannot support dividing a country which should be united. That is against the morals I adhere to. Disgrace and death brings more happiness than supporting such a policy.

I have become a wrongdoer although I have not done any wrong against anyone. I do not blame anyone for this. I do not have anger against the soldiers who tortured me while abducting and taking me away to assassinate me. Why? Because they just did a job assigned to them. If they are not in that job they, too, would have been innocent persons like me and could have fallen victim to this cruel reality. And I know that the power of this cruel reality does not rest on those armed men or on President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Actually, as it came out from the President’s mouth he is only the trustee of the following: The power rests on the popular society which holds this sinful ideology. Mr. Rajapakse cannot do anything other than to say ‘black’ to things this society calls ‘black’ and ‘white’ to things this society calls ‘white’. I have understood that this is a historical reality like the social illness described by Albert Camus in his novel The Plague. So I am not shocked.

Daughter, I don’t have a party and I am not part of any organization, therefore, there is no organization to work on behalf of me. Even the people whom I represent don’t know that I am suffering because I work on behalf of them. I do not expect them to know about me. As I detached myself from kit h and kin early in my life, there are no social connections, too. Under these circumstances, the only path open for someone like me, who does not have any value or respect in this society and therefore, who receives no help from anyone, is to walk alone the destined path. I select that option by my own will.

Daughter, isolation and humiliation of a person in danger is the same physical assassination but in a different form. In other words, it is part and parcel of the assassination. The characteristics of this other type of physical assassination is that the one being assassinated can watch how it is being carried out. This brutal pressure is exerted from the unknown gunman alias physical assassin who is in front and the known gunman alias soul assassin who is behind. This is completely different from the 1988/89 terror. I am experiencing this new kind of terror now. I am not the first person who is facing this situation but I would like to be the last one. I believe that this situation will not last long. Sometimes I may not see the future peaceful time following this fearful situation. But I am confident that the future will be better. The most important thing is to sacrifice the present for that future.

What I am writing here now is part of my conclusions I have reached after studying what happened to comrade Sunanda Deshapriya. Daughter, the society we are living in is indebted to him. But my belief is that no one took this into consideration to help him. I don’t know where he is living today and there is no way to find this out. At least, I was not able to render any help to him. But I think that for him, as well as for the whole society and for children like you to whom the future belongs, someone should make a detailed description of the cruel reality that everyone has become a victim of. I do not have the education to do that. I am not the right person. Because of that, even in these difficult and uncertain circumstances, what I am trying to do is to write down the present reality for the future in the hope that someone else will complete this in the time to come. My wish is that I will have enough time to do just that.

Daughter, please do not keep this note after reading it and say hello to Bertie Uncle.

Thank you,
Prageeth Uncle”

"We have been very successful in getting information about LTTE from KP"- Gotabhaya

By Dianne Silva

Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa spoke to Daily Mirror Hot Seat on the trial of former Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka, the support of the international community in apprehending the remaining elements of the LTTE,Kumaran Pathmanathan and his personal feelings on the actions of the General in the past months.

QUESTION:

How successful have you been in getting vital information from Kumaran Pathmanadan, who is currently in Sri Lankan custody and will be he produced before Court any time soon?

ANSWER:

We are yet to decide on the matter of producing him before the Court. We are still in the process of gathering information from him because he was a person who was working with the LTTE especially on international affairs, business and procurement. Therefore we want to get as much information as possible and especially to break into their (the LTTE) network and get their assets.

In this area we have been very successful; this is why we were able to apprehend Rajan and also we have already possessed one ship. Further we have come to know about a lot of businesses the LTTE had, operating in various parts of the world. We have been able to educate those countries to close down some of these activities.

That is the most important thing; that through him we came to know of this network of various operations taking place in many countries, which we didn’t know earlier and those countries themselves were unaware of. Therefore we were very successful, in getting information from him.

There are different businesses they were running and for those countries those were legitimate types of business and those are LTTE owned or LTTE investments. Therefore if we had not given the information these governments would not know; that these were LTTE businesses.

Naming countries is of no use, because when we name the country those countries don’t like it. Those countries don’t want to know that certain LTTE groups were operating within their borders and we had a very bad experience with regard to Eritrea, an east African country.

It came out in the newspapers and now Eritrea has completely shut down everything; they don’t talk to us and they completely cut us off.

Q: In your opinion have we really seen the end of the LTTE or does the threat of theeir re-emerging still exist?

A: They have no ability for them to regroup and attack or do any military work. But of course there are a lot of things that can be done, both locally and internationally, to prevent them from re-emerging.

Everyone knows that there are still people in camps and some people whom we have still not captured, who may have gone underground. We still have to do a lot of intelligence works, so then only we can arrest those that are still remaining. Also we have to take legal action against those who have been arrested by the authorities. We also have to plan our military operations so that they will not regroup. We have to take precautions, locally as well.

These steps are local; but internationally these are networks that were operating for over 30 years, they had fundraising networks, procurement networks, they had business networks all over the world. Therefore we have to work with the intelligence agencies of those countries and their governments, to close down these businesses and break into these networks.

With most countries it is easy but with the western countries it is very difficult because there is a very big pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora living there and we don’t get much cooperation from western countries; especially the European countries. So without their cooperation it is very difficult to catch these people.

Therefore what they (the LTTE) could not achieve through military means they will try to achieve through other means with the help of these governments. And this is why they are trying to establish this ‘Transnational Government of Tamil Elam’.

But what I see is that although there is a big Tamil Diaspora, the majority of them are moderates and don’t support the ‘Eelam’ concept. Most of them want to come back to Sri Lanka and live peacefully. It is only a very small extreme element that is trying to re-organize; not militarily but trying to achieve the same goal through other means.

Q: As an IT expert, do you think that it is ethical for a government to infiltrate into the online privacy of Sri Lankan citizens by gathering information, with regard to their political affiliations?

A: Actually, if we could do that it would be good, however as a third world country we don’t have that facility. But in all other developed countries they monitor emails, telephone conversations, SMS and people in the streets. So they have a lot of monitoring systems and also all their systems are integrated. Unfortunately, ours is not. All security agencies in these countries could, by simply giving a number; can obtain all the details of a person. But we don’t have that facility and in fact we have to develop such a system.

Our Identity card (ID) system is not effective, so we have to introduce a better system. We faced a situation in the past four years, we saw the weakness of the ID card system, where every suicide cardre and terrorist had a bogus ID. Further our passport system is not fool-proof.

We don’t have a close Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance system in Colombo; whereas in all the other big cities they are monitored.

We can’t monitor SMS’s or emails, we need to have such a system but we don’t and are not doing it.

Q: Your interview with the Strait Times of Singapore has sparked a lot of controversy. With the US and Norway denying that they backed the Presidential Campaign of Gen. Fonseka, do you still stand by your comments?

A: I went into more details when I spoke to them but they had condensed, it in such a way that it gave a vey different meaning. What I really meant was; I have proof that Norway had backed Sarath Fonseka by paying journalists to write against the government and paying Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). It was not direct hard money given to Sarath Fonseka, they have used various methods to give money; they paid certain Human Rights activists, a huge sum of money. For a month they have given millions, making it very clear that this money was given to work against the government and in support of Sarath Fonseka. So I stand by that statement.

In the case of the US, what I said was; for the slightest thing they issue a statement against the government but when Sarath Fonseka publicly claimed that he was going to arrest the President and arrest the Defence Secretary and put us behind bars, the US didn’t issue similar statements. But for any rumour, even hypothetical, they issue a statement against the government.

We have arrested Fonseka and will give him a trial according to our rules and regulations, what need does the US have to issue a statement? They should not have issued a statement, this shows their intentions. This is what I said and I stand by it.

Q: You said, also in that interview, that Gen Fonseka was responsible for the murder of Editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper Lasantha Wickrematunga. What evidence do you have to back these claims?

What I said was that all the attacks on media people were being investigated and I have very firm, not evidence, but firm indications that it was done by Sarath Fonseka.

Q: “Indications” in the sense…....

A: I know that it was done by him but I have to prove those things. I have to have definite evidence. I have said that he was the person who is responsible for attacks on media not that he killed anyone and that I am carrying on investigations on the matter.

Q: If he (Gen Fonseka) was the one responsible for these attacks, then why is it still happening, even after he retired from the Army?

A: No it didn’t happen after that; tell me anybody who was attacked?

Q: Lanka enews journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda went missing recently…...

A: Eknaligoda, he himself disappeared. I know he had a complaint over one year ago and he resurfaced again. We don’t even know who this Eknaligoda is, what had he done?

Anyone can claim that he is missing but there are a lot of people who are missing for their own advantage.

There was a pattern those days; when real journalists wrote something, they were attacked. We didn’t even know if Eknaligoda was writing to some paper.

Q: What you are saying then is that this is one isolated incident and the trend has changed from the time of the war?

A: This has nothing to do with the war. If you analyze the situation you see that it is personal. When the government, the President and Ministers were criticized nothing happened to them. But when anyone had an incident with Sarath Fonseka, this type of disappearance happened.

And at that time the UNP, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, John Amaratunga, Joseph Michael Perera and Range Bandara very clearly said in Parliament that these things were being done by Sarath Fonseka.

Q: The government has constantly claimed that there was this “international Conspiracy” by the west against the President. And some might see the presence of the UK’s Foreign Secretary at the Global Tamil Forum as a means for the west to get our attention, because we haven’t been engaging with them as much as they would like. What is your response to such speculation?

A: In the last four years our foreign policy was excellent. We followed a foreign policy which was beneficial to Sri Lanka. We are not there to satisfy the world we were there to satisfy the people.

For instance we engaged with India and developed the best relationship with them and everyone knows that India is the main factor. Our relationship was strong enough that we were able to finish the terrorist problem without any hindrance.

Similarly we developed a good relationship with the South East Asian countries, which is an important factor when it comes to terrorism. Because a lot of LTTE activity their ships, procurement and leaders were operating in this region.

Likewise we developed good relations with China, Russia, Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries so that they supported us at forums.

But if someone wants to follow their agenda we can’t allow that, if it is not in the best interest of Sri Lanka. The west wanted to negotiate with the LTTE instead of defeating them militarily. We don’t want to be in their good books and suffer here.

Q: But what political speculators say is that Sri Lanka’s connection with China and Russia are indicating to the west that we no longer need them........

A: No that is not diplomacy; these countries should understand that we had to be good with Russia and China because we depended on them a lot. Most of our development projects are funded by China and we were depending on them for our arms. Russia understood our position and they never told us to talk to the LTTE, they supported our effort to defeat terrorism. Obviously we had to be friends with Russia who was towing our line, like India and Pakistan.

We don’t want to be angry with any country but by doing that we don’t want to sacrifice our unitary state, our sovereignty or give in on any issue.

Q: With regard to the Military tribunal required for the trial of General Sarath Fonseka; how is that going to be handled, since it is customary to have an officer of a similar or higher rank sitting on such a bench?

A: It is customary, but not a necessity in the regulations. If he is the highest officer then obviously we have to use equal or junior officers, because if we don’t have a Field Marshall what can we do.

Q: Despite everything that happened in the past months there was a time when you, the President, and the Retired General fought the battle side by side and you’ll hailed him as the greatest General. So do you in any way feel betrayed?

A. I’m frustrated; because I felt it was not done. The way he entered politics and also the way he behaved during the campaign. This is a democratic country and anyone can come into politics. The President is the one who selected him as the commander of the Army, because he was about to retire and had only twelve days left. We could have done this with any other commander, we could have used Shantha Kottegoda but we prematurely retired Shantha Kottegoda and gave Sarath Fonseka the opportunity and during this period we helped him professionally and personally.

Forgetting all these things, he came to contest the Presidential Election from his post of the Chief of Defence Staff. I thought it was not ethical, even the people thought in a similar way and answered that question at the polls ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

Eritrea not co-operating With Sri Lanka on LTTE Issue complains Gotabaya Rajapaksa

By Dianne Silva

The government’s diplomatic ties with Eritrea broke down due to certain newspaper reports, according to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

“It came out in the papers and now Eritrea has completely shut down everything; they don’t talk to us and they completely cut us off,” the Secretary told Daily Mirror.

Further, all plans to establish a Sri Lankan consulate in Eritrea, in order to monitor various LTTE elements within that country, have also failed.

“There were plans to open a consulate there; but even that they refused,” the Defense Secretary said.

He said that the exposure of defense matters via the media was counter productive, in gathering information.
We had very bad experiences with Eritrea. We know that there are certain assets that belong to the LTTE; but because it came out in a newspaper they refused to cooperate with us. Now we are in the process of redeveloping our ties with them, from scratch,” Rajapaksa said.

The Secretary of Defense made these statements in response to the questions of whether elements of the LTTE were trying to regroup and what intelligence was being gathered through Kumaran Pathmanadan (KP), who was the mastermind of the LTTE’s international network.

Rajapaksa noted that a number of countries were unaware that operations taking place within their boundaries were fueling the interests of the LTTE.

“There are different businesses the LTTE was running and for those countries these were legitimate business. Therefore if we had not given the information these governments would not know; that these are LTTE businesses,” he said.

However he claimed that Western countries were affronted if the Sri Lankan government made public the fact that such elements were operating within their borders.

“Naming countries is of no use, because when we name the country those countries don’t like it. Those countries don’t want to know that certain LTTE groups were operating within their borders and we had a very bad experience with Eritrea,” he said.

When asked about confronting LTTE elements internationally the Secretary explained that the Western block was not always cooperative.

“With most countries it is easy but with the Western countries it is very difficult because there is a very big pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora and we don’t get much cooperation from Western countries; especially the European countries. So without their cooperation it is very difficult to catch these people.”

He noted that the LTTE was trying to legitimize itself in order to deceive certain governments and gain their support.

“Therefore what the LTTE could not achieve through military means they would try to achieve through other means with the help of these governments. And this is why they are trying to establish this Transnational Government of Tamil Elam,” he said.

He conceded however that a large majority of the Diaspora was hoping for reconciliation within the island.

“But what I see is that although there is a big Tamil Diaspora, the majority of them are moderates and don’t support the Elam concept. Most of them want to come back to Sri Lank and live peacefully,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are no plans to present KP before court; however information provided by him has been invaluable to government intelligence.

“We are yet to decide on the matter of presenting him before court. We are still in the process of gathering information, from him because he was a person who was working with the LTTE especially on international affairs, business and procurement.

Therefore we want to get as much information as possible and to break into the LTTE network and get their assets,” the Secretary said ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

An Apology and Brief Response to Dayan Jayatilleka

by Nalin Swaris

1. I withdraw my insinuation about Dayan Jayatilleka not being offered some fitting position. It was speculative and unkind. My sincere apologies.

2. The sour grapes title was in question form and related to Dayan’s recent criticisms of the President prior to his departure to Singapore , which he kept announcing.

Whatever the critcisms about Sarath Fonseka’s arrest and choice of military tribunal, if Fonseka’s allegations about war crimes is not cleared Dayan’s own labour at the Human Rights Council will be lost.

3. Hopefully at the ‘breakfast meeting’ DJ may have been told why he was so unceremoniously removed from office. This, notwithstanding that one retired seniour diplomat, seniour lawyers and the editor of the Island urging that he be retained at least till his term expired.

4. I am puzzled by “examples of [my] conduct which DJ says he“ would not choose to emulate or uphold”. If it refers examples of my political behaviour, as opposed to any private conduct, I must say that the only politician with whom I had close contact, was Chandrika Kumaratunga before she was elected President. I was as appalled as Victor Ivan was about how she started abusing the peoples’ trust. After she came to power I did not try contact her and did she did not contact me.

5. The comparion between J.R.Jayewardene’s two terms in office and what Fonseka is alleged to have done is like comparing apples and pears. The J.R legacy is systemic, especially the constitution he wrote for himself to enthrone despotism. I have called the Executive Presidency attracts the corrupt like a dung heap attracts blue bottles. All Presidents, including President Rajapakse - Wijetunga being perhaps an exception - have used this power to rule despotically. Criticising JR’s executive presidency in the Island ’s Midweek Review, I quoted Adam Ferguson’s observation: “The rules of despotism are made for the government of corrupted men.”

Any steps Fonseka may have taken for a putsch - a one time attempt - have been nullified according to what the Defence Secretary said n the ITN interview. There are no signs of a mutiny yet, in the armed forces and police as Fonseka threatened, if the President tried to remain in power after being defeated by him. 90 % of the forces and police are with him, he said.

6. There are no signs either of a popular wave in support of Fonseka resurging. Daily revelations have taken the sheen of his campaign promise to end corruption and State violence. His credibility on both has been seriously damaged. The joint opposition has fragmented along several fissure lines.

7. The decision about the proper tribunal is a question of jurisdiction. If he was tried by a civil court, the defence could have argued the other way around as well: the offences were committed while Fonseka was a serving officer; a civil court does not have the jurisdiction to try him, since military law is also Lankan law which recognises civil and military jurisdictions and delimits the competence of each. The judge might have agreed and dismissed the case. I am not a practicing lawyer to give a grounded legal opinion, but to return to a military tribunal after that might have involved double jeopardy.

8. My response about the comment about “black masks” related to possible identification of the men as TV camera crews were present. Whether a battle was raging at the Bombay Taj and whether there was none outside the Colombo Lakeside Cinnamon is not the issue. The issue was exposing identities.

9. My remark about a strange and possible Westward tilt by Jayatillaka had to with pressure, even attempts to interfere, by the US and EU in Lanka’s internal affairs. This has not changed. Jayatillaka himself urged that it be counterbalanced by strengthening ties with India , Pakistan China and Russia .

I follow what is published in the journals Dayan mentions. The correct contrast should have been not with Asian media but with Asian governments. They have brought no pressure or threatened Sri Lanka with sanctions. In fact, the Asian countries on the Human Rights Council voted for Ambassador Jayetillaka’s Resolution, and against the German resolution which had the support of the US and EU countries. Support for Lanka was due in part to Dayan’s excellent persuasive powers. His removal is the country’s loss.

10. I have not changed my view about the shabby treatment of Dayan. It was a public humiliation he did not deserve. So many of us were outraged, especially as no reason was given, as Dayan himself stated in the Groundviews video interview.

The main reason for writing this response is to apologise for my uncalled for insinuation. My current difference with Dayan is on a specific issue. It not an “antagonistic contradiction” Hopefully we can let the matter rest.

Thanks to Dayan for publishing this in 'expressive' mode rather than being too intellectual. I also agree with the content of the last para with out reservations. It is time for the western democracies to realise, lip service to 'liberalism' alone is not enough to sustain stable societies.

Related: Who are we? A matter of identity: Response to Dr. Nalin Swaris

Joining mainstream SLFP will help address Muslim issues better – Ferial Ashraff

by Rukshana Rizwie

Minister of Development and Construction of the East & Rural Housing, Ferial Ashraff made headlines when she crossed over to the SLFP recently. A move some viewed as a controversy in the backdrop of the legacy her husband, the Late Ashraff left behind. Here, the minister talks about the rationale behind her move and her views on participating in mainstream politics to The Nation.

Excerpts of the interview:

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Mrs.Ferial Ashraff met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and accepted her membership to join SLFP at Temple Trees on 18th February-pic Nalin Hewapathirana

Q: What was the rationale behind joining the SLFP? A step that you’ve taken in the direction of mainstream politics?

A: The motive behind it was a lot of thinking. For instance, if I go back in history, when Sri Lanka gained independence, Sri Lankans were together. There was no Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim issue. But along the years, the two-party system came about and in 1978 after the change of our constitution, there was an issue about the Tamils and Tamil youth. Tamil people by then started feeling that their concerns were not being met and their issues could not be brought out or dealt with without power being attached to it. And we in our party, when we discussed this issue, realised that this could have been the reason why parties on ethnic lines came up.

Then came the Indo-Lanka Accord where the Muslims of the Eastern Province mainly from the District of Ampara, a majority to reckon with, felt that they were ignored. And by these districts being brought together they became a minority within a minority. I remember at that time, Ashraff was only a lawyer and when he tried to meet up with the President and discuss issues, he was chased out of that place. There was a question about whom he was and what right he had to speak to the President. Issues of that nature made him form the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. And true to his word, he went to parliament and spoke on every issue bringing out the concerns of the Muslims, and along with that, got the Muslims together to a greater extent.

As much as he addressed the intellect of the Muslim community, he also spoke to their emotions and that was a good reason as to how he was able to bring the community together. So, in many ways he was able to help the Muslims in addressing their issues, and also very keen to see that the needs of Muslims were met while he worked with President Kumaratunga. And along the way I think he also felt that being a Muslim and being a representative of the Muslim community he could keep the community together as a bargaining tool for whatever was not enough.

And he felt that he would not be able to go very far. He also believed that the Muslims should also have direct links with the President and that the three communities as a whole should discus issues and go together if at all we were to bring solutions to the burning issues of our nation. And then he started – the National Unity Alliance (NUA). And he was working very hard especially in the Eastern Province to try and bring the communities together. And he did that to a great extent.

And on the verge of the NUA growing up we lost him. In the infant stages of the NUA, thereafter, when I took over, I in my own little way was able to work with the NUA only in the District of Ampara. I don’t think I have the capacity to go beyond Ampara, more so because my total entry into politics was one that was rigged with controversy being a Muslim woman. But after a lot of opposition, I managed to survive with the NUA for 9 successful years. To me it’s an accomplishment (Allahdillah – thank Allah). And mostly, I’m very happy for what I’ve been able to do.
But After May 19, the end of the war, a whole lot of issues had to be dealt with. There is a necessity for these communities at least now to work together and also to be able to respect each other as Sri Lankans.

So, when we attended our regular meetings, we thought of how we should move about – we felt it was rather selfish on our part to talk about unity in diversity, keeping ourselves away from the main political parties. There was a time, there was a stage, when it was a requirement for the communities to be represented. But now when the country, as a whole, wants to move forward to a new direction and when His Excellency the President also wants to give leadership to a new thinking we felt that it was nothing but right to offer our support for a national cause rather than being outside and also talking about national unity.

And we also felt that all of us, with our own little parties couldn’t keep talking about national unity when we ourselves were so divided. It didn’t make sense when major parties, the opposition and ruling both wanted to bring about a better understanding amongst our community. We didn’t understand why we should be ‘out’standing. And then after a lot of discussions we thought it was better to be with a national party where the decision would be made at that party level because that’s the main party.

And we also felt that maybe we would be left out by being outside when we did not have our representatives at the main party, especially someone from the East where a lot of issues are of which the community was not clearly represented in the main parties. Because it would be the main party discussing issues and only after that, approach the alliance. We felt that now it was time for us to be in the main party where we could voice our views there and be representative of our communities within the main party. Of course, we had a choice of the two main parties and we chose to join the SLFP hoping that we would be able to also help in bringing about a positive change for Sri Lankans.

Q: But isn’t this going against the objective your husband, the late Mr. Ashraff set out to do when he established the SLMC.

A: No, because I think I am with that objective still. He at one point, felt that the main parties were not representing the community well enough which is what led him to establish the national alliance. He felt that the main parties were not doing it. So, he wanted to come up to the level of the main parties and have a third party for the country. But now we feel with the present day scenario that his Excellency the President is also wanting to do something similar. I don’t think we have the capacity to duplicate what a party that has a history of 50 - years is doing. So, about Ashraff being the founder of his party and what he has done – there is no issue there. All of the good work that he did when with the SLMC and then NUA is accepted.

No issue about it. But if merely because I consider it important to respect Ashraff that I stick on to the party and be the leader of that particular party merely because he started it and I want to keep it that way, I don’t think I serve any purpose. The whole idea is that I take forward the vision that Ashraff had. I would truly prefer to go into details of the core of the matter of issues that mattered rather than sitting there as a leader of a political party and not doing much. If it is an emotional attachment that I have for Ashraff, if someone were to ask me, how come you are doing this to him, my respect, my love for Ashraff is totally different. That may not be connected to a political party or leadership or whatever. When he was there, we were there with him fully;

10 - years after his death, we still continued with the NUA. I carried it 10 - years forward all for that vision of his and I wanted it to be so. In my own ways, I feel like I’ve been able to make progress where the relationship between the Muslims and Sinhalese were concerned and to a degree with the Tamils as well. So, I have been able to do this and I feel I could do it better with the support of a large party. My view is towards reaching the same goal.

Q: Do you feel that Muslims everywhere in the country would be getting a better deal with having you join the main party as you say?

A: Now see, when we have a small party and we talk, we talk of smaller issues and it’s a small group of people who hear me out and it’s easy for me to get the message across. But how far does it go. When we sit together it’s the people of my district and everything is fine. But there are 21 other districts. How does the message go to them. And when the main political party sits and discusses issues is there anybody there representing our district. So, don’t you think its better for us to make others aware also of what our issues are when their goal too is to bring about the same equality for all Sri Lankans? As I said, it’s only being very selfish to sit outside and remain a political party and leader. There was a time for it. But now I think it has done its term. It is also important to identify when you are needed and when you’ve got to give up.

Q: So what would become of the NUA then?

A: There is no question about what is going to happen to the NUA. That’s something time will have to answer. Most of those with me at the NUA also crossed over. We leave it to time, to the society and dear old Sri Lanka. I don’t think it would die down. Things don’t die down like that do they? But we assume that if the purpose for which we started a political party could be met that there would be no necessity for parties to mushroom the way it has in the last few decades.

Q: But do you feel that being in the mainstream, the Muslim community and the parties that represent them will have a say?

A: I was not representing the Muslim community. We had the national unity alliance and I had the votes of both Muslims and Sinhalese from the district that I came from. But of course, in a mainstream party will be identified by the religion I represent. And I have a feeling that I would have a better and larger forum to bring out matters.

Q: What would your role be in the SLFP?

A: No particular role. I think I will have to wait until the elections are over to decide what I’m going to do within the party. But right now after I joined there is also another member to the SLFP from the East. So, there are two now until the next election. We do not know whether we are going to win or not. But I am very optimistic in that I will be able to bring out certain issues into the framework of a larger political party and to be able to discuss matters in a more meaningful manner with people who perhaps hold entirely different viewpoints.

Because what happened in the NUA is that we had people who thought alike. We seldom had contradictory ideas being thrown at us. But now the scenario is different. Things have changed and people understand that issues need to be looked at differently. As much as we have racism in all our communities we also need to get out of that skin.

Q: What are the grievances of the Muslim community that you would like to highlight?

A: There are many issues that need to be addressed and concerns that need to be heard. I come from the Eastern province and education is one such issue that I would like to tackle. We don’t have much of a problem there because we are a majority and we are able to sort out our issues. Also, when you take Muslim schools all over the island where at times there is just one school per district and then there is the issue with teachers, language and then the issue of Sinhala teachers not being able to go to Muslim schools due to timetables. So, who is speaking for them? If I were to spell them out, there are so many.

Where the communities are concerned there are issues of land distribution etc. In that sense, decisions that are being taken at a level when they were not previously are blown out of proportion and become political issues. There is a lot of room for decisionand merely being in opposite camps and making noise at parliament has not made a big difference.

Talking about Ashraff, I remember Ashraff always coming out with this thing. He used to say it’s important to do the right thing at the right time. The right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time is not going to work. So, you’ve got to be very alert, especially when you are representing somebody. Things keep moving all the time. So it’s up to you to spot the right time to make that move. I feel that Allah has helped me at the right time and we need this change.

Q: The President has expressed interest to downsize the cabinet. If that were to happen, what are your chances to staying in?

A: I am a believer and thereby I am able to take up a lot of issues without much agitation. If the requirement is to downsize the cabinet and if they also feel they have better people to do the job, I may think I am fit for the job, but what does the country think. So, I leave it to the future, time and society again.

Q: At this point in time, is the goal to achieve a 2/3 majority in parliament plausible?

A: We are working towards winning a 2/3 majority. It happens to be the need of the hour. We all know the electoral system of Sri Lanka has to change. I think corruption begins there. So we need changes there, we need changes in the constitution, in the powers of the executive presidency – the whole country agrees that all this needs to be done. So, yes we are working towards a 2/3 majority and with the mandate that the president got this time, I don’t think it’s impossible. ~ courtesy: The Nation ~

February 26, 2010

The ghost of Lord Soulbury in London: Sinhala-Tamil politics after the war

by Rajan Philips

The voting at the January presidential election brutally exposed the two solitudes in Sri Lankan politics. The Sinhalese voted in clear preference for President Rajapakse while Tamils along with Muslims, equally clearly voted against him. In fact, the TNA was blamed for contributing to Sarath Fonseka’s defeat by openly supporting him. That was a tad far fetched, as the real clincher about that alliance was how the government used the state media to misinform the Sinhalese that Fonseka was making a deal with the separatists.

With the controversy over Fonseka’s arrest, and the April election becoming a contest for a two-thirds majority for the Rajapakse regime in parliament, the Tamil question appeared to be dropping below the political radar. It was marginalized in the Sri Lankan parliament before the guns started blazing, and it is becoming marginalized again after the guns have been silenced. The TNA and other Tamil organizations are scrambling to field candidates in the North and East and make good of a politically bad situation. The bold new phenomenon in postwar politics is the emergence of Muslim politics in its own organizational right.

In his now almost annual and mutually-admiring interview with the (Madras) Hindu, the President laid out the limited parameters for the future of Tamil politics in Sri Lanka. But the Sri Lankan Tamil politics is no longer confined to the borders of Sri Lanka. After a long war, the Sri Lankan state has reasserted the physical borders of the Sri Lankan polity, but Tamil politics has become assertively borderless. The much maligned Tamil Diaspora is now foot loose and fancy free for it to take political potshots at the Sri Lankan government.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets GTF delegates-pic: Sandeshaya

In a dramatic stage show in London, the Global Tamil Federation, a new umbrella Tamil organization for likeminded Tamils from fourteen countries, launched its inaugural meeting, on Wednesday, 24 February, in the Mother of all Parliaments with welcoming speeches from the very top drawer of British politicians. British Foreign Secretary David Milliband, Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague and Liberal Democrats Shadow Foreign Secretary Ed Davey addressed the meeting. The domestically embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a private audience to a select group of the delegates. Attending from Sri Lanka were a Buddhist monk and an Islamic cleric, along with a South African parliamentarian, Sisa Njikelana.

The British support for the event was welcomed by the GTF organizers: “the British Government, more than any in the world, knows our history and is most competent to understand our situation.” The British government defended the participation saying “the UK firmly believes that the only way to achieve lasting and equitable peace in Sri Lanka is through genuine national reconciliation. The UK will engage with all members of the Sri Lankan community who share this goal, whether overseas or in Sri Lanka.” The reaction in Colombo was predictably was one of incense, including a diplomatic scolding and blaming the British for helping yet again in the rebirth of the Tigers.

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Lord Soulbury

Historical and current ironies

Those conversant with the late Edward Said’s (the great Palestinian scholar and intellectual who taught at Columbia University) concept of Orientalism, that captured the essence of the colonizing and colonized mindsets of the 19th and 20th centuries, will recognize the competing interplay of the colonized mindsets in the creation and aggravation of the Sinhala-Tamil conflict in 20th century Sri Lanka. Whether it was the preposterous claims to Aryan-Dravidian racial difference and civilizational superiority, or the more mundane squabbles over political representation, the mainstream Sinhala and Tamil leaders took their case to the British rulers as (colonized) supplicants, made adversarial pleas, and prayed for British judgment (not justice) favouring their side against the other.

They never attempted to pool their resources to cooperatively work out solutions among themselves, as it was done in India by the Indian National Congress. Rather, they deployed their resources combatively, to enthuse their respective supporters and to impress the British rulers. The culmination of this colonial-historical process was the Soulbury Commission to hear petitions and recommend constitutional reforms for the colony that was Ceylon to guide its path to gradual independence. The principal leaders of the Sinhalese and the Tamils rather than making common cause in formulating an inclusive political framework went their separate ways to outsmart one another.

The Soulbury Commission rendered its judgment and gave Sri Lanka its first constitution after independence. The Tamil leaders felt shortchanged but Lord Soulbury assured them that the Commission had produced a constitution with adequate minority safeguards, and that it was the best that ‘the wit of man could devise’. Ten years later, in the wake of the tumultuous years of 1956 and 1958, Lord Soulbury would remark that had he and his Commissioners had the experiences of the 1950s, they would have produced a different constitutional arrangement.

The ghost of Lord Soulbury must have been hovering around the Gladstone Room of the British House of Commons when David Milliband, William Hague and Liberal Ed Davey addressed the inaugural meeting of the Global Tamil Federation. The former British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Dominick Chilicott, used to occasionally muse about Britain’s historical responsibility to facilitate a political solution in Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka took exception to Mr. Chilicott’s statements as betraying the hangover of the colonizing mindset. Colombo will now interpret the London show more as British electoral opportunism – or inter-party competition for British Tamil votes – than as hangover of British colonialism.

But electorally opportunistic or not, none of the British politicians said anything unpredictable or untoward at the inaugural meeting. All of them emphasized the need for non violence, criticized the LTTE, promoted a just political solution and promised that Britain will continue to work with ‘all Sri Lankans’ to achieve a political solution and lasting peace. In a more open and ambidextrous assessment, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has called on both the Government of Sri Lanka and Tamil Diaspora to find new approaches to resolve the political conflict on the island that continues even after the war.

On the one hand, says the ICG, the Sri Lankan government “must address the legitimate grievances at the root of the conflict: the political marginalisation and physical insecurity of most Tamils in Sri Lanka”, and on the other, the Tamil Diaspora must “move(s) on from its separatist, pro-LTTE ideology … to play a useful role supporting a just and sustainable peace in Sri Lanka”. The British politicians and their counterparts in the US, EU and Australia, or even New Delhi are not saying anything different. Only that the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Diaspora are hearing things differently. They have got used to imagining what they want to hear, and play deaf to what they ought to hear.

For the government of Sri Lanka, regardless of what the Western governments and organizations actually say, so long as they are critical of the government for its intransigence and inaction towards a political solution, they are all LTTE supporters and enemies of the Sinhalese. Equally, for the Tamil Diaspora, the West is right in criticizing the Sri Lankan government especially on war crimes, but the West is off the mark when it makes the same accusations against the LTTE.

The government of Sri Lanka has gone further, trying to find non-Western support for its position to countervail the West’s sanctions against it. The list of countries where support is solicited is growing: in alphabetical order, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Venezuela and so on. But to what end? And never mind China is allegedly becoming the new colonizer of Africa.

The Sinhalese, save for the facilities the American Missionaries built in Jaffna, have historically been and continue to be the bigger beneficiaries of Western munificence – at the level of the state, as elites and as recipients of development assistance and private capital inflow. Even the flow of arms from the West to the government of Sri Lanka did not go dry during the war despite the diplomatic war of words between the two. So, why insist on cutting their own nose against the West just to spite the Tamils? Would it not be wise for the government to work with the West in engaging the Tamils and the Muslims more positively and productively?

Instead, the government appears to be fishing for new Tamil supporters to promote an agenda of so called development in the north and east while ignoring the reality of the political question. On the one hand, this approach is the continuing curse of cooption. On the other, it was the neglect of development of the north and east and the restriction and denial of opportunities for jobs and higher education in the south that became the political problem and gave the LTTE and other militant organizations their disenchanted recruits. The political genie cannot be now put back in a development bottle just because the present government says so. And there can be no development worth talking about, in the vocabulary of our time, which does not involve the democratic participation of the people who are the purported target of development.

The tired and failed path of political cooption is not the way to proceed if the government is serious about building bridges between communities. The Muslims are tired of cooption and the Tamils have never been anything but cynically hostile about it. The government has to be flexible and positively deal with the Tamil and Muslim representatives elected by their people rather than asking the people to elect those whom the government would like to see as their representatives. The government has to learn to deal with Tamil and Muslim representatives even if they are elected to be part of the opposition and not the government.

Who are we? A matter of identity: Response to Dr. Nalin Swaris

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Nalin Swaris simply must learn to make his political and ideological criticisms without imputing personal motives and thereby descending into the realm of psychological speculation and gossip. He heavily hints that my criticism of the Govt’s handling of the Fonseka affair is a matter of sour grapes, meaning I didn’t get something I expected or asked for from the President or the administration. May I set the record straight?

In the middle of last December I was offered an ambassadorial posting to an important country of considerable significance to Sri Lanka—a message conveyed at the residence of a senior minister by a very senior official, which I politely but promptly declined. A month earlier, in November 2009 I had presented a paper by invitation at an international seminar at a respected think tank of highly rated university, been invited to spend two years as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow writing a book on the Sri Lankan crisis, and had accepted the offer. This I might add, took place after my rapprochement with President Rajapakse and my visit with him to Hanoi, so I was hardly bereft of options and was aware of the possibility of playing a diplomatic role once again in the near future. I indicated however that I would be ready to serve my country again in an appropriate posting, at a future date.

I met President Rajapakse once again in mid-January at the height of the election campaign and our relations were warm. I was hardly “out of favour”. However, at this stage of my life, I found the prospect of serious independent intellectual work more compelling, not least because many of my fellow ambassadors in Geneva and heads of UN/multilateral organizations had strongly urged me to write a book on the thirty years conflict in which I have been observer-participant. This is nothing new. In early 2006, when, just prior to the first round of talks with the LTTE in Geneva, newly elected President Rajapakse graciously offered me the post of Secretary General of SCOPP, with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Secretary Foreign Affairs Palihakkara, and Ministers Nimal Siripala and Bogollagama in the room, I politely declined and went overseas to complete my doctorate and book on Fidel Castro.

Dr Swaris says that he for one would not have accepted a trip to Vietnam after the manner in which I was treated. I shall not reciprocate with examples of Dr Swaris’ conduct which I would not choose to emulate or uphold. Suffice to say I did not initiate contact with the President upon my return to Sri Lanka for two months, precisely for that reason, but I was not churlish enough to refuse a invitation to breakfast, not least because I was able to serve my country at the UN in Geneva at a crucial moment in our current history, because of an invitation to do so by the President. Nor was I ungracious enough to refuse an invitation to join him on the visit to Vietnam, since, as he explained it was the first ever visit by a Sri Lankan head of state to Vietnam, and therefore in its own way, historic. As a student of Vietnam’s history it also gave me the chance to observe its leadership close at hand.

My initial endorsement of President Rajapakse over Gen Fonseka was in an Island article dated Dec 7th. My support for President Rajapakse in the electronic media was after I had been offered and instantly declined a posting, and had already accepted an overseas offer of independent scholarly work at a senior level.

As for Dr Swaris’ criticisms of my ten point critique of the government’s handling of the Fonseka affair, I hope I am wrong, but surely it is still far too early to tell? It took several years for the de-stabilising impact of President JR Jayewardene’s decisions which deployed legality without legitimacy, to make themselves manifest. I would argue that the jury is still very much out on this one.

More substantive is Dr Swaris’ double implication that I have softened my line on tactics and shifted my line on the West. This brings us to the very core of the question. To my mind, that which is appropriate and necessary when dealing with an enemy of the state -- especially an armed enemy of proven intransigence-- is completely inappropriate with dealing with a political foe, especially an unarmed rival and political competitor. Thus the strategy and tactics that I argued for in public and on the record for decades, as concerns the LTTE, is entirely the wrong mindset to have when dealing with General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka.

Dr Swaris likens the use of black masks by the troops outside the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel on Jan 27th, with their use by Indian commandos when storming the Taj hotel in November 2008. It may have escaped his notice that there was a gun battle blazing on the latter occasion with armed terrorists who had infiltrated Mumbai by boat and murdered several civilians were holing up and holding hostages in that Taj – as witnessed the world over by TV viewers. As the same TV viewers worldwide witnessed, there was absolutely no such situation outside the Cinnamon Lakeside after the Lankan elections!

The contradiction between the state and the LTTE, indeed between the people and the LTTE was an antagonistic contradiction with an existential enemy while the contradiction with Sarath Fonseka falls into the Maoist category of “contradictions among the people”; a “non–antagonistic” contradiction. To do otherwise is to elastically extend the category of enemies, and prevent the return to political normalcy and “harmony” (to use a key Chinese term).

In the run-up to the election, the possibility of an Orange Revolution strategy in play had already been signalled, days before Dr Swaris, by “Tania Noctiummes” (writing from Latin America) in Transcurrents, Sri Lanka Guardian and several websites. The point however, is that the Fonseka challenge was defeated by the people, peacefully, at a democratic election and this possibility aborted. In all probability this defeat would have been repeated at the parliamentary election. If there was any conspiratorial illegality on his part (which I do not doubt) this should have been dealt with exclusively by the regular, civilian courts.

I took a hard line on the armed JVP and LTTE, but a soft line on Southern political dissent and Tamil grievances. That is the liberal or more correctly social democratic approach. As for the West, my successful approach in Geneva (which always encompassed a dialogue with the US, especially under the Obama administration), was intended to thwart an attempt by powerful Western elements to prevent our final military offensive and subsequently to punish us for it; in short to prevent a UN resolution/mandate which could have been used for a R2P/Kosovo type intervention or interference. It was a battle in defence of our vital national interests and sovereignty. The issue of the handling of Sarath Fonseka has brought discomfiture even to our non-Western friends. It is one thing to resist the West when we must, and another to brush off constructive advice from all and go it alone, filled with self righteousness. Those who supported us on the issue of the Tigers and Western interventionism do not necessarily do likewise on the use of a heavy hand in domestic politics. If Dr Swaris thinks this is an exclusively Western concern he should access more Asian newspapers and journals on the internet, be it the Frontline, the Economic and Political Weekly or the Straits Times.

What is at stake here is this: do we or do we not belong to the system of representative pluralist democracy? Do we or do we not intend to play by the rules of the game? It was one thing to defend liberal democracy from the armed JVP and the Tigers – which latter the UNP and the SLFP “liberals” failed to – and another, to fail to restore that liberal, pluralist democracy ourselves. It is an abiding failure of Sri Lankan political discourse to identify liberal democracy with the West and to use a necessary Non Aligned identification either as evidence of deviation from liberal democracy or as warrant for it. What we have failed to do is learn from the examples of say, Brazil and India, to name but two, which do not play the Western game and build countervailing international coalitions, while at the same time, adhering to the rule of law and functioning as exemplary pluralist liberal democracies. Do we share those values of non alignment, sovereignty, progressivism and rights based-liberal democracy? That is the choice before Sri Lanka: one of political practice, ethos and identity.

Whither the new Sri Lanka proclaimed by the triumphant Head of State?

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Many questions about the methods used in gaining the astounding military and Presidential election victories remain unanswered. The interest of the majority has been on the victory and not how it was achieved. The joint political and military leadership also believed the end would justify the means. This mindset prevailed among many Tamils too during the time the LTTE were active.

Only few visionaries protested about their ruthless methods. Tamil community has paid an enormous price for the indiscretion of the LTTE and the blind faith of many in their ideology and militancy. But the critical issue now for many Sri Lankans is the future of the island nation in the coming years and beyond in the light of the continuing nationally damaging developments even after vanquishing the LTTE May last year. Although the Tamil Tigers claimed steadfastly they were fighting for the liberation of the oppressed Tamil people, the militant group was widely considered as a terrorist organization. This helped the Sri Lankan government to mobilise foreign support in the domestic war against terrorism.

Pride, prejudice and deception

The foreign governments that backed the war in Sri Lanka made a clear distinction between ‘Tiger terrorism’ and the Tamil political problem. While the war was declared over with the total destruction of the fighting capabilities of Tamil Tigers including the rebel leadership, wartime aggressive actions have been considered necessary for safeguarding ‘national security’. But in fact, this catchphrase has been used conveniently to deny legitimate freedom and human rights of political opponents. The threat to media freedom also continued with the arrests and disappearances of journalists after the end of the war. Furthermore, the culture of impunity also remained intact. The deployment of thugs and underworld elements with the connivance of security forces to intimidate the resolute opponents in civil society (considered as traitors) is also a major feature of political intolerance.

The latest ploy in the scheme to dodge seeking a permanent political solution to the ethnic problem which really is a national problem is the official announcement that the ‘terrorist ideology’ must be defeated to free the country from the threat of terrorism. The fact that the root cause of the war is the unresolved political (ethnic) issue which the LTTE exploited for achieving their extremist goal by brutal means is conveniently ignored. The sensible way to assure lasting peace and ethnic harmony is to defeat the separatist ideology through devolution of powers so as to enable the ethnic minorities feel they too are the beneficiaries of the independence gained in 1948. Without devolution Great Britain, Sri Lanka’s last colonial ruler would not have been a united, stable and prosperous nation.

Delivering the inaugural address of the Global Tamil Forum conference held at the British parliamentary complex on February 24, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called upon the Sri Lankan government to make constitutional changes aimed at power sharing to settle the ethnic problem that has been the cause of the unrest and division that escalated into a destructive war. He said: "If history is buried, reconciliation never happens. That is why we continue to call as a government for a process to investigate serious allegations of violation of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict. If credible and independent, such efforts could make an important contribution to reconciliation between Sri Lanka's communities."

The Sri Lankan government protested against Miliband 's address describing the Tamil Forum as a pro LTTE grouping that poses a ‘direct threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka'. The British Foreign Secretary in his address also criticised the LTTE for resorting to violence and recruiting children. But this had no effect on the protesters.

Under the pretext of ‘national security’, the rule of law has also been undermined and the shift from democracy to authoritarianism has been taking place steadfastly. Importantly, arrests of political opponents under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations continued. Normal civil laws did not apply to political opponents. Journalists highly critical of the administration particularly in regard to its unfair practices such as extrajudicial punishment and other human rights violations were also in this category of undesirables. Some who were abducted, assaulted and released had left the country fearing for their lives. Few had been murdered in broad daylight. The whereabouts of the missing journalists are not known. The culprits have not been brought to justice. They are not hard-to-find criminals.

Unfortunately some seem to think that the Sri Lankan leadership is smart enough to mislead the international community. Some foreign countries (in the West) are alleged to have channelled funds via the INGOs and NGOs operating in Sri Lanka to destabilise democracy. (The Hindu 20 February 2010). There are moves now to control them. The saying that the show of aggression is a fitting form of defence is relevant in the new Sri Lanka that emerged May last year.

Glaring credibility gap

The contradiction between the positive pronouncements of the Head of State and actions or inaction of the government has never been as striking as it is now in Sri Lanka. In the recent past, the minority ethnic Tamils were the victims of broken promises of the past Prime Ministers. The world outside was not directly affected. But with the launching of the successful military campaign to annihilate the ferocious Tamil Tigers this practice has spread out. It is arguable whether the tactics used in the resounding victory has given incentive to continue the same even after is over. The misleading promises given to foreign leaders including the UN Secretary General helped to proceed steadfastly with the military campaign which also had a hidden political agenda very different from that many believed based on official pronouncements and preliminary actions.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s article in the opinion column of the prestigious Wall Street Journal (WSJ) 3 February has given credibility to the credibility gap. His vision of future Sri Lanka as stated rightly in the WSJ article titled, ‘Sri Lanka looks to the future’, “relies on a lasting peace. The removal of terrorism was an important milestone in this process, but the nation needs to be bound by a common purpose. That purpose will be built around a full reconciliation program”. Unfortunately, truth and reconciliation are not in sight yet. Perhaps this needs a two-third majority in the April 8 parliamentary election! In his Independence Day speech delivered on February 4 in Kandy he said: “The freedom from colonial rule that we gained 62 years ago is now more meaningful”. But some including Sri Lankan lawyers in the light of subsequent events have opined, freedom is now under threat.

Consistent with his earlier statement made soon after winning the war May last year that there are no minorities in the liberated Sri Lanka, there is no mention in his article of the long-standing problem of the Tamil speaking people. The focus is on the grievances of all communities. To quote: “My new government will address the genuine grievances of all communities and bolster the enforcement of equal rights for all”. There is also no reference to the political and other distinct problems of the Tamil speaking people that made them powerless second class citizens

There is also no clear message on the ways and means of transforming the ‘no war’ situation into lasting peace. The inference from his earlier statements too is that this is to be achieved mainly via economic development without any major political reform. His frequent emphasis on the unitary structure in which the centralized authority rests with the Sinhalese is intended to please the Sinhala nationalists. The bulk of the votes in the North and East obtained by the principal opposition candidate Gen. (retd) Sarath Fonseka at the January 26 Presidential election were a show of protest against the incumbent’s reluctance to address their immediate problems and concerns about their future.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is absolutely correct in saying that “lasting peace will unlock the true potential of Sri Lanka and provide a range of opportunities for all of our people”. But the important question is how he expects to secure the lasting peace? He has also said: “Already the International Monetary Fund has upgraded Sri Lanka to a ‘middle-income emerging market’, and our economy is now the second fastest growing in Asia. With our educated workforce and our strategic trading position, I intend to make good on predictions that Sri Lanka can become South Asia’s Singapore—or better”. In the light of the recent disturbing developments in south Sri Lanka, can one believe “a new beginning of peace and prosperity” has dawned in the conflict-ridden island for it to become prosperous like Singapore? While the old conflict remains unresolved, new ones have emerged now. If sacrificing democracy is the price for the sake of the envisaged peace similar to that prevailing in undemocratic countries, it is doubtful whether the majority of Sri Lankans would agree to this.

New post-war conflict

Instead of transforming the military victory into real peace sought desperately by the vast majority of citizens, who had endured unbearable hardships as a result of the brutal war, the victorious political leadership opted to exploit the military victory for political mileage. It is now apparent that the victor’s political agenda has been subtly linked to the military victory. In fact the post-war conflict between the incumbent Executive President, who according to the Constitution is also the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the battlefield ex-military Commander Sarath Fonseka, who took up politics with the view to defeat the incumbent President via the prematurely declared Presidential election is tied to the military victory. The degree of the animosity is fathomable from the allegation that the former Army Commander had been planning a coup d'état to capture political power and also eliminate the Rajapaksa family.

The post-war conflict between the two leaders has given rise to the possibility of the underneath dirt spurting out. The serious corruption charges, if and when proven will confirm the extent of the widely perceived corruption in the public sector. The malicious and humiliating way he was arrested by the military police while he was at a meeting in his private office in Royal Avenue, Colombo and taken forcibly to the Navy headquarters on February 8 night for incarceration there is now a contentious issue both within and outside Sri Lanka. The fact that there are two different systems of justice in Sri Lanka is evident from the contrasting ways political foes and friends are treated. In the case of the latter even their earlier criminal acts are forgiven.

Other setbacks

Truth and human rights have also been the major casualties in the war against the vicious Tamil Tigers. Although the government spokespersons have tried hard to refute the alleged war crimes, the UN, some concerned foreign governments and NGOs have raised the issue of war crimes and human rights violations by both sides during the final stages of the war. There is no doubt that the government benefitted greatly from the military victory as seen from the results of the several provincial council and the recent Presidential elections held after the war but this was at a great cost to the integrity of the island nation. It is very depressing to think what will happen, if this trend continues.

EUTC226.jpgVarious tactical methods tried to dissuade the EU from suspending the trade concessions under the GS P Plus (Generalised System of Preferences) have failed. Former Vice Chancellor and professor of law Minister G. L. Peiris even threatened to sue the European Commission if the GSP Plus trade concessions are withdrawn. These are given under certain conditions, which include good governance, sustainable development and the adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After some months delay, the EU decided on 15 February that the suspension would come into effect in 6 months time i.e. mid August 2010.

The EU press release said, “This decision follows an exhaustive investigation by the European Commission, which identified significant shortcomings in respect of Sri Lanka’s implementation of three UN human rights conventions relevant for benefits under the scheme”. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said, “I would like to emphasise that I hope Sri Lanka will sit with us over the next six months in order to agree upon a set of measures that will result in rapid, demonstrable and sustainable progress in relation to the human rights shortcomings we have identified.” The locally reported response of Sri Lankan President to the EU decision is: - he is not prepared to sacrifice the island’s sovereignty for the sake of 150 million US Dollars annual benefit. But the tens of thousands of jittery workers facing the threat of losing their incomes are not in the same defiant mood.

IMFTC226.jpgBy the way, Colombo had no problem in agreeing to the conditions under which IMF and IBRD gave loans as these were not tied to the highly sensitive human rights issue. In July 2009 Sri Lanka obtained after some delay an IMF Stand-By loan amounting to 2.6 billion US Dollars. IMF releases in instalments of around US $ 330 million after a review to ensure that the government is on track to meet its targets. The set deficit targets for the three years starting from 2009 are 7, 6 and 5 percent of GDP. The IMF team that visited Colombo for the second review of the Stand-By loan agreement said on February 25 that the third tranche of the loan is being delayed because the government missed its 2009 deficit reduction targets. The IMF officials told a news conference in Colombo that Sri Lanka's domestic budget borrowing was excessive, inconsistent with a budget deficit target of 7 percent of GDP.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Finance Minister, postponed this year’s budget with the tacit approval of the IMF. It is expected to be presented after the April 8 parliamentary election. The IMF’s fiscal deficit target of 6 percent of GDP for the current year is also unlikely to be met. This was apparent from the recent Reuters interview with Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

External factors are bound to influence decisions of the Sri Lankan government. The new Sri Lanka cannot expect to prosper on borrowed money and time, dodging the challenging tasks ahead. The sharp rise in annual debt service payments, high levels of waste and corruption have aggravated the fiscal problem. Both the war and the post-war conflict have overshadowed Sri Lanka’s fiscal and economic problems. It is amazing despite the fiscal problem, the main rival candidates in the January 26 Presidential election promised salary hikes for government servants.

Moving towards authoritarianism

The Report Part 11 in the series ‘diary of terror’ released by the Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch 15 February 2010 mentions the damage done to the political culture in recent years. To quote: “Making of death threats has become very much a part of the political culture in Sri Lanka. Many lawyers recently have received death threats for appearing for political opponents of the government. …The Sri Lankan Bar association passed resolutions condemning threats and attacks on lawyers several times and a called for effective investigations into such allegations. Despite such calls, no investigations have been conducted and no one has been prosecuted for such actions. In some instances, lawyers themselves have filed cases for violations of their rights before the Supreme Court and these cases are pending”.



Protest Demanding Release of Sarath Fonseka~ by VikalpaSL

“In the recent weeks, there were many instances in which opposition demonstrations were attacked by thugs who were accompanied by the police. On several occasions, media agencies published photographs of thugs attacking demonstrators and being protected by the police. On many occasions, the government politicians participated in leading attacks against demonstrations, calling for the release of Gen (Ret) Sarath Fonseka. The police often tried to arrest the opposition demonstrators rather than the criminals attacking demonstrators”.

A report issued recently by the ‘Lawyers for Democracy’ also expressed deep concern and condemned the violent methods used by the law enforcement authorities and supporters of government against those protesting against the arrest and detention of the defeated main challenger in the January 26 poll. The lawyers said the protestors were only exercising the right to non-violent protest and expression guaranteed in the Constitution. It noted that “the lawyers had witnessed personally the barbaric patterns in obstructing the peaceful protests in several places including Hulftsdorf, near the main courts complex”. They were shocked at witnessing protesters being “first attacked by hooligans and thugs who were provided protection by the police and that subsequently the same peaceful protestors were beaten by the police” (February 16 Sri Lanka Guardian). The February 24 statement of Sri Lanka’s Civil Rights Movement also indicated an ‘alarming slide’ towards curbs on democracy It warned that “attempts to stifle peaceful forms of dissent could result in violent reactions in the future as has happened in the past in the island which has been wracked by three insurgencies that retarded economic growth”.

The fact that both main rival candidates expected violent reaction to the outcome of the bitterly fought contest for the all-powerful Executive Presidency is evident from the dramatic events that occurred soon after the voting closed on January 26. Victor Ivan told the interviewer CR Chandraprema: “Some may have criticisms about the things that have taken place after the presidential election. My concern however, is what would have happened if things had gone the other way? There would have been a blood bath. One of the limitations of the joint opposition at the presidential election was that they did not have a vision that went beyond hate and revenge. This is one of the greatest tragedies in our post independence history” (Posted by transCurrents on 18 February 2010). During an interview at Temple Trees, President Rajapaksa himself told The Hindu editor-in-chief N. Ram: If Fonseka had won “there would have been a bloodbath. There would have been dead bodies everywhere. Burning houses and all that...”

‘The Island’ columnist Shanie has poignantly described the tragic conditions in the ‘Democratic Socialist’ Republic. “Sadly, not many of us seem concerned about the right to life and liberty of others. It is not only politicians who are selective in their opposition to injustice. As the politicians become defenders of human rights when in the opposition and perpetrators of violence and injustice whilst in power, many of us (including the media) are also selective in our opposition to injustice; ethnicity, party politics and class interests have defined our attitude to injustice. Even religious leaders, who should be taking the lead in promoting ethical and moral values in society, have, with a few notable exceptions, remained largely silent in the face of repression. It is good that leaders of all religions have now spoken out against the unjust treatment being meted out to Sarath Fonseka. But one hope that the same sense of outrage will be expressed when persons other than former Army Commanders are subject to similar repression”.

Asia Times Online reported 16 February 2010 that Sri Lankan leaders “have grown increasingly autocratic and under Rajapaksa the slide towards authoritarian rule has been rapid. This has evoked apprehension in the island and beyond. Several countries have expressed concern over Fonseka's arrest”. While India was not happy about “a general entering politics, it is (also) not happy with Rajapaksa's undemocratic style". Apparently India does not want another undemocratic country in the region. The astute President Rajapaksa knows how to appease India’s concerns. The title ‘India is my relation, the others are friends’ taken from his recent interview to The Hindu seen in the published report of its Chief Editor N. Ram (February 20, 2010) reveals the modus operandi.

Apparently, there is a growing feeling amongst a section of Sri Lankans that Sri Lanka’s political system is gliding towards the ones similar to those prevailing in countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

Demands of shaken religious leaders

With the break-up of the partnership between the two victorious military and political leaders and the focus shifting towards nationally damaging power struggle within the Sinhala polity, the island’s influential Buddhist clergy arose saying it was very concerned about the disturbing developments that undermine democracy, good governance and the rule of law. This sudden awakening was caused mainly by the forcible arrest of the new political adversary, the retired Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka admired as a war hero who defeated the LTTE militarily.

Other religious leaders too were shaken by the undignified way the four-star General was arrested on February 8. The Congress of Religions comprising Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders met the chief prelates of the two main Buddhist chapters on February 16 in Kandy. Following the earlier meeting with some 20 religious leaders, the Congress issued a statement on February 15 stating: “We are not happy with the manner of the arrest of General Fonseka who gave leadership in defeating the rebels and it disturbs all Sri Lankans.” According to (February 16) UCA news - “They are very concerned about the uncertain situation in the country with regard to democracy and good governance.”

It is important to note that their resentment is entirely because the victim is the Army Commander who led the successful war against the LTTE. There have been many lesser mortals, who suffered inhuman treatment including torture and the ultimate fatal blow but the religious clerics remained unconcerned. Nevertheless, if this consciousness becomes pervasive and permanent, there is some hope of redemption from the clutches, recklessness and selfishness of powerful politicians. The Fonseka phenomenon is an eye opener and warning to all concerned not only about the status of the nation in the modern world but also the future of the islanders. Constructive actions are needed in many areas for getting on the right track for real national development. Economic development at the expense of political, social and cultural development all of which had remained neglected since independence is not the way forward. The main culprit is the divisive politics embraced by political leaders for short-term gains.

The present government has also been successful in dividing the influential Buddhist priests and force them to postpone indefinitely the scheduled February 18 Maha Sanga Convention at the traditional convention hall Maha Ma'luva in the Dalada Maligawa premises in Kandy. There are many reports on the pressure exerted by the government and the supporters within the clergy that led to the indefinite postponement of the Convention. The report of Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch Part 15 (February 24) states, “…now even Mahanayakes are not immune from threats, intimidation and blackmail by the government”. Nevertheless, what is important here is the belated emergence of a group in the civil society taking issue with the undesirable developments in the country. The contradiction between the recent happenings and fundamentals of Buddhism is also seen from the following:

“Buddhism differs from many other religious in its insistence of the priority of moral standards. Many other religions base their primary emphasis on the worship of gods and the maintenance of various kinds of pious traditions. However, the wheel representing the Buddhist dharma represents the basic moral norms of society”.

The challenges that lie ahead in assembling the real new Sri Lanka desired by the ordinary people of all races and religions can be discerned from the series of events that led to the current deadlock in the original move to raise a united Buddhist clerical force to halt the undesirable developments in the blessed island. According to Daily Mirror 10 February, the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the moist Venerable Tibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera had said on 9 February that “it was a grave crime to imprison a war hero who had done an immense service to Sri Lanka in its fight to eradicate terrorism”. The reverend Mahanayake Thera also said: “Even if such a person does something wrong he should be pardoned.”

His vivid depiction of politicians seeking or more aptly wanting to be seen as seeking the blessings and guidance of the Prelates is in the following statement: “Various political party leaders come to us dressed in white attire and seek our advice. They just listen to what we say and do something different”. On the unlawful arrests of journalists he said: The peoples’ right to know the truth has to be safeguarded. For the people to know the real situation of the country, the truth should be written. Everyone has the right to know the truth. The truth should not be hidden. Depriving that right is not democracy.” He asked: “Is it democracy to abduct journalists who reveal the truth? Even a media organization was sealed recently.”

In an unprecedented move, the four Mahanayake theras of the three main Buddhist sects invited Buddhist monks from all over Sri Lanka to convene in Kandy on 18 February to discuss the "uncertain situation" that has developed with regard to democracy and good governance. In a separate letter sent to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 11 February, the four Mahanayake theras have urged him to release Gen Sarath Fonseka who is currently under military custody. It said: “Under no circumstances can we approve the arrest of the former army commander Gen Sarath Fonseka and a group of army officers who served the country risking their lives for making certain statements as a rival candidate at the presidential elections campaign and other reasons".

At a press conference held on behalf of the Sanga Convention, monks of the three main Buddhist sects explained the reasons for postponing the scheduled February 18 National Convention of Buddhist Monks in Kandy. The monks stated that they are holding the press conference with the consent of the Mahanayake Thero of Malwatte Nitakaya. The purpose of the conference was to explain the circumstances that led to the postponement of the National Convention of Buddhist monks called by the Mahanayake Theros of the three leading Buddhist chapters.

Ven. Prof. Atthangane Rathanapala explained that there was enormous pressure brought about by the government through many persons on the Malwatte Mahanayake Thero to cancel the meeting. He had explained that the meeting would not have been in favour of anyone but was held to discuss the problems that the monks thought were important to the nation in the light of the realisation that there was a serious crisis of democracy and good governance in the country. Apart from the persons who intervened directly for the government, there was also a group of Buddhist monks, led by a senior monk close to the government who also intervened on behalf of the government to stop the meeting. Apparently this meeting that lasted for about three hours created a sense of tension to the Mahanayake Thero when the group insisted that the meeting had to be cancelled. It was under the circumstances of enormous pressure brought about by the government that the Buddhist convention was postponed. He went on to emphasise that it was a postponement and not a cancellation of the meeting. The other monks who spoke explained that there had been a lot of misinformation spread by the government through the media.

The outlook

The sloppy way the current political system has been designed by politicians with vested political interest serves the selfish exploiters of the power of the people. The system also disconnects the people from the power grabbers once they hand over their power. The people remain helpless because there have been no influential leaders in the civil society to restrain the avariciousness of the power wielders. The reaction to the arrest and internment of former Army Commander Gen. (retd) Fonseka from various sections of the society, particularly the religious group is extraordinary. But it remains to be seen whether the new vigilant groups will continue to be a watchdog on nationally damaging acts of politicians. Democracy in Sri Lanka also eroded because of weak opposition in the Parliament. This deterioration has also been as rapid as the rise in the autocratic rule since 1977.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been remarkably successful in adopting the divide and rule policy. Now new divisions have emerged in the military and Buddhist clergy. How will these help in promoting national unity, if this is the desired goal? It is worth reminding here that the exacerbation of the ethnic division via deliberate acts of commission and omission led to the Eelam war.

Although many voters are aware of the national problems, they have not been able to elect suitable candidates for effecting the desired changes. It is the big talkers and swindlers who have been dominating politics in the recent past. All they are interested is power that is beneficial for achieving their narrow aims. Expediency is the motivation for minor parties to be with the main winning political party or perceived before the poll as the likely winner. The system that took root after the adoption of the1972 and 1978 Republican Constitutions made it beneficial for the parliamentarians to be with the government not only from the interests of their supporters but also from their own personal interest. The opposition members have become mere observers and critics without any important role in promoting democracy , rule of law, good governance and national development from a broad perspective. They could not even be the guardian of the freedom and rights of the people. Recent changes in the composition of parliamentary select committees have diminished their role further. The reluctance to implement the 17th Amendment reveals where the interest of the executive lies.

Furthermore, democracy is lacking even at the party level. This is evident from the ways candidates are chosen to contest the April 8 parliamentary election. It is not the local members of national parties but their top leaders who nominate candidates for elections. The leaders themselves are not chosen democratically. Among the new entrants to the April 8 general election are some young actors. In this regard, Helasingha Bandara’s comment is very fitting. “In Sri Lanka politics mean acting. In that sense, there is no difference between an actor and a politician”. This election is not going to make it easier to realize the dreams of noble citizens. Their voice is the only hope now for better time ahead. But this too depends on the basic freedom and rights that prevail after April 8. Only a miracle can extricate the inharmonious war-torn island from this dilemma.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

The case against military justice for Sarath Fonseka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” – Lord Chief Justice Hewart in Rex vs Sussex Justices Ex parte Macarthy

The above mentioned observation by British Lord Chief Justice Hewart has become famous over the years as an aphorism espousing and emphasising the importance of appearance in meting out justice.It is not only important to ensure justice but equally necessary to demonstrate clearly that Justice appears to have been done.

When I began writing this article on Thursday February 25th my intention was to argue that retired four star General and defeated Presidential elections candidate Sarath Fonseka should not be court-martialled by a military tribunal [click to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

M.F. Husain, India’s greatest and most celebrated artist conferred Qatar nationality

by N.Ram

M.F. Husain, India’s greatest and most celebrated artist, has been conferred Qatar nationality - something that is very rarely given. The artist gave me this news from Dubai early Wednesday morning by reading out the few lines he had written on a black-and-white line drawing that he released to The Hindu.

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The black-and-white line drawing eminent artist M.F. Husain shared with The Hindu. Though this exemplar of secular art did not apply for it, he was conferred citizenship by Qatar ~ image courtesy: The Hindu ~

“Honoured by Qatar nationality” but deeply saddened by his enforced exile and the need now to give up the citizenship of the land of his birth, which he has lovingly and secularly celebrated in his art covering a period of over seven decades. India does not allow dual citizenship, even though it has instituted the category of the ‘Overseas Indian Citizen.’ Mr. Husain will no doubt seek to acquire OIC status after completing the due procedures.

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M.F. Husain

It is important to note that Mr. Husain did not apply for Qatar nationality and that it was conferred upon him at the instance of the modernising emirate’s ruling family.

Since 2006, when the Hindutva hate campaign against him escalated, Mr. Husain has been living in Dubai, spending his summers in London. He travels freely except to India, where he faces legal harassment and physical threats, with the system impotent and not committed to enabling his return. Though the Supreme Court has intervened on the right side, it was too little, too late. The Congress-led government, it is clear, has done no better than the preceding BJP-led governments in protecting Mr. Husain’s freedom of creativity and peace of mind.

Almost 95, the artist works a long day, producing large canvasses and life-size glass sculptures. Never has he been as commercially successful as he is today. His work now is mostly towards two large projects, the history of Indian civilisation and the history of Arab civilisation. The latter was commissioned by Qatar’s powerful first lady – Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, wife of the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The works will be housed in a separate museum in Doha.

While being a rare honour, Mr. Husain’s impending change of nationality brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters in independent India’s secular history. Mr. Husain’s time of troubles began in 1996, after a Hindi monthly published an inflammatory article on his paintings of Hindu deities done in the 1970s. This led to a slew of criminal cases, filed in far-flung places, which alleged in the main that the artist had hurt the feelings of Hindus through his paintings. Mr. Husain estimates that there are 900 cases against him in various courts of India. He has been harassed by fanatical mobs. Exhibitions of his work have been vandalised. All this has created a fear of exhibiting his work in India.

I have personally accompanied Mr. Husain to court proceedings in Indore and have first-hand experience of the harassment and terror he faced from bigoted mobs. I received him in Mumbai on his return from the first of his temporary exiles and saw what insecurity and uncertainty this creative genius had to endure in rising India. It is ironical that a country whose religious art often portrays nudity and even overt sexuality, as in the case of the Khajuraho sculptures and the murals and frescoes of south Indian temples, has grown so intolerant as to drive into permanent exile its most famous artist.

I know no one more genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious, and secular values of Indian civilisation than M. F. Husain. He breathes the spirit of modernity, progress, and tolerance. The whole narrative of what forced him into exile, including the shameful failure of the executive and the legal system to enable his safe return, revolves round the issues of freedom of expression and creativity and what secular nationhood is all about.

The conferment of Qatar nationality is an honour to Mr. Husain, to his artistic genius, and to the India-rooted civilisational values he represents. Nevertheless, it is a sad day for India. ~ courtesy: The Hindu ~

US Senator Casey Remarks Read at Global Tamil Forum Event

February 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC--U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, provided the following statement which was read at the Global Tamil Forum inaugural event in London on Wednesday.

"As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on South Asia, I have examined the unfortunate effects of the conflict in Sri Lanka. I have sought to shed light on the plight of internally displaced people and the importance of development in post-conflict Sri Lanka. As Americans, we will continue to seek opportunities to play a constructive role in post-conflict Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka heals from the horrors of war, it will also require that the Tamil population in and outside the country play a key role in the development of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure as well as its social fabric."

"I want to thank the Global Tamil Forum for its efforts to support the democratic process in Sri Lanka, especially during this difficult time in the country’s history. I hope that the Sri Lankan people will be able to come together and focus on a common future that moves beyond war, terrorism and violence as means of political expression. I also want to applaud the work of the U.S. Tamil Political Action Council. USTPAC has raised awareness of the humanitarian crisis facing the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and has played a constructive role in educating U.S. policymakers. I look forward to our continued cooperation and wish you a successful forum in London."

Source: Office of Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. ~ Senator for Pennsylvania

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February 25, 2010

Sri Lankan Tamils disillusioned with India must forget the "North" and turn "East" towards China

By S. Sivathasan

In the Asian region, hardly any people have had such close cordiality as the Tamils of Sri Lanka with the people of Tamil Nadu and by extension with India. Ethnic affinity, linguistic homogeneity, cultural identity and physical proximity, all conduced to a remarkable harmony if not solidarity.

Today all what remains is an edifice in ruins. Friends have turned foes. Admirers have become detractors. Where a bridge stood, there is now a chasm. Never the twain shall meet is the verdict of the percipient. Forget the North, turn East to China is the voice of those who dare.

Intellectual nourishment of the Tamils when they are young, commences with Tamil literature. Poets of high intellect spanning two millennia nurtured us. Judged by any standard, Thiruvalluvar of the first century and Bharathy of the twentieth were of world calibre. In between them were poets and scholars of great renown. The independence movement in India brought forth a galaxy that dazzled us with their brilliance. Gandhi and Nehru, Patel and Bose, Tagore and Aurobindo were scholars and leaders who commanded our admiration. We coveted their aura and lived in a world of make belief.
From such an India steeped in idealism, the Tamils of Sri Lanka looked for a perfect dispensation to the ethnic problem. Expectations were high, but what we got in 1987 was military invasion, though by invitation. The army of occupation certainly brought in negative benefits.

Firstly, its brutality knocked the scales from our eyes. Destruction without restraint, death with unconcern and merciless assaults brought the people down from their ethereal heights. In the period October 1987 to march 1990, indignities of every description were visited on over 50 percent of the Tamil population in the North East of Sri Lanka. Tamils have vowed, never again to look back. India stands banished from their consciousness. The void is now clear for the most formidable power of the future-China-to enter. Benevolence will replace malevolence.

What caused this change of stance? Dissipation of trust. A whole picture fell into place with a series of events. A quarter century of space gave sufficient opportunity to the Tamil intelligentsia to read, discuss, interact, reflect and arrive at a clear consensus.

Facts were gathered and their veracity ascertained. Strands of discernment when woven together made the motivation of India clearly visible. The overtones became apparent and there was evidence. It is idle to talk of the permanent nature of interest, permanence of friendship or impermanence of enmity. The emerging reality is the distancing of Tamils from India.

At the height of the war in 2008-2009, the defence advisor of India made a special visit to Sri Lanka with one message. Buy arms from India only. Never from China or Pakistan. It was tantamount to saying kill the Tamils only with Indian bullets. Could a more grotesque demand have ever been made? What has been the drama from the eighties? When a leaf rustles in Sri Lanka, the sabre rattles in India. Pretence was the posture. Inaction was the actuality. Forcing concessions to Tamils was prated loud. With what results? Under what law? By what authority and through what means? One is wont to ask.

It turned out that an aggrieved minority clamouring for justice, had expected assistance from an imagined benefactor.

That foreign government however unleashed its military might on an unsuspecting and battered people. "Know your friends, know your enemies." This simple truth cryptically presented by Mao Tse Tung, is fundamental in political or military strategy. It eluded the grasp of Tamils. The enemy having clearly calculated every step, feigned friendship. Tamils danced attendance upon the counterfeit from 1983. In 2009, they lamented that the vengeful had wreaked vengeance. What else could have happened?

The objective was clear. Destabilise the country — Sri Lanka. Identify the aggrieved ethnic entity—Tamils. From this premise events followed in logical sequence. Select impressionable youth, make them militants, train them and promote infiltration. Be conscious of the need to manipulate them at will. Therefore keep them on a tight leash. When the dominant group did not lend itself to manipulation, other groups were proliferated. When the latter were found to be Lilliputians, they were decreed to be on par with Gulliver and conferred equal stature at Thimpu.

To resolve the Tamil problem, fake discussions were held to give the appearance of serious talks. Beneath the veneer was the red claw. An agreement was forged with the government of Sri Lanka for the ostensible purpose of enforcing peace. The Indian army however launched its mission only to eliminate militancy and to subdue the people whom militancy represented. True to purpose, it became a Frankenstein. The occupation army killed, pillaged and destroyed. Not even a semblance of remorse was shown either then or up to now. The people at large suffered the loss and shared the privation helplessly.

Germans compensated the Jews in full for the loss sustained by the latter during the Nazi regime. It was a gesture of admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for cruelty inflicted. The aggrieved were assisted to rebuild their lives, develop the nation and move on with a fund of goodwill. Humanity admired the culture and refinement of the Germans. To compensate the Tamils and others who suffered loss, should India await a request? Justice demands it. Honourable conduct will be appreciated. Those subjected to indignity and deprivations know well their cruel nature. Their goodwill will help forward movement.

There was a category of thought which outlined certain ideas. When a danger to Tamils is sensed, India will swoop in on Sri Lanka, upbraid her, pretend to rescue the Tamils, foist an instant solution and march back to Delhi after its mission is accomplished.

Why should India intervene? So questions the cynic. The charlatan answers—the security of India is tied up with the stability of Sri Lanka. Therefore India is obliged to assuage her (India’s) concerns. Courting the Tamils composing 13 percent of the population is a surer bet than getting 75 percent Sinhalese to their side. The question arises: why? The Tamils of Sri Lanka have an umbilical chord relationship with the Tamils of Tamil Nadu.

The latter will rather embrace immolation than see the Tamils suffer. New Delhi unable to withstand needling from Tamil Nadu will intervene in Sri Lanka, whatever the norms governing international relations. So runs the argument. The reasoning is weird logic at its convoluted best.

How well has this worked and what has India contributed to the Tamils in the last quarter century, the cynic asks. The charlatan is dumbfounded, but stutters 13th Amendment.

India has a quasi-federal constitution. The most inappropriate model to frame a political arrangement for the Tamilian predicament in the Sri Lankan situation! Yet the commencing point of political deliberations from the Indian side was that no devolution for the Tamils would go beyond the devolutionary parameters of the Indian constitution. With this preconceived and unrealistic limitation, all discussions were skewed from the very beginning.

The devolution exercise was thus poisoned at its very source. The result was a caricature of a settlement that was embodied in the 13th Amendment. It is basic that any political solution should be home grown. The contending parties have to thrash out issues and evolve strategies which can be worked out only over time.

There can be no finality as if a perfect document with the last comma in place and the last ‘i’ dotted were an eternal guarantor of Tamil expectations. Experience and bitter knowledge mandate that Tamils have to disengage their sights from foreign capitals, particularly from Delhi and Chennai. What has been realized in 30 years? Only shameful failures and shameless betrayals! "Was the 60 year domestic experience any the better?" Tamils more particularly would ask with cogent logic. An alternative needs to be evolved. It is left to fresh initiatives.

Bickering needs to be drowned in a sea of economic activity and social growth. A good beginning has been made with the advent into Sri Lanka of the foremost Asian power, China. Aid for power plants will make a significant impact when all three phases are complete. Harbour development is great in itself, but the direction it points to is far greater. At Hambantota lies a potential Shenzhen and China can make it happen.

Part of the Northern railway and the road network to be delivered in the North by China are sure to resonate well with the Tamils. They will whet the appetite of the people of North East for more aid, more projects, more growth and greater Chinese presence. Special Economic Zones concept is a vehicle to lift the NE from its present state. Closer rapport for a century at least will be good for the nation and better by the Tamils.

When a finger is pointed, a fool looks at the finger. The wise man looks at the direction. So goes a Chinese saying. ‘The God That Failed’ can no longer evoke homage or even respect. Temples of worship are wanted anew. The need for this change can be seen conspicuously.

Three "Bees" for Britain-Brown, (Mili) Band and Bogol (lagama)

By Malcolm Ferdinands

Gordon Brown is no match for Tony Blair. In fact he was very jealous of Blair and tried his best to undermine him. It is also no secret since Blair’s wife, Cheri has written all about it in her book.

Brown is not charismatic like Blair. He is also not an elected Prime Minister. He is an accidental Prime Minister. The world also knows that very soon that Brown will become a non entity after the elections in UK.

[Britain's foreign secretary David Miliband with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Apr 29th, 2009 in Colombo]

Foreign Secretary Milliband is an arrogant, immature hothead. Many consider him too young to hold that position. He got no mannerism or any etiquette unlike the respected Englishman. He messed up during his visit to India by disrespecting the highly respected Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He learned one lesson there. He also learned a colonial lesson from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he came to Sri Lanka tried to save the LTTE and his constituency. Rajapaksa gave him a lesson on sovereignty. Miliband also has a case of overspending and also shooting from his bad mouth. He also tried to undermine his Prime Minister Brown once.

London we are told is also the favourite place of outgoing Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollagama. He also dresses like Milliband. At times he tries to out dress him, of course at the expenses of Sri Lankan taxpayers money, they say. Many stories are floating around the world of his 'extravagance and boorsihness where the island nation cannot bear anymore. He is of the view that Miliband and Brown are his friends. It is reported that he too will become a non entity after the Sri Lankan elections in April.

Brown and Band band together and met with LTTE front groups. They ignored Sri Lankas concerns. Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs experts say they did it for two reasons, first to snub Sri Lanka for the blunder made by friend of Brown/Band, Minister Bogollagama for having invited Mr. Liam Fox, Shadow Defence Secretary of Britain and for giving him special treatment, though Bogollagama got a bitter doze himself by Fox. No one could out fox a Fox. Secondly, because they truly wanted to support the separatist and hurt Sri Lanka.

Some question how Brown and Band and UK would would feel if Sri Lankan President, Prime Minister attends a forum of Al Qaeda or other terrorist sympathizers. However, anaylist say they will never do such things because Sri Lankan leaders having suffered from terrorism for over 27 years are well aware of sensitive issues and does not support terrorism and separatism. They have not even allowed the Dalai Lama to visit Sri Lanka, though a Buddhist nation with respect for China.

Outgoing Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Bogollagama issued a statement saying it was wrong for Brown and Band to attend such events. But, no one cares for his statements anymore because foreign policy and diplomacy is not done merely by press conferences and media releases. Bogollagama holds a world record for holding press conferences and media releases at the drop of a coin, Sri Lankan based Foreign Correspondents say. An obsequies attempt by Bogollagama to ingratiate himself to the Brits has failed. Brown, Band and Bogols are not good for Sri Lanka and of course UK.

The Arrest of Sarath Fonseka and Comrade Dayan's critical response

by Nalin Swaris

I must disagree with some of Comrade Dayan Jayetileke’s recent writings Arresting Sarath Fonseka, he wrote was a “Perfect Political blunder”. But then nobody is perfect. Otherwise they would not blunder. Perfect blunder seems so oxymoronic.

Dayan and I have shared similar positions from the days of the ceasefire agreement. I was lavish in my praise of his stellar performance at the Human Rights Council and deplored his summary dismissal when he had only few more weeks left of this extension period. No reason was given. Though the blame for it was conveniently attributed to the Foreign Minister, it could not have been done without the approval of the President. Remember President Truman's "The buck stops here?”

If I had been similarly treated, I would not have accepted to be part of a State visit. The President tossed DJ a Vietnamese loempia (bread roll). DJ jumped and caught it.

He thereby gave MR some redemption for the shabby treatment meted to him. After that rapprochement was he naïve to think he might be offered some position fitting an academic of his calibre?

DJ's position shift adds a rider to the story of the Fox and the Grapes. Mr. Fox not only walks away saying, the grapes are sour, but also, "Funny, I did not like grapes at all!"

DJ resorts to hyberbole when in his opening sentence he declares, "No enemy of Sri Lanka could have matched the damage done to the image of the country and the Presidency by our own Government’s recent events."

The image of this country in whose eyes? If DJ is concerned about the countries that were hell bent on damaging this country’s image. Must we be bothered? DJ valiantly defended us against these image spoilers and we cheered him for that. He did not mince words and confine himself to diplomatic soft speak when dealing with them. Because of that a few retired mandarin diplomats deplored what they called his ‘megaphone diplomacy’. We the plebs loved it.

With his usual flourish DJ does not omit mentioning that at the time of that "clumsy melodrama, outside the Cinnamon Lakeside", he was "right there, being interviewed by Al Jazeera".

Considering DJ's knowledge about Western machinations, had it not occurred to him that there might have been the possibility of a ‘Colour Revolution’ in the making to affect regime change? I suggested this in an article I wrote to the Sri Lanka Guardian, mentioning worrying symptoms and citing previous historic examples. Why did Fonseka rent an entire floor of the Lakeside Cinnamon as an operations centre and how could the man, who, when he announced his candidature said that he had only a Rs. 50,000 a month pension and some Rs.200,000 in savings afford that? That he had much more than that and lots more to spare became public knowledge when the contents of four bank vaults were revealed. US$ 500,000+ in cool crisp cash!

DJ being the anti-terrorism expert should know the black masks were not intended for “melodramatic purpose”, but that these men were from an elite commando unit and that black masks were worn to avoid identification as TV reporters including Al Jazeera’s were covering the event. Commandos of Indian crack units also wore masks when they stormed the Taj Hotel in Nov 2008, with batteries of camera crews relaying it live.

Mrs Bandaranaike

The 1962 approach of Mrs B is not necessarily the approach to take in the Fonseka case as DJ recommends. The government could follow that example but it is another thing to say it SHOULD. The government and army have every right to decide by which court SF should be tried at this moment in time.

The ‘Arrest’

On the arrest and choice of tribunal I responded to a criticism similar to Dayan’s, but a more vehemently worded onslaught by his once upon a time comrade-in-arms Tisaranee Gunasekere. See also my article in today’s Island (24/02/09), Midweek Review.

As for The Economist’s characterization, "nabbed brutishly" – meaning treated like a brute? - which DJ quoted, Fonseka, roughly brushed aside the charges as he did not recognize the right of the military police to arrest him, a ‘civilian’ and he resisted arrested. In which case the MPs had every right to take him using ’minimum force’ as the law permits. Resisting arrest is an offence. Tisaranee went over the top when she said Fonseka had been “assaulted”.

In which case, as I pointed out to her, Fonseka’s seasoned lawyer Wijedasa Rajapakse could have demanded that he be examined by a civilian Judicial Medical Officer and have the latter’s findings recorded. That would have given sufficient grounds for a human rights violation petition. In the event, there no such accusation was made by Fonseka’s wife or Rajapakse. After he was carried out of the office Fonseka had walked on his own and entered the vehicle, but under protest.

Barack Obama

DJ having resisted Western bullying now seems to veer Westwards. The example of Barack Obama is irrelevant as is also Obama’s distinguished legal career. Guantanamo had become an economic liability and political hot potato for the US . The prison set up by George W.Bush created a storm of controversy even among the US ’s allies. Men fighting an invading force were drugged, shackled hand and foot and flown to a facility outside the US mainland. They were euphemistically called ‘non lawful combatants’ to evade Geneva conventions on prisoners of war.

Most of them are held without trial for nearly 7 years. And they were to be tried under special laws, by a military court.. Obama’s plans are being resisted by the Conservative Right.

Sarath Fonseka is a Lankan citizen being tried on Lankan soil under Lankan military law.

A ‘regime change’ in the US became imperative because Bush outlived his usefulness to the hidden powers that pull the strings in the real world. The Iraq adventure turned into disaster. The oil rich country refused to become a docile client state. What better way to rebuild the US ’s damaged reputation than promote to Presidency an earnest looking young black man with soaring rhetoric, especially when a teleprompter is at hand, was the chosen son. Obama’s foreign policy advisors are hardly bleeding heart liberals (On this, See the startling revelations by British “conspiration theorist” David Icke. Put the separate dots together, he says, and the picture becomes obvious: The new bottle may be black, but it’s the same old moonshine. Sunday Island columnist Selvam Canegaratnam has also been scathing about Obama’s so called new beginning). Fonseka too was promising ‘Change you can believe’ !

Dayan himself warned that if Hilary Conton is elected President it would not bode well for Sri Lanka . Well now, she is Secretary of State. ‘Tamils for Clinton ’ Hilary fell flat on her face with that ‘using rape as an instrument of war’ charge. Obama kept Bush nominee Robert O’Blake as ambassador in Colombo and promoted him to Under Secretary of State of State for South Asia . O’Blake is an operator. US State Department spokesman Robert Wood recommended that the LTTE should announce a ceasefire and surrender its arms to a “third party” – Uncle Sam? - at a time when Dayan was advocating the military defeat and decimation of the LTTE

DJ's 10 points.

1.DJ cannot be serious. Those were not mere “utterances” or mere “election propaganda”. They were calculated to discredit and defeat his rival. They were damaging to the reputation of the Defence Secretary and field commanders. Those gross slanders were “uttered” in front of tens of thousands and given wide publicity in the private print and electronic media. People were confused and dismayed. Philip Alston whom Dayan trounced, jumped in to score on the Sunday Leader interview.

Is a government supposed to “laugh” these “utterances” away? People were confused. No wonder the field commanders were asked to go on State TV and set the record straight. It was not just the candidacy of Rajapakse that was at stake but the honour of seniour officers and their men. The US government would not have done less if Norman Schwarzkopf Jnr. went bonkers about Iraq.

The government has not fallen into a trap. Neither has it “stupidly lent veracity to claims by our detractors overseas”. On the contrary. If the government did not act to clear the air, it would have given credence to Fonseka’s blanket accusations. After all is not silence acquiescence?

Whatever “the world community may conclude” what does DJ himself think about a former army commander “who was supposedly about to blow the whistle on war crimes”? Was it not the threat of Sri Lanka being indicted for war crimes, which DJ so masterfully fended off at Geneva ? Will not “whistle bowing” damage his (DF’s) HRC bona fides?

2. Dayan notes, “Public opinion in the South is confused and despondent; the Sinhala people are demoralized,” DJ is overstating. The Mahanayekes in asking that Fonseka be pardoned and unconditionally released were stepping into an area beyond their competence. Metta (love) does not preclude yukthiya (justice). Even the Budhha recognized the right of kings to make laws, judge and punish offenders. He however insisted that laws must be just. He protested to King Pasenadi of Kosala about the lack of equal treatment of accused in the Royal Court of Justice.

DJ’s contends that the dominant "Apeykama" or "ourness" being “fissured” by Anoma Fonseka’s appeal. Even those not sympathetic to Sarath were moved by her first news conference and how she struggled to fight back her tears. It was very moving evoking sympathy for a bereft wife. But her attempts to begin a political campaign with other women fizzled out. The government cleverly parried by bringing other army wives treated harshly by Fonseka on TV. One younger army wife said she knew ‘Anoma Akka’ personally from her work with the Seva Vanitha Unit, but her appeals to ‘akka’ on behalf of her husband and little children had fallen on deaf ears. It is karmic, she said, that Anoma has to experience the same fate.

As for being a lustrous future first family beyond reproach, daughter Apasara’s role in the Sampath Bank has blackened that image.

3. It was a Catch 22 situation. Let SF contest and risk defeat. Or, have SF arrested and appear cowardly to the whole world. If the President was really afraid, he could have refused to accept Fonseka’s resignation because retirement from the post of CDS was not due for another two years. At the time of arrest, the Presidential elections were over. Fonseka had not yet formed a party or submitted his nomination papers.

The Supreme Court has ruled that his arrest is not an obstacle to his being a candidate at the general elections. The Supreme Court has judiciously differed review of the bail refusal till 26th April, 17 days after election result are known.

The Supreme Court has also accepted Fonseka’s appeal against the validity of the Presidential Election results. Let the Court decide.

DJ is bandying too much with ‘impressions’. If, not only governments, but also private individuals have to take ‘impressions’ into account and become weak kneed, there will be no way of getting on with things that matter. The government and army must act to safeguard their interests and not keep looking over their shoulders timorously at what others may think, however powerful. Earlier DJ praised the government for this

The’opacity’ of a Military Court can be dealt with by demanding that the ICJ in accordance with its statutes provides legal advice to the Defence and sends delegates to observe the proceedings.

4. “Gen Fonseka’s profile has never been higher.”

Even after the Sampath Bank revelations?

5. “The Opposition which was in disarray and limping after its last defeat, has been gifted a rallying cry.” As DJ once said of CBK, it is fast becoming a Big Fat Hope.

6. Demonstrations are petering out as the opposition scramble now is to form alliances and win seats in the next parliament.

7.” The hardliners in the Tamil Diaspora …. separate state etc”. Methinks DJ is clinging to every possible straw. He is also beginning to sound like Jehan Perera with his speculative ‘maybe-s”

8.”The administration is potentially on a collision course with the judiciary.” Huh? What about the ruling on Mrs. F’s application to release her husband on bail?

9. “Every institution of the state and ‘cell’ of society will be divided and/or demoralized on this issue.” Dayan’s dire warnings are not borne by ground realities. There is no loser like a loser. People are shuffling into line.

10. The administration is on a potential collision course with the JVP.

DJ: “If the JVP is driven underground, it will link up with disaffected Fonseka loyalists among the rank and file of a large military.’

Disaffected loyalists there maybe but who will rally them now? More worrying is something else. From the 1987-89 JVP adventure DJ must surely know that the JVP cadres signed up as recruits, got weapons training and deserted with their weapons, went underground and waited for a call to strike.

DJ was a staunch Premadasa man when the latter’s government responded with overkill to JVP terrorism. He has been advocating that the LTTE be similarly eradicated. He was a resolute opponent of appeasement during the CFA. Does he now recommend appeasing the JVP to avert a possible third youth insurrection? The government is fully on the alert.

It would be harder to fight JVP than LTTE? Get real. It was more difficult to identify and isolate Tamil Tigers because the armed forces were overwhelmingly Sinhalese and the LTTE were fish in a Tamil sea.

On the other hand, many Sinhalese were against JVP terror and tipped off the police about safe houses and underground cadres. It would have been more difficult for Tamils to betray LTTE-rs to the Sinhalese army.

Dayan’s slip showed when he wrote “the practice of political cannibalism must cease!” All his admirers felt he was “cannibalized” and that he did not deserve it. Not surprising that on the eve of his departure, he goes public about his discontent.

The thing is, when politicians behave like gods, they give and take back their favours capriciously. For some unknown reason Dayan fell foul of the President. It would have been much better if he left quietly with dignity without going to press so often. Dayan says he is leaving with a heavy heart but many do have the “impression” that a streak of bitterness has made it weigh heavier. That is why the Fox’s last remark about not liking grapes at all, has a point.

When foreign hibernation is too painful to bear and the urge to seek the sunlight of attention too tantalizing, Dayan had better desist and leave this very hurtful place well alone for a goodly period.

Vaya con Dios, companero. Those who applauded your Geneva brilliance wish you well.

Related:

No enemy of Sri Lanka could match the damage done to the country's image by our own govt ~ by Dayan Jayatilleka

IMF delays third tranche of $2.6 bln Sri Lanka loan

By Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it is delaying the third tranche of a $2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka after the government missed its 2009 deficit reduction targets.

IMF officials told a news conference that Sri Lanka's domestic budget borrowing -- consistent with a budget deficit target of 7 percent of gross domestic production -- was exceeded by a substantial amount.

"The third tranche will be delayed and completed when the budget is formulated after the election," said Brian Aitken, the IMF mission head to Sri Lanka.

The third tranche is worth just below $2 billion.

The central bank had earlier acknowledged that the $40 billion economy likely missed last year's budget deficit goal of 7 percent set by the IMF as a condition for the loan.

Analysts and economists believe the budget deficit may have exceeded 8.5 percent, close to the 9 percent recorded in 2008.

The $2.6 billion loan was granted to Sri Lanka to avert a balance of payment crisis following the global economic crisis on condition that it get its spending under control.

So far, the IMF has released around $650 million to the government based on the fiscal performance of the Indian Ocean island following the end of its long 25-year civil war last May.

The IMF has set an even tougher target for Sri Lanka's budget deficit this year at 6 percent of GDP.

Central bank chief Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Reuters on Tuesday that it would be challenging to meet that level due to high government spending required for post-war reconstruction.

Sri Lanka's newly re-elected president vowed earlier this month to regain the progress lost in the quarter-century war with Tamil Tigers separatists by boosting the country's economy and unifying its people.

Mahidna Rajapaksa was re-elected by a landslide on Jan 26.

Sri Lanka will hold legislative polls on April 8 and the president has postponed the presentation of the budget until those elections are over. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Writting by Ranga Sirilal)

Courtesy: Reuters

February 24, 2010

General Fonseka was only member of national Security Council who opposed early re-settlement of IDPs

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa interviewed by Inderjit Bhadwar

Inderjit Bhadwar: Under what specific charges did your government arrest Gen. Fonseka?

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa: I cannot talk about specific charges because the summary of evidence preceding the charge sheet is now being prepared by the military authorities under specific rules of procedure that guarantee due process and a fair trial. That is the work of the prosecutor.

Q: But because there are no specifics so far, this has the appearance of a personal vendetta.

A: Not at all. Most people are probably unaware of the damage done by the general to our military while he was in uniform, particularly in the way he entered politics.

Q: You mean, he should have stayed out of politics and not challenged the President in the election? What is this damage you speak of?

A: Of course he has that right in a democracy. But he misused his office to pervert the process. Most people tend to simplify this story into three parts – a)he fought a successful war, b)he was the army commander, c)he was arrested because he challenged the president in the election. The real issue is the damage he did is what led to his detention. He politicised the military. We share a proud tradition with India as the only two countries in the region that can boast about a neutral military, but when that tradition was subverted in Sri Lanka Lanka by Fonseka there was no option but to take action against him.

Q: As a war hero he has many admirers who urged him contest…

A: He should have had a clean break from the military and then entered politics. In his utter greed for power he used his position and contacts for his own benefits. He did this while he was chief of defense staff (CDS), and also when he was army commander. He used the army commander’s bungalow to conduct political activities and kept military resources made available to him in his official capacity for personal political use.

Q: What do you mean by political activities? And why the seeming haste to arrest him?

A: While he was CDS he was talking to commanders, senior officers, and there were complaints of a few soldiers saying he was asking them to work for him. He was clearly using the military for political purposes. If we did not act on this we would be signalling that in future others can get away with this. The tradition of a neutral military so precious to us – and to India—would have been destroyed.

Q: Can you be more specific about your phrase “using soldiers”?

A: Soldiers at lower levels manning roadblocks were stopping vehicles and seeking votes for the general. Most of them were very young people recruited during the last three years, and when their own commander contests they’re in a very confused state. In fact he tried to gather support even among army deserters to whom he gave shelter.

He was actively doing this while he was CDS. He was using officers and soldiers to conduct surveys and compute vote percentages to measure his support within the army, and this started while he was still army commander. That is why, when we found out, we acted swiftly against 15 senior army officers who were sent into compulsory retirement.

Q: Aren’t there other very serious allegations that the general was planning a coup and assassination of the President and his family?

A: Well, those are covered under civilian law and are the subject to procedures of criminal investigations which are a separate procedure. The general’s arrest is in connection with offences he committed while he was in uniform.

Q: But why was it necessary to surround his hotel with troops after the election results were announced?

A: He created that situation. He booked 70 rooms in the Taj hotel, another 70 in the Cinnamon. What for? We sent security around the hotel because we wanted to avoid post-election violence. During that time (former Prime Minister) Ranil (Wickremesinghe) spoke to me and I told him “we have not arrested you or him, you are the people who booked that hotel.”

We later found out that the security officer at the hotel, a former army army person, erased all the CCTV recordings and then altered his own attendance registry to cover up.

Q: The world, particularly the Western media and human rights groups are highlighting his arrest and charges of a vendetta.

A: I’d like to know why they didn’t highlight his public statements during the election when he was openly saying he would arrest the President if he is elected and put him and his ministers in cages.

Q: There were corruption charges against him when he was army commander that he was using his position to influence officers in the army to purchase arms from his son in law Danuna Tilekeratne’s company HiCorp International. Why didn’t you arrest him then?

A: Well, the details are only now coming out because there’s been a falling out among the suspects.

Q: His supporters say the general is being punished because he spoke out on a quick political solution to the Tamil issue, on war crimes, and the speedy resettlement of the IDPs (internally displaced persons).

A: I wish more journalists would do their homework. Why don’t you simply analyse his speeches while he was still in uniform immediately after the end of the war, and those he made when he became a candidate? His first speech to soldiers was that they had not lost their lives and shed their blood just to allow politicians to implement political solutions, “we will not allow this.” Is this not an attempt to mobilise the military against the political system? An Indian army commander making this kind of statement would have been sacked immediately.

Q: But then he entered politics.

A: His tactics changed from planning a direct military takeover to attempting to grab power through political means.

Q: How do you react to his allegations that you ordered your troops to shoot down in cold blood LTTE leaders who were surrendering with white flags?

A:Again, study the record, do your homework. Earlier, he said something else. He gave a lecture to his old school after the war and told the audience that the political leadership was trying to protect LTTE interests by asking them to surrender “But it was a war situation and they had to be killed.” Now, he reverses his stand, talks about a political solution and says I gave orders to shoot people waving white flags of surrender.

Q: What really happened?

A: This was supposed to have happened on the last day – May 18, 2010 – the day Prabhakaran was killed. The LTTE leaders were now trapped in an area 400 meters by 400 meters, about 200 of them, surrounded by the military. It is late at night, past midnight. Make a mental picture of this. Can you see them coming out with white flags in this dense jungle in pitch darkness? The situation was that some terrorist cadres counter-attacked.
Prabhakaran was trying to break out and escape to the lagoon, his son went in another direction. At the same time 10,000 surrendered cadres came down from one side. In this kind of situation in the thick of battle, can you expect a young recruit, barely a month into battle, to recognise a senior LTTE cadre and make a decision as to shoot him selectively or spare him?

Q: The war crimes issue is still being kept alive, do you recognise it as an issue?

A: Yes we recognise what a war crime is. If you use the pretext of war for revenge killings, abductions, ransom, if that is done under the pretext of a military operation it is a crime. And we have arrested, tried and punished soldiers for this. We have put officers in jail for this. But there are situations over which we have no control. They claim, for example that we bombed a hospital. If a hospital is marked as a hospital and we deliberately bomb it, that’s wrong. And we did not. But look at the last phase of the war. The LTTE was trapped in an area of one square kilometre, and in this situation of fighting it is difficult to control a stray bullet hitting a hospital. Moreover in a situation like this there’s no question of patients or civilians in the area. One has to understand the ground situation in such close combat.

Q: Many western countries are still insisting on a war crimes trial.

A: These appear to be the same countries that wanted a regime change in Sri Lanka.

Q: Why? And why would they want to back a military man?

A: Three aspects to this. First, there is a very powerful and moneyed diaspora with LTTE sympathies that plays a crucial role in these countries, participates in their vote bank politics and media. Second, because Sri Lanka did not tow the line on certain strategic policies; and third, the human rights lobbies pushing war crime trials to which they believed the UNP, supporting the general, would be more amenable.

Q: Are the general’s criticism of your government’s treatment and rehabilitation of IDP’s a source of real concern to you?

A: The reality is that when he was in uniform the general was the only person on our Security Council who opposed the early settlement of the IDPs – the only person. He kept arguing it was a huge security risk. That’s the only reason that the resettlement of IDPs was delayed. While as CDS he opposed heir release, he later made common cause with the opposition which was using the IDP issue to blame the government during the election.

Q: What finally happened?

A: My view was that the newly liberated areas like Jaffna, the peninsula, the East were safe and IDPs could be sent back there early. Fonseka had a firm “no.” So I said let them at least go to temporary camps in the eastern province. We released thousands of them but Fonseka ordered them dragged right back to the original detention areas. We were under pressure from the UN and other countries but the general kept arguing “security.”

Finally President Rajapakse himself intervened. He said: “What security are you talking about? Here are 300,000 people in these camps, some 20,000 pro-LTTE as well as cadres have already escaped. So where’s the security? I want them resettled immediately!" ~ courtesy: Tehelka ~

Jayalalithaa: From alluring actress to powerful politician

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

India in general and its Tamil Nadu state in particular have spawned many colourful political personalities. Standing out among these figures is Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the actress-politico of Tamil Nadu.

The Former Chief Minister and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (ADMK) Leader turns 62 today, February 24.

Earlier her name was spelled with one ‘a’ (Jayalalitha) at the end. Later a second ‘a’ was added (Jayalalithaa) due to reasons of numerology. [click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

February 23, 2010

Video: Sri Lanka needs GSP+ trade benefits - Patrick Basham interview

Despite its shortcomings, scrapping Sri Lanka's trade benefits would only impede its progress toward; an interview with Patrick Basham.

Patrick Basham directs the Democracy Institute and is a Cato Institute adjunct scholar.

The Democracy Institute is a politically independent public policy research organization based in Washington and London. Founded in 2006, this think tank serves to further public education through the production and dissemination of accessible commentary and scholarship.

Miliband risks Sri Lanka’s wrath to support Global Tamil Forum

by Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent, Times UK

Relations between Britain and Sri Lanka are likely to hit a new low after David Miliband addresses a meeting of Tamil activists from around the world at the Houses of Parliament today.

The Foreign Secretary is due to make the opening speech at the inaugural meeting of the Global Tamil Forum, which campaigns for selfdetermination for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamils and to bring to justice perpetrators of alleged war crimes during the island’s 26-year civil war.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, is to make the closing address to the meeting, which will be attended by several other MPs in an unprecedented display of cross-party support for Sri Lanka’s Tamils after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

“It’s great support for us,” S. J. Emmanuel, the president of the forum, told The Times. “The British Government, more than any in the world, knows our history and are most competent to understand our situation.”

He said that the group advocated non-violence and an international boycott of Sri Lankan goods and wanted war crimes charges brought against Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, and Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief.

Sri Lanka’s Government is sure to be incensed as it regards many of the forum’s members, especially the British Tamils Forum, as fronts for the Tigers, who are banned as a terrorist organisation in the EU. Sri Lankan officials have long accused Britain of secretly supporting the Tigers.

The Foreign Office defended Mr Miliband’s decision to address the meeting. A spokesman said: “The UK firmly believes that the only way to achieve lasting and equitable peace in Sri Lanka is through genuine national reconciliation. The UK will engage with all members of the Sri Lankan community who share this goal, whether overseas or in Sri Lanka.”

The Tigers launched their armed struggle to create an independent homeland for Tamils in northeast Sri Lanka in 1983 to try to protect them from discrimination at the hands of the ethnic Sinhalese majority. ~ courtesy: Times, UK ~

UK: 'Reconciliation, accountability and human rights are basis for lasting peace all Sri Lankans want and deserve'

Foreign Secretary David Miliband's Written Statement to the House of Commons on recent developments in the political and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

David Miliband gave an update on recent developments in Sri Lanka in a Written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons.

Read the statement:

I would like to update the House on recent developments in the political and humanitarian situations in Sri Lanka.

Since the end of the fighting last May between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam there has been a unique opportunity for the government to work with all communities in Sri Lanka to achieve lasting peace through genuine national reconciliation. The UK has continued to make the case that that this can only come about through a fully inclusive political process to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

Elections

Following the Presidential election of 26 January the Prime Minister wrote to President Rajapakse and I have spoken with Foreign Minister Bogollogama. Together with others, such as the Secretaries-General of the UN and the Commonwealth and the EU High Representative, we have urged President Rajapakse to use his new mandate to make real progress on national reconciliation. The President has made some positive comments about the need to focus on the concerns of Tamils and to discuss the devolution of powers. Setting out his plans for political reform would be a welcome next step.

Election monitors and the Election Commissioner were united in declaring the result of the election valid. But they voiced concerns about aspects of the election campaign, including incidences of violence and allegations of electoral malpractice. We have been encouraging the government to address these concerns by conducting thorough investigations into any allegations and to encourage an atmosphere of calm by reaching out to those who did not support the President. There have, however, been worrying reports of a clampdown on those who did not support President Rajapakse. The arrest of his principal challenger in the election, Sarath Fonseka, has done nothing to ease tensions. The government needs to ensure that all detainees, including Fonseka, are treated strictly in accordance with Sri Lankan law.

The next opportunity for Sri Lankans to elect their political representatives will be the Parliamentary elections that are expected to take place on 8 April. The Prime Minister has encouraged the President to ensure that measures are in place to remove the scope for allegations of malpractice. I have underlined to Foreign Minister Bogollogama the importance of making it possible for all Sri Lankans to vote. Whilst we welcomed the high national turnout in the Presidential election of 70%, this dropped to less than 30% in the north and east. An election in which all communities can select their representatives of choice could advance the prospects for genuine reconciliation.

We will continue to engage with the government and other political parties in Sri Lanka to encourage a process of political reform. In recognition of the potentially positive contribution they could make to that process, we also continue to engage with the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities based in the UK. This includes the activities of Des Browne MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Sri Lanka. I will be addressing the forthcoming London conference of the Global Tamil Forum to encourage a forward-looking, constructive approach.

Accountability

The EU has made clear its view that a credible process to address alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law by both sides during the conflict could also contribute to the process of reconciliation. The US State Department report on the conflict in Sri Lanka and the statement by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, underline the need for a credible and independent investigation. We continue to make this clear to the Sri Lankan government, most recently when I spoke to Foreign Minister Bogollogama earlier this month. We await with interest the findings of the committee set up by President Rajapakse to look into the State Department report.

Human Rights and GSP+

A third way in which the GoSL could encourage genuine reconciliation would be through greater promotion and protection of human rights, including media freedoms, and by tackling the culture of impunity. I have reinforced to Foreign Minister Bogollogama the importance of producing and implementing a human rights National Action Plan, as was agreed at the UN Human Rights Council Periodic Review of Sri Lanka in 2008.

On 19 October the European Commission published its report into Sri Lanka’s compliance with three of the conventions linked to Sri Lanka being a beneficiary of the GSP+ scheme. The report was clear about Sri Lanka’s failings in its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report reinforces our concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and we share the Commission’s assessment.

On 15 February the UK and other Member States supported the Commission’s formal recommendation to withdraw GSP+ benefits from Sri Lanka. This will come into effect on 15 August, six months following the date of the decision. We continue to urge the government to engage constructively with the European Commission and to take all necessary steps to address the serious concerns highlighted in the Commission’s report.

Humanitarian situation

The UK’s most immediate priority since the end of the conflict has been to work for an improvement in the humanitarian situation. By the end of the fighting there were over 280,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in camps in the north of Sri Lanka. We have been advocating for an improvement in conditions inside the camps and for IDPs to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so. Since September 2008, the UK, through the Department for International Development, has also allocated £12.5 million to the humanitarian response.

Conditions in the camps have improved and there has been progress in the return of IDPs. UN official figures estimate that as of 15 January around 187,500 people have been released from the camps, of which 158,500 have been able to return to their home areas, whilst 29,000 vulnerable people have been housed with host families or in institutions. It is important that vulnerable people have been housed with host families or in institutions. It is important that IDPs continue to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so.

The government’s announcement on 1 December that all IDPs still in the camps would be granted freedom of movement was a positive step. However, some restrictions remain in place and we will continue to encourage the government to ease those.

We will continue to work with international partners and with the Sri Lankan Government to encourage progress on reconciliation, accountability and human rights as a basis for the lasting peace all Sri Lankans want and deserve.

source: http://www.fco.gov.uk

The truth about Ceylon Tobacco Company "generosity" towards the country

by Prof. Carlo Fonseka

A banner headlined in the Financial Review of 3rd February 2010 proclaims; ‘Government earns Rs. 52.4 bn from tobacco co". The Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) never tires of telling the public of its great generosity to the country. Proof of its generosity is that it contributes billions of rupees to government coffers.

CTCSLtc223.jpgThe impression that is sort to be created is that it voluntarily contributes vast sums out of its profits for public welfare. Indeed, it seeks to imply that it is glad of the opportunity given to it to contribute so generously to government revenue. It appears to be ready to gives even more money to the people of this country through taxes paid to their government.

One does not, of course, expect the CTC to tell the world that theirs is the only manufactured product which when used as intended, kills no less that half it users. Readers who rub their eyes in disbelief may rest assured that the statistic is starkly true.

To match its financial generosity to the government, the CTC may declare that it sincerely regrets all the deaths (about 20,000 a year in Sri Lanka) and the illness it is responsible for in the process of making its contribution. Before long, the industry may claim that its contribution by way of taxes helps substantially to run our free health services which cares for its countless victims who are not actually killed.

The world over, the tobacco industry plugs the same propaganda line. Anybody who has read Harvard Professor Alan M. Brandt’s authoritative book called The Tobacco Century will know the name of the game, the tobacco industry plays in country after country. In actual fact, the industry systematically lobbies the government to ensure that taxes remain low. In Sri Lanka, tax on tobacco is one of the lowest in the region, if not in the world.

The industry also profits from tax evasion through smuggled cigarettes. It is a well documented fact that the tobacco industry is itself a big time player in the smuggling game.

The transfer of money from smokers (mostly low income and poorly educated) to the government through the CTC is a highly inefficient process. The truth is that the CTC keeps most of the money and hands over only a small proportion of it to the government.

During the process, thousands of people including non-smoking children and women are sickened through exposure to thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke. During a recent anti-tobacco parade held at Hakmana, organized by Dr. Suranga Ubeysekara, MOH, Hakmana, there was a placard, which claimed that the people of the area received 20 lakhs of rupees by way of Samurdhi grants and they spent 40 lakhs of rupees on tobacco products.

So much for the generosity of the tobacco industry to the people of this country.

The bluff about the corporate social responsibility and generosity of the tobacco industry to the public has been called many times but it bears repetition.

The industry is hell-bent on profiting from the addiction of smokers to tobacco; it does not give a damn to anything else.

(Prof. Carlo Fonseka is Chairman, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol)

Democracy in Sri Lanka was a foreign imposition upon a polity segmentalized and divided against itself

by J.B.Muller

Democracy’ is neither organic nor home-grown. It was a foreign imposition upon a polity that was segmentalized and divided against itself.

It is the tragedy of our times that we Sri Lankans are gullible enough to swallow all this tripe about elections as the universal remedy for all our problems or the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams.

Our sundry and various politicians shout themselves hoarse about ‘saving democracy’ or, contra wise, ‘strengthening democracy’ when they don’t even know the meaning of the word!

They all firmly believe that majoritarian domination is the quintessence of democracy!

Then, they would have us believe that having 54 or 65 political parties means a vibrant, thriving democracy! Indeed, it gets curiouser and curiouser as they would also have us believe that Pradeshiya sabha, municipal council, provincial council and parliamentary elections held at frequent intervals is also convincing proof that Sri Lanka is a living, breathing democracy.

All of this taken in parts or together is a gigantic ‘pie in the sky’ and utter nonsense fit only for the mentally weak, for morons and for lunatics.

Our ‘democracy’ is neither organic nor home-grown. It was a foreign imposition upon a polity that was segmentalized and divided against itself by the factors of ethnicity, language, religion, and caste in the first instance.

Then, the additional dimensions of ‘class,’ racial superiority and majoritarian supremacy were added to the simmering cauldron—a veritable witch’s brew. Then, our foreign overlords contemplated all this with not undisguised satisfaction for ‘divide et impera’ was a time-tested way of controlling the colonized and subjugated.

The process also created a new ruling class fashioned in the mould of the overlords and to that class the reins were handed over, reluctantly, due to the attrition of time and circumstance.

When those who inherited the mantle of rulership danced to the tune that the foreign pipers played, all was well. They could continue to exploit the natural resources of the Island and labour of its people, they could continue to ‘police’ the Indian Ocean because of their military bases and they could continue to sell their manufactured goods sponging up whatever extra money we had earned from the World Market.

They also made good use of the intellectual capital of the country by enticing our best minds to migrate by dangling the carrots of prosperity and la dolce vita before them. Their media continued to brainwash the educated into believing that they were superior in all respects and implying, often not so subtly, that we were an inferior breed.

However, nothing remains the same forever. Things change and our ill-prepared leaders took charge of the process of change. They botched many things in their new-found enthusiasms for other alien ideologies and, by dint of hard and bitter experience, 62 year’s on, we, the People, have come to this day. We are all at a critically pivotal period in our painfully long (some would claim it was glorious) history.

In the past six plus decades the People have paid a terrible price in blood, terror, destruction, sorrow, and pain. This is so because of the overweening greed for power of some and the sheer, almost criminal incompetence of others.

This beautiful country is saddled with an Opposition that has become nothing more than a circus made-up of born losers, has-beens and wannabes who have, in the ultimate analysis, NOTHING to offer the People of this country but some more blood, terror, destruction, sorrow, and pain. We had a government with a visionary re-elected leader who wants to change the entire inherited frame.

He wants to get down to grass-roots democracy where the real voice of the People would be heard. He seeks (within the prevailing frame) a majority that would enable him to usher in genuine change instead of cosmetic touch-ups.

He has had the courage to seek a fresh mandate for himself. The People gave him one. He now seeks another mandate from the People to give him a viable way to effect radical and drastic change. It is hoped that his faith in the People will be vindicated at the upcoming polls.

All this is well and good but the core problem is good, sound, competent economic management of a high order and it is incumbent upon the President to get together such a team drawn from the Public, Private, and Non Governmental Sectors [Civil Society] who would be both willing and able to advise him, no holds barred, on how to restructure the economy, revamp the tax regime, change laws where necessary in the light of the country’s needs and tighten up the many loose screws.

For one thing, political expediency apart, he needs to have a tighter, smaller Cabinet made up of younger people he can trust in implicitly. What he needs is hard-nosed doers and go-getters and not smooth talkers who adroitly spin words to mesmerize the naïve. He also needs real professionals to handle his government’s national and international media outreach. What manages to survive is mediocre and ultimately does more damage than good.

Finally, he needs to clear away the sycophants and opportunists who surround him—he must go direct to the People, unheralded—and talk to them face-to-face to learn the truth about anything and everything that concerns his government.

If there are many of those around him who say that this or that cannot be done because of the mass of cobweb-like ARs and FRs, he should, with his characteristic courage, use a broom to sweep them all away. When he begins to do these things, he would be restoring the true symmetry and balance of this country.

Indeed, there is no government like strong government in the hands of an enlightened, experienced leader. He has the potential to change that ‘pie in the sky’ into tangible reality, to usher in genuine grass-roots democracy, to clean-up this overabundance of political parties and govern consensually, leaving the sordid past behind us all.

Then, the era of ‘utter nonsense’ parading as ‘genuine democracy’ would be over and we could put our shoulders to the wheel to create prosperity for all, ensure real progress, and that greatest gift of all: PEACE in our time!

Int'l Crisis Group Full Report: ‘Tamil diaspora groups should move away, once and for all, from the failed agenda of LTTE’

by International Crisis Group

Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups should move away, once and for all, from the failed agenda of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and instead put their energies into the quest for a sustainable and just peace in a united Sri Lanka.

The latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines political dynamics within the Tamil diaspora since May 2009, as Tamils abroad adapt to the LTTE’s defeat. It also looks at the potential for new forms of militancy within the diaspora, especially among the younger generations, radicalised by the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. While there is little chance of the Tamil Tigers regrouping in the diaspora, most Tamils abroad remain profoundly committed to a separate state of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

“New diaspora initiatives attempt to carry forward the struggle for an independent state in more transparent and democratic ways, but they must repudiate the LTTE’s violent methods”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “And they must also recognise that the LTTE’s separatist agenda is out of step with the wishes and needs of Tamils in Sri Lanka”.

The gap between the diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka has widened. Most in the country are exhausted by decades of war and are more concerned with rebuilding their lives under difficult circumstances than in continuing the fight for an independent state. Without the LTTE to enforce a common political line, Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka are proposing substantial reforms within a united Sri Lanka. While Tamils have the democratic right to espouse separatism non-violently, Tamil Eelam has virtually no domestic or international backing. With the Sri Lankan government assuming Tamils abroad remain committed to violent means, the diaspora’s continued calls for a separate state feed the fears of the Rajapaksa administration and provide excuses for maintaining destructive anti-terrorism and emergency laws.

The Sri Lankan government must address the legitimate grievances at the root of the conflict: the political marginalisation and physical insecurity of most Tamils in Sri Lanka. The international community needs to press Colombo much more strongly for political and constitutional reforms. Donors should insist that money given to redevelop the north and east is tied closely to the demilitarisation and democratisation of the region. This should include giving Tamils and Muslims a meaningful role in determining the future of the areas where they have long been the majority. Donor governments and the United Nations must also insist on an independent investigation into the thousands of Tamil civilians killed in the final months of fighting in 2009.

“Tamils in Sri Lanka currently have little appetite for a return to armed struggle”, says Robert Templer. “But should the Sri Lankan state continue to fail to respond to their collective aspirations, some may eventually seek a solution through violence and could find willing partners in the diaspora”.

Executive Summary

For the past quarter-century the Tamil diaspora has shaped the Sri Lankan political landscape through its financial and ideological support to the military struggle for an independent Tamil state. Although the May 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has dra-matically reduced the diaspora’s influence, the majority of Tamils outside Sri Lanka continue to support a sepa-rate state, and the diaspora’s money can ensure it plays a role in the country’s future. The nature of that role, however, depends largely on how Colombo deals with its Tamil citizens in the coming months and on how strongly the international community presses the gov-ernment to enact constitutional reforms to share power with and protect the rights of Tamils and other minorities. While the million-strong diaspora cannot regenerate an insurgency in Sri Lanka on its own, its money and organi-sation could turn up the volume on any violence that might eventually re-emerge.

Following the defeat of the LTTE, the mood in the diaspora has been a mix of anger, depression and denial. Although many had mixed feelings about the LTTE, it was widely seen as the only group that stood up for Tamils and won them any degree of respect. The Tigers’ humiliating defeat, the enormous death toll in the final months of the war and the internment of more than a quarter million Tamils left the diaspora feeling powerless, be-trayed by the West, demanding justice and, in some cases, wanting revenge. A minority in the community is happy the LTTE is gone, since it directed much of its energy to intimidating and even killing those Tamils who challenged their rule.

Funding networks established by the LTTE over decades are seriously weakened but still in place. There is little chance, however, of the Tigers regrouping in the diaspora. LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka are dead or captured and its overseas structures are in disarray. Clinging to the possibility of victory long after defeat was inevitable dam-aged the LTTE’s credibility and weakened its hold on the community.

Nonetheless, most Tamils abroad remain profoundly committed to Tamil Eelam, the existence of a separate state in Sri Lanka. This has widened the gap between the diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka. Most in the country are exhausted by decades of war and are more concerned with rebuilding their lives under difficult circumstances than in continuing the struggle for an independent state. There is no popular support for a return to armed struggle. Without the LTTE to enforce a common political line, Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka are proposing substantial reforms within a united Sri Lanka. Unwilling to recognise the scale of defeat, and continuing to believe an independent state is possible, however, many diaspora leaders have dismissed Tamil politicians on the island either as traitors for working with the government or as too weak or scared to stand up for their people’s rights.

Many now reluctantly recognise the need for new forms of struggle, even if they would still prefer the LTTE fighting. New organisations have formed that are operating in more transparent and democratic ways than the LTTE and that aim to pressure Western governments to accept an independent state for Tamils. These include plans for a “transnational government of Tamil Eelam”, independent referenda among Tamils in various countries endorsing the call for a separate state, boycotts against products made in Sri Lanka and advocacy in support of international investigations into alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan state. The new initiatives, however, refrain from criticising the LTTE or holding it responsible for its own crimes or its contribution to the shattered state of Sri Lankan Tamil society.

So long as this is the case, most Western governments will remain sceptical of the diaspora’s post-LTTE political initiatives. All have kept the transnational government of Tamil Eelam at arm’s length given its resemblance to a government-in-exile, even if the group does not claim this status. Western governments will have little choice but to engage with the dominant, pro-separatist Tamil organisations, even if officials would prefer to deal only with the handful of interlocutors with a record of criticising the Tigers. But until it moves on from its separatist, pro-LTTE ideology, the diaspora is unlikely to play a useful role supporting a just and sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.

Watching the devastation of the final months of the war and the seeming indifference of governments and the United Nations, many Tamils, particularly the younger generation born in the West, grew deeply disillusioned. Governments with large Tamil communities have been worried this might lead to new forms of militancy. In the last months of the war and months immediately following, there were self-immolations by Tamil protestors, van-dalism against Sri Lankan embassies, and increased communal tensions between Tamils and Sinhalese abroad. While such events have grown less frequent, risks of radicalism in the diaspora cannot be dismissed entirely.

While Tamils have the democratic right to espouse separatism non-violently, Tamil Eelam has virtually no domestic or international backing. With the Sri Lankan government assuming Tamils abroad remain committed to violent means, the diaspora’s continued calls for a sepa-rate state feed the fears of the Rajapaksa administration and provide excuses for maintaining destructive anti-terrorism and emergency laws.

To ensure the current peace is a lasting one, the Sri Lankan government must address the legitimate grievances at the root of the conflict: the political marginalisation and physical insecurity of most Tamils in Sri Lanka. State-ments made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa since his January 2010 re-election suggest there is little chance the needed political and constitutional reforms will be offered in his next term. Any significant improvement in the political position of Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka will thus come slowly and with difficulty, requiring significant shifts in the balance of political power within Sri Lanka as well as careful but tough persuasion from outside.

India, Japan, Western governments and multilateral organisations can do much more to assist the political empowerment of Tamils in Sri Lanka and press Colombo to address the causes behind the rise of the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups. There should be no blank cheque for Colombo to redevelop the north and east without first creating a political climate where Tamils and Muslims can freely express their opinions and have a meaningful role in determining the future of the areas where they have long been the majority. Donor governments and the UN should also press more strongly for an independent inquiry into the thousands of civilians, almost all Tamil, killed in the final months of fighting. Their aid should be tied to an end to impunity for human rights violations and abuses of political power that undermine democracy and threaten the freedoms of Sri Lankans from all ethnic communities.

FULL REPORT

THE SRI LANKAN TAMIL DIASPORA AFTER THE LTTE

I. INTRODUCTION

Since the outbreak of open war between Tamil militant groups and the Sri Lankan state in 1983, the Tamil diaspora has been a central actor in Sri Lanka’s political life. Diaspora contributions provided money for weapons, and Tamil organisations, generally closely linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), provided the political advocacy in Western countries in support of the struggle for an independent state of Tamil Eelam. At the height of the conflict, which claimed over 100,000 lives, the diaspora contributed an estimated $200 million a year to the Tigers. Since the LTTE’s military defeat in May 2009, the Tamil diaspora has been in crisis, forced to reorient itself in a much more difficult political context, without any clear leverage within Sri Lanka and with much reduced clout in its various host countries.

This report examines political dynamics within the dias-pora since May 2009, as Tamils abroad adapt to the LTTE’s defeat. It assesses the levels of support for con-tinued militancy among Tamils outside Sri Lanka and whether more moderate voices have begun to speak up in the absence of LTTE coercion. It also looks at the potential for new forms of militancy within the diaspora, especially among the younger generations radicalised by the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. While considering the views of Tamils abroad with a record of criticising the Tigers, the report focuses on the pro-Tiger elements, which constitute the vast majority of the diaspora.

This report is based on extensive interviews from across the diaspora conducted in twelve countries with signifi-cant Sri Lankan Tamil communities, as well as in Sri Lanka between May 2008 and February 2010. These included meetings with a wide range of Tamils including active and retired LTTE officials, numerous Tamil organisations, academics, students, journalists, members of the business community and elected politicians. Of-ficials from governments with significant Tamil diaspora populations, as well as officers from those countries’ civilian intelligence and law enforcement agencies, were interviewed. Officials from the UN, the Sri Lankan gov-ernment, and foreign militaries familiar with Sri Lanka’s insurgency were also consulted. Most interviewees asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

II. THE EMERGENCE OF THE TAMIL DIASPORA

One of the most significant consequences of Sri Lanka’s civil war has been the upheaval of its Tamil population both internally and through migration abroad. Formed by several migration waves since independence in 1948, the diaspora is estimated at one million in 2010, or ap-proximately one quarter of the entire Sri Lankan Tamil population. Tamils abroad, despite their diversity – in-cluding date of arrival, length of stay and legal status in their host countries, gender, caste, region, socio-economic standing and political orientation – usually see themselves as belonging to the diaspora.

Aside from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is home to nearly 200,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refu-gees, there are substantial diaspora populations in Canada (200,000-300,000), Great Britain (180,000), Germany (60,000), Australia (40,000), Switzerland (47,000), France (40,000-50,000), the Netherlands (20,000), the U.S. (25,000), Italy (15,000), Malaysia (20,000), Norway (10,000), Denmark (7,000), New Zealand (3,000) and Sweden (2,000). There are also smaller communities in South Africa, the Gulf States, and in several South East Asian countries.

A. PRELUDE TO A DIASPORA

Building on the work of early Christian missionaries in Ceylon, British colonial officials in the first half of the twentieth century established a network of schools on the northern Jaffna Peninsula. Introducing Western educa-tion and the English language, these schools oriented a number of Tamils towards Europe. Teachers and “man-agers of British expansion recognised a diligence and application ideally suited to the colonial endeavour”. Thousands of Tamils voluntarily or involuntarily took up posts in colonial administration, particularly in British Malaya, keeping accounts and overseeing construction projects. Many elite Tamils emigrated to the UK to obtain professional or graduate degrees to ease their way into university positions and the Ceylon civil service. Nos-talgia Nostalgia for home was strong and very few had any intention of settling abroad.

From 1948 onwards, social, economic and political space for Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka in-exorably narrowed, forcing those abroad to reconsider going home. It did not take long for ethnic and social tensions to overwhelm the inadequate safeguards built into the British-designed system of parliamentary democ-racy. Elections inevitably produced governments that favoured the Sinhalese majority, which ignored the arguments of popular Tamil parties and immediately provided the Tamil minority with a genuine set of griev-ances. Successive Sinhala governments consistently discriminated against Tamils and other minorities by introducing measures, such as the 1956 Official Language Act, which mandated Sinhala as the sole official language of the state, and other constitutional manipulations and policies throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these acts were designed to roll back the dominant position of Tamils in state employment and education.

B. THE DIASPORA TODAY

Ethnic tensions came to a head in July 1983, when Tamil militants ambushed and killed thirteen soldiers in Jaffna. In response, Sinhalese mobs killed many Colombo Tamils and burned their homes with the active involvement of senior members of the government. Conservative esti-mates say as many as 1,000 Tamils were killed during the pogrom, which marked the start of the conflict between Tamil separatists and the Sri Lanka state. In 1981, two years before the riots, the island’s Tamil population was estimated at two million. By 1995 almost three quarters were displaced either as direct or indirect consequence of war. Over 500,000 fled abroad. English-speaking countries like Canada and the UK were preferred desti-nations. Norway and Switzerland were also favoured due to their open immigration policies.
The journey to reach the diaspora was financially and emotionally arduous even for wealthy Tamils. An American Tamil from an affluent family explained, “We were targeted because of our ethnicity. We left family, friends, and businesses behind. We left our homeland behind to protect our children’s future. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it is still an incredibly painful thing to do”. The majority, however, were poor and initially fled to the refugee camps in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.

For centuries, Tamil Nadu has been a first port of call for Sri Lankan Tamils seeking new opportunities beyond their island. As the conflict spread into civilian areas through the 1980s and 1990s, Tamil Nadu’s cities and refugee camps would become home for many people; for others they would be stepping stones to the West.

Thousands sold whatever valuables they had, including land, to pay for journeys from Tamil Nadu to Europe. Others borrowed money from friends and relatives already in the diaspora, which was preferable to negotiating with human smugglers who typically charged from ten to twenty times the cost of a plane ticket. For example, in the 1990s the average cost of a journey to Europe was LKR 300,000 ($7,500) while the average monthly income of a potential asylum seeker was LKR 2100 ($52). Those who failed to make it past immigration authorities in Europe were sent back to Sri Lanka often with a life-time’s worth of debt to repay to a smuggler.

During the 1990s Canada granted asylum to roughly 80 per cent of all Tamils who applied. Nowadays the Tamil population in the greater Toronto area is the largest concentration of Tamils outside of Sri Lanka. Community organisations formed in the 1980s and 1990s to assist new immigrants with the resettlement process have allowed many Tamils to prosper. These organisations would later start a trend throughout the global Tamil diaspora by sending funds to rebuild schools and colleges in the north east of Sri Lanka that were destroyed or damaged by the war.

C. AN ASYLUM DIASPORA

There has been considerable debate over the years about whether Sri Lankan Tamils are indeed genuine refugees who have had no choice but to flee political violence, or economic migrants who are in no personal danger but choose to leave because of financial considerations. The Sri Lankan government insists most Tamils are economic migrants and that those who wanted to flee violence in the north and east could have found refuge within the country, particularly in the capital with its large Tamil population.
Few Tamils share this assessment. While the situation has improved since the end of the war, a climate of fear still pervades the Tamil community in Colombo. Many are routinely subjected to arrest or humiliating searches.

Young men still “disappear” – often after being picked up by government security forces not only in the country’s north and east but also in the capital. While some may be members or supporters of the LTTE, this does not justify their secret detention without due process. Most of the missing Tamils are feared dead. Simply put, many do not see Colombo as home. Even if forced to return there is little incentive for the repatriated to stay; it is likely that they would simply migrate once more.

While some Tamil migrants flouted asylum procedures by fabricating grounds for flight, a majority were legitimate asylum seekers. This is underscored by the large Tamil populations in the West, comprised of thousands of people whose asylum cases withstood intense scrutiny by immigration authorities in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

D. CREATING ONE VOICE

The interplay between diaspora Tamils and the LTTE has been complex and is often misunderstood. The diaspora is not a monolithic entity that acted solely as the fundraising and political wing for the Tigers as is commonly believed, particularly in Colombo. As one Tamil politician explained, “It [the diaspora] is certainly not the LTTE’s Sinn Féin”. Not every diaspora Tamil donated funds to the Tigers, not everyone supported them politically, and countless people were their victims.

For example, the LTTE’s violence and intolerance of dissent also forced Tamils to seek refuge abroad. Throughout the late 1980s, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s founder and leader, waged war on rival militants in order to consolidate his outfit as the sole voice of Tamil grievances and aspirations. Right up until its defeat in May 2009, the LTTE conducted a campaign of assassinations and bombings in Sri Lanka to silence moderate Tamil voices, including politicians and journalists. It is also responsible for the murder of hundreds of Tamil-speaking Muslims and forcible displacement of tens of thousands more. Even in the West, Sri Lankan Muslims are still vulnerable to the LTTE’s authoritarianism; many continue to report harassment by Tiger sympathisers.

Those that did support the Tigers were caught between a complex range of emotions and experiences. As a result of their exile many Tamils justifiably feel a strong sense of victimisation and injustice. They are torn between a desire to maintain a cultural identity tied to the land they left while living up to the civic responsibilities and cultural demands of their host country. A palpable sense of guilt pervades the Tamil diaspora. Privately, some express shame for leaving Sri Lanka while other Tamils fought and died for the cause or fell victim to government violence. Many blame and hate the Sinhalese and want re-venge revenge. Most have abandoned any hope that the Sri Lankan state would ever accommodate Tamils socially, economically, culturally or politically.

In the late 1980s, Prabhakaran devised a strategy to manipulate these sentiments to financially and politically promote his goals by establishing networks of LTTE cadres within the diaspora. For example, it was a well-known secret among Tamils that LTTE cadre monopolised positions as interpreters within the immigration bureaucracies of Canada, Norway and Switzerland. Since the LTTE saw itself as the ultimate voice of Tamils – and given its use of violence against those who did not – its activity was something that all exiles were forced to take a stand on. Most chose the path of least resistance. An American Tamil activist explained,
The LTTE had such a tight hold on the diaspora, that when an ordinary Tamil irrespective of his or her stand on the Tigers wanted to express their dissatis-faction with the Sri Lankan government, they were forced to do so through the LTTE.

The LTTE’s manipulation of many diaspora Tamils has made it almost impossible to determine the true level of the support for militancy. However, viewing the diaspora solely through the lens of the LTTE’s violence reduces it to stereotypes and masks the original causes of the conflict, which Colombo has yet to tackle. This is not to excuse the negative role the diaspora has played, but rather to shed light on how the LTTE manufactured its support, which is crucial to preventing another insurgency.

E. MONEY AND WEAPONS

Money will continue to be one of the most significant aspects of the relationship between the Tamil diaspora and the Sri Lankan state. Tamils abroad play a vital role in sustaining the country’s economy. Remittances from all Sri Lankans abroad stood at roughly $2.8 billion in 2009, constituting one of the largest sources of foreign exchange. While much of this money is from Sinhalese and Muslims working abroad, the figure excludes the large amount of Tamil funds remitted through informal channels.

During the conflict, funds raised abroad were used for destruction and reconstruction alike. Initially, most of the money was used for sustaining Tamil societies in war-affected areas. But as the civil war dragged on, increasing amounts shifted away from humanitarian aid towards sustaining the insurgency.

Different parts of the diaspora served different functions for the Tigers. “Generally speaking they [the LTTE] saw the West as a goldmine and an almost inexhaustible source of cash”. Money raised in North America and Europe was often sent to operatives in Asia to procure weapons and other war-related materials. The LTTE scoured coun-tries with reservoirs of weapons from previous conflicts. Weapons were shipped via Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and India where Tiger operatives could blend into Tamil communities. Front companies for weapons purchased were also allegedly established in other parts of Asia, like Cambodia and Bangladesh.

U.S. State and Treasury Department officials estimate that during the war the LTTE earned between $100-$200 million a year worldwide. The Tigers depended on a complex global network of managers to raise funds, which were often invested in legal operations like restaurants and real estate. Funds were generated through other activities, such as passport forgery, narcotics and human trafficking. Significant funds also came from individual contributions through community temples, cultural and political events such as Thaipongal or Pongu Thamil, and other activities held in support of Tamils in Sri Lanka. For large events in Toronto and London, such as Prabhakaran’s Heroes’ Day speech, organisers rented banquet halls for as much $50,000 a day. Donations during the events however could earn the Tigers four to fives time that. A London police officer who attended one event explained that, “Buckets were passed around at these events and Tamils were expected to fill them up with cash and coins. There were a lot of buckets”.

Substantial amounts were also collected through systemised donations or “taxes” to ensure a regular flow of income. In Canada the minimum tax was roughly $30 per person or family per month depending on an indi individual’s income, while in Switzerland it ranged from $50 to $100. Commenting on its fundraising effi-ciency, a Swiss Tamil said, “The LTTE has the best [financial] network after the Catholic Church here”. In the U.S., funds were raised among a small group of wealthy Tamils. U.S. officials estimated their contribu-tion at roughly $10-$20 million a year. The Tigers were also notorious for siphoning off contributions from relief NGOs and charitable organisations. But not all the money went to Sri Lanka. Much of it was used to support political activities in the West.

Most fundraising occurred in the open until Western and Asian governments cracked down on LTTE activity. In 1997, roughly a year after an attack on Sri Lanka’s central bank that killed some 100 people and injured over 1200 more, including two Americans, the U.S. State De-partment designated the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO). Over the following decade other countries followed suit. In 2001, the UK government officially designated the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, forcing it to shut down its lucrative London office. Front organisations, like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), were later disbanded by the U.S. Treasury De-partment for terrorist financing and de-listed as charitable organisations by the UK Charities Commission. In June 2008, Canada’s public safety minister added the World Tamil Movement, a Toronto-based non-profit group, to Ottawa’s official terrorist list making it the country’s first community group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.

The terrorist designations and the global focus on anti-terror initiatives following the 11 September 2001 attacks significantly weakened the Tigers’ ability to raise funds and proved crucial in their demise. Many Tamils became reluctant to give to the LTTE or its front groups for fear of being arrested on terrorism-related charges. For others it was a convenient excuse to spurn monthly LTTE tax collections. According to some accounts, Tiger fund-raisers became more aggressive to compensate for many Tamils’ increasing reluctance to contribute. Although they were still able collect funds, the bans made it harder for the Tigers to transfer the money abroad without at-tracting the attention of banking authorities. In 2006, Prabhakaran allegedly admitted the bans were hampering his ability to purchase materials to fight.

The arrest in August 2009 of the LTTE’s top overseas operative Selverasa Pathmanathan, known as KP (see below), has probably done more to dismantle the Tigers’ financial network in the past several months than the combined efforts of the Sri Lanka and other governments over decades. The Rajapaksa administration claims that KP has revealed the whereabouts of over 600 LTTE overseas bank accounts. This figure is a downward revision of an earlier government statement, which claimed that KP revealed the location of 1582 accounts. This has raised suspicion over whether government officials are hiding bank information in order to line their own pockets.

Pro-Tiger elements in the diaspora continue to raise funds in order to carry forward the struggle for a separate state in new, non-violent forms. Several new organisations are fundraising for this purpose (see Section IV). It is fair to assume, however, that most of the money collected in the diaspora since May 2009 has been for humanitarian and relief efforts. A number of organisations such as the International Medical Health Organisation (IMHO), a U.S.-based NGO comprised of mostly Tamil physicians, have raised over $500,000 to build health-care facilities and provide basic health care in Sri Lanka. A Western development official said, “It’s absurd that diaspora has to fund things like basic health care, when it is clearly the government’s responsibility”.

III. THE LTTE AND THE DIASPORA

A. LTTE REGROUPING IN THE DIASPORA

Within Sri Lanka, the LTTE has stopped functioning. Its leadership is mostly dead and thousands of former fighters and suspected supporters are in detention camps. How-ever, some reportedly escaped before the end of the war and others have since bribed their way off the island. While largely dismantled in Sri Lanka, the LTTE’s overseas network – although significantly weakened – remains intact, causing consternation that it is regroup-ing in the diaspora. But it is unlikely the organisation could remobilise as a guerrilla force outside of Sri Lanka any time soon.

India, the most convenient place for the Tigers to regroup and rearm, is unwilling to play host. Other countries with Tamil populations that could provide cover are too distant to be viable alternatives. Lack of readily accessible funds and expertise also pose problems. Western governments continue to prosecute cases of LTTE terrorist financing while fundraising operatives from Canada to Cambodia have reportedly disappeared with large sums of cash. KP’s arrest has almost certainly made procuring new weapons for another fight extremely difficult, if not impossible, in the near future.

1. KP’s arrest

KP’s arrest at a Kuala Lumpur hotel in August 2009 deflated hopes that the Tigers could regroup after Prabhakaran’s death. In January 2009, Prabhakaran had appointed KP as head of the LTTE’s newly constituted Department of International Relations, making him the most senior Tiger abroad and the most likely to take con-trol of the organisation in the event of the leadership on the island being captured or killed. During the final days of the fighting, when the Tigers were confined to a narrow strip of sand, KP was tasked with negotiating their sur-vival. Following the Sri Lankan military’s victory, the LTTE’s Executive Committee indirectly confirmed Prabhakaran’s death and promoted KP to lead the organisation.

KP’s promotion was seen by some senior operatives in the diaspora as a unilateral move to assume Prabhakaran’s mantle, sparking infighting among overseas Tigers. In-ternal Tiger politics are opaque at the best of times, but allegedly at the centre of the dispute is control of the organisation’s lucrative fundraising apparatus. As a result, two loose factions have reportedly developed. One is comprised of KP loyalists and led by Visvanathan Rudrakumaran, the LTTE’s former legal adviser. Nediyavan leads the other, which is comprised of sup-porters of the Tigers’ previous overseas chief, Castro, and is the more hardline of the two, though it has not openly called for renewed violence. Some believe the Nediyavan faction is beating out the more moderate Rudrakumaran faction in the battle for hearts and minds of diaspora Tamils. There is speculation among KP supporters that the Nediyavan faction tipped off Colombo on their leader’s whereabouts, which led to his arrest and rendi-tion to Sri Lanka.

While KP’s arrest was a setback for transnational crime and terrorism networks, particularly if he reveals infor-mation leading to more arrests and criminal prosecutions, it could also have negative side effects. Analysts have suggested that although KP continued to espouse sepa-ratism, he saw militancy as a dead end. Before his arrest, he expressed a desire to rebrand the Tigers as a non-violent political organisation. In an interview shortly before his arrest, KP said, “We [the LTTE] will continue our fight through political means”. A respected anti-LTTE Tamil analyst published the following on his blog site: “With KP gone the chances of the LTTE making this much-needed transition seem remote”.

2. Rhetoric versus reality

There are other signs that the LTTE may be unable to regroup. For a number of Tamils abroad, the Tigers’ defeat exposed the hollowness of their propaganda, which consistently said that victory was near. A Tamil in Toronto explained her frustrations with the pro-LTTE leader-ship in her community:

For twenty years the LTTE showed us photographs of them standing with presidents, prime ministers and politicians from everywhere. They told us that pow-erful people supported Tamil Eelam and that it was only a matter of time before it was created. And we believed them.

But where were all those powerful politicians a few years or even a few months ago, those friends of Eelam, when we needed them? All those pictures were proof of the LTTE’s lies and just ways to take money from poor Tamils. We were just as stupid for believing them as they were for believing politicians.

Prior to the Tigers’ defeat, criticisms like this would have been confined to private conservations or voiced pub-licly by the few brave enough to confront them. “In the last months of the war, no one would dare say anything against the LTTE. Even people that never came to rallies or supported the LTTE before came around to them out of necessity. They were understood to be the only one sticking up for the Tamils. No one would defy them, no one wanted to be a called a traitor”, explained an American Tamil. Although public disparagement of the LTTE is still rare within Tamil communities, there is less fear of harassment and more space for critical views and alter-native voices.

The erosion of its power is evident elsewhere. For example, Tamils in Toronto accuse pro-LTTE community leaders and organisers of pocketing their donations. One ex-plained that he sought out his local LTTE money collector to retrieve his contributions after the Tigers were de-feated in May. “I didn’t get a return on my investment; I wanted my money back. So I went to his house but the neighbours said he was gone. He hasn’t been back for months”. “A year ago”, he continued, “I would have been too afraid to go [to his house]”. Others in Toronto are reportedly demanding their money back as well, as are some in Switzerland.

3. Terrorism and organised crime

The leadership vacuum could hasten the drift of re-maining operatives towards political violence or, for those driven more by profit than ideological commitment to Tamil Eelam, towards organised crime. According to an Indian academic familiar with the LTTE, “Whatever your stand on Prabhakaran, the fact is he brought disci-pline to the LTTE and he attempted to keep its overseas violence and criminal activity to a minimum”. While there are no signals yet that the rump LTTE is planning a terrorist act, it only takes a handful of committed cadre in the diaspora bent on violence to have a deadly impact. For example, Canadian law enforcement officials have been concerned that, if left unchecked, LTTE activities could result in an event similar to the terrorist bombing of an Air India jet in 1985, which was planned and funded by Sikh separatists in Canada. A Canadian security official said, We can’t ignore what’s happening in our Tamil com-munity particularly the fundraising for the [Tamil] Tigers. Because of what we learned from Canada’s connection with Khalistan we’re compelled to look at issues concerning the Tamil Tigers here differently. As much as it’s a law and order issue in some regards, we also compelled to treat the Tamil Tigers as a na-tional security issue because we don’t want another Air India disaster.

B. THE SRI LANKAN STATE AND THE DIASPORA

The diaspora’s support for the LTTE’s separatism has been a thorn in the side of governments in Colombo for three decades. All have tried to neutralise its impact on the war, but none more so than the Rajapaksa admini-stration. Under his government, Sri Lankan embassies and consulates have been more active in countering LTTE propaganda abroad while supporting Sinhalese diaspora groups to do the same. The government has also retained a lobbying and law firm in Washington DC to assist with these efforts. Embassy and consular staff, often with the assistance of Sinhalese diaspora groups, report back to Colombo on suspected pro-Tiger individuals and organisations. Some Tamils allege that information has been used to identify and harass their relatives in Sri Lanka.

Colombo’s paramount concern about the diaspora has always been its financial support for the Tigers. Although Colombo has provided Western governments with in-telligence on Tiger financing, law enforcement officials suggest it is more often allegations rather than firm evi evidence. A European law enforcement official said, “We do not always entertain the information we receive from the Sri Lanka government. It does not have much credibility because of its human rights record”. Euro-pean diplomats say that Colombo rarely, if at all, provided their governments with credible information leading to an arrest. A European official said, “Despite all the noise, we’ve never received a notice from a single Sri Lankan government for release of the LTTE funds here. Before KP’s arrest, the government did not have a clue where the LTTE stored its money”.

Since the war’s end the government has sought to reduce tensions with the diaspora, but the effort has been largely cosmetic and designed to appease the donor community. While the Rajapaksa administration has sponsored the visit of hundreds of expatriate Tamils in Sri Lanka to highlight its efforts to improve security and resettle over 300,000 displaced Tamils, visitors have come away un-satisfied and sceptical about the future. Other efforts like the Sri Lankan Expatriate Forum 2009 have been short-sighted and geared towards encouraging the dias-pora to invest without first addressing any of its griev-ances. While the government’s charm offensive has changed a few minds, most remain hesitant. A forum participant said, “They are putting the cart before the horse. No one will invest if they do not fix the politics first. Bad politics is bad for business”.

C. A NEW WAVE

The post-war policies of President Mahinda Rajapaksa have deepened rather than resolved the grievances that generated and sustained LTTE militancy. Thousands of Tamils bribed their way out of overcrowded internment camps plagued by poor sanitation, insufficient bathing and drinking water, and inadequate food and medical care. Former insurgents reportedly escaped to avoid detection while civilian men fled out of fear of being labelled Tiger sympathisers by the army. Women also reportedly bought their freedom to avoid rape or other sexual abuses in the camps. Unable or unwilling to return home, many sought passage to India and South East Asia in the hope of eventually reaching the diaspora in the West.

An American Tamil described how he sent money to friends and relatives to escape from the Manik Farm camp. He wired money to Colombo where it was collected by a friend and employee of an aid agency with access to the camps. Several days later it was passed through the camp’s barbed-wire fence to the recipients, who eventually bribed their way to Colombo. For those who can afford the trip, escapees fly from Colombo to cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur where they can register for assistance with UNHCR. Former camp detainees in Thailand said they paid traffickers roughly $5,000 for their trip, which included a pay-off to the camp authorities, covert pas-sage to Colombo through army checkpoints, and agents’ fees to arrange plane tickets, passports and bribes to airport and immigration officials at both ends of their journey. From Bangkok some migrants travel south to Malaysia where they are smuggled by ship to the West.

Between October 2009 and February 2010 at least seven boats carrying asylum seekers set out for Australia’s Christmas Island, most likely from Malaysia’s Johor state. Two boats with 32 and fourteen passengers respectively made it, while the others were intercepted in Indonesian waters. Following a phone call from Australia’s prime minister to Indonesia’s president, the Indonesian navy intercepted one vessel with 253 people on board, taking it to Merak port on Sumatra. The Ocean Viking, an Australian customs vessel, took on board 78 passengers from the other boat after its engine failed. Passengers of both boats refused to disembark in Indonesia, demanding instead to immigrate to Australia as they intended. Those in Indonesian custody even threatened to explode their vessel with cooking canisters if they were not taken to Australia. To end the standoff with Tamils on board the Ocean Viking, Canberra agreed to resettle all 78 people in a third country within three months.

A spokesperson for the 253 Tamils still on board their boat docked at Merak port said his fellow passengers were mostly from Jaffna and included 27 women and 31 children, all of whom had hid in a Malaysian jungle for a month while awaiting a boat to Christmas Island. He denied any were former insurgents and instead claimed they were “a boat full of tourists, or people looking for a job” and “people who are running from genocide”. The spokesperson explained each passenger had paid $15,000 to a people smuggler for the journey and that they chose Australia because it was the cheapest option on offer. The head of the Australian Federation of Tamils, a pro-Tiger organisation, said the high price of the passage suggested that the asylum seekers were re-ceiving money from the diaspora.

On 17 October, Canadian authorities seized the vessel Ocean Lady off the coast of British Columbia. Canadian and Sri Lankan authorities believe it to be the Princess Easwary, an LTTE vessel suspected of transporting arms for the Tigers. It too most likely set off from Malaysia; passengers described paying for the trip in Malaysian ringgit while others had documentation issued in Kuala Lumpur. There were 76 migrants on board, several of whom, according to the Canadian Tamil Congress, a pro-LTTE organisation, had relatives in Canada. One passenger told journalists that the LTTE killed many people in his family. Ottawa believes at least 25 of the 76 migrants are members of the Tamil Tigers, which it proscribed as a terrorist organisation in 2006.

IV. THE DIASPORA IN A POST-LTTE WORLD

Most of the pro-Tiger elements in the diaspora have acknowledged – albeit reluctantly – that militancy has failed and the struggle for an independent Tamil state should proceed non-violently. This change of perspec-tive, however, should not be confused with a change of heart; many would still prefer the LTTE to be fighting for Tamil Eelam. Rather it is an acceptance that the LTTE is a spent military force. An influential American Tamil explained, “We tried satyagraha, we tried party politics, and we tried armed struggle. The sad truth is that they all failed. Although we are back to the drawing board, it is clear the next phase will be political rather than violent struggle”. Tamils from varying backgrounds across the globe and political spectrum echo these sentiments.

It is still unclear what form the non-violent political struggle will ultimately take. Notwithstanding the ap-parent shift in strategy, the goal of an independent Tamil state remains the same. Very few Tamils abroad believe that their people’s fundamental rights and security can be guaranteed within the framework of the Sri Lankan state. The diaspora’s sense of abandonment by the West, Co-lombo’s internment of nearly 300,000 Tamils at the war’s end and the military’s continued occupation of the north reinforce this belief among separatists and wins new supporters to the cause daily.

Privately, however, some diaspora leaders suggest that the idea of Tamil Eelam has been as much a metaphor for justice as a concrete goal, a separate state being the only space where justice seemed possible for Sri Lanka’s Tamils. Many leaders believe that the diaspora is not wedded to separatism itself, but rather to a state where their collective identity is recognised and their physical security guaranteed. If Colombo could guarantee equal treatment for its minorities within a united Sri Lanka, then the diaspora would be willing to abandon Tamil Eelam.

As the diaspora grapples with the new political realities, several efforts have begun to take shape to carry forward the LTTE’s struggle. Chief among them are the Trans-national Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). These initiatives were born of the belief that Tamil politicians in Sri Lankan cannot express their real political views – including continued support for a separate state – and that is up to the diaspora to push the ideas they cannot safely espouse. The imme-diate aim is to convince Western governments to pressure Colombo to negotiate a political deal with Tamils. Their primary target is the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress, which they believe has the most leverage over Colombo among all the Western governments – and the most likely to act in favour of the Tamils. However, the efforts underway are disjointed, uncoordinated and unlikely to achieve much on their own or collectively. Indeed, the new initiatives seem motivated as much by leaders’ desire to consolidate the diaspora’s resources – its money, its institutions, the energy of its youth – and its capacity to mobilise for a new struggle, as they are coher-ent strategies to effect positive changes within Sri Lanka.

A. TRANSNATIONAL GOVERNMENT OF TAMIL EELAM (TGTE)

Still in the planning stages, the TGTE is an ambitious attempt to rebrand the LTTE as a non-violent democratic political body in the diaspora. Strategically invoking Tamil Eelam to mobilise diaspora support, once formed, it will serve as “the highest political entity to campaign for the realisation of the Tamils’ right to self-determination”. Based on arcane political theories of transnational gov-ernance, the TGTE aims to consolidate the diaspora and its resources into an elected governance structure. Its architects hope that elections held throughout the dias-pora will eventually provide it with the democratic cre-dentials and moral authority to compel the international community to support an independent state for Sri Lanka’s Tamils. TGTE founders increasingly see the endeav-our as a long-term political project, achieving its ultimate goal within 30-60 years.

At present, New York lawyer Visvanathan Rudrakuma-ran is the acting head of the TGTE’s executive commit-tee until elections are held for a more permanent one.

Polls are scheduled for April 2010, which will also elect a constituent assembly to draft a constitution. In the meantime Country Working Groups (CWG) have been established to build support for the TGTE within the diaspora, as well as civil society groups and politi-cal leaders outside of Tamil communities. Once a voter registry is completed, “an independent Election Com-mission conforming to international standards will hold elections to elect representatives to the TGTE”. Only diaspora Tamils will be eligible for election, though the TGTE will work “hand-in-hand with anyone working for the well-being of the Tamil people”. However, a Tamil political analyst said, “It is arrogant and danger-ous for the diaspora to be deciding the future of the Tamil struggle without giving Tamils in Sri Lanka a veto over its [TGTE] actions because Tamils there [on the island] will inevitably bear the brunt of govern-ment’s anger”.

Controversy and confusion has plagued the TGTE since the idea was made public. Originally proposed by KP before his arrest, the TGTE name smacks of a govern-ment in exile with a separatist agenda, something its founders insist is not the case. “The word ‘government’ was chosen to convey a sense of authority; we wanted it to be more than just a political or cultural organisa-tion”, said an executive committee member. A Janu-ary 2010 report published by its advisory committee states the TGTE “will be formed very much like a transnational corporation or a non-governmental organisation (NGO)”. However the same document also indicates it will be “parallel to a government” and will establish “ministries or legislative committees”.

Western governments – the target audience – have already distanced themselves from the TGTE before it is even off the ground. Frustrated by the TGTE’s vacillation on separatism, one diplomat called it “just another LTTE front and just another example of LTTE double-speak”. Canadian Tamils affiliated with the TGTE privately admit that Ottawa is cool on the initiative while the U.S. government has publicly declared that it does not recognise the transnational government despite its democratic overtures.
Tamil views are more mixed. Hardline elements, which still prefer militancy to peaceful politics, disparage the TGTE for not unequivocally supporting Tamil Eelam. For example the editors of the influential online news service and LTTE mouthpiece, TamilNet, called the TGTE, “a remote controlled transnational corporation for collaboration”. Rudrakumaran, who has taken a less rigid stance on separatism, is reportedly considering resigning from the TGTE under heavy pressure from the more extreme Nediyavan faction.

Tamils at the other end of the political spectrum dismiss the endeavour as “the last gasp of the LTTE”. While many between the two extremes say they have heard of Rudrakumaran and the TGTE, none profess to understand what the TGTE is – even executive and advisory committee members expressed confusion and scepticism. Some TGTE supporters, who were hoping for a body that could articulate the immediate needs of Sri Lankan Tamils to Western governments, are also reportedly disenchanted with its 30-60 year timeline.

B. REFERENDA

Between late 2009 and early 2010 a series of privately funded referenda were held in the Tamil communities in Norway, France, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain, to gauge support for an inde-pendent Tamil Eelam. Participants were asked to support the Vaddukoddai Resolution, which called for the creation of Tamil Eelam. The resolution was originally adopted in 1976 by a coalition of Tamil political parties known as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in Sri Lanka. Thousands of Tamils indirectly supported it by voting for the coalition in Sri Lanka’s 1977 general election. Tamils across the globe, including the LTTE, have anchored their separatist agenda to the resolution ever since.

Roughly 99 per cent of votes cast in the 2009 and 2010 referenda were in favour of Tamil Eelam. To be eligible to vote Tamils had to be eighteen years or older, a native Tamil speaker born in Sri Lanka, or a spouse or descen-dant of one. Turnout was high relative to organisers’ es-timates of the population of eligible voters, though one British politician called the 65,000 British Tamil voters “disappointing” given that people were being asked merely to formalise their unquestioned attachment to Tamil Eelam. The referenda were conducted by independent elections professionals, but were organised and sponsored by pro-LTTE organisations. For example, in Canada the poll was organised by the Coalition for Tamil Elections Canada, which claims Velupillai Thangavelu as a leading member. Thangavelu is the former vice president of the World Tamil Movement, which was shut down by Ottawa in 2008 for financing the LTTE.

Along with the TGTE, the referenda are the most signifi-cant political development in the diaspora since the LTTE’s defeat. The results underscore the vast support for an independent state in the diaspora and the fact that the polls were held when the LTTE’s grip on Tamils was at its weakest since the start of the war adds greater le-gitimacy to them. The polls indicate that, at least in the short term, pro-LTTE elements in the diaspora will use non-violent politics to continue the struggle for Tamil Eelam. The polls were expensive, which means the di-aspora still has the ability to raise funds for the separa-tist cause even without the LTTE. And the relatively high turnout reiterates the diaspora’s enduring ability to mobilise, as well as its resilience in face of the Tigers’ humiliating defeat.

However, the referenda could put Tamil communities on a collision course with their governments. The polls risk creating false expectations within the diaspora for posi-tive international action on an independent Tamil state at a time when there is no support for one, especially within the UN Security Council. There is a risk that rather than facing this harsh reality, Tamils could head back down a path of supporting violent separatism. To pre-vent this, Western governments have to be clear with their Tamil populations as to why they do not support a sepa-rate state. Politicians, particularly those with Tamil constituencies, have to acknowledge that uncritical support of the diaspora’s politics in return for votes only lends false hope to separatists. Just as important though, the larger international community has to pressure Colombo to take immediate steps to address the political and eco-nomic marginalisation and insecurity faced by Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka.

C. GLOBAL TAMIL FORUM (GTF)

The GTF is billed by its founding members as a major new effort by the diaspora to advocate on behalf of Tamils in Sri Lanka. It is a conglomerate of elite personality-driven pro-LTTE organisations from fourteen countries that all claim to speak on behalf their respective Tamil populations. The GTF aims to be a quasi-advocacy and humanitarian organisation based in London. It is a markedly less ambitious effort than the TGTE, but equally equivocates on separatism in public. GTF personalities say the organisation will focus Western government attention on the immediate humanitarian concerns of Tamils in Sri Lanka, such as closure of the internment camps, rather than get bogged down in larger political questions. However, hardliners in the GTF, such as the British Tamil Forum (BTF), have reportedly forced out the GTF president, Dr Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam, for moderating his stance on separatism.

Months after its formation in July 2009, the GTF has yet to announce its board members or establish an office. According to GTF supporters, infighting over procedural and membership rules stalled progress. One said, “The BTF nearly upended the whole thing by acting against the democratic spirit of the forum. Some members wanted looser membership rules while the BTF wanted tighter ones. The BTF was afraid of losing power”. As a result of the delays another said, “The GTF has missed a lot of opportunities to help Tamils. A lot of Tamils still do not know what the GTF is”. Although disorganised, the GTF’s strength is the support it has among well-heeled diaspora Tamils, many of whom genuinely want to help Tamils on the island. If the political situation improves, their wealth and professional skills could be important resources for the island’s reconstruction.

D. DOCUMENTING WAR CRIMES AND “GENOCIDE”

Diaspora groups aligned with the TGTE and GTF are col-lecting evidence on alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by the Sri Lankan government and military officials during the war. These efforts are largely political and “appear to be more concerned with reinforcing feel-ings of victimisation within the diaspora than seeing justice served”. For example, Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a U.S.-based NGO, reportedly raised over $500,000 to retain Bruce Fein, a former U.S. Associate Deputy Attorney General, to compile a report charging the Sri Lankan defence secretary and U.S. citizen, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and former army chief and U.S. permanent resident, Sarath Fonseka, with genocide, war crimes and torture. The report, which TAG submitted to the U.S. Justice Department, aimed to initiate a grand jury inves-tigation focused on documenting the alleged crimes of Sri Lankan officials while ignoring evidence of LTTE abuses. The overt political bias of TAG’s project has undermined its credibility rather than promoted account-ability. A U.S. official familiar with the report said, “That [political bias] makes it [TAG] hard to take seriously”.

In a separate initiative, organised with the support of TAG and other Tamil activists, the “People’s Permanent Tri-bunal” held two days of hearings on Sri Lanka in Dublin, Ireland in January 2010. Drawing on a wide range of pub-licly available evidence as well as in-camera evidence from alleged victims and eyewitnesses, the tribunal found that “the Sri Lankan Government and its military are guilty of War Crimes ... [and] crimes against humanity. The credibility of the quasi-judicial process was undermined by the absence of any attention to vio-lations committed by the LTTE and the lack of input from representatives or advocates of the Sri Lankan government and military.

E. ELECTORAL POLITICS

Even while the LTTE was active, pro-Tiger elements in the diaspora focused on working within the system in the West by getting Tamils elected to office and using elec-toral clout and money to influence policymakers. Tamil communities, particularly the large ones around Toronto and London, recognised early on the political power of their numbers. For the past several years, organisations like the BTF and Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) have organised Tamil votes for parliamentary candidates sym-pathetic to their cause. A Canadian MP explained that, “Dense concentrations of Tamils in Toronto area con-stituencies make it almost impossible for politicians seeking election to ignore Tamil issues”. A London MP said that the organisational skills of the Tamil com-munity enable it to wield influence beyond its size, oc-casionally determining the outcome of elections.

Tamils are also seeking public office themselves. Several have already been elected to a variety of local government bodies in Canada, Norway and France. In 2007 Lathan Suntheralingam, who sought asylum in Switzerland ten years earlier, was elected to the Lucerne Cantonal par-liament. But, as of yet, no Tamil of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the national legislature of any Western country. However a British MP believes, “It is only a matter of time before Tamils have their own MP. They are organised and represented at the local levels, which will ultimately translate into Tamil representation at higher levels”.

There is a good chance that could happen soon. Although she failed to win a seat, Janani Jananayagam, who ran in the June 2009 European Parliamentary elections, re-ceived over 50,000 votes, which was more than the com-bined vote for all other independent candidates in the UK. Jananayagam, a banker and spokesperson for TAG, ran in London where thousands of Tamils saw her as a vote for Tamil Eelam. Sen Kandiah, a senior member of the pro-Tiger BTF, could be the first diaspora Tamil elected to a national legislature. Kandiah, a British Labour party member, is considering a run for parliament in the 2010 general election. He is also the head of Tamils for Labour, a fundraiser for the Labour party, which, according to an MP, lobbied the party to lift the UK’s ban on the LTTE.
F. BOYCOTTS

In January 2008, the BTF announced a boycott on the government-owned Sri Lankan Airlines and Sri Lankan products exported to the West after President Rajapaksa withdrew from the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire between the government and the LTTE. The BTF claimed that British Tamils spent approximately $19 million a year flying Sri Lankan Airlines and roughly $160 million on groceries, garments and other items imported from Sri Lanka.

In 2009, the Say No to Sri Lanka campaign was launched to refocus the BTF’s boycott on the internment camps. Organised by young Tamils affiliated with the CTC and its American counterpart, the United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC), the campaign targets Sri Lanka’s lucrative garment industry by urging consumers to boycott clothing with a “Made in Sri Lanka” tag. A second campaign targeted at U.S. consumers, “No Blood for Panties”, was launched by Boycott Sri Lanka, a group of American Tamils. No Blood for Panties attempts to raise public awareness about human rights abuses against Tamils in Sri Lanka through a series of sexually provocative internet adds linking female undergarments to the island’s militarisation and the government’s treatment of minorities. Although the boy boycott movement has garnered support from public officials, like a British MP, organisers report that it is having only limited success.

V. CAN THE DIASPORA MOVE FORWARD?

A. DIVERGENT VISIONS

Very few of the efforts of those in the diaspora who wish to carry forward the LTTE’s fight have registered with Tamils in Sri Lanka, exposing the gap between Tamils overseas and those on the island. While in principle many Tamils in Sri Lanka support a separate Tamil state, very few – if any – are currently prepared to fight and die for it. Most appear to be pragmatic and willing to accommodate Sinhala interests so long as their lives, culture and lands can be guaranteed. As one Tamil politician said, “Forget Tamil Eelam. We just want some autonomy and self-governance so we can move on and have a life”.

Diaspora leaders who remain deeply committed to Tamil Eelam have criticised Tamils on the island who express such views as too weak to stand up for their rights or as traitors to the liberation struggle. Some argue that since “within Sri Lanka, Tamils can’t articulate their views freely, but outside Sri Lanka they can”, it falls on the diaspora to speak in their place. To which a young Tamil activist in Jaffna replies, “Let these people come tell the Vanni IDPs that they are speaking on their behalf for a separate state. They will be physically as-saulted for sure”.

Sri Lanka’s presidential election on 26 January 2010 gave the clearest example of the emerging dissonance between diaspora and island Tamils. Too weak to put up their own contender, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the most important Tamil political party, was forced to choose between Mahinda Rajapaksa, the head of the government that ordered attacks which killed thousands of Tamil civilians, and Sarath Fonseka, the head of the army that carried them out. While diaspora organisations clamoured for a boycott on ethical and political grounds, the TNA did its best to take advantage of the small political space that briefly emerged thanks to the contest between the candidates. In eventually backing Fonseka, the TNA’s decision reflected a strong desire among Tamil leaders to avoid repeating a 2005 mistake when, under pressure from the LTTE and the diaspora, most Tamils in the north and east boycotted the polls, helping propel Rajapaksa into the presidency.

The TNA’s break with the diaspora drew fire from overseas groups such as the GTF. It has also sparked fears that Tiger activists abroad may seek to undermine Tamil politicians willing to settle for autonomy in the north and east rather than a separate state, perhaps by financing rival political parties. TNA leader R. Sampanthan addressed diaspora criticisms when campaigning in Jaffna: “the diaspora can suggest things to us. We will consult with them. But they cannot make decisions on their own and enforce it on people here. That is unacceptable”. Ac-cording to an American Tamil activist, the diaspora’s “boycott calls and its willingness to ditch Tamils who disagree on strategy show how out of touch we are with Tamil politics and how the hardliners among us are winning out”. He said, “It is clear that Tamil Eelam is off the table and that Tamils in Sri Lanka just want to get on with their lives; for them it is the politics of survival now. As long as we remain inflexible to reality by continuing talk about a separate state we undermine the chances of Tamil politicians securing anything positive for people in the country”.

Sri Lankan Tamils largely ignored the diaspora’s boycott calls and voted in large margins for Fonseka, as did most Muslims in the east. While turnout was low, it was not as low as the published figures imply given that many Tamils on official voter lists no longer live in the country. Furthermore, the low turnout was not significant enough to amount to a de facto boycott, as some diaspora Tamils have suggested; many who wished to vote were unable to do so. Tamil and Muslim parties and districts that backed Fonseka fear they could be punished for voting against the president, further narrowing space for political reconciliation and reforms – even those far short of a separate state. The arrest of Fonseka on 9 February 2010 for conspiring against the government while still commander of the army is only the most spectacular of a broader clampdown by the Rajapaksa administration on those who challenged its power during the election campaign.

B. THE POLITICS OF DENIAL

The loss of the LTTE has left much of the diaspora in a state of shock and denial. Large numbers continue to deny that the LTTE’s chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is dead and dismiss images of his corpse as propaganda. Among those who accept that the Tigers are finished, few are willing to hold them responsible for the near collapse of Tamil society. Despite evidence to the contrary, Tamils throughout the diaspora also deny that the LTTE forcibly recruited children, carried out political assassinations or were responsible for scores of civilian deaths. Many dismiss evidence of these war crimes as propaganda or justify them by citing the government’s brutal counter-insurgency tactics. Tiger tactics, particularly suicide bombings, are defended as “weapons of the weak” – despite the LTTE’s arsenal being the envy of any number of small states.

Many Tamils also refuse to acknowledge that the terrorist label, which numerous governments attached to the LTTE, was a direct result of its wartime tactics. Instead, the bans are generally seen as a consequence of Sinhala propaganda and the international community’s capitulation to Sri Lankan government pressure. An influential pro-Tiger activist in the U.S. believes that Washington’s ban on the LTTE “had nothing to do with the Tigers’ methods. They were banned because the State Department was being labelled anti-Muslim so they wanted to balance out all the Islamic terrorist groups on the [FTO] list with a non-Muslim one”. Some even blame New Delhi and Washington, the first to ban the LTTE, for strong-arming the EU and Canada to follow suit. However, as a U.S. counter-terrorism official said, “Countries do not do something like proscribe an organisation as a terrorist entity as a favour to another government. They do it because it is in their national security interests”.

Perpetuating the diaspora’ state of denial are influential media outlets like the hardline TamilNet, which espouse the LTTE’s separatist agenda while ignoring its glaring failure. Diaspora Tamils worldwide rely on TamilNet for news and information about developments on the island – albeit from a Tiger perspective. However, some pro-LTTE Tamils abroad complain that the website has become a “source for Tamil Eelam propaganda rather than news”. TamilNet’s editors also routinely take at aim at Tamil and non-Tamil activists, NGOs and politicians promoting moderation in Sri Lanka’s politics.

Privately funded radio and television stations broadcasting in Tamil, such as Canada Multicultural Radio (CMR) and Tamil Vision International (TVi) reach thousands of people, but also isolate the diaspora from the realities of Sri Lanka’s politics through biased programming. For example, in the run-up to December’s referendum, both CMR and TVi urged Tamils to vote in favour of a sepa-rate state without any discussion about the implications for their counterparts on the island. According to Tamil activists in Toronto, the failure of both CMR and TVi to offer their listeners and viewers a broader range of opinions only “promotes very narrow political ideas in the name of multicultural activities, cornering the [Tamil] community into ghetto politics”.

Years of uncritical support for the LTTE have reinforced perceptions that the diaspora was more concerned with the future of the Tigers than the fate of the Tamils – particularly in the final months of the war when it was clear that the Tigers were defeated, and yet their refusal to surrender caused immense human suffering. Silence on the LTTE’s contribution to the terrible cost of the conflict led many people normally sympathetic to Tamil grievances to dismiss the diaspora as extremist, and in some cases fuelled a spiteful – and false – stereotype encour-aged by Sinhalese extremists that all Tamils are terrorists. However, a Tamil activist said diaspora leaders acknowl-edged these issues are a problem. He said, “We are caught between a rock and hard place. The Tigers have become an integral part of our culture. To deny the LTTE would be to deny our history. It is something we cannot do. But if we remain uncritical, we look callous and out of touch. This is the dilemma we are working through now”.

C. WEAK LEADERSHIP

The LTTE’s authority has weakened but its psychological hold remains strong, preventing diaspora leaders from breaking with its legacy. The international community’s inability to prevent the shelling of civilians during the war reinforced the belief that the LTTE is the only organisation willing to defend Tamils. Their fight to the death has also cemented their image as martyrs and heroes among many in the diaspora. According to a Sri Lankan journalist, “At this stage it would be political suicide for any aspiring Tamil leader to challenge the mantle of the LTTE as the defender of the Tamil people”. Religion is also an obstacle. “The LTTE inserted itself in our culture and blurred the lines between what is Tamil, Tiger and Hindu”, said an academic. Repudiating diating Prabhakaran could be misconstrued as disrespecting the dead.

Leaders are unwilling to repudiate the LTTE for the time being, in part because they believe that doing so would lose them the diaspora’s support. Leaders “must demonstrate a continuity with Prabhakaran and the LTTE. That is the only way to get people and their money on their side”. This could be why leaders like TGTE head Rudrakumaran have been reiterating their rebel credentials. For example, despite the U.S. ban on Tigers, he addressed a Heroes’ Day event in New York in November while standing behind a podium draped in the LTTE flag. He-roes’ Day events were traditionally big fundraisers for the LTTE. However, this should not by itself cause concern, according a Western diplomat:

Realistically, LTTE leaders like Rudrakumaran may be the only ones with the credibility to move the organisation away from its past. As long as their non-violence and overtures to democracy are sincere, and their fundraising and other dealings are above board, they should be given a chance to succeed.

To do this, leaders will have to demonstrate that they can improve the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka. A pro-LTTE activist said, “The only way a leader can make a clean break with the Tigers is if they practically deliver more for the Tamils than Prabhakaran and the LTTE did … as long as they deliver, no one will care if they criticise them”. Diaspora Tamils say they will need the inter-national community’s support for this to happen. This means that Western governments and their major oppo-sition parties will have to be clear with their Tamil populations that they do not support the LTTE’s separatism. At the same time, they need to do more to aid Tamils in Sri Lanka and push Colombo to address the causes of the LTTE’s rise.

A Tamil leader in Toronto said, Right now [diaspora] leaders are doing exactly what the LTTE did; they are building false expectations, like telling us that governments are supporting the TGTE when they do not. If [Western governments] tell us what they want and help us get that message out in the community, it will empower leaders to steer us away from repeating the mistakes of the past. If they do not then we are all set up for more failure.
Some Tamil activists, however, doubt there is a quick solution to the leadership dilemma. A generation of conflict and the near collapse of Tamil society have resulted in a dearth of capable political leaders, which, in their view, could keep the society weak, divided and prone to conflict. One said, “The biggest problem we face as a community is not the legacy of the Tigers, but that our leaders are too weak to confront it”. Tamils from the younger generation born in the West are concerned that the current leadership of diaspora organisations, such as the TGTE and the GTF, “do not have the vision, charisma or understanding of global politics to lead us in the direction we need to go”.

D. YOUNGER GENERATIONS

The younger generation could play a role in filling the leadership vacuum. Raised and educated in the West and armed with advanced university degrees, many young Tamils have become increasingly active in diaspora politics and are seen by TGTE and GTF leaders as one of the diaspora’s most precious resources. While many younger Tamils share a similar political outlook with their parents, particularly their support for a separate state, they have a better understanding of the political process. For example, organisations like People for Equality And Relief in Lanka (PEARL), comprised of American students from elite universities, have been trying since 2005 to influence U.S. policymakers by using professional advocacy techniques rather than the bullying tactics of other Tamil groups.

Political activity by younger diaspora Tamils is often a consequence of their visits to Sri Lanka during the cease-fire where they saw firsthand how relatives had suffered through years of war, as well as the impressive admin-istrative structures of the LTTE’s de facto state in the Northern Province. For others, the brutality of the final months of the war stirred them into action. Diaspora youth were the driving force behind demonstrations and cam-paigns to persuade the international community to broker a ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army in early 2009. Some students even dropped out of school to campaign full time. Younger Tamils continue to lead diaspora efforts, such as pressing for closure of the internment camps and the right for Tamils to return to their land. According to a GTF leader, “The younger leaders are becoming increasingly influential and even setting the agenda for the movement”.

However, there is a growing divide within the younger generation. While some want the diaspora to move away from the Tigers, others see militancy as the only way forward. In the closing months of the war, many young Western Tamils believed that if they played by the rules of their democracies, the West would ultimately broker a settlement between the LTTE and the government, saving thousands of lives. That this did not happen was a demoralising lesson in democracy for young, first-time protesters. As a result, a number of Tamils lost faith in the West and the democratic process ever delivering anything for Tamils. A young Tamil activist in Toronto explained that many “have lost trust in their government and no longer feel primarily Canadian”. He said that, “There’s fear in the community of where this will lead”.

E. RADICALISATION

While some leaders attempt to steer the diaspora towards nonviolent politics, others have drifted to the opposite extreme. During the early years of the conflict, Tamil political activity in the West was fairly inconspicuous and mostly limited to low-key engagement with public offi cials. When protests did occur, they were almost always peaceful and their organisers went to great lengths to ensure they respected local laws.

However, much of this changed in 2009 during the closing months of the war. As the situation for Tamils in the Vanni – and for the LTTE – become more dire, diaspora organisations and individuals mobilised in numbers not seen since the beginning of the conflict. Protests took on more radical – and sometimes illegal – forms, which were, as a Canadian Tamil put it, “signals of the frustration and helplessness that many felt about what was happening to our people”.

For example, the Mercy Mission to the Vanni, a ship en route to Vanni that was privately funded and stocked with humanitarian supplies donated by the diaspora, under-scored the new risks some were willing to take. One Tamil affiliated with the Mercy Mission said, “They indeed took a huge risk … had the boat made it to Vanni before the war ended, it would have sailed right into an active war zone and could have been mistaken by the [Sri Lankan] navy for a LTTE ship”.

Others pushed the bounds of civil disobedience closer to home by displaying a newfound willingness to disobey police orders. In May, thousands of protesters blocked a busy Toronto highway putting both motorists and them-selves at risk. According to one of the organisers, in the days before the demonstration, Tamil radio broadcasts encouraged parents to bring their children on the highway. Some were even placed among the front lines of the protesters to face oncoming traffic. “The [radio broad-casts] were telling the community that if they brought their kids they were less likely to be arrested”. Dem-onstrators in Canada and Europe were also arrested for altercations with police officers. A Swiss government official expressing surprise said, “This is really a new thing here [in Switzerland]. Tamils rarely have problems with the police”.

More extreme forms of protest included:

Hunger strikes. Between January and May 2009, a number of young Tamil students in India, Europe and the U.S. held public fasts to call attention to the situation in Sri Lanka. None of the protesters starved to death but several in India were arrested and forcibly hospitalised after seven days.

In February 2009, the U.S. organisation PEARL waged its “Starving for Peace” campaign, a nineteenday hunger strike by eight Tamil activists, including a seventeenyear-old secondary school student. In May, 28-year-old Prarameswaran Subramaniam, who apparently fled Sri Lanka for the UK several months earlier, broke his fast after 24 days in front of the House of Commons.

Self-immolation. At least seven Tamils burned them-selves alive in protests between January and May 2009. Most self-immolations occurred in Asia, five in India and one in Malaysia. But on 12 February 2009, a 26-year-old Britain-based Tamil named Murugathasan Varnaku-lasingham, a computing graduate and part-time grocery store employee, doused himself in petrol and set his body on fire outside the United Nations offices in Geneva. The note left by Varnakulasingham explaining why he had chosen to die clearly blamed the international community:

We Tamils displaced all over the world, loudly raised our problems and asked for help before [the] inter-national community in your own language for three decades. But nothing happened ... So I decided to sacrifice my life.... The flames over my body will be a torch to guide you through the liberation path.

Several days later, another UK-based Tamil allegedly tried to set himself alight outside the prime minister’s residence, but was arrested before he could do so.

Violent attacks. Police in various countries suspect that Sri Lanka’s conflict prompted several instances of vandalism and arson last year. In April 2009, Tamil pro-testers broke into the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo, smashing windows and destroying office equipment. Tamil protesters also vandalised the Indian High Commission in London. In May, suspected LTTE supporters vandalised the Sri Lankan embassy in The Hague, as well as the Chinese embassy in London.

The same month, five Tamil men forced their way into the home of two Sinhalese students in Sydney. The intruders vandalised the house and doused the students in acid. One was also stabbed in the abdomen and the other was burnt so badly that he slipped into a coma. The attack followed a fight the day before between members of Sydney’s Tamil and Sinhalese communities. The fight allegedly started when a Sinhalese man vandalised a LTTE flag attached to a Tamil’s car.

In November, a fire damaged a Buddhist temple used by Toronto’s Sinhalese community for the second time in six months. In both cases police classified the fires as arson and are examining whether they were connected to Tamil nationalists. The November attack coincided with Heroes’ Day. Suspected LTTE sympathisers are believed to be behind the attacks on Buddhist temples in London and Paris as well.

Still, almost all of the diaspora’s radical actions took place in the final brutal months of the war, when Tamils out-side Sri Lanka watched thousands of their fellow Tamils being killed and were desperately searching for ways to pressure governments and the UN to end the slaughter and save the LTTE. While it is clear that many Western Tamils still hold tightly to the LTTE line, there is little to suggest that it will translate into terrorism. Some, however, point to the cases in which Tamil youth are suspected of attacking Buddhist temples in Canada and Europe as worrying signs of radicalisation. Tamil community lead-ers in Toronto and London as well as law enforcement officials say they are keeping a close eye on this issue but, as a Tamil Canadian journalist said, “The size of the Tamil communities in Toronto and London is so big that it is hard to know what is going on at all times”.

F. RADICALISATION IN INDIAN TAMIL COMMUNITIES

There were also signs that the war may have radicalised the politics of the Indian Tamil communities.

India. The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is home to roughly 60 million Tamils. While the prominence of the Sri Lanka Tamil struggle has ebbed and flowed in the state’s politics, it has always been a sensitive issue. Among the state’s political parties and the public there has been consistent support for Tamil Eelam – if not for the LTTE.

For example, a survey in August 2008 by the influential Tamil Nadu weekly Ananda Vikatan found that over 55 per cent of Indian Tamils in the state supported a sepa-rate Tamil state, while nearly 35 per cent supported a federal system in Sri Lanka.

For decades, Indian Tamils have demonstrated and been arrested in support of their Sri Lankan counterparts. How-ever, there were signs of radicalisation among a section of the Tamil Nadu population in response to the war, most notably a spate of self-immolations mentioned earlier. In May 2009, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had to cancel election rallies in Chennai, the state capital, due to demonstrations against New Delhi’s support for Colombo. In November, in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu’s second city, police arrested more than twenty Tamil activists carrying photographs and banners of the slain LTTE chief Prabhakaran and demonstrating in favour of a separate state.

Malaysia. Malaysia’s Tamil community has come to identify with the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle in recent years. Pro-Malay policies of successive governments and the strong influence of the Chinese in the economy have meant that Tamils have lost out economically, fuel-ling a strong sense of discrimination. Politically, the community has been weakened by the government’s ban on the country’s largest Tamil rights organisation. Ac-cording to an academic, “Tamils here felt left out, mar-ginalised and exploited. They saw another group of Tamils in Sri Lanka suffering something similar and automati-cally began to identify with them”.

The Tamil community’s perception that the Malaysian state is purposefully marginalising them has led many, particularly youth, to view the LTTE and Prabhakaran as symbols of resistance. Some youth have privately voiced a desire to have an organisation like the Tigers in Malaysia. However, Malaysian Tamils are quick to point out that they do not support the LTTE’s militancy, but wish to emulate its commitment to Tamil rights. As one man said with a hint of warning, “Unlike the Tamils in Sri Lanka, we are not being persecuted, only denied. Our struggle does not require violence at this stage”.

VI. CONCLUSION

Without major shifts in their political strategies, Tamil diaspora organisations are unlikely to play a positive role in post-war Sri Lanka or effectively promote the interests of Tamils and Tamil speakers in Sri Lanka. Most Tamils abroad still believe an independent state is possible and many are even clinging to the belief that the Tiger lead-ership is still alive. While pro-LTTE elements in the diaspora have reluctantly accepted that armed struggle has failed, many would still prefer the Tigers to be fighting for Tamil Eelam and would be willing to fund a resur-gent LTTE. New diaspora initiatives attempt to carry forward the struggle for an independent state in more transparent and democratic ways, but they are still pur-suing the LTTE’s agenda, just without its guns. Even these activities are out of step with the wishes and needs of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Recent diaspora activities are unlikely to gain traction among publics and governments of their adopted coun-tries unless they make a break with the policies of the LTTE. For many governments a simple rejection of vio-lence by diaspora groups is a “welcome first step”, as an Indian diplomat said, but insufficient for them to wholeheartedly back diaspora efforts. In order for that to happen, not only would leading diaspora individuals and organisations have to reject violence as well as the separatist and illiberal politics of the LTTE, but also rec-ognise the damage that the LTTE did to all communities in Sri Lanka and to the Tamil struggle for rights. A senior European diplomat said, “If [diaspora] efforts at organ-ising the transnational government, like GTF and others are truly designed to leave the LTTE behind in order to build consensus among diaspora groups to engage with the Sri Lankan government and the international com-munity, then indeed they would be significant, welcome and deserving of support”.

Many Tamil diaspora organisations, however, are embracing the LTTE’s separatism rather than breaking with it. This will further erode their credibility and perpetuate their self-isolation, limiting their ability to help Tamils in Sri Lanka. It will also give host governments an excuse to ignore legitimate Tamil grievances on the island, as well as reduce pressure on the Rajapaksa administration to undertake reforms necessary to improve the political and socio-economic conditions of all Sri Lankans.

While it is the democratic right of Tamils to non-violently espouse separatism, Tamil Eelam faces overwhelming domestic and international opposition. With the Sri Lankan government assuming Tamils abroad remain committed to violent means, the diaspora’s continued calls for a separate state feed the fears of the Rajapaksa admini-stration and provide excuses for maintaining destructive anti-terrorism and emergency laws. Such calls could lead to more bloodshed and risk perpetuating the severe un-derdevelopment of Sri Lankan Tamil society. Rather than remain wedded to the LTTE’s failed separatist agenda, diaspora efforts should focus instead on the promotion of other, more realistic forms of political accommodation for Tamils on the island.

While the LTTE is unlikely to regroup in the diaspora, governments concerned with Sri Lanka need to remain vigilant against any re-emergence of the Tigers as a militant force and to other potential forms of radicalisation and violence within the diaspora. Governments with sizeable Tamil populations need to be clear with their Tamil citizens that a separate state is neither feasible nor desirable. They should do their best to support moderate, non-separatist, voices within the diaspora, including by pressing the Sri Lankan government to address their grievances in good faith, while realising the diaspora as a whole is unlikely to help much in the quest for a sustainable and just peace in Sri Lanka. This does not mean the diaspora is irrelevant to post-war Sri Lanka, but its importance is likely to remain a negative force backing separatism.

There is little hope of limiting these effects and encouraging positive political changes within the diaspora with-out the international community pressing Colombo much more strongly for reforms that will empower democratic Tamil and minority political forces within Sri Lanka. To this end, donors should insist that money given to Colombo to redevelop the north and east is tied closely to the de-militarisation and democratisation of the region, including a meaningful process of consultation with Tamils and Muslims whose families have lived in those areas for generations. Donor governments and the United Nations must also insist on an independent investigation into the thousands of Tamil civilians killed in the final months of fighting in 2009, as well as press for an end to the government’s routine disregard for its own constitution and the rule of law. Failure to address the institutional-ised impunity by which agents of the state violate the rights of all Sri Lankans increases the risk of an eventual return to violent conflict.

Ultimately, however, it will be up to President Rajapaksa and the next parliament to reinforce the island’s fragile peace. The violent crackdown on independent media and political opposition that has followed Rajapaksa’s 26 January re-election bodes ill for a sustainable and just peace. Continued reliance on anti-terrorism laws and special powers granted under the state of emergency to control dissent and political opposition increases the risk of future militancy. The only way to reach a lasting peace is for the government to address the longstanding sense of marginalisation, disrespect and insecurity that gave rise to the LTTE and other militant groups in the first place, while reforming the state to better respect the democratic rights of all its citizens. Tamils in Sri Lanka currently have little appetite for a return to armed struggle. But should the Sri Lankan state continue to fail to respond to their collective aspirations, some may eventually seek a solution through violence, even in the face of severe repression. Should that happen, they could find willing partners in the diaspora.

International Crisis Group
Colombo/Brussels, 23 February 2010

Click here for MS Word Report with full footnotes

February 22, 2010

Asst. Sec. Robert Blake urges 'national reconciliation and power sharing-particularly with the north'

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
February 22, 2010
~ Interview With BBC World News ~

BBC: What is the American view of what is taking place in Sri Lanka? Live now to the U.S. State Department in Washington, and Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Assistant Secretary, thanks very much for joining us here on BBC World News. What is your reading of what is underway now in Sri Lanka? Do you accept that General Fonseka is experiencing a due and proper legal process?

Assistant Secretary Blake: So far I think it has been less than we might have hoped for, but we’ve certainly encouraged the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that he is charged promptly, as you said, and that everything is handled in accordance with Sri Lankan law as they move forward.

BBC: Do you think you have democracy or they have democracy in Sri Lanka which is acceptable under international norms?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I think they do have a democracy, and certainly they have a very proud democratic tradition. One aspect of democracy, of course, is respect for human rights. Again, I think there can be, there needs to be improvements in that area. We’ve spoken particularly about the importance of greater respect for freedom of the media and freedom of the press.

BBC: What though is the position particularly after what’s happened to General Fonseka, Retired General Fonseka now? The fact that he was dragged from his office, watched by supporters, and is now being held in a naval detention facility. Do you accept that as a legitimate part of a democratic and legal process?

Assistant Secretary Blake: We haven’t yet seen what the charges are, so I really can’t comment on that. Again, we’ve encouraged the government to make public as quickly as possible what those charges are. But I think that Sri Lankans themselves have spoken about the manner in which General Fonseka was arrested. Several monks, for example, several Buddhist monks have noted that this was handled in a very unprofessional and undignified way.

BBC: It is now eight months since the end of the war with the Tamil Tigers. They were defeated. What’s your view on the respect now being shown for the Tamil minority?

Assistant Secretary Blake: In our view I think one of the highest priorities now is first, to complete the resettlement of the internally displaced people. About 180,000 have been sent back from the camps, but approximately 100,000 still remain. So I think it’s important for them to be allowed to return to their homes and villages in the north as quickly as possible.

Secondly, I think it’s important for the government to pursue as quickly as possible this process of national reconciliation and power sharing, particularly with the north. Then as part of that national reconciliation process, to begin a process of accountability for many of the human rights abuses that may have occurred during that war. And third, to again talk about the larger issue of possible war crimes that may have occurred. Again, that will be an important part of the larger reconciliation piece.

BBC: Assistant Secretary while you’re joining me, and thanks for joining us live from the State Department in Washington, can I just turn your focus to the north of Sri Lanka, to India and Pakistan. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary will arrive in Delhi and have a meeting with the Indian Foreign Secretary at the Indian invitation on Thursday, the first such meeting for more than 15 months. What expectations do you have of at least the opening of this dialogue?

Assistant Secretary Blake: We welcome very much the fact that these talks are taking place. I think this is a significant breakthrough, and I really want to commend both the Indians and the Pakistanis for arranging these talks. As you say, the talks have been suspended for some time as a result of the November 2008 bombings in Mumbai, so we think this is a very valuable opportunity for both of these countries to explore the important issues on their agenda, but also to think about ways that they can begin the process of reestablishing the composite dialogue that they suspended and again, normalize relations.

As you know, a great deal of progress was made between 2004 and 2007. I think we and the Indians and the Pakistanis themselves hope that that progress can be reestablished.

BBC: Assistant Secretary, thanks very much indeed for joining us live from the Department of State in Washington D.C.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Source: US Dept. of State

Caste in modern Sri Lankan politics

by Prof. Michael Roberts

In a recent intervention in the web-site www.transcurrents.com (10 Feb. 2010), Lakruwan de Silva has conjectured that caste rivalry between the Govigama and Karāva contributed in a secondary manner towards the rift between the Rajapakse clan and General Fonseka.[1]

In his broad survey of caste undercurrents in the history of the Sinhalese, he also refers to the Kara-Govi rivalry that surfaced during the contest for the “Educated Ceylonese Seat” in the Legislative Council in British times in December 1911. In serendipitous coincidence a gentleman named Nadesan recently alluded to this famous occasion when the Govigama elite of that day is said to have backed Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s candidature and helped him defeat Dr. Marcus Fernando for this coveted post.[2]

Let me begin by clarifying the background to this contest. A coalition of Ceylonese activists from the Burgher, SL Tamil and Sinhalese communities had begun to exert pressure on the British rulers from circa 1906 seeking devolution of power. The British authorities responded in miserly fashion in 1910 with the Crewe-Macullum reforms conceding a modicum of expansion in the advisory Legislative Council and introducing the electoral principle for the “Burgher Seat” and the newly-created “Educated Ceylonese Seat;” while still maintaining the existing nominated seats.

Voting rights for both these new seats were determined by property and educational qualifications so that the electorates were tiny. Within the body of 2938 who exercised their votes for the Educated Ceylonese seat, the “Ceylon Tamils” made up 36.4 per cent of the voters and Sinhalese 56.4 percent.[3]

The Karāva elite made up a significant proportion of the Sinhalese voters because of their success in both the educational and entrepreneurial paths of mobility.[4]

Therefore, they were able to field Marcus Fernando from a brilliant scholastic family that had secured twin-marriages with C. H. de Soysa’s daughters, thereby rendering the Fernandos part of the Warusahännadigē clan that commanded fabulous wealth. In this situation those Govigama activists who were Govigama-minded “did not consider themselves strong enough [to field a candidate] and took the pragmatic course of supporting … Ramanathan’s candidature.”[5]

This emphasis needs a caveat. As Kumari Jaywardena has shown, not all the Govigama rich supported Ramanathan; he was so much a conservative that they preferred the mildly liberal Fernando.[6]

This caste alignment did not emerge out of the blue. There had been a long history of Kara-Govi rivalry in diverse quarters and at various social levels from the 1860s if not earlier. Let me detail some facets without claiming that this brief review is comprehensive.

Those with the closest affiliations with the British ruling class in Ceylon in the mid-nineteenth century were the educated Burgher elite and Govigama aristocrats from the mudaliyar class in the Low-Country, especially the Obeyesekere-Bandaranaike clans. But the Warusahännadigē de Soysas had amassed such wealth and prestige by the 1860s that they snaffled the right to feast the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited the island in 1870. The first-class Govigama were so miffed that they attempted to boycott this function. [7]

However, these Govigama families enjoyed other eminences: the British invariably appointed one of their educated sons to represent the Sinhalese as Nominated Member in the Legislative Council – a post that was re-designated “Nominated Low-Country Sinhalese Member” after the Kandyan aristocracy were given a nominated seat in the 1890s.

This monopoly was quickly challenged by the ambitious Karāva. In 1894/95 they mounted a series of public meetings at the little towns of the south west quarter which presented the British with petitions supplicating the selection of James Peiris for this nomination.[8]

At the same time one witnessed electoral competition for seats in the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) between Govigama and Karāva gentlemen cultivating electorates defined by restricted property/educational qualifications. Among those who entered the CMC in the 1890s were the Jayewardene brothers, Hector and Justus on the one hand, and, on the other, C. M Fernando, younger brother of Marcus Fernando. Subject to correction I believe that one will find that Hector Jayewardene and C. M. Fernando contested each other for the post of President of the Law Students Union in the 1890s. It was Hector Jayewardene in fact – more than the Senanayakes, correcting Lakruwan de Silva – who is said to have marshalled Govigama votes in favour of Ramanathan in 1911.

All this, of course, was elite-level politics that might seem rarified folly to those attached to grass-roots advocacy. They should pause awhile. Caste jostling for status had deep roots. From the mid-nineteenth century Karāva and Salāgama personnel challenged the conventional claims to superior ritual status attached to the Govigama. These challenges were mostly in the Sinhala medium and generated a pamphlet ‘war’ at different moments in the period 1868-1911. While several were written under pseudonyms, it is known that Itihāsa (1876) was the work of the Karāva monk, Weligamē Sri Sumangala thera and that the Govigama reply in 1877 was composed by a collective that included Hikkaduvē Sri Sumangala thera and some lawyers.

The respectability of the authors did not constrain them from the use of vituperative, and even filthy, language. The vernacular-educated intelligentsia, among them the journalist, G. D. Pälis Appuhāmy, were at the centre of these writings in pamphlet and newspaper.[9]

Such contestation was not a product of the British period. Malalgoda has revealed that the questioning of Govigama hegemony and exclusiveness began in the eighteenth century in response to a royal decree in 1765 that restricted higher ordination to the city of Kandy and its chapters. Non-Govigama laity and monks combined to effect upasampadā ceremonies in the lowlands in 1772 and 1795. Then, between 1799 and 1813 five caste-specific parties went to Burma and returned with ordained monks of unquestionably authenticity.

Three of the groups were Salāgama, one Durāva and the other Karāva.[10] The preponderance of Salāgama is no accident. Their clout in the cinnamon trade in this era meant that they had both the economic means and political networks to initiate such moves.

These examples of caste rivalry – within an incomplete survey on my part – would seemingly give weight to Nadesan’s scathing criticism of one of my recent short essays on the ground that “CASTE was more important than RACE and religion” in the British period (see fn. 2). Not so. Nadesan’s bizarre misreading of my essay on “The Sinhala Mind-Set” is guilty of oversimplification[11] and subsumed by a form of either/or reasoning.

The political arena is a complex one, involving many strands and many alliances that could shift according to context. Jostling, competition and hostility between the different religious collectives on the one hand and, on the other, between ethnic communities (usually known then as “communities”) co-existed with caste competition within the Tamil and Sinhalese communities.

Within such a situation at any point of time particular sets of actors in a specific context may be directed strongly by Factor or Identity X, say the caste factor. This does not mean that Factors and/or Identities Y and Z are weak or non-existent; rather they are on hold – a metaphor from the world of air-traffic control – because deemed irrelevant to that specific context. Indeed, for a good part of the twentieth century (and the centuries before) one became Sinhala by being Govigama, Durāva or whatever, just as one became “Thamil” by being Vellālar, Karāiyar, Koviyar etc (though Pallar and Nalavar were occasionally deemed “not Thamil” in the pure sense[12]).

For a good part of the twentieth century it would have been rare for a Govigama family to seek a Vellālar spouse, so that cross-caste marriages of this type – or any type – arose as exceptions among the highly Westernised ‘decaste-ified’ elements of society, or in the urban slums and shanties or in the malaria-ridden backwoods.

The interlacing complications can be seen in the manner in which the mobilisation of caste fraternities within the Sinhala Buddhist world energised the resistance of Buddhists to the evangelical imperialism of the Christian orders in the British period. Their ‘training’ in caste polemics during the late Dutch and early British periods stood them in good stead when they had to face up to the missionary challenge on platform as well as print. Indeed, to follow Malalgoda, the presence of energetic Buddhist chapters organised on caste lines provided a multifaceted basis for Buddhist revitalisation.

Thus, in the late nineteenth century one sees Buddhist monks who had espoused the superiority of their caste working together with monks from other castes in movements directed against Christian privileges. Likewise, in the 1890s and 1900s the jostling for political position between the Fernandos and the Jayewardenes did not prevent their cooperation in the polite agitations of the Ceylon National Association – an elite political grouping that challenged notions of white superiority and the racial bar by pressing for the Ceylonisation of the Ceylon Civil Service.

In opposition to Nadesan, I note that the movement of Buddhist revival did not derive inspiration from Arumugar Navalar’s sturdy programme of Hindu revitalisation. Young & Jebanesan are firm on this point: “There is … no evidence at all of a pan-Lankan, Ceylonese … reaction to Chritianity at any time in the history of the island’s encounter with that religion.”[13]

Both movements of religious revitalisation were reactions to the denigration heaped on native “idolatry” by Christian missionaries, disparagement that was sharpened by the general circumstances of political subordination and White racism.[14]

Many people today are aware of the movement of Buddhist revival that developed from the mid-nineteenth century and are familiar with the ardent attempts of Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) on this front. It is also known that what were called the “riots of 1915” – involving assaults on the Muslims in the south western regions – erupted as a result of disputes surrounding religious processions.[15]

Similar disputes had generated a clash between Catholics and Buddhists at Kotahena in 1883.[16]

Such incidents have enticed some scholars to downplay the significance of Sinhala-Tamil competition and the collective identities which sustain such rivalry in the decades before universal franchise (1931) and/or independence (1948).[17]

The historians’ overwhelming focus on the activities of English-speaking Ceylonese elites who pressed for constitutional devolution in the vocabulary of liberalism has compounded this leaning.[18]

As a result, the force of Sinhala nationalist thinking in the six decades 1870 to 1931 has not received adequate weight in many writings.

I delineate this period because of the availability of printed material in Sinhala in newspapers, pamphlets and books; and on the foundations provided by my research work on this type of material in the period before 1915. There was a recurrent discourse among the vernacular intelligentsia that was alarmed by the degree to which Westernised lifeways were threatening Sinhala culture. The dangers were regarded as both cultural and economic. The reliance on Western imports was adversely remarked upon. The widespread adoption of a Westernised life style and the diffusion of Christianity among the Sinhala people were seen as marks of their degeneration as well as instruments which furthered this process—undermining their gunadharma (religious virtues), kulacaritra (traditional customs) and bhāshava (language).[19]

The tone of the articles, pamphlets, novels and plays which exhorted the Sinhalese varied from the didactic to the biting satire of the zealot. An index of the convictions that drove these ideologues is provided by the consistency with which they birched the Sinhalese themselves—indeed to such a degree that one can speak of self-flagellation. Perhaps the sharpest diatribes were directed against those Sinhalese who were aping the Westerner. In Piyadāsa Sirisena’s writings such Sinhalese are even rendered into a distinct ethnic category: the samkara (mixed) and/or the tuppahi (low and mixed).[20]

Indeed, the titles of Sirisena’s early novels, Apata Vecca Dē [1909] and Maha Viyavula [1916], capture this anxiety in capsule form. The Api here, in his thinking, are the truly indigenist Sinhalese of the hinterland, the people of the rata as distinct from the people of the thota. Numba ratay da? thotay da? asked the hero Jayatissa from Rosalin[21] when he fell in love at first sight [first novel in 1906]. That is, the Sinhalese of the littoral, significantly Westernised and/or Christian, are not authentic natives of the soil. They are potentially para and tuppahi. Therefore, we see here the early makings of Jātika Hela Urumaya thinking.

Diatribes were not confined to the inauthentic Sinhalese. Abuse was also heaped on the ultimate source of threat, the paradēsakkāra (low and vile foreigners). These foreigners included the British, the kocci (Malayālis), the hamba (Indian Moors), the marakkala (all Moors), the hetti (Chettiyars), the javo (Malays), the bhai (Borahs), and the para demala (low and vile Tamils).[22]

In one of Anagārika Dharmapala’s essays in 1911 there is even a polemic directed against the kocci demalā.[23]

Nor should one forget that at the same time as Dharmapala’s campaign there was a strand of Sinhala patriotism that concentrated on the purification of the Sinhala language, identified specifically as the Hela language. Munidāsa Kumarātunga (1887-1944) may have been its modern-day flag-bearer, but this emphasis had several forerunners as well as others (e.g. Jayantha Weerasekera) who bore the torch into the post-1948 era.[24]

Sinhala nationalism, in other words, had many strands and was not confined to a Sinhala Buddhist revivalist thread. Sinhala Christians participated in some currents of the nationalist awakening such as the Sinhalese National Day campaign of the 1910s. Nor were all the Westernised Ceylonese who pressed for constitutional reform by knocking at British doors, such men as D. B. Jayatilaka and D. S. Senanayake, wholly removed from nativist ideals and their associated prejudices. Though it has yet to be documented in thorough ways, there are suspicions that threads of communalist thinking resided within the Senanayake clan.

However, when Buddhist activists approached Senanayake as Prime Minister in the early 1950s to complain about undue Christian influence in high politics and the decline of Buddhism, he is said to have dismissed this contention in his pragmatic style. Such a response laid DS and his successors open to the charge of being “brown sahibs” catering to the Westernised Ceylonese. The epithet “tuppahi” (pronounced thuppahi) was part of the effective weaponry wielded against these elements of society.[25]

This line of nativist ideology coalesced in the mid-1950s with the vociferous hostility to the brown bourgeoisie presented by Leftist parties and those underprivileged. Thus, as we know full well, in 1955-56 one saw the upsurge of the underprivileged marshalled within the coalition headed by SWRD Bandaranaike’s SLFP under the umbrella MEP. The targets were the privileged English-speaking community, Christians and the UNP.[26]

This combination drew its energies from a fusion of nativist thinking and radical socialist currents. In the result it attracted the vernacular speaking petit-bourgeoisie and even Tamils disposed towards the vernacular and/or the underclass. However, the cry of Sinhala-Only privileged the Sinhala language over the Tamil and had economic implications. Therefore the political transformation by ballot in 1956 was seen by many Tamils as disadvantageous to their interests – as indeed it was. In this manner Sinhala nativism and Sinhala linguistic nationalism moved to the front reaches of power on the basis of a democratic process and numerical weight compounded by a first-past-the-post electoral scheme.

Significantly, many motifs paraded by the Sinhala activists in the 1950s echoed themes that had been raised since the late nineteenth century. There was a considerable measure of continuity both in content of political expression and the type of personnel in the intermediary layers of society who were in the forefront of agitation.[27]

I do not need to dwell upon the consequences of this moment in Sri Lanka ’s history, the “revolution of 1956” as it is sometimes referred to. The processes unleashed then, as we know full well, contributed substantially to the sharpening of the ethnic divide and the outbreak of a series of wars.

As vitally, the currents of Sinhala nationalism were sustained in subsequent decades by those generational cohorts associated with the upsurge in the 1950s and 60s as well as new generational forces. Two examples suffice. The JVP youth of 1967-71 who launched an insurrection in April 1971 were a new generation that was a product of the changes in the educational order that began in the 1940s; but in ideological terms they were both children of the “Old Left” and children of “1956.” Thus, as a “New Left” they shared ‘kinship’ with the Leftists who were part of the alliance that brought the MEP-led-by-the-SLFP to power in 1956.

The anti-Tamil strains of thinking that resided within the JVP of Stage One were muted in the second stage of this party’s history from 1977-1983 when it attempted to entice Tamil radicals to their cause through political activity directed by Lionel Bopage and others. But, after the Presidential election of 1983, Wijeweera’s nativist and chauvinist leanings surfaced in full measure so that the period 1987-90 revealed this Sinhala ideological virulence in a powerful manner.

At the same time, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed the flowering of a strand of political rhetoric identified as “Jātika Chinthanaya” (Nationalist Thought). Two individuals linked to this stream of consciousness were middle class professionals who had been associated with Leftist circles in the 1950s and 1960s and can thereby be placed directly within the 1956 generations. One was Gunadasa Amerasekera, a dentist and frontline Sinhala novelist. The other was Nalin de Silva, a mathematician and university lecturer. Both were competent in Sinhala as well as English.

Serviced by such forces, these currents of Sinhala nativist thinking – ideologies that shaded both imperceptibly and in glaring fashion into chauvinism -- emerged strongly under the aegis of the new SLFP during the presidential election of 2005. The manifesto known as “Mahinda Chintanaya” presented itself explicitly as the heir to the political triumph of 1956 at a moment when the strength of the LTTE was deemed a severe threat to the existence of state and people.

In one swoop Mahinda Rajapakse and his team stole the clothes of the JVP at the same time as they allied with the latter to win the Presidency stakes.[28] They also had the Jātika Hela Urumaya as one of their allies. Thus a revamped SLFP, JVP and JHU in 2005 represented a powerful fusion of Sinhala bhumiputra thinking.

Having vested themselves with some of the JVP garments, once in power the Rajapakse family and their SLFP were able to entice some members of the JVP into the fold -- together with umpteen others from all parties snared by pork-barrel patronage. Today, the core JVP is alienated from the Rajapakses and outside this combination, but has been severely weakened by the process. The presence of Champaka Ranawake and Upali Gammanpila in the corridors of power, however, implies that the engine room and masthead are both Sinhala populist and nativist – in short, that the governing SLFP regime is hardline bhumiputra. The horses of 1956 are riding the summits of the rata again.

*****

The caste factor may well have been relatively insignificant in the Presidential and parliamentary elections of the recent past. I have limited knowledge in this field, but I speculate that it has a bearing at the local level in the selection of parliamentary candidates and in sustaining some clusters of caste voting-blocs. I think that those who criticised Lakruwan have to attend, with provisos, to the blogger Rashan’s slashing note: “Cast [sic] is still a major factor in elections in Sri Lanka , go to Mathara Ambalangoda.”[29]

Lakruwan’s main contention, however, is that Karāva personnel figure disproportionately among the military officers who have been interjected by the government. DBS Jeyaraj’s marvellous work of investigative journalism has identified some of these men.[30] We now need their ge names (the genitives) and locality of origin so that Lakruwan’s suggestion can be evaluated in empirical terms. On a priori grounds, however, one would think there is an operational logic in such a caste clustering. IF – note the stress on the “if” in the manner Jeyaraj -- one mounts a subterranean revolutionary movement or coup plot, trust and loyalty are critical criteria in recruitment. This assemblage could be on a class basis as in the elite club-set involved in the failed officer/gentlemen coup of 1962.[31]

But such clandestine groupings could be based upon kin networks or school friendships. Where there is localised caste clustering, as in the Jaffna Peninsula and in some parts of the south, kin-affiliations and schoolmates at peer generational level are often weighted towards a caste core. The JVP leadership of the years 1967-71 seems to have contained a strong Karāva core and in such areas as Elpitiya and Kegalle clusters of youth from the more depressed Wahumpura, Batgam and Rajaka castes were prominent. However, we can probably follow KM de Silva in seeing the caste factor as “secondary to the class factor” and the centrality of a “revolutionary ideology” as motivational inspiration forthis failed uprising.[32]

When a resistance mushroom known as the Tamil Liberation Organisation assembled in 1969 its key personnel seem to have been Karaiyar from the Valvittithurai locality, namely, Thangadurai, Kuttimani, Periya (Big) Sothi and Sinna (Small) Sothi, besides young 15-year old Velupillai Pirapāharan.[33] This cluster seems to have transmuted into the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) led initially by Thangadurai (aka Nadarajah Thangavelu), and Kuttimani (aka Selvarājah Yogachandran).[34]

From the outset the LTTE seems to have been sustained by a Karaiyar caste and peer-group network;[35] while the disappearance (by death, eviction or withdrawal) of capable Vellālar seniors[36] in the years 1984-87 sustained the Karaiyar weightage within the top rungs of the LTTE in subsequent decades.[37]

To my mind, however, Lakruwan’s article is more significant for the commentary it has attracted from various quarters. These blogs indicate that there are several people of various age ranges for whom caste is irrelevant if not abhorrent. However, a few swallows do not make a summer. One must be cautious about sociological generalisations relating to subterranean and interstitial currents of activity, namely caste networks which, for instance, operate in the organisation of Buddhist pilgrim groups heading from localities to hallowed sites.

What remains on the surface and hardly subterranean, however, are the virulent thoughts expressed in response to Lakruwan. Many of the bloggers hostile to his article seem to be products of the 1956 ideology. Their hostility to the caste factor has been aroused because they read it as a threat to the unity of the Sinhalese.[38] Sinhala patriotism impels their vituperative reaction, including bile directed at Fonseka. They seek to protect the unitary state. In speaking as Sri Lankans they subsume the whole within their Sinhala sentiments. The issue of the part//whole relationship that I have underlined in my essay on “The Sinhala Mind-Set” resides below the surface … as powerfully as dangerously.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amunugama, Sarath 1997 “Ideology and Class Interest in One of Piyadasa Sirisena’s Novels: The New Image of the “Sinhala Buddhist” Nationalist,” in M. Roberts (ed.), Sri Lanka. Collective Identities Revisited, Vol I, Colombo : Marga Institute, pp. 335-53.

De Silva, K. M. 1973 “The Reform and Nationalist Movements in the Early Twentieth Century,” in History of Ceylon . Volume 3, ed. by K. M. de Silva, for the University of Ceylon Press Board , pp. 381-407.

De Silva, K. M. 1981 A History of Sri Lanka , Delhi : Oxford University Press.

De Silva, Mervyn 1967 “1956: The Cultural Revolution that shook the Left,” Ceylon Observer, Magazine Edition, 16 May 1967.

Dharmadasa, K. N. O. 1992 Language, Religion and Ethnic Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese Nationalism in Sri Lanka , Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press.

Dharmapala, Anagarika 1965 Return to Righteousness, ed. by A. Guruge, Colombo : Ministry of Education & Cultural Affairs.

Hellmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar 1992 “Arumukar Navalar: Religious Reformer or National Leader of Eelam?” Indian Economic and Social History Review 26: 235-57.

Hellmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar 1993 “The Jaffna Social System: Continuity and Change under Conditions of War,” Internationales Asien Forum 25: 251-81.

Horowitz, Donald L. 1980 Coup Theories and Officers’ Motives: Sri Lanka in Comparative Perspective, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jayawardena, Kumari 2001 Nobodies to Somebodies. The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka , New Delhi : Leftword Book.

Jiggins, Janice 1979 Caste and Family in the Politics of the Sinhalese, Cambridge University Press.

Malalgoda, Kitsiri 1973 “The Buddhist-Christian Confrontation in Ceylon ,” Social Compass 20: 171-200.

Malalgoda, Kitsiri 1976 Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900, Berkeley: Uni of California Press.

Narayan Swamy, M. R. 1994. Tigers of Sri Lanka , Delhi : Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd.

Nissan, Elizabeth & R. L. Stirrat 1990 “The Generation of Communal Identities,” in J. Spencer (ed.) Sri Lanka. History and the Roots of Conflict, London : Routledge, pp. 19-44.

Pfaffenberger, Bryan 1994 “The Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism,” in C. Manogaran & B. Pfaffenberger (eds.) The Sri Lankan Tamils, Boulder : Westview Press, pp. 143-68.

Ragavan, 2009b “Prabhakaran’s Timekeeping. Memories of a Much-mythologised Rebel

Leader by a Former LTTE Fighter,” Sunday Leader, 24 May 2009.

Roberts, Michael 1974 "Problems of Social Stratification and the Demarcation of National and Local Elites in British Ceylon ," Journal of Asian Studies, 23: 549-77.

Roberts, Michael 1973 "Elites and Elite Formation in Ceylon , c. 1830-1930" in History of Ceylon , Vol. III, pp. 263-84.

Roberts, Michael 1979 “Stimulants and Ingredients in the Awakening of Latter-day Nationalisms,” in M. Roberts (ed.) Collective Identities, Nationalisms and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka , Colombo : Marga Publications, pp. 214-42.

Roberts, Michael 1981a The 1956 Generations: After and Before, G.C. Mendis Memorial Lecture for 1981, Colombo , Evangel Press.

Roberts, Michael 1982 Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karāva Elite in Sri Lanka , 1500-1931, Cambridge University Press.

Roberts, Michael 1983 "'Our Duty to Act': Brown Sahibs in Universal Suits", South Asia , 6: 62-77.

Roberts, Michael 1989 “The Political Antecedents of the Revivalist Elite within the MEP Coalition of 1956,” in C. R. de Silva & Sirima Kiribamune (eds.) K. W. Goonewardena felicitation volume, Peradeniya University, pp. 185-220.

Roberts, Michael 1994a “The Imperialism of Silence under the British raj: Arresting the Drum,” in Roberts, Exploring Confrontation. Sri Lanka : Politics, Culture and History, Reading : Harwood Academic Publishers, chap. 7.

Roberts, Michael 1994b “Mentalities: Ideologues, Assailants, Historians and the Pogorm against the Moors in 1915,” in Roberts, Exploring Confrontation. Sri Lanka : Politics, Culture and History, Reading : Harwood Academic Publishers, chap. 8 [reprinted under different title in Roberts, Confrontations, 2009].

Roberts, Michael 1997 “For Humanity. For the Sinhalese. Dharmapala as Bosat Crusader,” Journal of Asian Studies, 56: 1006-1032.

Roberts, M., Ismeth Raheem and Percy Colin-Thome 1989 People Inbetween. Vol. 1. The Burghers and the Middle Class in the Transformations within Sri Lanka , 1790s-1960s, Colombo : Sarvodaya Book Publishing Services.

Sirisena, Piyadasa 1906 Vasanāvanta Vivāhaya hevat Jayatissa saha Rosalin, Colombo : ??, but reprinted by Gunasena & Co. in 1971.

Sirisena, Piyadasa 1954 Apate Vecca Dē, Colombo : Gunasena & Co. First edn. originally in 1909.

Sirisena, Piyadasa 1982 Maha Viyavula, 9th edn., Colombo : Gunasena & Co. First edn. originally in 1916.

Sirisena, Piyadasa 1958 Sucaritādarsaya [An Exemplary Biography] Colombo : Gunasena (?).

Somaratna, G. P. V. 1991 Kotahena Riot, 1883.. Religious Riot in Sri Lanka , Colombo : Deepanee Printers.

Young, R. F. & S. Jebanesan 1995 The Bible Trembled. The Hindu-Christian Controversies of Nineteenth-Century Ceylon , Vienna : Sammlund De Nobili Redaktion.

Young, R. F. & G. P. V. Somaratna, 1996 Vain Debates. The Buddhist-Christian Controversies of Nineteenth-Century Ceylon , Vienna : Sammlund De Nobili Redaktion.

[1] The initial representation by De Silva is as conjecture but he subsequently adds this note: “Reports suggest that [the government] deftly and subtly played the caste card within the military to deny Fonseka the military vote. The President succeeded. In the ensuing post-poll purge of the military, the Karave have disproportionately been targeted. Other Karave generals have been sacked from the armed forces. Karave Buddhist monks had been arrested. Much to my chagrin, caste may still be alive in Sinhala Buddhist society, albeit as an undercurrent.”

[2] See “comment” in www.thuppahi.wordpress.com.

[3] See Table 3 in Roberts in History of Ceylon , 1973, p. 283. Also see Jaywardena 2001: 335.

[4] See Roberts 1973 and Karāva, 1982 for illustrations of these processed of social and economic advancement

[5] Roberts, Karāva, 1982: 116.

[6] Jayawardena 2001: 336 referring to the Hewavitarnes and EG Jayawardene as examples.

[7] Some members of the Govigama aristocracy pursued this course, but those holding official position could not do so. For details, see Roberts et al, People Inbetween, 1989: 93.

[8] Roberts 1974: 561-64.

[9] For details, see Roberts, Karāva, 1982: 159-65; and for a list of pamphlets, pp. 336-40.

[10] Malalgoda 1976. Also Malalgoda 1973, Roberts 1982: 133-40, and Young & Somaratna 1996.

[11] My article was a brief Memo that did not attempt to survey the 19th and 20th centuries.

[12] “In the early 1970s some Vellalars expressly denied thatNalavrs and Pallars were Tamils” (Pfaffenberger 1994: 149).

[13] Young & Jebanesan 1995: 33.

[14] On Navalar, see Young & Jebanesan 1995 and Hellmann-Rajanayagam 1992.

[15] On the issues that provoked such clashes, see my “The Imperialism of Silence,” in Roberts 1994: chap. X and the details on the 1915 in chap. 5 [which latter is reprinted as chap 00 in my Confrontations, Colombo , 2009].

[16] Somaratna 1991.

[17] One instance being the article by Nissan & Stirrat 1990.

[18] For the constitutional agitation see K. M. De silva 1973 and 1981. Also note Jayawardena 2001.

[19] Roberts et al, People Inbetween, 1989: 10-21, 80-81.

[20] Sirisena, Apate Vecca Dē, 1954 [1909]: 9ff and Sucaricādarsaya, 1958: 126, 130.

[21] Jayatissa saha Rosalin was Sirisena’s first novel published in the year 1906. See Amunugama 1979 and Roberts et al, 1989 for fuller analysis.

[22] See “Ratē tibena ävul, apatama ve tävul” in Sinhala Jātiya, 1 June 1913. Sinhala Jātiya 30 March 1915: Sinhala Bauddhayā, 2 Jan 1915: translation of article by WDA Gunatilaka in the Sinhala Jātiya, March 1915 in Dowbiggin 1915b and Roberts et al, People Inbetween, 1989: 10-21.

[23] Kocci Demalā (Malayālam Tamil) is the title of his piece too (Sinhala Bauddhayā),14 Jan. 1910.

[24] See Dharmadasa 1992: 261-86.

[25] Roberts et al, People Inbetween, 1989.

[26] See Roberts, 1956 Generations, 1981 and “Political Antecedents,” 1989; and Mervyn de Silva 19

[27] See Roberts, 1956 Generations, 1981 and “Political Antecedents,” 1989.

[28] In effect they replicated the tactic of John Howard’s Liberal Party in the 200s when t it stole the platform of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party.

[29] A blog comment within the Lakruwan article in transcurrents.

[30] Major General Jammika Liyanage; Major General Jayanath Perera; Major General Samantha Sooriyabandara; Major General Mahesh Senanayake; Brigadier Bimal Dias; Brigadier Duminda Keppetiwalana; Brigadier Janaka Mohotti; Brigadier Athula Hennedige; Brigadier Wasantha Kumarapperuma; Lt.Colonel L.J.M.C.P. Jayasundera; Captain R.M.R. Ranaweera; Captain B. Krishantha.

[31] See Horowitz 1980 & Roberts 1983.

[32] KM de Silva 1981: 342. Also Jiggins 1979: 127-36. My comments are also informed by diluted memories of conversations with Paul Caspersz, Victor Ivan and Gamini Keerawella.

[33] Sabaratnam 2009. Varatharāja Perumal [not Karaiyar] was also a key figure.

[34] It was probably this locality-cum-Karaiyar affiliation that enabled Pirapāharan to join TELO circa 1981 when he briefly split from the LTTE after a clash with Uma Maheswaran (who was Vellalar).

[35] Hellmann-Rajanayagam’s early review of the LTTE concluded that it was “a Karaiyar-led and dominated group” (1993: 274). Besides Pirapāharan, Baby Subramanium, Seelan, Victor, Mahattayā, Thilakar, Kittu and Kumārappā were Karaiyar.

[36] for e. g., Rāgavan, Radha, Tileepan, Ponnammān, Curdles and Rahim,

[37] For e. g. KP, Castro, Soosai, Nadesan. But note that Bhanu and probably Pottu Ammān are Civiyar.

[38] Ironically, but not surprisingly, the early LTTE leaders, Rāgavan and Pirapāharan, also expressed some distaste for caste divisions and stressed the need for cross-caste unity in the Tamil struggle (Rāgavan 2009 and Narayan Swamy 1994: 69).

mp3 audio: Anoma Fonseka says her husband is held in hot, unventilated conditions

by Sonja Heydeman, ABC Asia Pacific News Centre

The wife of arrested ex-Sri Lankan army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has told Radio Australia she rejects claims her husband is living in luxury while in detention.

First 4 minutes of the above ABC Asia Pacific podcast - Feb 22, 2010

General Fonseka was detained two weeks after being defeated in the presidential election by the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse, and President Rajapakse says the former general is getting "five-star" treatment in custody.

He is being held by the military pending court-martial proceedings on as-yet unspecified charges.

Anoma Fonseka says her husband is under enormous physical pressure. She says his pre-existing health conditions are being aggravated by hot and unventilated accommodation.

The Decline and Fall of "Colonel"Karuna

Karuna Amman is a politician who had the potential to be a phoenix but got all his fortune ruined as a result of a wayward lifestyle.

KTC222VM.jpg

pic courtesy: dailymirror.lk

Today the ex- LTTE Commander of the East is chickening out of the election race and insists he should be nominated from the national list.

Not stopping at that the Kiran born had prevented his sister also from applying for nominations from Batticaloa as a mark of protest against the UPFA refusal to book him a national list slot.

In short the SLFP joint Vice President is attempting to call the shots for the SLFP leadership.

It is very unlikely that anybody will entertain his demands right now and what one hears is that he had got a dressing down from the SLFP hierarchy for this stubbornness.

Karuna, for the government, is a spent force. The dispute over nominations heralds the beginning of the end of perks and privileges he enjoyed under the Rajapaksa regime despite his betrayal of it with the London police.

And it is nobody but Karuna who should be blamed for his fate today.

While the much less exposed and informed Pillayan remained loyal to his Eastern roots Karuna forgot his community the moment he got used to urban life and got carried away with an extravagant lifestyle thereby digging his own grave.

Had he remained loyal to his people and got involved in the development work in the area, the need to runaway from polls would not have arisen.

Instead he went ahead with his excesses, including promiscuous ways, while the people in the East were working hard to put together the pieces of life after war.

With his callousness to the stock of his community Karuna proved in many ways that he does not deserve the mandate of the Tamil people whose rights he championed while he was with the LTTE.

Today he stands as the most loathed character among Eastern Tamils and most probably he too knows about this fact.

Within the government ranks the post-war value of Karuna Amman has started hitting the rock bottom since he hardly has a role to play in a post-LTTE era.

Plus the lifestyle of Karuna especially his escapades at nightclubs had brought enough humiliation to the government.

The government is also alive to the fact that there are difficulties in wooing the Eastern Tamil vote as long as it harbours Karuna.

It is most likely that the move to offer him nominations from the Batticaloa list came with the agenda of providing the former LTTE commander an honourable exit in politics.

It is after all too obvious that there’s no way of Karuna mustering enough votes among the Batticaloa people to win a seat in parliament.

He saw through the design and dodged it.

However if the UPFA is adamant in showing him the door the orders will come the sooner or later.

(This is the text of the "Daily Mirror"editorial of February 23rd 2010)

Hundreds need reconstructive orthopedic surgery

by MSF UK

Many patients who had surgery during the time of fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) that were operated on initially under emergency conditions have developed infections, particularly of the bone. The wounds, mostly caused by exploding shells and bullets, have not healed.

Infections occur frequently in war wounds

Dr. Inga Osmers, an MSF orthopedic surgeon, stops by a patient's bed and reviews the X-ray. An internal plate is clearly visible, attached to the bone beneath the skin. "We can see on the X-ray that the two bones are still far apart and we can see this little hole on the skin, which we call a fistula," the surgeon explains. "It is a sign of infection, a natural discharge channel. It is not very visible or striking, but underneath it, the infection has already done quite a bit of harm." Infections are very frequent in the case of war wounds, when a foreign body enters; here, most often, small shell fragments. The risks are even higher when there are many wounded patients at one time and not enough surgical resources to intervene quickly under optimal conditions.

Speaking to the patient, Inga says, "Here's what I can do: open the wound, clean it, remove the internal fixator and replace it with an external one to reduce the presence of foreign bodies in the wound. But that means you'd have to stay in the hospital for at least another several weeks. The other possibility is to wait and hope that the wound will heal, with the fistula allowing pus to drain out. I'll let you think about this for a while. Do you know when you have to go home?" The answer is no. Over the last few weeks, large numbers of displaced persons have been returning home. MSF patients are worried that hospitalisation will prevent them from going back. That's why the medical staff is careful not to perform lengthy treatments - except in the case of medical urgency - without talking it over with the patient first.

msftc222.jpg

Dr Ingma Osmers works with a patient in Sri Lanka. December 2009 Photo by Anne Yzebe/MSF

Clean, stabilise and treat to encourage healing

Leaning against the bed of an 18 year-old patient, Ingma explains the situation to the young woman. "We cleaned the wound by removing the infected tissues and bits of bone, and placed an external fixator on your leg to stabilise it. During the operation, we also took tissue samples for analysis. This will tell us what kind of infection you have and which antibiotics will be effective."

Wounded on April 20, this young woman had been transferred to a functioning hospital more than three days later. There, she would not agree to amputation. Five weeks later, she left the hospital with a cast and crutches. She was in constant pain, but it was bearable. The pain worsened in early November. She went to a clinic at the Menik Farm camp, where the Ministry of Health doctor referred her to the MSF hospital. She learned that the wound had not healed inside the cast and that pus was seeping out. An X-ray at the hospital revealed that the bone had not set and had become infected.

Finding patients who need surgery

In many cases, patients return home before having an operation that could ensure they would have the best possible use of their limb. "There are certainly several hundred patients who need reconstructive surgery," says Dr. Patrick Herard, an MSF consulting surgeon. "There is really no urgency. It's more a question of future quality of life than of life or death. However, they would have to agree to new operations, which will mean weeks, even months, of hospitalisation to preserve or improve the use of the wounded limb. We have experience in this kind of operation, specifically with our program in Amman, Jordan, for wounded Iraqis. MSF has developed expertise in second and third-line surgery for war wounds."

When these wounded patients return to their families and their homes, requests for this kind of surgery will probably increase. ~ courtesy: MSF UK ~

February 21, 2010

Rise of Sri Lankan President’s son Namal Rajapaksa sparks concern

by Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent, Times UK

Modesty is apparently not a strong point for Namal Rajapaksa, the 23-year-old son of the Sri Lankan President and scion of Asia’s newest political dynasty.

NRTC221.jpg

Namal Rajapaksa, a keen rugby player, graduated from City University in London last September On the web: http://www.namalrajapaksa.com/

His website says: “A future leader with a friendly spirit and possessing good values is what comes to mind when meeting the dashing and smashing young Namal Rajapaksa.”

The keen rugby player graduated from London’s City University in September with a third-class law degree. He now clearly plans to follow in the footsteps of his father, Mahinda, who was an MP at 24 and went on to defeat his former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, in a presidential election last month.

Last week, after General Fonseka’s arrest, Namal was accepted by his father’s party as a candidate in parliamentary elections on April 8, joining dozens of other relatives in government and politics. One rumour suggests that he could take over the politically powerful position of Custodian of the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine.

Namal’s meteoric rise was hailed last week in a eulogy on the official government news portal, entitled The Doctrine of Namal Rajapaksa — Activism and Positivism in Politics.

For most Sri Lankans it came as no surprise: Namal campaigned alongside his father and used an NGO that he runs to fund a lavish television advertising campaign promoting the incumbent. For many, however, his political debut, and the personality cult surrounding it, are worrying indications of the demise of South Asia’s oldest democracy.

Over the past fortnight international concern has focused on the arrest of General Fonseka — who led the army to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year — on charges of plotting a coup. Equally troubling, however, is the Rajapaksa clan’s ever-tightening grip on power — especially if the ruling coalition wins a two-thirds majority in April, allowing it to change the Constitution.

Alan Keenan, of the International Crisis Group, said that the President had had reason to surround himself with family when he came to power in 2005, as he faced many political enemies and the threat of assassination by the Tigers.

“Up to a point, it was understandable. But now it does seem to have reached an extreme level, and with real dangers,” he said. “There’s always been corruption, but businessmen in Colombo now complain it’s got to the point where you have to know a Rajapaksa to get something done. That’s unprecedented.”

Now Namal is being touted as a potential successor to his father, whose second and final term will end in 2016. Supporters say that this is no different from the Gandhis in India, the Bhuttos in Pakistan or the Kennedys and the Bushes in the US.

T.C. Rajaratnam, who wrote last week’s official eulogy, said: “His style is unique and incomparable. If Sri Lanka has to develop at a rapid pace then Namal Rajapaksa should have the controlling authority.”

Critics say that such eulogies smack of the kind of personality cult surrounding Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

Sri Lanka's ruling dynasty

Mahinda President, Minister of Finance, Media, Religious Affairs & Moral Upliftment, Highways and Road Development

Gotabaya (younger brother) Secretary of ministries of Defence, Public Security, and Law and Order

Basil (older brother) MP and senior presidential adviser on economic and international affairs

Chamal (older brother) Minister of Ports and Aviation and Minister of Irrigation and Water Management

Shashindra (Chamal’s son) MP and Chief Minister of Uva province

Jaliya Wickramasuriya (Mahinda’s first cousin) Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States

Udayanga Weeratunga (Mahinda’s first cousin) Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia

Kapila Dissanayake (Mahinda’s cousin) councillor of Southern Province and President’s co-ordinating secretary in Hambantota

courtesy: Times, UK

TNA must disavow separatist politics and accept a political solution within a unitary state

by Dayapala Thiranagama

The TNA, the remnant of old politics in the Tamil community has entered a new era. The post LTTE politics has made it possible to create conditions for a democratic culture in the North and East. But the defeat of the LTTE alone will not make it possible to create a genuine democratic culture. The Sinhalese political leadership should show its sensitivity and empathy towards a community of people who have suffered nearly three decades of the most destructive and the brutal war the country had ever seen. The IDPs are becoming almost a forgotten human tragedy. Some of them are still languishing in camps.

The most important and crucial input should come from the Sinhalese political leadership in their responsibility to offer a genuine political solution. None of the main contenders in the Presidential election did talk about any political solution in a way that would satisfy the democratic aspirations of the Tamil people. At this moment the TNA has a major role to play in democratic politics. The TNA’s endorsement of Sarath Fonseka in the Presidential election and his success in receiving a wide margin of Tamil votes than President Rajapaksa shows that the TNA’s strong influence on the Tamil vote even without negotiating a substantial package of devolution of power for the Tamil community.

However, can the TNA be trusted as a democratic party? They have not announced any new policy or explained how they are going make changes to their old politics in the aftermath of the LTTE’s military defeat. The TNA can not survive as a democratic party of the Tamils without making changes to its political ideology inherited from its association with the LTTE and its allotted role as the silent partner of violent politics.

The main thrust of this article is to discuss the political problems that the TNA poses for Tamils and themselves by not understanding or willfully disregarding the changes that they should be making in order to be available as a safer democratic alternative for the Tamil community.

The unexpected, dramatic and decisive military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 at the hands of the Sri Lankan military marked a seismic shift of the politico-military landscape of the Tamil community to the political proper by opening a new era of democratic space in the North and East. Throughout its existence, the LTTE acted as if the historical burden of the Tamil’s national future had rested on their shoulders, a self professed moral responsibility that required them to make others subservient to their political ideology by coercion and political violence. The TNA (Tamil National Alliance) became their proxy.

The LTTE military defeat has changed the whole scenario and the huge political vacuum left by them has not been filled by the TNA or the ex –militant groups (EPDP, EPRLF, PLOTE and TMVP) who work with the Sri Lankan government. The TNA appears to be the most favourite candidate to fill this vacuum because of their political base in Tamil nationalism but they are unable to do so without demonstrating how they have come out of the violent and totalitarian cohabitation with the LTTE.

Neither pro -government and ex- paramilitary groups nor the TNA can pursue old politics in the new era of democratic politics. Unless the TNA makes it quite clear about their association with the LTTE and how they tolerated an unprecedented political and military suppression and targeted assassinations of their own community by the LTTE a Tamil militant organization, the TNA’s political honesty and democratic morality becomes dubious and questionable. If they disregard this, it will be incongruent with the Tamil community’s democratic project.

If political parties are not open to their political past and hide their serious political mistakes they will tend to make the same mistake again and again. In the South the JVP has adopted this kind of evasion about their past. If the TNA continues to do that it would be possible they will easily become the prey to another narrow nationalistic military project. This could be avoided only if they accepted it as an anti- democratic and a political mistake. It is necessary to make parties responsible for their anti democratic and other kind of political criminality they have committed in the name of liberation. If the TNA wants to re-enter democratic politics it has to forge a new political identity and make a departure from its questionable past as the proxy of the LTTE.

In order to reposition as a democratic party it is necessary to look at and understand the serious political mistakes the TNA were responsible for during those dark years of violent politics.

The LTTE on its journey to totalitarianism used the TNA to acquire a democratic face for its undemocratic activities. The TNA provided a mass base for the LTTE’s military project. The LTTE also brought the TNA under its political wing into submissive politics fusing their political ideology with the TNA’s narrow nationalistic politics. Even though they appeared as genuine and equal partners the TNA was not able to be critical of the LTTE’s political and military line. When the LTTE eliminated all the other militant groups, political activists, Tamil political leaders and intellectuals in the Tamil community, the TNA never criticized the LTTE for these crimes. The TNA should have opposed this anti democratic assault on their own people and the way in which they managed keep quiet and offered tacit support is unacceptable. It is interesting to know whether or not they were able to oppose these and the response that they received from the LTTE.
The TNA also demanded that the Sri Lankan government must negotiate with only the LTTE and campaigned vigorously that no other Tamil group should be included in any negotiations. This political demand, for the benefit of the LTTE demonstrated that inclusive practice and political pluralism were sacrificed for the politics of totalitarianism. In the process the TNA also argued for the LTTE as the sole and authentic representative of the Tamil people and equated the Tamil community with the LTTE.When the LTTE made it clear that they would not accept any political settlement short of a separate state, the TNA kept quiet and did not explain their political position on the issue at the time and did not make any effort at distancing themselves from the separatist political line of the LTTE.

Mr. Sampanthan’s recent statement that they never advocated a separate state and their long held political view from the TULF days that any settlement would be within a unitary state of Sri Lanka has been clarified only after the LTTE’s defeat It is also important to know whether the TNA made any protest about the expulsion of Muslims from Jaffna and its subsequent perpetuation of ethnic cleansing by the LTTE as this forms the very basis of depriving the ethnic minorities of their legitimate rights.

The whole political association with the TNA was part of the LTTE’s military project. The TNA never condemned armed violence nor did they repudiate armed struggle in achieving political aims. At least now they should understand the futility of the armed intervention and how the armed struggle could close democratic space rather than opening it. Only through honesty and genuine reflection can people become able to trust their political integrity and their genuine desire for a democratic alternative in similar situations.

If the TNA wishes to face up to the new challenge of democratic politics they will have to accept the new political culture that is evolving after the defeat of the LTTE.The TNA needs to declare, in no uncertain terms that they will not pursue separatist politics and will accept a political solution within a unitary state. This will not be a difficult task now as Mr. Sampanthan has clarified that they never advocated a separate state in the past. The main political benefit of this would be the weakening of the foundations of the Sinhalese hegemonic forces. The Presidential election and the unexpected huge margin of UPFA victory demonstrates that any political move or even a slightest suspicion and indication that would potentially divide the country will be defeated. This is the reality and if you want to change this reality you need to accept a separatist political ideology is a non-starter.

Along with this the TNA should repudiate the armed violence and actively work towards democratic politics in their struggle for the maximum devolution of power. They need to condemn the political assassinations carried out by the LTTE and assure people that they will never be silent about such criminal activities in future. They also need to build bridges with the Sinhalese south in their democratic struggle against the authoritarian tendencies of the Sri Lanka state. Such a move will pave the way for a greater understanding in their common struggle for democracy.

The LTTE dominance in Tamil politics was a great hindrance for such an understanding and this should end now. The TNA has to make their views clear about the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims and oppose such fascistic tendencies within Tamil politics. They should act responsibly in the North and East with regard to potential Muslim return to former homes. If they continue with the old political ideology they will strengthen narrow Tamil Nationalism which would take them to the past. This will destroy the current achievements and close the democratic opening that is already in place.

This account shows that the TNA has a long way to go in clearing their undemocratic past . They need to throw away their dogmatic politics. Unless they achieve this they will repeat the history of submissive politics when there is another armed project in place. That would be politically dangerous and democratically disastrous. The TNA’s politics needs to be widely debated as the future implications can be very critical for the democratic politics of the Tamil community if they are unable to reposition democratic politics in a meaningful and genuine way.

(This article is published here as requested by the writer)

Commissioner of Elections failed to utilise all his powers to ensure free and fair poll

by Dr. A.C. Visvalingam

The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has pointed out previously, in several different contexts, that the 17th Amendment has been increasingly violated from almost its very birth in October 2001. However, there is one provision of this Amendment that has been kept partially intact by the powers that be in order to permit elections to be held periodically without, however, conforming to the spirit of the bulk of the 17th Amendment.

That is, consequent upon President Kumaratunga failing to appoint a certain nominee of the Constitutional Council (CC) to the 5-member Elections Commission (EC), recourse was had to the provision in the 17th Amendment that, until the EC is constituted, the person who held the office of the Commissioner of Elections (CoE) on 2 October 2001 shall continue to perform and exercise all the powers and functions of the EC. Subsequently, the CC was forced into a state of unconstitutional hibernation and the CoE compelled to continue to function indefinitely in place of the EC.

The appeal made by the CoE to the Supreme Court (SC) a few years ago to be allowed to retire was refused on the grounds that he would be able to do so only after the EC is constituted. There is no doubt in our minds that, at the time, the SC would not have considered the possibility that the violation of the 17th Amendment would go on for so many years, thereby preventing a law-abiding public servant, through no fault of his own, from enjoying his fundamental and human rights to a well-earned retirement. In these circumstances, we wonder what the SC would have to say now regarding the sad plight of the CoE if he were minded to appeal to the SC again.

Notwithstanding these considerations, the CoE remains vested with vast powers under the only part of the 17th Amendment that remains active. What is greatly disappointing is that the CoE has failed to make effective use of these powers. The most generous interpretation that we can attribute to this diffidence is that he has been under heavy pressure not to use these powers or that, on his own, he has not wanted to test his strength in the expectation that his directives will be ignored. But as citizens who have empowered the CoE to hold free and fair elections, we need to see him act more boldly or go to the Courts and complain that he is being prevented from exercising his powers as CoE. It is, after all, the Courts which ordered him to carry on until the EC is appointed, and the least that the citizens of this Country expect is that the CoE would be given every possible support to allow him to perform his legitimate duties without let or hindrance.

The EC/CoE is authorised to exercise, perform and discharge, in a demonstrably unfettered and equitable manner, all the powers, duties and functions which relate to the election of the President, Members of Parliament etc, including the revision of the registers of electors for such elections. It is the duty of the EC/CoE to secure the enforcement of all laws relating to the holding of elections and it is the duty of all authorities of the State charged with the enforcement of such laws to cooperate with the EC/CoE in this vital task.

The EC/CoE has the power, during the period of an election, to prohibit, by a direction in writing, the use of any movable or immovable property belonging to the State or any public corporation by any candidate or any political party for the purpose of promoting or preventing the election of any other candidate, political party or independent group. The misuse of government vehicles and government buildings are meant to be dealt with under these powers. It is clearly stated, moreover, that "it shall be the duty of every person or officer, in whose custody or under whose control such property is for the time being, to comply with and give effect to such direction".

The EC/CoE is entitled to issue guidelines to any broadcasting or telecasting operator or publisher of a newspaper, including specifically the Chairmen of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), to ensure balanced reporting and comment on all matters relating to elections. If either the SLBC or the SLRC contravenes any guidelines, the EC/CoE has the power to appoint a Competent Authority by name or office to take over the management of these Corporations in respect of all political broadcasts.

However, whereas private media organisations carry out a great deal of self-censorship because of the fears instilled in them by the killings of media personnel, physical attacks, arson, and dire threats against revealing unsavoury details of various kinds, the SLBC and SLRC, being fully State-owned, have been allowed a latitude that militates greatly against the election laws. The efforts of the CoE to take corrective action in this connection, and the very limited success achieved, should have been followed up by him with a formal complaint to the Courts against those who failed to carry out his directions but he has not done so.

Upon ordering the holding of an election, the EC/CoE is required to notify the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) of the facilities and the number of police officers required by the EC/CoE and it is stipulated that the IGP "shall make available" such facilities and police officers. The EC/CoE is free to deploy such police officers in any way that is deemed necessary and lawful. Every police officer put at the disposal of the EC/CoE shall be responsible to, and act under the direction and control of, the EC/CoE during the period of an election. Regarding the deployment of police officers in the past, as far as we have been able to ascertain, the CoE has limited himself to requesting the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to see to it that certain things were done. Often, no action ensued as a result of the EC/CoE’s requests.

Consequently, what he should do at least now is to employ his wide-ranging powers and direct the IGP to release, say, five DIGs, 30 SSPs, 60 SPs, 120 Inspectors, 240 Sub-Inspectors, 600 Sergeants and 12,000 Constables, or some such combination, with the requisite facilities, to carry out the orders given by him, as the CoE, without involving the IGP in the execution of such orders. The law provides protection for every police officer thus made available to the EC/CoE in the following words: "No suit, prosecution or other proceeding shall lie against any police officer made available to the EC/CoE under this Article for any lawful act or thing done in good faith by such police officer in pursuance of a direction of the EC/CoE".

The EC/CoE can, therefore, confidently direct the senior police officers assigned for election work to employ the facilities and personnel given in such a manner as to uphold all aspects of the election laws, including the removal of posters and cutouts, stopping political processions and unlawful assemblies, taking into custody official vehicles and their drivers, and so on.

Just as in the case of police officers who are released to the EC/CoE, all public officers performing duties and functions at any election shall act in the performance and discharge of such duties and functions under the directions of the EC/CoE and shall be responsible and answerable to the EC/CoE. Most importantly, the EC/CoE should direct the Attorney General to release at least 10 State Counsel to prepare with utmost expedition the documents necessary for legal action to be taken against any official who deliberately breaches the election laws for example, ordering the transfer of any State employee during the election period, failing to remove posters and cutouts, using State resources to support a party or candidate, and so on.

If EC/CoE does not do so, the People will be compelled to make their own guesses as to whether he is being subject to a pressure that he is unable to resist safely or whether, despite his protestations, he does so of his own volition or whether it is a combination of both. We urge him, in the interests of democracy, the Rule of Law and his own good name, to go that extra distance to ensure that our elections are free and fair.

The contents of this article are being sent to the CoE in the hope that he will take note of its message and act more forcefully in the impending Parliamentary elections than he has done hitherto.

( Dr A.C.Visvalingam is President of The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance - CIMOGG)

Discharged "Lanka" Editor Remains Defiant Despite Detention

by Rathindra Kuruwita

(Irida Lanka Editor Chandana Sirimalwatta has been a frequent visitor to the CID in the last few months. The latest attempt to detain Sirimalwatta for 90 days, without any charges, and the attempt to seal the Lanka paper has left many in the country pondering the future of independent media. LAKBIMAnEWS met the Lanka editor to learn more on the latest attempt by the government to silence him -- and to discuss whether this would have any impact on his future journalistic work)

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Chandana Sirimalwatta

Can you tell me the events that led to this arrest?

I got a call on January 28th, around 9.30 pm from the CID saying that they need to record a statement from me about an article which appeared on the Midweek Lanka. The story was about a house that is being built by the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. I told them that I can meet them on the 29th and they said they will contact me. The next day they called me and asked why I did not come to the CID at 10 in the morning as promised. I told them that was not what we agreed on, and they said they will come to the Lanka office.

They came and took me to the CID and asked me some questions about several investigative articles we did on corruption involving top government officials. An officer asked me whether I have anything personal against the Rajapaksa family and I told him that I don’t have any personal grudge against any politician. I also told them that none of these stories are guesswork and that we have evidence to back up everything we wrote.

After taking my statement they said that they have been ordered to take me into custody and told me that because of some stories carried in Lanka, national security has been compromised. They specified two stories, one about the postal vote and another about KP. I told them that we have not revealed any sensitive military secrets in any of these articles and we will never do so. But realizing that they have been ordered by higher authoritiers to detain me I exercised my right to retain legal assistance and thus started my 18 day sojourn at the CID.

What happened during your stay in the CID? What did they grill you on, most?

They continued to question me about the news stories published in the paper and they also questioned me about the finances of the paper. They asked me about how we sustain the operation. I told them that I am in charge of the editorial aspect of the paper and that there is a separate section for finance.

And from what I know they had completed their investigation by February 5, and the officers had sent the report for perusal by the higher ups, but there was an intentional delaying by the high ranking officers in order to keep me in custody.
Also during this period state owned media claimed that the CID has uncovered evidence to prove that we have been in touch with ‘pro terror’ groups. But the CID found nothing that could incriminate us. And finally they had to release me without any charge. But the scary part is that this can happen to anyone; anyone can be arrested, kept in custody for a day, week or month and be released without any charges.

Your arrest is only one in a series of incidents against independent journalists?

Ever since the government won the election it is doing all it can to silence the voice of dissent. And this is not limited to journalists and opposition politicians. When I was in the CID I got to know about an operation which they called “hansa dadayama.” A CID officer had been appointed to compile a list of “Sarath Fonseka sympathizers,” and in this list there were people ranging from Ranil Wickremesinghe and Somawansa Amarasinghe to Fonseka’s caterer. And I got into the list because I did an interview with him and I know that I am not the only journalist in the list.

Every day I saw officers leaving the CID on “hansa dadayama” to arrest, harass and intimidate who they think are pro Sarath Fonseka. But in a way I am lucky because I am a journalist and my arrest attracted a lot of attention. Both local and international media gave so much publicity that the government had to back down. But there are so many people who are being harassed and punished because they did not fall in line with the government’s ideology and they get zero publicity. What about them? This is not about me, this is about the state of democracy in the country and the gradual erosion of our civic rights.

Lankaenews columnist Prageeth Ekneligoda is still missing almost after a month of his disappearance and the government seems to have no interest in locating him?

I met Mrs. Ekneligoda on Thursday and I felt very helpless. The government says that he is in hiding and state owned Dinamina paper has stated that he is hiding in some remote religious place. What are these people trying to do? They are trying to down play the seriousness of this.

This is just an indication of what’s yet to come. If we take a look at any dictatorial regime the first thing they did was to silence the media. That’s what Hitler did, that’s what Idi Amin did, that’s what Pinochet did and that’s what the Burmese junta is doing now.

Let me emphasize once again, this is only the first step. The government will not stop with journalists or trade/student unionists. In due time you might find yourself in jail for blogging, sending a text message, forwarding a mail or talking against the “maharaja.” So I would like to tell the people of this country, what happened to Ekneligoda can very well happen to you and your wife/husband and kids -- you will have to undergo what the Ekneligoda family is going through now.

How will this affect you? Will you also slide into “self censorship” like many journalists?

No I will not. I will not cow down and stop exposing the corruption of the administration. I will always stand by the people who are struggling for their basic rights and I will write against separatism, racism and hatred

I was inspired to become a journalist by the late great Richard de Zoysa; he didn’t back down and ‘self censor’ during the late 80s and he did that knowing very well about the danger. In such moments I always remember the poem “Apolitical Intellectuals” by Otto Rene Castillo, Richard’s favourite poem, “What did you do when the poor suffered, when tenderness and life burned out of them?” Our children will ask us the same question in another 20 years if we keep quiet in the face of injustice today.

Yes, but surely you must feel about your personal security as well?

Yes, I do worry about my personal safety. And I know that there is a culture of impunity in our country. Politically backed goons arrive with the police to attack peaceful demonstrations and that gives them the feeling that they are above the law and they might hurt me or my family.

But what’s the answer? Will everything be ok if I keep quiet? Will things improve? Will other journalists not be harassed? The answer is no. This is bigger than you or me, we are talking about democratic values and individual freedom and human rights. If we don’t unite to protect them no one will be safe. I will keep on writing and fighting because I want everyone to live in a secure environment.

There was a time when people left their homes wondering whether they would return home; that was because of LTTE activity, because of bombs. But today people are faced with the same situation. If you don’t fall in line with the government you can disappear without a trace. What’s the point of defeating the LTTE if that situation has not changed? This is no time to keep quiet, as the saying goes you can run but you cannot hide. The only solution is to stand and fight.

Do you attend the editors meetings with the president?

I have attended some events but I took a decision not to attend any during the election period because I thought that would qualify as accepting bribes.

What do you think about the Emergency law and the Prevention of terrorism act?

There was a time when these were necessary. These laws were needed to defeat terrorism but the LTTE is finished. This is the time for national unification and reestablishing the civil liberties we sacrificed in order to wage the war successfully. And to do so we must get rid of these laws.

I mean these laws are now used to silence dissent. The government claims that although the LTTE has been defeated militarily the concept of separatism still exists. But we must fight ideas with ideas, that’s democracy. You cannot destroy ideas with weapons or laws -- as that line from a famous movie says “ideas are bullet proof.”

If we look at the conduct of the government do you feel that they are trying to fight the concept of separatism? After the presidential election one of the headlines in Dinamina was ‘Fonseka wins the pro LTTE areas’. Imagine how a Tamil or Muslim person who sees that would feel? Imagine how a Sinhalese who voted SF would feel? The government is going out of its way to underline the divide.

But there was a time when Irida Lanka also fell behind the government and called people ‘LTTE sympathizers?’

We started Lanka in 2002 and our aim was to fight the concept of separatism through the written word. I accept that we were ruthless in our attacks against certain individuals who we thought supported and encouraged separatism. I am also humble enough to accept that we made some mistakes too.

But we never ever justified or accepted the government’s method of using violence to silence dissent. If someone is forced to leave the country because of his beliefs, that’s wrong, its unhealthy. Because we know that what goes around comes around, if I didn’t back other journalists in need, no one would have come to my aid today.
We always wrote against the atrocities against civilians. We were always against the governments witch hunting dissenters, and we will continue to support those who are living in exile because of their personal beliefs

The President has won the January 26 election convincingly and the government is trying to get a two thirds majority. What will this mean to the independent media in the next seven years?

The next few years will be difficult, extremely difficult. There will be a lot of despair and we will see a lot of journalists leaving the country. But we must not forget that we have been here before. There were many other oppressive regimes that believed that they will be in power forever. Hitler believed that the Third Reich will last a 1000 years but it only lasted 12, and I believe that ‘it’s darkest before dawn. COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was very cautious in precipitating action against former Army Commander

Mahinda Rajapaksa Discloses in Interview with N.Ram

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is confident that the United People’s Freedom Alliance, led by his Sri Lanka Freedom Party, will win the forthcoming parliamentary elections “very comfortably.” Asked whether his realistic target was a two-thirds majority, he responded: “I think we will be able to get that, or at least close to that.”

Was he willing to enter into constructive cohabitation with the leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, in the event of the United National Party doing well? “Oh, no problem but he won’t do that! So the situation won’t arise.”

In an interview to The Hindu at Temple Trees in Colombo, the Sri Lankan President responded candidly to questions ranging from the contours of the political solution to the Tamil question he had in mind to the factors behind his 18 percentage point win in the January 26 presidential election, the subsequent arrest of retired general Sarath Fonseka, and India-Sri Lanka relations.

In response to a specific question, Mr. Rajapaksa reiterated his commitment made in the joint statement of May 23, 2009 between the Sri Lankan government and the U.N. “to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.”

“The 13th Amendment is in the Constitution,” he noted. “I don’t have to say I’m implementing it, because it is implemented in the other areas. The 13th Amendment is implementable at the moment other than the police powers. The land, everything is implementable. We had the presidential election [in the Northern Province] and we are going to have the Provincial Council election after this [the parliamentary election of April 8]. I thought I had to resettle the people [first]. Now there are fewer than 50,000 people in the IDP camps, and many of them don’t want to go.”

Sri Lanka’s powerful executive President spelt out the next step: “Soon after these parliamentary elections, I will call all the leaders of the political parties and start talking to them. “He had done his best to talk to the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance and the Muslim parties but “they were not interested in solving this problem as long as [Velupillai] Prabakaran was there.” But now it was a wholly new ball game: “Now they must understand that there is no option for them but to talk. I’m the President of the country…they must come and negotiate with me, have a dialogue with me. If they think they can’t cope with me, new leaders will come up and I will have to deal with them.”

Asked about the circumstances and reasons leading to the arrest of the former Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff, Mr. Rajapaksa explained that much before the presidential election the intelligence agencies were reporting to him on how the general was working to divide the Army and engaging himself in activities prosecutable under military law. The Army wanted to take him into custody for an enquiry into the serious allegations but “if at that time I had allowed that, they would have said that I was frightened of this man contesting.”

After the election, the President explained, the Army wanted to “take action for what he had done.” He said it was up to the Army, which could go ahead if it had the evidence. The process was slowed down because Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was “very cautious” and did not want any precipitate action against the former Army Commander. President Rajapaksa added that he did not want to get involved in the judicial process, and that “if I get involved, Army discipline will go for a six.”

He wryly remarked on the fact that the retired general was being given “five star treatment…in a luxury flat, the Navy Commander’s chalet” and his wife, lawyer, and doctors were allowed to see him whereas “if he had won, I would have been in Bogambara [maximum security prison in Kandy], in a 2’x2’ cell!” (the retired general made this threat during the election campaign).

“Had there been a different election result,” President Rajapaksa reflected, “there would have been a bloodbath…dead bodies everywhere…burning houses and all that. Before the election, even government servants were getting threatening letters saying ‘on the 26th [of January], we will be coming for you.”

Mahinda Rajapaksa, a powerful and popular head of government and state, has the way cleared for him for the next six years and more. In a recent conversation with N. Ram lasting three-and-a-half hours at Temple Trees in Colombo, he covered, and answered questions on, a range of subjects. Excerpts from his on-the-record comments and responses:

Huge victory in presidential election

I was not surprised [by the margin of victory, nearly 18 percentage points]. Because in the Provincial Councils, if you count the majority, it was 2.5 million. I knew that if you took 1 million out of that, I would have won with 1.5 million. And I knew what the pulse of the people in villages was. Even in Colombo district, outside the municipal area, they gave me a good majority. I knew from the start that my majority would be there.

And I am not surprised about the North-East results. I was encouraged by that. I had the election, I knew that people must vote, they must be given a chance to elect their own President. Twenty-six per cent, I am satisfied with it. In every village, I got some votes, didn't I?

Factors behind the decisive win

One thing is that people wanted experience – a politician to lead their country. I have been in politics for 40 years. Suddenly a military man coming in, I don't think people trusted him. They were frightened by the way that he talked, shouting at people, blackguarding people. He [Sarath Fonseka] showed his inexperience on economic affairs

On mis-targeting

Actually, he never said anything about me other than a few words in the final days. Other than ‘I will take him and remand him.' ‘I will kick him out' – that was Somavansa [Amarasinghe, the JVP leader] and he endorsed it. ‘At 7 o'clock I will walk in there, take him into custody, put him into Bogambara [maximum security prison in Kandy] in a 2x2 cell.' He thought this was the Army! He was ill advised.

The whole campaign was against a family and it was all mud-throwing. Without politics, they were trying to personalise the campaign.

Rural Sri Lanka supported me in a big way. I feel that was because of the development in the villages. We had the village road development programme, the programme for the development of the whole village, the fertilizer subsidy, the ‘Grow More Food' campaign. Incomes for rural households rose sharply. From 1948 to 2005, the per capita income came up to $ 1000. During the period of my presidency, when the war was going on, it has gone up to $2200. With development, the lifestyle of the people had changed. They [the Fonseka camp] couldn't understand that.

If I had been in the Opposition, I would have addressed not anything else but the cost of living. Forget about everything else, just address that. When eventually they tried to address it, it was too late. We had the answers.
People in the villages didn't like the way they conducted the campaign: that they would try to take me into custody, kick me out, kill me. People don't like that. Villagers don't want that to happen. They [the Fonseka camp] miscalculated, failed to see the affection, the love people in the villages have for me.

In addition, suburban people voted heavily for me. Other than people in Colombo, and some people in Kandy and other cities, they voted for me. They wanted a peaceful life. They believed in democracy. I think our people are, in that way, very educated, very conscious about democracy. They didn't want a military man coming in.

Who got the credit for eliminating the LTTE?

People, by the way they voted, showed they gave the credit to me. Who built the Taj Mahal? Who is remembered by people as the builder of the Taj Mahal? Not the mason or the chief engineer, right?

On parliamentary election prospects

I think we will win the parliamentary elections very comfortably. The people will vote with us. Now they know the government is stable for seven years.

A two-thirds majority?

I think we will be able to get that, or at least close to that. Finally, Ranil Wickremasinghe's crowd is there to come back and join me, right [laughter]?

Cohabitation? Ranil as Prime Minister?

Oh, no problem but he won't do that [do well in the parliamentary election]! So the situation won't arise. You know that during the campaign, Ranil campaigned for me when he went to the Tamil areas.

He said, ‘ Poda, Mahinda Rajapaksa poda, Gotabaya poda, Basil poda [laughter].' People were shocked. I was talking in Tamil; he wanted to show that he also knew Tamil. And the first word he said was ‘ Poda, Mahinda poda [laughter].' He meant, ‘Don't vote for him, reject him.'

Role of opposition

The opposition must be able to contribute. They must criticise – constructive criticism but not mud-throwing all the time. Not opposing everything the government brings. This is the unfortunate thing in Sri Lanka. They oppose everything, whatever the government does. It's petty politics. The criticism is always personalised. The opposition must contribute to whatever solution we are going to bring to this North-East issue. Because what we want is permanent peace.

13th Amendment plus

The 13th Amendment was brought in a hurry, without studying the whole problem. There is a need to understand the geography of the country, the historical background of the whole problem. Without studying that, you can't bring a solution that is suitable for your country. It must be a practical solution.

The 13th Amendment is implementable at the moment other than the police powers. It is in the Constitution. I don't have to say I'm implementing it because it is implemented in the other areas. The land, everything is implementable. We had the [presidential] election [in the Northern Province] and we are going to have the Provincial Council election after this [parliamentary elections of April 8]. I thought I had to resettle the people [first]. Now there are fewer than 50,000 in the IDP camps; and many of them don't want to go.

The development-peace link

The west doesn't understand this. It doesn't know what's going in here. They're making statements. They ask about humanitarian assistance. I say I don't want humanitarian assistance! We will look after our people, provide them food. I can get down food from India any time. I said we want development assistance [for the North].Without peace, there is no development; without development, there is no peace.

Tamils in the national police

Do you know we have taken about 500 Tamils from the Eastern Province and they are already in service? Now we are taking them from the Northern Province. In Jaffna, 7500 Tamils came for 450 places. They have been selected. [The President's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga add: ‘The people selected have been security-screened and will be recruited [in the national police force] immediately after the election. This is an achievement, by any government.']

There was a campaign by the LTTE and the Muslim parties, Rauff Hakeem and some others, not to join the police forces and the Army. We had Tamil Army officers and even now we have Muslim [Army officers]. There was a campaign against joining. But now, after this [final victory over the LTTE], they have joined.

You should see their muscles! They have been trained well [laughs]. You don't have to train them again. The only thing is they must learn some police work. That's all, it's easy! We have good training institutes.

We can train adequate numbers. They will be in these [Tamil] areas mostly and we want to get them down to the South also. You've got to mix them.

Tamil-Muslim majority in Colombo

In Colombo, the majority is Tamil and Muslim. Twenty years ago, the Sinhalese were about 90 per cent; today, they're less than 30 [per cent]. The majority are Muslims and Tamils and there is no problem. The Mayor of Colombo is a Muslim [Uvais Mohamed Imitiyas].


Dialogue on devolution

Soon after these parliamentary elections, I will call all the leaders of the political parties and start talking to them. You know, I tried to get them down, the TNA [Tamil National Alliance], the Tamil parties, the Muslim parties. But they were not interested. They were not interested in solving this problem as long as [Velupillai] Prabakaran was there. Now they must understand that there is no option for them but to talk. I'm the President of the country, I'm the leader of the country, they must come and negotiate with me, have a dialogue with me. If they think they can't cope with me, new leaders will come up and I will have to deal with them.

On western antipathy to him

They don't like me. They don't like my independent views. My preference is for my country. Why should I be loyal to any other country? I'm not a green card holder, am I?

Close ties with Asian countries

They [India, China, Japan] were the countries that helped me to develop this country. As neighbours of the Asian group, they were very generous in offering us development assistance. This country needs development: infrastructure in the North-East and in the South. In the North and East, the conflict is over, we're one country. Now I want to develop the country. For development, these are the countries that helped me and I am ready to accept other countries to come and help me develop the country. We can look after the humanitarian… We give free food, free health care, subsidised fertilizer, transport assistance. We can afford that. But I want development assistance. I want roads, development of the power sector, hotels. And investment.

I have set new targets for tourism. I called the Tourism Board and said I was not satisfied with the present [rate of development]. I want to call the private sector. They're going to the Maldives and various other countries to invest their money. I am going to tell them to invest here. I want to get Indian companies, the Tatas and others, to invest in Sri Lanka.

On excellent ties with India

That's right. Because I'm very clear. When I say something, I stick to it. When I say ‘yes,' yes. When I say ‘no,' no. With India, I think I have been very clear in my policy. Consistent, never changed. They were a little worried about my connection with China. For development, China, Japan and all these [Asian] countries will come and invest. That is a different question. India is our close neighbour. I always say, ‘India is my relation. Others are my friends.'

On Sarath Fonseka's arrest

When I heard about all this earlier, when the intelligence agencies were reporting to me on all this, the Army would have taken him over [under military law]. They wanted to do that. But if at that time I had allowed that, they would have said that I was frightened of this man contesting.

I accepted his resignation as CDS [Chief of Defence Staff]. I could have declined to do that [under the special Act] and we could have charged him for what he had done, what the intelligence agencies were reporting on. But I didn't want to do that because the people would have said I blocked him from contesting.

I knew he was the best candidate I could get! It was very clear in the election. He couldn't get what Ranil Wickremasinghe got.

Even with the JVP, which supported me once and with all this alliance, he never got that vote. They had the biggest alliance against a contesting President. Ultimately, what happened?

Then [after the election] the Army came and said, ‘Sir, we have to take action for what he had done.' So I said, ‘All right, it's up to you. See if you have the evidence to arrest him. If you have evidence, certainly do it. But please consult the Attorney-General.' Gotabaya [Rajapaksa] was very cautious. He said ‘no,' otherwise they would have taken him [Fonseka] immediately [after the election results were announced]. Only after going through all the evidence was the Army given the green light to do what they wanted.

This is an enquiry [under military law] to see if there is a prima facie case against Fonseka. I don't want to get involved in the judicial process. One thing is that I am a lawyer myself, so I always respect the law. I never say anything against the courts, against the judges. [Except once when the last Chief Justice was trying to decide the price of petrol. I said that was the executive's, not the judiciary's, job.] My view is, ‘let the legal process go on.' I don't want to get involved in it. Discipline is an Army matter. If I get involved, Army discipline will go for a six. I don't want to do that. It is very important that democracy is restored.

Army law is very different from the general law. Now he has been taken by the Army. He is under the Army Commander. He is being given a luxury flat, the Navy Commander's chalet. If he had won, I would have been in Bogambara, in a 2x2 cell! He is allowed access to his lawyer, his wife is allowed to see him. She called my wife, who was at a banquet in Moscow; she was told, ‘ask for it and you will be allowed to see him' and she did. Doctors, everything possible is allowed. We don't want to harass him.

In Buddhism, they say, ‘for what you have done, there will be repercussions in this particular birth.' Good or bad, you don't have to wait till the next birth.

I always believe in God – Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and God. There is somebody who looks after us. They say that when Vishnu looks after you, no one can do you any harm. That's why I went to Tirupati [and prayed]: ‘Look after this country.'

If Fonseka had won

Had there been a different election result, there would have been a bloodbath. There would have been dead bodies everywhere. Burning houses and all that. Just before the election, even government servants were getting threatening letters saying ‘on the 26th [of January] we will come for you ~ courtesy: The Hindu ~

Specific quotas necessary in Sri Lanka to enhance women representation in electoral politics

By Ruana Rajepakse

According to statistics, women constitute 52 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population and 56 per cent of registered voters. Yet today there are only 11 women in Parliament out of a total of 225 members. This is approximately six per cent of members. The percentage gets even less in Provincial Councils and local government bodies.

Sri Lanka has one of the oldest traditions of universal franchise dating from 1931. This country produced the world’s first woman Prime Minister. Yet these facts which we like to boast about have masked the fact that women as a whole are grossly under-represented, and the situation has failed to improve despite the strides that women have made in other fields.

The stagnation of women’s role in politics is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that in 1931 women occupied four per cent of seats in the assembly (not a bad ratio for that era), but nearly 80 years on, the percentage has only climbed to six per cent.

Nor has it been a steady climb. In the parliamentary election of 2000, the proportion fell back to four per cent - the 1931 level; and that was with a woman Executive President at the helm. So it is clear that those few women who attain high places in politics, usually as a result of patriarchal family connections, have not embarked upon any concerted programme to give more seats to women from the rank and file.

This issue was the subject of discussion at a media briefing organized jointly by the Women and Media Collective, the Sri Lanka Women’s NGO Forum and the Campaign to Increase Women’s Political Representation, held last week to coincide with the start of the nomination period for the upcoming general election.

A notable feature of this event was the coming together on a common platform of women from a variety of parties, at a time when politics between their male counterparts has become extremely fractious.

The gathering was addressed by: Ashoka Lankatilaka (UPFA) – Western Provincial Councillor; Rosy Senanayake (UNP) – Leader of the Opposition, WPC; Shanthini Kongahage (UNP) – Central Provincial Councillor; Chandrika de Soysa (UPFA) – Municipal Councillor, Maharagama; Upulangani Malagamuwa. - Former North-Western Provincial Councillor; Shanthi Sachchithanandan – Leader of newly formed People's Rights Party (operating in North and East); Salma Hamsa (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) – Eastern Province.

They all basically had a three-pronged message: Firstly, that women are grossly under-represented in Sri Lankan politics; secondly, that the participation of more women is likely to make Sri Lankan politics less violent and fractious than it is at present; and thirdly, that women are less able, and therefore less likely, to indulge in patronage politics – i.e. "vote for me and I will give you a job".

Another relevant point that the speakers made was that women are often found in significant numbers as rank and file party workers, and do a great deal of canvassing at local level; but it appears that they have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts before they can get recognition in the form of nomination.

Finally, the culture of organized election violence that first surfaced in the 1980s and appears now to be endemic, seems to deter the party hierarchy from appointing women candidates due to the fear that they will not be able to give back as good as they get. Words such as "shakthiya" and "haiya" (strength and toughness) are used to explain why women are not suitable for the job.

The reply of the women is that if sufficient numbers of them are appointed as candidates the need for such physical toughness may decline. However, such arguments have thus far fallen on deaf ears, and the proportion of women candidates on nomination lists is as dismal as the ratio of those who finally get elected.

Sri Lanka lags far behind other Asian countries in this respect. In a 2001 survey conducted by UN – ESCAP of the percentage of women representatives in local government bodies, Sri Lanka was right at the bottom with a mere 2 per cent. We were surpassed by Japan, Philippines, Thailand, China, Nepal, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, India and Bangladesh.

India and Bangladesh, the countries with the most similar social and political systems to Sri Lanka, topped the list with percentages of 33 and 33.3 respectively.

A number of countries have attained reasonable levels of women’s representation only after some form of affirmative action. A quota system has been the most common remedy, under which a certain proportion of seats are reserved for women candidates.

In India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh there is a percentage of seats reserved for women candidates, which ranges from 20 per cent in Nepal to 33 per cent in India and Pakistan.

Nor is this only an Asian problem. Elsewhere round the globe women have faced the problem of under-representation, but in many such countries affirmative action has been taken. For example, in Uganda one parliamentary seat in each of that country’s 39 districts is reserved for a woman candidate.

As Sri Lanka, unlike its Asian neighbours, presently has a system of proportional representation, the most relevant examples for us may be the South American countries where the "PR" system is prevalent. In Argentina, women are required to make up a required percentage of each party’s nomination list at parliamentary, state and municipal elections. The required percentage on the parliamentary list is 30, which has resulted in Argentina ranking 9th in the world in terms of women’s representation in parliament.

Today Argentina has been joined in this system by Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Domenican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Venezuela in requiring a fixed percentage of women candidates on each party’s nomination list. The figure ranges from 40 per cent in Costa Rica to 20 per cent in Ecuador.

Even in Europe, a quota system has been found necessary in a number of countries including France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.

In Britain a voluntary system to promote women that was adopted by the Labour Party had to be dropped when it was challenged under Britain’s Sex Discrimination Act.

However Sri Lanka’s Constitution allows for such "reverse discrimination". Although Article 12(1) states that all persons are equal before the law, and Article 12(2) states prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Article 12(4) qualifies these provisions by stating that:

"Nothing in this article shall prevent special provision being made by law, subordinate legislation or executive action, for the advancement of women, children or disabled persons."

The juxtaposition of words in the above section is not popular with women, as the problem they face is one of prejudice and not of disability, but nevertheless Article 12(4) will serve to give constitutional sanction to any affirmative action to promote the greater representation of women in elected government at all levels.

It is high time Sri Lanka caught up with the rest of the world in terms of giving its adult women the chance to represent the electorate at all levels of government.

Until the necessary law is passed, it is open to political parties, even at the upcoming general election, voluntarily to increase the number of women on their nomination lists.

(The writer is grateful to the Women and Media Collective for providing much of the factual information on which this article is based.)

Clueless Wanni IDPs and govt. resettlement plans

Shattered hopes and crumbled homes...........

By Ranga Jayasuriya

The government pledged to resettle former residents of Wanni, in their former villages by the end of January 31.

They were earlier herded into tightly guarded camps in Vavunia. On the surface, the government seems to have lived up to its undertaking —at least a part of it.

Civilians have been granted freedom of movement and many of the once teeming camps have now been emptied.
But, in the resettled villages, it is a different spectacle: Over hundred thousand civilians, former inmates in camps are virtually dumped on their former villages in the Wanni, and are left without any means to resume normal lives.
With their houses no longer intact, their property destroyed and vandalized, it is an uphill task for the resettled Tamils to restart their lives.

When this correspondent visited the resettled villages on the A 9 Road, it was a waste-land that awaited him. The majority of the houses had been reduced to rubble. A few skeletons of concrete buildings stood where former towns were located. No building was left with the roof intact. Kilinochchi is a ghost town of war wrecked buildings, except for the soldiers and pilgrims heading for Nagadeepa on the A 9 Road.

It is a land of shattered hopes and crumbled homes.

Sinnaiah Velu was released from the IDP camp in December last year along with his family. Originally from Nedunkerny, Olumadu, they were told that their land is still being demined. Hence, the family was left abandoned in Parissamkulam, near Kanagarayan kulam, where they now live in a makeshift hut and collect fire wood to make ends meet. “People from Jaffna come to buy firewood,” he says.

He said he was not given a plot of land to cultivate as he was not a resident from the area, which leaves him having to rely on the jungle to make living.

But, mines and booby traps in the jungle pose a mortal threat. Last week, two civilians lost their limbs from landmines.

The Sinnaiahs are one among 65 families from Nedunkerny living on the A 9 road in Parrisamkulam, awaiting green light to proceed to their villages.

Sinnaiah like most other IDPs have received 25,000 rupees start up allowance. But, the fact of the matter is that it is too little and it could hardly better the IDPs case, who is left with nothing but the cloth on his back. The only exceptions to groups with such a fate are those with access to foreign remittance.

Another 25,000 rupees is being paid to the IDPs for doing 50 days of social work, ten days of which could be utilized to rebuild and clean their own houses.

Additional Government Agent (Vavuniya North), K Paranthaman says that the government would provide a grant of 325,000 rupees each to rebuild houses, and that the evaluation report has already been sent to Colombo. Housing is the acid test for the government. The resettled former IDPs take shelter in tents and huts, but the monsoon would complicate the situation. A few could, of course, afford to build houses on their own, but the vast majority would be condemned to live in shacks. Many civilians, this correspondent spoke to were clueless about the government’s resettlement plans.

On the surface, it looks like the camp life had been shifted to Kanagarayan kulam. But, there is some work, though at its incipient age. There are 20 or so Grama Sevaka Divisions in the Vavuniya North AGA Division, only in nine of which, resettlement activities have commenced, owning to landmines. Resettlement had commenced only on the left side of the A 9 road and the demining activities are being carried out on the other side.

IDPs are given paddy land to cultivate. Every family is given 2 acres and the government provides seed free of charge. Farming has commenced in many places.

K. Ganesh (40), a resettled villager in Kanagarayankulam says that he has resumed farming.

Weidyalingam Nithyanathan (42) another resettled villager asks for a water pump to water his vegetable plot. But he and many other IDPs complain that they had not received food rations for past two weeks.

Many of the resettled villagers carry old scars of war; many were caught in shelling as they fled the Tiger controlled pocket.

K. Rathan (28) originally from Nedunkerny shows his still festering wounds in the legs. He says battle scars had prevented him from working in the paddy fields. Another villager says he was evacuated to safety by the ICRC relief ship at the height of war. But, he mourns for his son, who is still missing and feared to be killed in the final days of the battle.

In the face of scarce resources, there is competition. A middle aged couple -- residents of Nedunkerny --- complained to the AGA that locals didn’t allow them to use the well.

The AGA tells this correspondent that it was a sign of caste differences, a perennial trait of the Tamil polity, which the LTTE reined in to greater extend, but is showing up, even before people emerge from the wreckage of war.

The Assistant Government Agent vows that a resettlement package is in the offing and that he would commence a vocational training program for the resettled youth to find employment in the host of construction activities soon to take place in the war torn Wanni.

But, some IDPs are yet to make up their minds after the end of a vicious war and a wretched camp life. Some have lost their kith and kin to the war; some others are still unaccounted for, while others languish in detention.

Life in Menik Farm...

On Monday, when this correspondent visited the once swarming Menik Farm camp of the internally displaced persons in Vavunia, it was a different scene. The camp, once teeming with 300,000 people, who were kept in a tightly guarded barbed wired camp has been opened since December last year. Half of the refugees held in the camp have been sent back ( at least officially) to their villages; the rest have been granted freedom of movement.

That means the poor souls who had been incarcerated in camps under squalid conditions have been granted freedom of movement. On the part of the government, it has delivered at least a part of the promise it gave to the international community to resettled the IDPs before January 31.

That assurance was given when the IDPs were locked up in the camps after the decapitation of the LTTE. Six months since then, the government had released them, sent half of them back to their former villages; the rest awaits until their land -on the right side of the A 9- road is cleared of mines.

S.Chandrakumari was among several women filling their buckets with drinking water from a tap -- a facility funded by an international non governmental organization.

The woman, who was a former resident of Akkarayankulam, South of Kilinochchi, complains that the dry rations has not been issued for three weeks.

She is managing with the leftovers of the rations of the previous month.

The authorities had allowedfree movement for the IDPs. People venture out from their camps to seek work on the town.

Siva Priya, another IDP says her husband has gone to Vavunia seeking work, but she complains that there is not enough work for men in town.

“Most of them return without work. But, if the government lets us leave (the camp), there is lot of work in Kilinochchi,” she claims.

Her four children attend school in the IDP camp.

“There is not much of learning. They just go to school and come home”

A teacher in Zone 1 Unit 1 school agrees.

Kesara Raja, himself an IDP and formerly a teacher in Paranthan Hindu Maha Vidyalam claims that students come from different background.

“It was a homogeneous set up in Paranthan, but here in the camp, you have a different group of students, coming from all over the area. It is not easy to cater to their needs”

He says students exhibit violent behavior, having witnessed violence at the first hand.

There are over 100 students, who lost at least one parent in the conflict.

Some children need counseling. He said three children had been directed to psychological support, but he is not sure whether their concerns have been addressed.

He says the teachers have been instructed to follow the unconventional pattern of teaching, obviously because children come with different background and different educational achievements.

“But, even to do that, we don’t have facilities. We are IDPs just like the children,” says Kesara Raja.

He himself fled deep into the Wanni as the military offensive approached and ended up in the no fire zone in a pocket of Mullaitivu.

“There was no schooling in the No fire zone” he claims.

“There had been no schooling since we displaced from Paranthan in January(last year).” School started only in June after the camps were set up,” he says.

The army officer in charge of this particular section of the camp seems to have grasped the fact that education would bind communities together.

Colonel Sarath Perera says that the children in the camp represent the future of the country. There are five schools and 20 pre schools located in the section - Zone 1 Unit 1 of the Arunachalam Camp, which comes under the purview of Colonel Perera.

He says the army does not interfere with the civilian affairs of the camp and that the soldiers do no go inside the camp after 6 pm.

He says the army is encouraging the NGOs to employ the IDPs in their work and suggests that should the government employ the people from the camp in the state funded infrastructure projects, that would be a remedy for the acute shortage of work opportunities in the town faced by the IDPs. He says he helped a mason from the camp secure work in construction activities in Mannar.

“Later, he bidded for a contract and won it. Now he hires several people from the camp,” he says.

The congestion in the camp has been reduced since the government allowed free movement of people. At the outset, the section, Zone 1 Unit 1 housed 48,000 people. Now, the numbers have reduced to 19,818 as of last Monday. Many of the remaining inmates have left the camp, seeking work and visiting relatives.

Mourning...

Even seven months after the war ended, at least officially, the horrors of the war haunt many who survived one of the most brutal conflicts in recent times.

Mahendrarasa, from Nedunkerny, now eking out a living in Parissamkulam, lost five members in his family to shelling in Vellamullivaykkal.

“Bodies were left to rot. If someone tried to save the dying, he could also be caught in shelling” he told this correspondent early last week, as he joined several dozens other resettled Tamil civilians to tell their plight.
“At the end, the army invited us to come to their area and we came.”

He said, both sides shelled and the LTTE wanted them to stay back.

But, defecting to the military area and the decimation of the Tamil Tigers, once the purported saviours of the Tamils, didn’t end their misery.

Chandrakumar Pannalasu, another former resident of Nedunkerny claims her son, Raju Chandrakumar (32), was arrested on December 4, a couple of days before their release from the camp.

She claims that the LTTE members in military detention are settling old grudges by naming their enemies as LTTE cadres.

“The LTTE forcibly recruited our children. When we come here, army arrested the innocent,” she complains.

“Those who were with the LTTE are still free and only the innocent were kept in military custody,” she claims.

The displaced

Punyadarai Ratnam, another displaced man from Nedunkerny now lives in a tin hut in Kanagarayankulam. He survived the war and the wretched life in the government run detainment camps, but, days before his family was released, all hell broke loose.

His daughter, Nesamalar Ratnam (30) was arrested in December by the Army which alleged that she was an LTTE cadre.

Ratnam says she was not and that her only crime was that she had short hair. He says his daughter, who had passed Advanced Levels sat for several interviews for government jobs.

The LTTE did not allow her to leave the Wanni. It was when the LTTE tightly controlled the influx out from its territory.

Kaneshalingam Dilex, (19), the son of the Kaneshalingam, a post master by profession was kidnapped by the LTTE. Dilex fled the LTTE, two weeks after his conscription and later fled to the government controlled areas with his parents. He was preparing for the Advanced levels exams at that time.

At the entry point, he surrendered to the soldiers who announced to the crowd that anyone who would surrender would not be harmed. Dilex languishes in a detention camp in Nellikulam Technical College since then.

His father, who visits the son weekly, says he would not mind his son being kept in detention as long as he is allowed to study. He says his son wants to study commerce.

However, Dilex had been left out from the batch of children who were brought to Colombo to facilitate their studies.
An ageing woman, M. Velam (70) is left with her daughter after her son-in law was arrested by the military.

Residents of Kanagarayan kulam, North, the mother and daughter collect timber to build an abode. Velam had been given half an acre of paddy land to cultivate by the government. She has received 25,000 rupees start up allowance given by the government to resettled IDPs.

Saundarasa Pillay (69), a shop keeper lost five children of his family during the last months of the conflict. Father of seven children he claims his wife and the two children who were lucky enough to survive are not yet been allowed to leave the camp. Pillay says his house and the shop have been destroyed.

“I am left with nothing. I will go back to the camp and stay with my wife and children until they are released.”
He is unaware of any government assurance to help the displaced restart their lives.

“Nothing could replace my children,” he says - courtesy: Lakbima News -

February 20, 2010

Gotabaya Rajapaksa's imprint on Lanka will not be a footrint on the sands of time

By Ranmali Fernando

After a certain victory in the north, lovable General Denzil Kobbekaduwa came running and embraced him with fatherly affection. Before that the genial General shouted “Yako Gota umba hari yakek ne (Gota you did it)” He was the chosen one even then. Chosen one of the two most loved Generals of our times General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Vijaya Wimalaratne.

GRTC220.jpg

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Not only them, this battle hardened officer was loved by another no nonsense politician of our times, UNP minister of National Security, Ranjan Wijeratne. He did not want Gotabaya to leave the Army then. But, Ranjan knew that his hands were tied and it was no easy task to hold back officers like Gotabaya who had fought for the country for 20 long years. Though Ranjan wanted to end the war his leader at the time was not ready for it neither did they have a strategy to defeat the LTTE.

Though the cheap politician in Sarath Fonseka made vain and cheap attempts insult his former boss Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the elections, everyone including Ranjan Wijeratne knew that it was not possible to beat the LTTE then since he did not have wholehearted support and the leadership required. Let us also not forget that Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka never blamed or accused Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He was only full of praise and said the country couldn’t have done without Gotabaya.

Fighting went on. We lost out a lot to LTTE terror. Gotabaya and several good officers left the island. Some retired, some left the three forces, and some perished in vain. But, they left their hearts and souls in Sri Lanka , waiting for a time to return and put an end to terror. Yes. They waited and waited.

Gotabaya was never flashy person. He was simple and very humble. A family man who never even ate cake because he is a true vegetarian. His wife Ayoma is a charming and a simple lady, who stood by him then and now, with all her simplicity. They continue to live that simple life. Meet him and you will understand. I had the honour of meeting him along with several others during a Api Wenuwen Api function.

Their wait was long. The country waited. But, the believable change happened only when Mahinda Rajapaksa won against all odds and predictions defeating a weak Ranil Wickermasinghe who had left his heart in some foreign land. . Mahinda knew he could defeat terrorism and put an end to the misery Sri Lankans were going through. Gotabaya had returned to help his brother during the campaign and concentrated in the Kurunegala district. He had mobilised them well and people in Kurunegala rallied behind Gotabaya to make his brother the President of Sri Lanka.

Only correct decision Chandrika made during her tenure was to make Lakshman Kadirgamar the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksa made such a decision with the appointment of Gotabaya as the Secretary Defence. But, unlike the voluntary 2nd Lt Anuruddha Ratwatte, who accepted a Generalship and wore all kinds of uniforms and ridiculed the three forces, Gotabaya a battle hardened soldier decided to be a civilian Defence Secretary. Let us remember it.

It was a time the Sri Lankan forces had lost heavily men, equipment, morale and the propaganda war to the LTTE. The army could not even recruit adequate soldiers. Using his skills, Gotabaya started the Defence website which became an instant hit and counted the LTTE propaganda worldwide. It gave the true picture to the world whilst Tamilnet continued with its anti Sri Lankan propaganda. With the Api Wenuwen Api campaign Gotabaya Rajapaksa boosted the morale of the forces and the masses and people started to rejoin the army in large numbers.

There was a time when the Army failed to attract even 2000 to join the army. But, it was Gotabaya morale booster where he created welfare funds, housing projects for the forces, schools for their kids, proper place in the society which saw large numbers joining three forces and the police. We are told that he personally supervised them.

Gotabaya also made the forces high tech as never before. Many officers and soldiers who joined hands to defeat the LTTE paid tribute to the Defence Secretary for his vision which saved many lives. The Defence Secretary took care of the forces like a father would do. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had faith in that caring Defence Secretary brother of his and provided everything he could to save and protect his motherland.

People like Anuruddha Ratwatte, Chandrananda de Silva and Austin Fernando could not tell the difference between a real gun and a toy gun, they could not care for the rank and file. But, President Rajapaksa and the Forces had a man who really knew it, who was there in the heart of the battle field and cared for them.

He saw to the welfare of the forces. They were well looked after. He joined the three forces and the Police together at checkpoints and other areas when dealings with civilians. He improved the intelligence service tremendously which was considered very weak at the time. That was a high point of the countries victory against LTTE.

I have seen several articles by Dr Rohan Guneratne asking the country to improve the Intelligence operations saying it will lead to successful eliminating of the LTTE. Gotabaya did it. Let us not forget that he had a very tough task after Ranil Wickermasinghe and John Amaratunge’s foolish actions with the Millennium City debacle killed over 60 Intelligence officers of the Sri Lanka Army.

I would like to say that Sri Lanka should try Wickermasinghe and Amaratunge for it. They can reserve a room next to Sarath Fonseka or may be even Welikada for it. General Lionel Balagalle, General Hendavitharana and the families of all those Intelligence officers (mainly Tamil, Muslim and Malay) will say YES to it. The defence ministry which looked like an old Katchcheri looked like a defence ministry.

Unlike the previous Defence Secretaries he reached out to the masses. Because he could communicate. Gotabaya spoke from the heart. A BBC correspondent in Sri Lanka at the time had described Gotabaya as “Very refreshing” because he was sincere, frank and honest. He continues to be so even today though his detractors try to castigate him. Check why he gets angry?

ONLY when the forces are attacked and his country is looked down and betrayed. We have read in the media how Gotabaya gave a piece of his mind to the Foreign Minister for France, Bernard Kutchner. All for the sake of Sri Lanka.

Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the leadership as the Commander in Chief and his brother Defence Secretary as the head of the defence establishment led the war effort. It was no easy task for him to keep together Sarath Fonseka his Army Commander who refused to speak with his old classmate Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda. (We are told it was due to a difference they had at a swimming meet in Ananda.) But, Gotabaya kept them together He deserves a gold medal for it. He had to do the balancing act because he was well focused to end terrorism from the island nation.

Finally the country was doing well and defeating the LTTE. The opposition saw the winning team and started to target Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Only Gotabaya and his family know what insult the man had to undergo for spearheading the war effort. We are told his simplicity and discipline made him withstood all that. He also knew that he earned the love from the masses. Many say that they have seen tears in his eyes and how he had reached out to help the needy, when in trouble. He must be the only public official in recent times who decided to take a newspaper to court to clear his name. A friend of his said “He got nothing to hide. He will not hide anything. It pains him when people make false accusations. He got only the country at his heart.”

When you know the man you will know who really is. He does not wear a mask. He is who he is. He will be who he is. The man who loves Sri Lanka more than he cares for himself. People who criticize him today should know that they have failed to do an inch of what Gotabaya has done for Sri Lanka. He is a simple but a true hero.

Gotabaya's imprint on Sri Lanka will remain . No one will be able to erase it because his imprints are not mere foot prints in the sands of time.

"Bell,Swan and Trophy": The JVP march of Folly

By Chakravarthy

“We have not formed any alliance with the UNP; we supported the General, the UNP supported the General and the other parties supported the General separately. The only agreement was that we will work in unity to make the General, President of this country; to hold a free and fair General election to bring back good governance, to bring back good governance and to make this society a dignified society.”

JVPTC0220.jpgswanTC220.jpgTrophytc220.jpg

JVP’s senior leader’s tottering English alone showed how the qualities of the Marxists in this country has come down. In the yester year of Ceylon, it was the leftists who had the ability to mesmerize the local and international audience with their eloquent English oration. Probably this leader may be the last to speak the Queen’s language in his party - at least to this extent.

If, staying together, speaking together and sleeping together is not an alliance, then what it is? No doubt the JVP feels let down by the UNP for it adamantly opted to ride on the elephant thus making the bell soundless. As a result now the JVP has finally declared that it has severed connection with the UNP and chose to contest the election with ‘Trophy’ symbol under the command of the ex General.

Interestingly, a reader pointed out to the media the cup is the upside version of the bell. Let us wait and see whether the JVP can bell the elephant or their effort will go upside down.

Well, in the Ceylon history before the birth of Centre left SLFP, it was the rightists and the leftists who fought for the political glory. Once the SLFP was found to be gaining ground with her racial attitude, leftists who were interested in power slowly shifted camp, and eventually the known leftists parties too joined hands realizing that they could never come to power on their own with their policy of “religion is opium” in the country that is highly pious.

The remarkable victory was in 1970 election and the notable fall out was in 1975 when the LSSP was sacked by Mrs. Srimao Bandaraike on friction. The JVP that was known at that time as “Che Guevarists” - named after the Argentine Marxist revolutionary who was a major figure in Cuban Revolution, left Carl Marx, Lenin and Trotsky to the established left parties and followed Che in appearance and style.

Though they were accused of being the main culprit of the 1983 anti Tamil riots and got proscribed by the government, after some time the ban was lifted by the same regime, an act said to weaken the traditional leftists.

Once again the JVP took the country under the spell of terror in 1987-89 where a chit by a young boy to a shop, would make the whole country to put the shutters down. The suffering of the people were immense with many vital services like transport went on long strike.

The rebels proved their mark when 1989 UNP presidential candidate’s meeting in Matara was attended by none though the “never say no” politician spoke to the invisible audience for nearly an hour.

“Man of the people” president’s carrots were rejected by the rebels, so he had to go all out to annihilate the JVP carders ruthlessly as the tortured masses also approved it silently. In a way, democracy in this country would have become a thing of the past if the “ southern boys” were left to have their own way.

Those went underground, being unable to bear the heat exercised by President Premadasa, came out of the dark rooms after his death. They strained every nerve to make Chandrika Bandaranike’s bid for the presidency successful as their future also depended on her results like, life or death.

The ovation in her last meeting at the Campbell Park “Chandrika- Chandrika” for five minutes was really a stage managed drama. She also, strangely declared that it was not the JVP but the UNP that killed her husband. Politicians who speak or act against their conscience for petty gains, one day will repent as situation changes.

Though the JVP contested the 2004 election in alliance with the UPFA, the group could defeat the UNP but failed to muster majority in the parliament. At a point the JVP itself confronted the present king that prompted him to abduct or induct other men’s wives to his ‘harem‘. The result of this deed will be known on the 8th of March whether it was a marriage of convenience or mere infatuation.

The ex General’s quarrel with his former masters was a god sent gift to the shrinking JVP influence. No doubt it was they who encouraged him to jump into the pool as a swan. But could their effort alone have given him the cup? No not at all. He could have got smaller than a tea cup.

This is where the JVP faulted and fell short of wisdom to understand the ground reality. If not the UNP’s helping hand, the swan would have gone featherless. Out of the 4 million votes, leaving alone the election dispute, how much the JVP vote bank would have contributed apart from the Tamil and Muslim support?

It is chiefly the UNP votes that armed the ex General to fight otherwise his T56 rifle would have been sans bullets. Under this circumstance how could have the JVP treated the UNP and his leader? It was shabby. But without any icon of doubt, in case the ex General had won the cup, the UNP’s leader deserved to be the Prime Minister of a care taker government.

JVP’s scoffing at him was the greatest folly they made and it was an ungrateful act, where the passenger saying no changes and pay nothing to the porter who handled his baggage to the check in counter. Mind you some porters accept any currency.

And the political novice ex General also slanted too much on the immature JVP politicians. It was tragic he was learning the alphabet of politics from a tutor who could neither read nor write.

JVPers are good at election concerned activities. What is the vision of these non English speaking former rebels who are still suspected to be ‘once a thief always a thief’. Have they totally come out of the rebel mind set?

The very armed forces they despised and killed in 1987/89, were courted by them from 1994 pretending to be the greatest patriots. What was the cause for the DIG Udugampola who was notorious for his illegal arrest, illegal detention and the illegal removal of JVP cadres, to say “….It is a fact that I hit the JVP hard and crippled them”?

UNP is a rightist party based on capitalist theory which in a way saved this country from the rampant shortage and poverty under Mrs. B’s auspicious rule. As an opposition party the SLFP opposed every new thing the UNP introduced like the Rupavahini television and the construction of the new parliament building at Sri Jayawardenapura. Today it is the UPFA that enjoys the best of it. Just imagine how the government’s presidential candidate would have fared in the absence of the Rupavahini and the ITN?

As the JVP leader said early they can not form any alliance with the UNP where the policies of the two parties are at vertical like the South Pole and the North Pole. But one should be grateful to the other for the help rendered. JVP showed no gratitude.

It is understandable that the JVP would feel uncomfortable to ride on the elephant who is a sworn enemy by policy. But today’s politics is to court the enemy, some times in secret. An enemy’s friendship is as tastier as stolen mangoes.

The UNP candidate, without any doubt, could have lost with this kind of barrage of all sorts. Yet see how good they were in accommodating the ex General and the antics of the JVP during the election.

What is the guarantee that the JVP would not now do what they did to Chandrika under a common symbol in 2004? Though the JVP paints a picture with a nationalist brush, in reality many of their actions are - were deemed as backward and hindrance to the growth - development of the country.

Now it has come to the feet of the ex General with whom a section of the people sympathize for his present fate. But does the ex General has a chance to become the Prime Minister with the cup? Never. Therefore how do we expect the masses to waste their vote going for the General who may be a mere MP - some times?

Besides, why did the JVP, in support of the ex General,fail to cripple the administration with their trade Union power to press for a recount or arrange street protests like in Pakistan “Go Musharaff Go” and later “Go Zardari Go”, while the “Captain for life” was all out to avoid a repeat of how Nawaz Sheriff was ousted. Is the JVP a spent force, lacks political wisdom or an advice from Beijing to go slow?

Finally, the JVP is not Usain Bolt. This is a match fixing game where the name of the winner is already engraved on the cup. Let us wait and see how the wind blows.

Will the Constitution,Parliamentary Elections Act and Criminal Procedure Code be Dispensed with too?

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene

On the one hand, a former professor of law now turned strident government propagandist, Minister GL Peiris tells us that the due process of law is being followed in governmental actions against its critics. On the other hand, we have the unreservedly peculiar spectacle of magistrates routinely releasing opposition politicians, journalists and activists arrested and detained by the police and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on the basis that there had been no evidence to arrest and detain them in the first place

The stark absurdity of this contradiction is well manifested in the Editor of the Lanka newspaper, Chandana Sirimalwatte's confessing this week that he is equally puzzled as to why he was suddenly released as much as he remained puzzled regarding the reasons for his initial arrest.

Disregarding of the principle of legality

So notwithstanding what the erstwhile learned professor attempts to tells us in pursuance of vigorously defending his political masters, the total disregarding of the principle of legality by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration post elections is a good indication as to where this country is headed governance-wise.

First, the waters were tested by the gradually unscrupulous abandonment of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. When protests in regard to this were niggardly, (even initially by opposition political parties themselves) and the issue quite predictably failed to strike a chord with the ruder masses, then the government proceeded to bigger and brighter endeavours. These included not only the masterly conducting of a Presidential election that flouted every aspect of election laws but also the arresting and detaining of the former common opposition candidate under the Army Act for military trial on grounds that remain vaguely centered on bedtime stories of conspiracies and coups.

The reason as to why such action was resorted to rather than putting into motion, the ordinary law, is very clear. Even if, in the long run, we take the high road and dare to believe that the legal validity of such an approach in the circumstances of this case will be ultimately reviewed by the appellate courts against the government, the regime's objectives are achieved for the immediate present. This is to put the common opposition candidate effectively out of political circulation during the pre-parliamentary elections period once the initial furor over his arrest and detention dies down.

Total subversion of rule of law

If, on the other hand, the former army commander had been brought before ordinary courts of law, then (as much as his supporters were released this week by the Colombo Chief magistrate upon the CID failing to produce any evidence to justify the basis for arrest), the burden of justifying arrest and detention would have been that much greater and that much more pressing. This, in the proverbial nutshell, is what we are faced with currently; a façade of a democracy and the total subversion of the rule of law.

This breakdown in governance was what the monks of the four primary Buddhist chapters in this country had wished to discuss in the now postponed Sangha gathering. The postponement was implicitly due to unprecedented pressure and intimidation being directly brought to bear on the head monks by forces linked to the government. This is as much an indication as to the precise point at which we are placed on the democratic index as Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake's retraction from his earlier near tearful vows to step down from his post following the January's Presidential elections where he was reduced to saying that he may not be able to ensure the security of ballot boxes under his supervision.

Notably too, the uneasy truce achieved by the opposition backing General Sarath Fonseka's candidature during the Presidential elections has now splintered and the unfortunate former common candidate has now only the JVP as his backers together with resoundingly problematic personalities such as Sri Lanka's former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva. The main United National Party, together with its political allies will, (true to form), subside to bitter mutterings regarding the loss of democracy and unless a veritable miracle occurs, will be unable to rejuvenate itself effectively.

What we may see in the months ahead

So, in the months ahead to April 2010, we may perhaps usefully dispense with both international and local polls monitors who accomplish little except the tired cataloguing of old complaints. To complete this process, we may also dispense with not only the constitutional commissions but also the Constitution, the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

We may again watch Mr Dissanayake issue useless guidelines to the state media, suffer the blatant abuse of state machinery, watch his returning officers being chased out and abused and then (tearfully or not as the case may be) 'declare' election results after his usual fashion. We may consign the fundamental principle of an independent media to the dustbin and see other critics suffer the same date as Pragneeth Ekneligoda who remains 'disappeared' to date.

Further, we may resign ourselves to seeing monks, (however venerable they may be), priests of other religious orders and whoever else who may dare to even mildly critique the administration, being banished to the rapidly growing legion of those categorized as traitors.

We may also see university academics, including sitting Vice Chancellors, again professing their allegiance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and look forward to more politicians being bestowed doctorates from academic institutions at which some of us are now ashamed to admit that we once learnt the fundamentals of the law and legal jurisprudence.

What more indeed, when a former Vice Chancellor and professor of the law advises us that there is due process in the moving of the law against the opposition and (not so long ago) threatened to sue the European Commission for its now final decision to withdraw the GSP Plus trade privilege?

We may look forward to these happenings with breathless anticipation if not amazement indeed in the months to come. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Times ~

On being Democratic in spite of the Constitution

by Rajan Philips

The polemical piece I wrote on cricket and the Constitution two weeks ago has got drawn into the debate over the Third Amendment, courtesy Rajiva Wijesinha’s intervention last week. That provides me with the context, if not the pretext, to offer this proposition on how Sri Lanka could be democratic despite the Constitution and not in defiance of the Constitution. My emphasis as earlier is on the political purpose of the constitution as opposed to its legal or textual interpretations

I would have thought that the absurdity of the Third Amendment should be obvious even to those who are professionally disposed to privileging the textual interpretation of a constitution when they take into consideration the normative presuppositions of democracy. So I was surprised to read in the (Chennai) Frontline journal that there is a school of legal opinion in Colombo that holds that under the JRJ Constitution, an incumbent President is entitled to complete her or his first term of six years even after winning a prematurely called election for a second term.

A not so facetious rejoinder to this opinion is to ask if this interpretation would allow the incumbent to complete the full six years of the first term regardless of the incumbent calling an election after four years and losing it. Put another way, even if Mahinda Rajapakse had lost the January presidential election, he could have held on to the presidency till November 2011, till he completed the full six years of his first term. General Sarath Fonseka would have been the president-in-waiting – long enough to be court-martialed! The absurdity of the whole thing should be obvious. And that’s my point.

The absurdity could be made clearer not only by the cricket analogy I used earlier but also by looking at the practice of parliamentary elections. In the more traditional parliamentary system, historically evolved conventions allow the Prime Minister to call an election at the time of her or his choosing, but only for manifestly strong reasons. Once an election is called the old parliament stands dissolved until a new one is elected. It would still be a new parliament even if the outgoing Prime Minister and her or his government are re-elected again. Why should it be different for a President?

In the presidential-parliamentary system of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister has no powers but the President can not only go for re-election anytime after four years but she or he can also dissolve parliament anytime after one year of a parliamentary election. This was again a JRJ-maladjustment of the 1972 Constitutional provision to prevent a parliamentary election being called within one year of a previous election. JRJ made it undemocratically presidential by allowing the president to call an election anytime after one year.

Those who are familiar with past Sri Lankan elections will know that the 1972 restriction was to prevent the recurrence of what happened in 1960 – when two elections were held in March and July of that year. The then Governor General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, need not have called the July election but given the chance to C.P. de Silva to form an SLFP-led coalition government after the minority UNP government led by Dudley Senanayake had been defeated on its first throne speech following the March election. Sir Oliver wanted to give the son of his friend a second chance, but the voters gave the SLFP a landslide victory and Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Prime Minister without even contesting in the election. That was the beginning of her political career. In 2004, President Kumaratunga used the JRJ provision to discard legitimacy and prematurely call a parliamentary election. That marked the beginning of the end of her political career. Be that as it may.

The Proposition

Short of going through the cumbersome requirements to amend the JRJ Constitution, President Rajapakse could set a democratic precedent, or a convention, by opting not to use the Third Amendment at all. He could simply take the oath right now, at the first astrologically auspicious date available, start counting the six years of his second term from that day, and willingly, democratically forego the 11-month-or-so extension from the first term that the Supreme Court has granted him through its advisory opinion. His close supporters may not like it. But he would have created a democratic convention, bypassing the JRJ Constitution without defying it - better still, without having to amend it.

To set a convention is to set an example, or practice, that although it is not legally required is always respected and adhered to by all successors. That is, every future president will not serve more than six years in a term, and that even when an incumbent president calls an election any time after four years and before six years, she or he would willingly forego the unused period in the first term. In that sense, President Kumaratunga started a bad precedent and President Rajapakse is persisting with it. It might be constitutional, but it is not democratic.

Even if President Rajapakse for whatever reason (there may not be an auspicious day to be found till November) is unable to establish a new convention by immediately taking his oath for the second term, he could facilitate the creation of a new convention through an act of parliament. The new Parliament that is to be elected in April could enact legislation to recommend that parliamentary and presidential elections occur every six years in a specified month of the year – like the system in America.

By recommending, as opposed to stipulating, six yearly elections, Parliament could avoid the need to formally amend the Constitution. So the Third Amendment could remain intact, but no body will use it. A new democratic convention would have been established in spite of the Constitution.

I am assuming that constitutional purists will not object to this proposition on the basis that the Constitution should not be by-passed or slighted but should be adhered to. For there has been no serious qualm among the purists over the practice of successive presidents to severely ignore the Thirteenth Amendment and the unwillingness of President Rajapakse to have anything to do with the Seventeenth Amendment. The criticisms in regard to these inactions have mostly emanated from political critics.

From the standpoint of democratic politics, the case for ignoring the Third Amendment cannot be stronger and so is the case for implementing the Thirteenth and the Seventeenth Amendments. I am not writing with the expectation that the President’s office will take this proposition seriously, or that the Leader of the Opposition will make it an April campaign issue. But only to show how ill-equipped we have become even to ignore the absurd Third Amendment, and how opportunistic our leaders are in taking full advantage of it.

February 19, 2010

Govt. 'trying to destroy Buddhism'

Source: Sandeshaya

The main opposition in Sri Lanka has accused the government of violating the constitution by trying to destroy the Theravada Buddhism in the island.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe said a certain section of Buddhist monks (a Heretic Sect) have threatened to divide the main Nikaya among the four major Buddhist chapters.

Speaking to journalists in Colombo, he said the alleged threats made to Mahanayake thero of the Malwatta Chapter, Most Ven. Thibbotuvave Sri Sumangala thero, has been warned by certain leading Buddhist monks to cancel the Thursday's proposed Sangha convention or they would divide the Malwatta Chapter.

The United National Party (UNP) leader alleged that the government, which is bound to secure and protect Buddhism as per the country's constitution, has been "sponsoring" these threats.

"These monks have said that they would take over some temples belong to Malwatta Chapter and hand over them to another Chapter. These statements were made under state sponsorship. State sponsorship for a creating a new Buddhist chapter dividing Malwatta chapter is a violation of the constitution," he said.

Mr. Wickramasinghe said those monks have no right to hold any position in the government, including the post of Chancellor of universities or Head of Pirivena.

"The government is on a path to destroy Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Buddhist monks were threatened; they were told they would be bombed if they convened to Kandy. We condemn all these actions," he said.

The opposition leader said the Buddhist devotees and public in Sri Lanka have a right to know who threatened the most sacred Buddhist leaders in the country.

However, the government denied any involvement in the postponement of the proposed Sangha convention.

Religious Affairs minister Pandu Bandaranaike told BBC Sandeshaya that the decision was taken by the Mahanayake theros after considering the safety and security of the monks and the devotees. [BBCSInhala.com]

Related:

Sri Lanka government cozying to 'oppressors of Buddhism' was protested in Nov 2009:

-Protest in Colombo as Myanmar leader visited Sri Lanka-Nov 2009-VikalpaSL

-Monks 'too scared to protest' as Burma leader General Than Shwe visits Sri Lanka-Times UK, Nov 14, 2009

CPJ report on Attacks on the Press in Sri Lanka - 2009

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Top Developments

• Editor murdered, broadcaster bombed, reporters assaulted.
• Columnist convicted of terrorism for his writing.

Key Statistic

0: Number of convictions in 10 journalist murders since 1992.

On May 19, the government formally declared a victory in its 26-year civil war with the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had claimed territory for an ethnic Tamil homeland. Victory came at a high price for the press. Escalating attacks on independent journalists coincided with the government’s 2006 decision to pursue an all-out military victory, CPJ found in a February special report, “Failure to Investigate.” Ethnic Tamil journalists seen by the government as supporting independence had long been under murderous assault, but physical and verbal attacks on Sinhalese and Muslim journalists critical of the government’s military operations began accelerating in 2006 as well. These attacks—which in 2009 included a murder, a bombing, and several assaults—occurred with complete impunity.

On January 6, as many as 20 assailants carried out a 3 a.m. bombing that destroyed the control room of the country’s largest independent broadcasting company, Maharajah Broadcasting, knocking the prominent Sirasa TV and six sister radio and television stations off the air, according to news accounts and CPJ interviews. The blast came after state media criticized the broadcaster for its coverage of military operations.

The bombing was immediately followed by two violent episodes in which motorcyclists wielding iron bars and wooden poles attacked prominent journalists. A January 8 assault by eight men on four motorcycles resulted in the death of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga and set off a wave of domestic and international protest. Wickramatunga foresaw his own murder, writing in an editorial published three days after his death: “Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened, and killed. It has been my honor to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.”

The other January attack, on Upali Tennakoon, editor of the Sinhala-language, pro-government weekly Rivira and his wife, Dhammika, came at about 6:40 a.m. on January 23. This time, four men on two motorcycles severely injured Tennakoon. Soon after, the couple fled to the United States seeking asylum.

The government denounced the January attacks but sought to deflect responsibility. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, the top officials in the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, told Colombo newspapers there was a “massive conspiracy” to discredit the government by destabilizing the country with attacks on prominent figures. They said a comprehensive inquiry would be carried out to find the attackers in all three January cases. Such inquiries had been promised in the past; as in the past, the 2009 cases led to no conclusive government action by late year.

With international outrage growing, CPJ sent a representative to Colombo to investigate the assaults. Eighteen journalists were killed in Sri Lanka between 1992 and 2009, according to CPJ research, and 10 of them were murdered. No convictions have been obtained in any of the murders, a law enforcement failure that propelled Sri Lanka to fourth place on CPJ’s Impunity Index. The index is a ranking of countries where journalists are killed regularly and authorities are unable to solve the crimes.

CPJ said the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be held directly responsible for impunity surrounding the attacks. Nine of the murders took place after Rajapaksa rose to high office, first as prime minister in April 2004 and then as president in November 2005. CPJ testified before U.S. Senate and House committees, as well as Canada’s House of Commons, about the January attacks and the history of abuse directed at journalists in the country.

The Sri Lankan government maintained a hard line of denial after CPJ released its findings. A Washington meeting between a CPJ delegation and Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya did not change the government’s outward position—no assurances were given and little responsibility was accepted. The acts of intimidation and the absence of substantive government response drove at least 11 Sri Lankan journalists into exile between June 2008 and June 2009, CPJ research found. Sri Lankan journalists accounted for more than a quarter of the journalists worldwide who fled their countries during that period after being attacked, harassed, or threatened with violence or imprisonment, according to CPJ research.

January’s attacks and intimidation continued through the year. Typical was the June 1 kidnapping of the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Poddala Jayantha. He was abducted on a busy road in Colombo during rush hour, beaten, and dropped by the side of a road in a suburb. Witnesses at the scene said six unidentified men in a white Toyota Hi Ace van with tinted glass windows had grabbed him; the same type of vehicle has been used to pick up antigovernment figures in the past. No arrests had been made by late year.

In July, domestic access to the independent Lanka News Web was shut down. The site’s managers received no formal explanation but suspected the shutdown stemmed from a story reporting that the president’s son had been the target of stone throwers at a Tamil refugee camp. Around the same time, the official Web site of the Ministry of Defense carried an article headlined, “Traitors in Black Coats Flocked Together,” which identified five lawyers who represented the Sunday Leader newspaper at a July 9 hearing in a Mount Lavinia court as having “a history of appearing for and defending” LTTE guerrillas. The article included pictures of three of the lawyers, making them identifiable to government supporters who might accost them.

CPJ pressed for journalists to be allowed access to the conflict zones. Both the government and the LTTE had barred the press. Reporters who did try to cover the major humanitarian catastrophe taking place in the heart of the Indian Ocean region were obstructed. A team from Britain’s Channel 4 News—Asia correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, cameraman Matt Jasper, and producer Bessie Du—were ordered to leave the country on May 10 by Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Channel 4 had just aired footage filmed secretly in a Tamil refugee camp in the northern city of Vavuniya. The report included allegations that guards had left corpses to rot, that food and water were in short supply, and that sexual abuse was prevalent. A month later, on July 20, Associated Press Bureau Chief Ravi Nessman was ordered out the country when the government refused to renew his visa.

By mid-year it was clear that, even with its victory in the war against the LTTE, the government was not going to back away from its policies of intimidation. That reality was driven home on August 31, when columnist J.S. Tissainayagam, also known as Tissa, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of violating the country’s harsh anti-terror law. After his conviction, the first in which a journalist was found guilty of violating the country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, a Colombo High Court sentenced him to 20 years of hard labor.

Terrorism Investigation Division officials arrested Tissainayagam, an English-language columnist for the Sri Lankan Sunday Times and editor of the news Web site OutreachSL, on March 7, 2008, when he visited their offices to inquire about the arrests of colleagues the previous day. He was held without charge until his indictment in August 2008 in connection with articles published nearly three years earlier in a now-defunct magazine, North Eastern Monthly. The sentencing judge, Deepali Wijesundara, said articles Tissainayagam wrote for the Monthly in 2006 incited communal disharmony, an offense under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. She also found him guilty of raising funds to publish the magazine, itself a violation of the anti-terror law.

The government had backed off the anti-terror law in 2006 when, under a cease-fire then in effect between the government and the LTTE, it pledged not to detain people under the statute. But as the government ramped up its military efforts, it began enforcing provisions of the law to rein in uncooperative media.

In November, CPJ recognized Tissainayagam’s independent journalism, practiced under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, by honoring him with an International Press Freedom Award.

Committee to Protect Journalists, 330 7th Avenue, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10001

"Economics" the cause of war in Sri Lanka-can be key to lasting peace too

By Yatharthan

Economics is the cause and effect of War and Peace in Human History.

This article looks at the Tamil struggle based on economics rather than politics. Although economics and politics are two different disciplines they are intertwined in many ways. In today’s world the most paramount human desire is one to strive for better economic status. This is the single most powerful driving force behind Capitalism and Democracy in the world today. This is where Socialism failed spectacularly, when it wrongly perceived that political power to be the overriding human desire, and possibly where Tamil militancy failed too.

In the North East of Srilanka, deprived economic conditions after independence led to Tamil Nationalism, and then to Tamil Separatism in the sole aim of self-rule for better economic prosperity of Tamils. After 1977, with the open economy, Srilanka was a striving economy in Asia, and most of the spoils of the wealth were with the Tamils in Colombo and other capital cities. This economic disparity was a key factor, which led the Sinhalese to target, destroy and plunder ‘Tamil wealth’ in the 1983 riots, which is officially the start of the ‘Civil war’. This catastrophic economic loss to the Tamils caused the huge surge in Tamil militancy after 1983.

History tells us that successful military revolutions/campaigns have been accomplished within 5 years of active struggle. Longer military campaigns in any society can not be tolerated/supported by the people under continuing economic hardships. The Srilankan civil war was characterised by both warring parties targeting the others’ economy. The Tamil militancy carried out several daring attacks on ‘economic targets’ such as the Srilankan International Airport, Central Bank etc. In turn, the Srilankan Govt. imposed economic embargos on the Tamils.

At times of economic strife both the Srilankan Govt and the Tamil militancy engaged in ‘peace talks’ while rebuilding their economies. Srilankan economy seems to have survived the odds while the Tamil economy had gradually weakened over time. This then lead to the weakening of the Tamil militancy. Tamils started to leave from the North-East seeking better economic conditions, and they moved to the South of the island, and some moved overseas for even better economic prosperity. It was indeed a sad state of affairs for the Tamil militancy when it had to impose ‘travel bans’ on its own people, which caused further loss of support from the people towards the militancy. Although the Tamil militancy initially viewed the Tamil exodus as detrimental to their economy, later on the migrated Tamils supported the war financially.

Many migrated Tamils supported the militancy out of guilt of abandoning the rebellion rather than of any direct economic benefit to them. The Tamil Diaspora proved to be the back bone of the Tamil militancy with the wealth they supplied from foreign economies. Although the Tamil Diaspora wealth propped up the Tamil militancy for more than 15 yrs, the Tamils in North East continued to live in relatively poor economic conditions compared to the rest of the island and their kin now living around the world. This installed a ‘migration’ mindset among Tamils, which they saw as the ONLY way out for a better economic life.

The ‘final war’ was in itself an economics of scale ‘numbers game’. First the Tamil militancy was economically weakened by depriving them the ‘Diaspora Wealth’ by the banning the Tamil Militancy in several countries. This was followed by the targeting of the Tamil militancy’s overseas economic assets, such as destroying the military hardware supply ships. Then the Srilankan Govt. under wrote its own economy to borrow heavily to fund the final war. The borrowed wealth was used to modernise the military and boosting the troop numbers.

On the other hand, the Tamil militancy had dwindling cadre numbers with a relatively small recruitment pool and a very poor supply of military hardware. The economic mismatch of the two sides in the final war was so wide that defeat of Tamil militancy was inevitable. The other mismatch was the economic wealth of the Tamils living in Srilanka and the Tamil Diaspora, which led the two groups to have different expectations from the Tamil militancy. The Diaspora Tamils, being far removed from the conflict and economically affluent, actively supported the militancy for a separate country. The Tamils living in the Tamil Homeland being passive supporters strived for a reasonable ‘settlement’ of some form of self governance to allow their economic aspirations prosper.

The ‘sudden’ demise of the Tamil militancy has left both groups in despair. But the Tamils living in Srilanka, being close to the war, who had little expectations, seem to be coping well compared to the Diaspora Tamils, who were far removed from the war and had more expectations from the Tamil militancy. Further, the group living in poor economic conditions seem to be more resilient over the demise of the Tamil rebellion compared to the group living in affluent economic conditions.

The Srilankan Government now hopes a nullified Tamil Militancy will bring the country more economic stability and access to previously untapped resources, which inturn will bring in more foreign investment and wealth to the country. These economic driving forces also influenced the decision of the countries that supported the Srilankan Govt. in the final war. The Srilankan Govt. seem to have also aligned itself correctly, and at the right time, with the shifting of the world economic power houses, i.e., moving from the West(US, UK, Europe) to East (China and India) for its economic support.

As for the future, economic interest of the people (and politicians!) will be the main driving force behind the politics of Srilanka. If the Srilankan Govt. actively fosters economic development in the Tamil homeland it can quail any extreme Tamil nationalistic aspirations rising again. If it chooses to continue to deprive the Tamils living in North and East of their rightful economic development another Tamil uprising is not far away. Do not mistake the fact that a prospering economy also brings in enormous wealth to the politicians as well, and these politicians have all the intention to strive for peace.

One could argue that the Srilankan politicians had hastily ended the war after seeing the enormous ‘kick-backs’ the military top-brass was earning from the war, and now the benefits of peace and economic prosperity would flow into their own coffers rather than of the Military Generals.

As for the Tamil Homeland, there is already some signs of increased economic activity in the North and East with trade booming between North East and the rest of the country and while tourism is another thriving industry. Opening of the major banks, supermarket chains in the North are signs of increased economic activity. Further more, the rise in property value over past 6 months in and around Jaffna has been phenomenal combined with the fall in property values in Tamil dominated areas in Colombo, indicating a tendency of return of the local Tamil economic ‘migrants’ to the North. This seems a clear sign of economic prosperity in the North and East in the short period. With the return of the Tamils form the other parts of Srilanka the economy of the North will continue to boom. The money they were spending in the South will now be spent in the North.

This would ensure better goods and services are available in the North. This would then lead to better hospitals, schools, public transport and other infrastructure development in the near future. This self-supporting economic cycle will be boosted with the Diaspora Tamil wealth spent in the North East. This is bound to happen with improving economic conditions more Diaspora Tamils holidaying with their families and buying properties for their families in the North and East of Srilanka. The improving economic climate would entice organised Diaspora Tamil investment into the North East in the form of IT support officers, Engineering and Accounting Services etc tapping the vast intellectual sources. Such level of economic activity would then entice the international economic migrants to return to work and live in the North East. This then would be the true sign of the advanced economy of the Tamil Homeland.

In conclusion, economics has been the success and failure of all ideas (politics, business, engineering) and only economically sustainable ideas will stand the test of time. Economics has both been the weapon of war and reward of peace.

Economics has been the cause of war Srilanka and will be the effect of Peace in Srilanka.

Thousands of Tamils still in detention camps

By Subash Somachandran and Kamal Rasenthiran

Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, who fled the fighting in the final days of the military’s offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), remain in squalid detention camps in northern Sri Lanka. The official total is 106,000, with around 80,000 people still in the Manik Farm camps near the town of Vavuniya.

After the LTTE’s defeat last May, the army rounded up 280,000 men, women and children and put them in detention centres surrounded by barbed wire and armed soldiers. No one was permitted to leave. Visitors were heavily vetted. Thousands of young men and women were interrogated by police and military intelligence officers, and incarcerated in other, undisclosed centres as “LTTE suspects”.

Last October, in the lead-up to the presidential election, President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government eased the regime at the camps and promised that all detainees would be resettled by January 31. On December 1, inmates who had homes to return to, or relatives to stay with, were finally permitted to leave after being vetted by the security forces.

However, many refugees have no places to go. In the final months of fighting, the military laid waste to towns and villages throughout the LTTE-held territory in a ruthless war of attrition. Thousands of civilians were killed. Many who managed to escape arrived at Manik Farm and other detention centres, emaciated, injured or ill.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 160,000 people have returned to their district of origin. However, these are government figures, which must be treated with caution. Most people have not been returned to their own villages and towns. Those who have are struggling to survive with little or no government assistance. Even according to official figures, 29,060 people are staying with “host families” or relatives. They have no income and are subjected to stringent travel restrictions and police reporting requirements.

Resettlement minister Rishard Bathiudeen has repeated the lame excuse that delays in de-mining the former war zones have “impeded the resettlement process”. His secretary, U.L.M. Halaldeen, has issued what amounts to another phony promise—for the April 8 general election. “Come April, they all will be resettled by the time of the parliamentary election,” he said.

WSWS reporters recently visited the Manik Farm “welfare village” and filed the report below.

***

The Colombo government claims that after the “resettlement” of some Tamil refugees the situation in the Vavuniya detention camps has improved. We visited the Manik Farm camp, located 30 kilometres west of Vavuniya on the Mannar road. The situation there for detainees is worsening, again exposing President Rajapakse’s lies.

As we travelled to Cheddikulam where the Manik Farm camps are situated, we could see a number of dilapidated government buildings that are now being used to hold “LTTE suspects”. These prisons are surrounded by high walls and barbed wire fences and guarded by soldiers. The inmates are mainly young men and women who were interrogated and dragged away for “re-education”. No one is allowed to visit these camps.

People at Manik Farm are still living in the small tents put up last May. These tents are now in a decrepit condition. While people can now move in and out the camps are still guarded by soldiers and surrounded by barbed wire. Anger, resentment and weariness are evident in the faces of people who have now been incarcerated for eight months without adequate food, medical care and sanitary facilities.

There has been no let up in the seizing of youth as LTTE suspects. We were told that military intelligence personnel come night and day to haul people away.

The government claims that people have been given freedom of movement. But this is false. Those who want to leave have to apply and their release is by no means guaranteed.

For short-term releases, an application form must be filled out at the camp’s military office. A family member has to vouch for the outgoing person by signing the application form. Those given “freedom of movement” have to return on the same day. If they fail, the family member is taken into custody.

The regime for visitors is also prison-like. Visitors have to register with police at the entrance to the camp. They can only enter after a body search and are then confined to the visitors’ area. No cameras or cell phones are allowed. Visitors cannot come closer than a metre or so to the inmates and often have to speak loudly to communicate. Soldiers monitor what is being said and also the limited amount of time allocated.

Food is limited. The weekly ration is just a kilogram each of rice, flour and sugar and 100 grams of lentils or dhal per person. People have no money to buy other essentials. They do not get fish, meat, egg or vegetables. The rations are obvious inadequate and many children and adults are suffering from malnutrition.

Water is also scarce. Each inmate receives five litres of drinking water per week. Tube wells have been sunk to use for bathing and washing, but the water is very salty. To ease the water shortages, the military management in charge of the camp has brought muddy water from a nearby dam. However, people have refused to use that water.

We saw dozens of people going in and out of the camps after obtaining permission. Many of these people leave to try to sell their meagre possessions and even relief items to obtain money for other things. The government has made these innocent people completely destitute.

Health services in the camp have deteriorated. Last month the Colombo government washed its hands of providing health care, passing the responsibility to the provincial government. However, provincial health services lack adequate funds and are crumbling. Doctors assigned to the camps only attend for two to three hours a day.

Thousands of young children have been deprived of education. About 2,500 school children have been allowed to attend schools in Vavuniya. However, there are no facilities or teachers. The students sit under the trees until the end of the school day and return to the camps.

During the election campaign, Rajapakse visited one of the camps and feigned anger at the conditions facing the inmates. He promised to complete the resettlement process. State-owned TV stations broadcast footage of Rajapakse giving “advice” to military personnel to provide “facilities” for the refugees. It was all for show. Nothing has happened since.

Such is the anger among the refugees that very few wanted to vote—either for Rajapakse or opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, the general who ruthlessly prosecuted the war against the LTTE. As is clear from the above, the situation inside the camps makes it very difficult for people to speak openly to visitors. But we got a glimpse of the sentiment from one person who told us:

“Those people who wanted to exercise their voting rights were not given a chance. Some people were able to go and vote in the morning. But in the afternoon, the army and police told the people they would not be allowed to leave because they could vote for Fonseka.

“Many people want to oust this government somehow because of its crime against us. But why should one vote for any of them? Rajapakse and Fonseka were together when they ordered the military to shower us with bombs.” ~ courtesy: WSWS ~

February 18, 2010

V. Anandasangaree writes to President Mahinda Rajapakse urging free and fair polls

Full Text of letter:

13-02-2010

His Excellency Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
President of Sri Lanka
Temple Trees
Colombo


Your Excellency,

Tamil minorities to act with caution

Permit me to bring to your notice certain matters that I feel as relevant at this juncture The minority communities in Sri Lanka today are facing the worst crisis not specifically in one field but almost in all fields that concern the humans.

While all other minority communities have a fair amount of representation in Parliament only the Tamils of the North and the East have no proper representation, about which I do not want to elaborate at this juncture. Our problems have got accumulated over a period of several years. Thuggery, intimidation, fraud and large scale impersonation at all elections since 1989, resulted in the failure of the people to elect the representatives of their choice. It is the threat of arms that elected the people’s representatives these 20-30 years not only to Parliament but also to almost all other Democratic Institutions.

If the government is really serious about restoring democracy at all levels in the North and the East, it should take action, well ahead of the last day for submission of nominations for the forth coming parliamentary elections, to withdraw all arms from the persons or groups who are not legally authorized to posses arms. Then only there will be proper “Vasantham” in the North and “Uthayam” in the East and the people of these areas will enter into a new-era with most of their rights, be they fundamental, human or democratic, restored fully. Also they will enjoy the freedom of electing their representatives of their own free will. This will not only grant relief for the people after three decades but will also increase the credibility of the government which is at stake atleast in the North and the East are concerned.

I strongly urge that Your Excellency should endeavor to conduct free and fair election and avoid promoting any group that has no clean back ground.

Thanking You.

V. Anandasangaree
President- TULF

Lanka determined to Court Martial Fonseka despite protests

by P.K. Balachandran

Despite protests from the national opposition parties and the international community, the Sri Lankan government appears to be determined to Court Martial former Army Commander and defeated Presidential candidate Gen.Sarath Fonseka, reliable sources say.

It is unofficially learnt that the Court Martial would be headed by the senior most officer in the tri-services, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke.

The choice of ACM Goonetileke is expected to meet the criticism from Fonseka’s lawyers that he cannot be tried by officers who are junior to him in service. Since Fonseka was Chief of Defence Staff ,with jurisdiction over the three services, and the charges against him relate to his tenure as CDS also, a non army officer could also be on the panel of judges.

That the government is keen on going through the process which it had begun, has been evident from some events and actions.

Firstly, Fonseka was arrested under the Army Act using the Military Police, and then he was lodged in a house once used by the present navy chief, Adm. Tissara Samarasinghe.

MAHANAYAKES MANAGED

Secondly, the government was not alarmed by the letter which the top leaders of the Buddhist clergy, called the Mahanayakes, had written to President Rajapaksa, on the Fonseka affair. The letter had asserted the Mahanayakes’ “traditional right” to intervene in matters of State, and on that basis, demanded the release of Fonseka.

The government did not openly challenge the Mahanayakes, but it is learnt that it put it to them firmly that it was doing the right thing.

It said that it had clinching evidence against Fonseka.The war hero had been plotting against the government, gathering his own clique within the army, using deserters ,encouraging desertion, and joining hands with subversive political forces outside even while in service.

The Mahanayakes, who were to meet on February 18, to discuss the response to their letter and chalk out the next course of action, indefinitely postponed the meeting.

INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS DISREGARDED

While the Indian government expressed the hope that Sri Lanka would go through “due process” in the Fonseka case, the opposition BJP sought New Delhi’s intervention to stop the persecution of the Lankan war hero.

The US too pleaded for due process, subtly indicating that it did not approve a Court Martial. British opposition MP and foreign affairs specialist Dr.Liam Fox was more direct. He told President Rajapaksa here on Wednesday, that Fonseka should be tried by a civil court to ensure transparancy and safeguard Sri Lanka’s reputation abroad.

But the Sri Lankan government appears to have disregarded these pleas. Liam Fox was told that the Court Martial would be carried out under what is basically and originally, British law.

IMPORTANCE OF GOTABAYA

It is said that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is particularly keen that Fonseka’s should be tried by Court Martial, partly because Fonseka had publicly tried to implicate him in “war crimes”.

Even as Fonseka’s lawyers argued in the Supreme Court that Fonseka could not be tried by Court Martial, Gotabaya told Straits Times that he would be tried by Court Martial. In the Rajapaksa regime, Gotabaya is the final word in military matters.

GOTABAYA BRIEFS INDIAN OFFICIALS IN DELHI

Significantly, Gotabaya is currently in New Delhi, briefing Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the National Security Advisor Shivahankar Menon on the evidence gathered against Fonseka and what the Rajapaksa government plans to do in the case.

Ostensibly, the Lankan Defense Secretary is in New Delhi to see the DEFEXPO INDIA 2010, an event for which he had been invited by the exhibition authorities.But really, Gotabaya has other more important business to attend to. ~ courtesy: Express Buzz ~

The permanent prejudices of the establishment: Twenty years after Richard de Zoysa

By Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

Richard de Zoysa died twenty years ago, in the early hours of February 18th 1990. He had been abducted from his home earlier that night by a posse of armed men, part of the death squads which had dealt with what was seen in those days as the JVP menace.

rdtc219.jpg

Richard de Zoysa

The methods used during that period to rid the country of what was seen as terror are now all forgotten. This is not only because they occurred two decades and more ago, and our memories are incredibly short. No, it was also because the perpetrators of terror in those days were also part of the establishment, and therefore any misdemeanours on their part are naturally skated over.

In that respect Richard’s death proved a turning point. Being himself a member of the establishment, however rebellious, he could not be ignored, and it is in part because of his death that the reign of terror came to a halt. And perhaps even more fortunately, the criticism then led to crystallization of protest, the emergence of a proactive Civil Society that has made itself heard ever since, when abuses take place.

At the same time it could be argued that this was possible because the governments in power were not establishmentarian in character. Not only has Sri Lanka been governed for the last 15 years by the SLFP, which the Colombo establishment opposes as a matter of principle, before that there was Premadasa. Though the establishment was divided at the time, enough of its more articulate members opposed him and saw rights issues as a vehicle for protest.

So we have the paradox that those who cared nothing when Jayewardene presided over the burning of the Jaffna Public Library and the pogrom of 1983, the deprivation of Mrs Bandaranaike’s Civic Rights and the Referendum of 1982 that put off elections for six years, the nullification through hasty legislation of Appeal Court judgments and the intimidation of Supreme Court judges, now appear as champions of the minorities and democracy and the rule of law.

Of course there is a new generation involved, and we cannot really blame them for their ignorance, in a society which remembers nothing, except grudges and prejudices. But their paymasters are those who relished authoritarianism when it seemed to promote their interests, and that is why we should not be surprised that they flirted with authoritarianism again. Bizarrely, they were also prepared, in promoting this, to ally themselves with the JVP which had been hunted down with such relish twenty years earlier.

But the dance of death that the establishment engages in ever so often should be the subject of a longer study. Here I am concerned with a small element in this process, which was highlighted by Richard a couple of years before he died, and which I was reminded of by a fortuitous encounter in Jaipur in November last year.

I had been asked to deliver a keynote address on education to the Conference of a Non-Governmental Organization, and afterwards I saw a performance in the open air of ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, which we had promoted at the British Council way back in I think 1987.

In those days, unlike previously and since, the British Council was also a venue for protest theatre, with the full backing of the then British Council Representative, Rex Baker. He did on occasion ask me whether we were not going too far, but my view was that freedom had to be tested to its limits. Rex had served previously in Iraq, and initially wanted to put up a photograph of President Jayewardene along with one of the Queen at the entrance to the Council, but I dissuaded him on the grounds that that would be seen as a political gesture, and the Council was respected as an institution beyond politics. In general then I was allowed a free hand, and able therefore to use the talents of purveyors of protest such as Richard and Steve de la Zilwa.

It was the latter who produced ‘Accidental Death’. Richard, who had done a fascinating ‘Merchant of Venice’ for us, which touched on elements of the racism that we both worried about, felt his own political commentary had been far too subtle to be understood, and that Steve’s production had dealt admirably with current issues. He consoled himself however with the thought that at least the ‘Merchant’ had been toured, whereas ‘Accidental Death’ could only play in our little British Council auditorium. One review of the production was, if I remember right, called ‘A beautiful caged animal’.

When people talk now about the absence of media freedom, I think back to those days and wonder about how quickly they have been forgotten. Soon after that I managed to get the services of Scott Richards for a series of workshops, which all produced tellingly political productions. The first was ‘What the papers don’t say’, and had biting comments on issues like the private medical college which could not then be discussed in the regular press.

On the strength of that production Richard decided to send some of his more recent acquaintance for the workshops, boys who I later found out were associated with the JVP, a couple of whom were killed for this in 1989. He was ambivalent about work with the British Council, which he thought a bourgeois institution, but he felt that with Scott there would be scope for self expression for his boys. So it proved, and the next production was a sensational collation called ‘Twice Told Tales’, which had even my sedate father relishing the witty barbs.

But all this was contained. In those days television and radio were state monopolies, and even the one set of independent newspapers we had was muted. Ironically, the breakthrough came only after Richard’s death, under Premadasa, who was I think confident enough not to care about what others said, who unlike Jayewardene was always prepared to face elections. He it was who started issuing licenses for broadcasting, and permitted papers and new tabloids to spring up. I have no doubt that he would have survived their criticism, but the Tigers realized his strength and got rid of him, and ensured comparatively weak and petulant governance over the next decade.

How would Richard have reacted? I saw his opposition to Premadasa as in part fuelled by his establishment background, or at least his closeness to Lalith Athulathmudali. Conversely it could be seen as simply a product of his closeness to the JVP, through the boys whose approach to life, so utterly different from his own, he found fascinating. He could not get over the gulf that separated his earlier protégés from Royal, who would go abroad for study and end up with UN jobs, from these scholarship boys who had to struggle every inch of the way.

But perhaps there was no necessary dichotomy. What the last few weeks have taught us is the cynicism with which alliances are made when pique and bitterness are the motives. We forget sometimes how Jayewardene was able to use the JVP against Mrs Bandaranaike during his first term, before he drove them underground by condemning them for the 1983 pogrom for which his own responsibility was much more. We forget how then officials at the US Embassy chuckled when the LTTE and the JVP together took on the Indians, who had after all begun to intervene precisely because Jayewardene had wanted to involve us in the Cold War on the western side.

I do not think Richard would have allowed himself to be used. But idealists can be used contrary to their knowledge and their will. We know that strange alliances were brewing in those days, in the fallout after the Indo-Lankan Accord, and in politics there are no permanent enemies. What we do have are permanent prejudices, and we can see the entrenchment of violations that occurred in the eighties as springing from these.

We have gone a long way towards improving the situation, but we need to go further. This can only be achieved if there is more attention to the principles involved, less drama based on predilections. Sadly we do not pay enough attention to facts in looking at values, we do not look at precedents and practices elsewhere. Twenty years after Richard died, we are just recovering from a terrorist threat that was even greater than the ones faced then. We can only hope that now at least, with a greater sense of security than we have had for a quarter of a century, we can affirm values in the context of facts.

President sent his secretary Weeratunga secretly for talks with the LTTE

President sent his secretary Weeratunga secretly for talks with the LTTE: Victor Ivan discloses in Interview with CR Chandraprema

Chandraprema:

What we have observed in this country over the past several decades, is that when one crisis is over, it’s followed by an even bigger crisis. Once the LTTE problem was finally dealt with, we had to face what was in my view the biggest threat to democracy in the post independence history of this country in the form of last month’s presidential election. This country seems to be just going from one crisis to another, with no real peace and quiet anywhere in sight.

Victor Ivan:

Some may have criticisms about the things that have taken place after the presidential election. My concern however, is what would have happened if things had gone the other way? There would have been a blood bath. One of the limitations of the joint opposition at the presidential election was that they did not have a vision that went beyond hate and revenge. This is one of the greatest tragedies in our post independence history. Why did things end up in this manner?

In my view, fielding a military officer at this election was wrong. Why did a mature political party like the UNP agree to such a thing? Some may ask at this stage, whether a retired military officer has no right to contest elections. But when someone comes fresh from a war, fresh out of the military into politics, especially to contest the position of head of state, a crisis is unavoidable. Divisions will appear in the military. In this case, the candidate himself appeared to be deliberately fomenting such differences, through his speeches and through his election advertisements. There were appeals addressed to the armed forces and he publicly stated that the families of armed forces personnel would vote for him. I believe that there should be some arrangement to ensure that such things do not happen in the future.

What is happening now is that no government will allow those who supported an opposing candidate at a presidential election to stay on in the army because there would be fears of a coup. If someone has created splits within an army that has gained a great deal of prestige by winning a major civil war, that will not conduce to the wellbeing of the nation. The way I see it, this was by far the most emotionally charged, and acrimonious presidential election campaign in this country ever. Incumbent presidents were criticized at previous elections, but none so venemously as the present president.

Q. The growls and threats from the opposition was because they were so cocksure. They failed to judge the mood of the people accurately.

A. In the urban areas, a groundswell against the president was visible. In the urban areas, there was a debate on who should get more credit for winning the war. But in the rural areas, there was no such debate. As far as the rural people were concerned, it’s the president who won the war. In my view, the decision to go to war, and implementing that decision successfully is of such magnitude that it can be described as biggest achievement by any political leader since independence. Giving emphasis to rural upliftment was another aspect of the government’s success. Though I work in Colombo, I go back to my village on the weekends. In the old days, a major issue was housing in the rural sector.

Today, there are almost no cadjan thatched houses even in the rural areas, but the rural road network was a very important matter to the rural masses. In my experience, no government has put so much emphasis on improving the rural road network. During the past few years, there was also an emphasis on the highways network, on constructing power plants, and various other infrastructure projects. There are whisperings about corruption, but then there were corruption charges about the Mahaweli project as well. During the short space of four years, even while fighting the war, the government has also done a significant amount of development work.

Q. This is my point, given the facts you just mentioned, this country should be now headed for a period of peace and stability. But soon after the earth shaking events that led to the climax of the 30 year war, came this earth shaking presidential election. After the dust settles on that, the Mahanayakes began playing up. What is wrong with this country? Is it the system of governance in this country or the political culture?

A. I wouldn’t be too pessimistic. But there is a problem in the system. Except for a brief period between 2001 and 2004, the UNP has been in opposition since 1994 almost continuously. So the aim is to come into power by good means or bad. In this country, a member of a political party has a special status. He is in a better position to have a child admitted to a school, to deal with the police, or to find employment. When one section of the population enjoys these benefits for a long time and another section is left out, the struggle between these two segments of the population, tends to assume a very acrimonious form.

Q. The opposition clearly overdid the aggression and acrimony part…

A. At last month’s presidential election, the opposition failed to give the signal that if they won, there would be a peaceful transfer of power. The signal was given to the opposite effect. The idea conveyed was that they will seek revenge. It is said that they had even given phone calls to certain key individuals and told them to prepare for long jail sentences. The opposition candidate’s statements added to the violent and acrimonious character of the whole campaign. Had the opposition candidate been Ranil Wickremesinghe or Karu Jayasuriya or a conventional politician, the presidential campaign would never have assumed such an acrimonious form. Bringing an army commander fresh out of the armed services into a contest for the position of head of state, meant that he would bring everything he had, his warlike temperament, his tendency to bulldoze through things, into the fray. And the government itself, will respond in a manner appropriate to who they are confronted with. The nature of the candidate was in large part responsible for the form the presidential election took.

Q. From the beginning, people did expect a heated campaign. But it went beyond that and careerd out of control...

A. The General was not an experienced political leader. He knew how to wage war. When he saw large crowds at election rallies, he may have been led to believe that the people had already elected him their leader. He was thinking only of victory and not of defeat. Their campaign not only misled the people, they also deceived themselves. When we were in the JVP, we would go on push cycles and put up posters everywhere. There would be only one or two activists in each village, but posters were to be seen everywhere. The next morning, we would go around and see our own posters everywhere, and we ourselves would get carried away by this sign of ubiquity. The impression created that our people were present at every junction. But that was not the truth. Our attempt was to deceive the people, but we ourselves were misled by it in the morning.

We saw similar tendencies within this presidential election campaign as well. In the JVP, the same people go for meetings in Warakapola in Ginigathhean and even Colombo. They wave flags and shout encouragement - that is the nature of the JVP. An inexperienced person seeing this may arrive at wrong assessments about what the result of the election is going to be. The people of this country are very intelligent. The people thought that if they go for a change at this moment, the country will face an unprecedented crisis. There would have been reprisals and bloodshed. That such a situation was averted is good for the country. I don’t believe that in today’s situation, anyone can change anything by coming out on to the streets and shouting slogans. There may of course be some people who think they can achieve something through this, so this shouting will last for some time. Then events will be overtaken by the parliamentary election and it will gradually fizzle out. This is now Mahinda Rajapakse’s turn. He has now won a bigger victory than even he anticipated. Now he can take a look at things calmly and examine the people’s concerns. He must look at a way of doing things without being swayed by petty political considerations. I believe he should seek the cooperation of the opposition.

Q. The opposition has been out of power for a long time and are chafing and resentful...

A. The presidential system was designed in such a way that the holder of that position stands even above the constitution. While J.R.Jayewardene thus concentrated power in his hands, he allowed those below him be they ministers or officials to make money. What has prevailed to date is this system. This has to change.

Today politics is bound up with making and spending money. You need a lot of money to get into power. This money has to be made by some means. I don’t say that corruption can be ended completely. But the president can without continuing as we have done in the past, initiate a change. What is most important is asking for the cooperation of the opposition. Today, we see a situation where the antagonism between the government and the opposition is as intense as the hatred that existed between the LTTE and all those opposed to them. This is not good for the country.

Q. If you compare Mahinda Rajapakse with some previous holders of that position, he is by no means an oppressive or dictatorial president, yet, as you say the tensions between the UNP and UPFA very intense. It’s not only he who has to come halfway…

A. This system that we are talking of was created by the UNP. This system was designed in such a way that it is extremely difficult to dislodge an incumbent government. Once power went to a different party, the problem confronting the UNP was how to get it back. Both these parties have suffered under this system. The SLFP suffered from 1977 to 1994 and the UNP has been suffering in the same way since 1994. So while there should be a signal for change from the president, an even bigger signal to this effect has to come from the opposition.

Now for quite a while, no change of government will be possible. We now have an opportunity to dream dreams of a less antagonistic political culture where people will be able to work together. Even if these dreams are never realized, merely dreaming such dreams will serve to reduce the antagonism between us. When a president wins an election, he is the president of those who voted against him as well. There are many challenges confronting this government. One is the challenge coming from the western countries over human rights and so on. The way to face this challenge is for all of us to get together to rebuild this country. The way we can face criticisms from the international community is not by appealing to them or making excuses, but by showing that everybody has got together to rebuild the nation.

Q. That antagonism you mentioned between the haves and have not’s in terms of political power, is very much a part of the political landscape. In this situation of conflicting aspirations, how do you achieve such an outcome?

A. This is why we need political debate in this country. In India, before the last election, the main topics of discussion were, where India was going as a nation and what the future India should be like. I believe such a debate in necessary in Sri Lanka as well. Ranil Wickremesinghe can’t be simply discounted as irrelevant. He is also an experienced leader. He has a responsibility to do away with the politics of hate, and to create a situation where he can work together with the president. By working together, I don’t mean a national government. Most ordinary people would not think twice of discarding litter in an untidy environment. But in a clean and well ordered place, he will not do so, because he will see that there is no litter around. This is what we mean by a system. Ordinary people can’t create systems – that the domain of the politicians. If politicians think less narrowly and take the big picture into account, our future will be quite bright.

Q. Conflict in this country can be seen at various levels. At one level is power politics. The other is the rankling mistrust between the various ethnic groups.

A. We have now ended one era. At one stage Tamil youth wanted a separate state and that they thought they could achieve that through armed struggle. After the war ended, the Sinhala people demonstrated that they did not view the Tamil people with hate. Tamil people were not set upon by the Sinhalese or harmed in any way. This is a beginning. The Sinhala Tamil, and Muslim people can live together in this country. The problems have been created by politicians. Some people say that Mahinda Rajapakse represents rabidly chauvinistic political forces. I don’t accept that. Mahinda Rajapakse is a nationalist, but he is not a chauvinist.

Even the forces aligned with him are not necessarily chauvinistic. Even the JVP which supported Mahinda in 2005, have since demonstrated that they can work together with the TNA for a political purpose. What the nationalistic forces aligned with Mahinda opposed was separatism. I don’t think any of these forces will oppose equal rights for all ethnic communities. Mahinda Rajapakse represents the Sinhalese. But he takes a very enlightened view of the other ethnic communities. One day before the presidential election I asked him whether the Tamil people would vote for him. His answer was that the war caused a lot of problems and that he does not expect the Tamil people to vote for him all at once, and that they may perhaps vote for him at a later election. It was during Mahinda’s period that the most emphasis was given to implementing the language act. A record number of candidates sat for the Tamil proficiency exams.

Even at the height of the war, there were attempts made to man the checkpoints with officers who knew Tamil. The president never had plans to win the war and colonise the north and east. Such plans were not made by even the ordinary Sinhala people. One day, I was having a discussion with R.Sambandan, Mavai Senathraja and others when a well known Tamil personality joined the discussion. What he told us was that when the LTTE had stepped up attacks on the military in 2006, he was phoned by the president and told to go to the north with Lalith Weeratunga and to talk to the LTTE. On the way, Lalith Weeratunga had taken precautions not to be seen even by the soldiers at the checkpoints lest the news of discussions got out. In Killinochchi, they had met the Sea Tiger leader who had been brusque and dismissive towards them and they had come back empty handed. When the crisis escalated to the Sampur showdown with the LTTE building bunkers outside their area of control established by the CFA, he once again was asked by the president to go to meet the LTTE leadership, this time with Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.

Once again they had been met by the Sea Tiger leader and he had been just as dismissive and as brusque as before. But Jeyaraj had argued with him. On the way back, Jeyaraj had told this gentleman that war was inevitable. The president had listened to what they had to say with his head on his hands and he had said at the end – "If war cannot be avoided, let’s go to war". So he tried his best to prevent war. This Tamil gentleman then told Sambandan myself and the others present that the president tried to take a step backwards, but he was thwarted by the arrogance and the stubbornness of the LTTE. It is now time to leave all that behind and look to the future.

If a significant number of Tamil representatives become members of the next government, and they come to a settlement through discussions, that will be a start. We can’t of course, go for simplistic solutions. The Vaddukkodai and resolution and the Thimpu principles are no longer valid this should be accepted by the Tamil leadership. ~ courtesy: The Island ~

SJV Chelvanayagam would not have Allowed the Federal party to Help Destroy the Tamil United Liberation Front

by Veerasingam Anandasangaree

There is no doubt that the present situation demands absolute unity of all Tamils and Tamil speaking people, not only of the North and the East but also of the West, South and the Centre, not to confront the Government but to evolve a consensus towards finding a lasting solution, acceptable to the Tamils, without prejudice to the interests of the other communities in Sri Lanka.

There cannot be a different view in this matter. As for me and for the TULF we are prepared to work with anyone wishing to join us on a common programme to achieve peace and equality for all. No one can find any justifiable reason to object to working with a party founded by no less a person than the late Hon. Mr.S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C,a person very affectionately referred to as “Eelathu Gandhi” with the blessings and support of leaders like the late Hon. Mr.S Thondaman Leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress and the late Hon Mr. G.G.Ponnambalam QC founder leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress.

The Tamil Congress together with the Federal Party founded by the late Hon Mr.S.J.V.Chelvanayagam formed the Tamil United Liberation Front. All leaders of these two political parties with the rank and file joined it with the ‘Rising Sun’ as its symbol, recognized by the Commissioner of Elections. Since the formation of the TULF, the remains of many leaders, like Hon.M.Thiruchelvam QC, Hon G.G. Ponnambalam QC, Hon S.J.V. Chelvanayagam QC, Hon .A Amirthalingam Secretary General of the TULF and Ex-Leader of the Opposition , Hon V. Yogeswaran Ex-M.P, Hon M. Sivasithamparam Ex-M.P, Hon.T.Thirunavukkarasu Ex-MP, Hon.A.Thangathurai Ex-M.P,Mrs.Sarojini Yogeswaran Mayoress, Mr.P. Sivapalan Mayor and very many others, within the country and out side, were all taken for cremation or burial, covered in ‘Uthaya Sooriyan’ Flag of the TULF, which is considered as a sacred one respected and honoured by almost all Tamils of Sri Lanka.

There was no need for anybody to give up his party, the TULF and its flag with the emblem of the Rising Sun, in preference to the Federal Party and its Flag with ‘House’ as its symbol. There was absolutely no need for anyone to have revived the Federal party which was virtually defunct, since the founder of the Federal Party had it woundup and promoted the Tamil United Liberation Front, which was founded by many top ranking leaders of Political parties, big and small. At the 1977 Parliamentary General Election the TULF won 19 Tamil Majority seats in the North and the East and lost only one to a rival party at a difference of about 500 votes.

The late leaders, founder members and well wishers, left behind the TULF as a legacy for the Tamil people committed to peace and non- violence, for several generation to come. Even in his dreams, the founder of the Federal Party the late Hon S.J.V. Chelvanayagam never expected the party, that he founded and later woundup, will ever be used to destroy the TULF he later founded with leaders of various political parties, for a common cause of winning over the rights of the Tamil people, by non-violent means.

As for me I had done my duty to my country, its people and to the leaders who scarified their lives for the cause of the party. I invite all those committed to non-violence to come back into the party which never shut its doors for anyone. Contrary to this, it turned out to be a Herculean task to keep the party alive, to fulfill the ambitions of the founders. If any one feels that I should quit to enable anybody to join the party, I will gladly do so after leaving it in safe hands. I take this opportunity to invite the youths who are prepared to support the cause for which the TULF stands, to join in their thousands to rally round the party to save the Tamil community from ambitious and greedy politicions. I needless add that the party is open for all who are genuinely committed to the ideals which the party stand for.

V.Anandasangaree is President of TULF

'Sinhalese have apparently persuaded themselves against all evidence that the outside world is against them'

Barbara Crossette, United Nations correspondent for The Nation - the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the US, is also a former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief in Asia and at the UN.

"Tamil families struggling back to normal life after months in squalid detention camps set up after the war last spring lack many basic necessities....The World Bank and United Nations offer help, but it is only occasionally and, some international aid workers say, grudgingly accepted" [in Sri Lanka]. "The Sinhalese have apparently persuaded themselves against all evidence that the outside world is against them," writes Barbara Crossette.

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Her article "Sri Lanka Wins a War and Diminishes Democracy" published in The Nation's website on Feb 18, 2010 is as follows:

In its 62 years of independence, Sri Lanka has never had a better chance than it has now to stamp out the last fires of ethnic hatred, violence and mindless chauvinisms that have left over 80,000 people dead in civil wars across the country.

Tragically for all Sri Lankans, it looks as if its increasingly autocratic president, reelected in January on a surge of Sinhala triumphalism following the defeat of a Tamil rebel army, is determined to let this hopeful moment pass. Not only a lasting peace between the Tamils and Sinhalese is at stake but also the multiparty democracy that set the country apart from many of its neighbors.

Why should a descent into misgovernment in a nation of 21.3 million people on a relatively small island off the coast of India matter to people anywhere else? This isn't Zimbabwe or Bosnia or Haiti. Not yet. But it is one of the newest examples -- streamed live on the Web if not much present in the American media -- of a post colonial collapse. Kenya is another. It is a phenomenon worth study.

Sri Lanka was once the most advanced nation in South Asia by measures of human development. Literacy, education levels and social services are all still higher than in neighboring Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The country has no external enemies. Women have held high office for decades. There was a lively press and a functioning two-party system, albeit dominated by mostly people drawn from elite families.

Now journalists live in fear, are killed, disappear or flee. (The president has just named himself information minister, to make matters more menacing.) The leader of the opposition party who dared to challenge the incumbent in the January presidential election has been detained, so far without formal charges. The Tamils, who voted overwhelmingly for him, wait fearfully for the payback.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted all the credit for the defeat last year of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the death of its ruthless leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. Rajapaksa decisively defeated his opponent, the war hero Sarath Fonseka, in part because he was rewarded by Sinhala voters - who comprise more than two-thirds of the population -- for being the leader who made the country safe again.

The Tamil Tigers were a totalitarian movement that instilled terror with mass indiscriminate killing of civilians, and introduced suicide bombing to assassinate a generation of leaders, both Tamil and Sinhala.

Poor people were often the victims. They had to ride the vulnerable buses and stand in lines at government buildings or on train platforms that were always at risk of being blown up. Innocent Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus died. The Tigers assassinated numerous ministers and one president, and tried but failed to kill another. They murdered Tamils who questioned their tactics, among them the country's leading human rights lawyer, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and a respected former foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar.

They also killed Rajiv Gandhi as he campaigned to regain the prime ministership in India in 1991. In 1987 he had reversed the Indian policy of using intelligence operatives to arm and train Tamils to keep the pro-Western Sri Lankan government off balance. Gandhi sent Indian peacekeeping troops to the island to disarm the Tigers, and made himself a marked man.

The Tigers were a heavily armed movement that never deserved the ill-informed sympathy it got outside Sri Lanka. Many Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims, a separate ethnic group descended from seafarers who crossed the Indian Ocean centuries ago, were trapped in the Tigers' grip and welcomed the end of fighting and oppression. Overseas, Tamils said they were coerced into giving money to support the war, and may still be as the rebels try to regroup. A very sophisticated public relations campaign told a compelling story that was never more than only partially true.

Tamils in Sri Lanka - both those in the north and another very different Tamil population in the central tea plantation country who never joined the militants - certainly had and still have serious grievances. Favored by British colonial administrators for their high education levels and linguistic skills, they aroused resentment among the Sinhalese. In 1956, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, adopted a chauvinist policy that made Sinhala the sole national language and gave prominence to Buddhism, practiced by the majority of the Sinhalese. (He was assassinated three years later by an enraged monk who thought the prime minister hadn't gone far enough.)

In the ensuing years, Tamil communities were attacked and hundreds of people were killed or had their property destroyed. There was a widespread feeling of marginalization, which persists, whatever the fate of the Tigers.

In this environment, a victorious Sinhala-led government in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, would be expected to take the opportunity to extend a magnanimous hand to the Tamils, especially in the north, if only to insure lasting peace. The Tamil cultural and historical capital, Jaffna, has been wantonly damaged by the Sri Lankan military and needs rebuilding both materially as well as in spirit. Tamil families struggling back to normal life after months in squalid detention camps set up after the war last spring lack many basic necessities.

The World Bank and United Nations offer help, but it is only occasionally and, some international aid workers say, grudgingly accepted. The Sinhalese have apparently persuaded themselves against all evidence that the outside world is against them. A Sri Lanka writer described this to me as a "majority with a minority complex."

Sri Lankans who deplore what is becoming of their country manage to keep hope alive. Fonseka, the defeated presidential candidate, has appealed to the courts for his release. A parliamentary election is coming. The institutions are still in place, at least for now.

Foreign Interference and bending in two to foreigners must stop

By Ranmali Fernando

A report in the Daily Mirror today states that the US is not happy with the Sri Lankan state media. It made me sick because I was never happy with the embedded CNN journalists in Iraq . What did the US media, state or otherwise do. Nothing but, propaganda and they have now contributed towards destroying two great civilizations in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Many Sri Lankans were not happy when a Marine attached to the US embassy once was nasty, to a senior Sri Lankan diplomat when their vehicles collided. Sri Lanka must be the only country in the word which does give undue prominence to foreigners/ aliens and foreign diplomats. I think time has come for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to put an end to it too. He must remind the world that we are a sovereign nation.

Then there was Mr Fox an opposition MP coming and telling Sri Lanka that Sarath Fonseka should be tried in a civil court. Though Ranil Wickramasinghe always runs to foreign lands and complains about Sri Lanka , imagine what will happen to Wickramasinghe if he goes to some other country and ask them to release some one there?

He will be deported or thrown to the wolves. Now, Somawnasa who killed many innocent Sri Lankans also goes around asking his foreign masters not to give GSP to Sri Lanka . People must remember that having committed crimes in Sri Lanka , Somawansa lived happily in London and Paris.

Though I am a mother and a housewife, I have noticed that these diplomats are given undue prominence in the local media. They even come on page one in the newspapers. Some potty officials are put on page one with the President. When did we see the picture of a Sri Lankan leader, minister or a diplomat on page one of a foreign newspaper? I cannot understand the mentality of the Sri Lankan media at all.

I also see these insignificant diplomats who must be living in small apartments in their countries in glossy magazines, as chief guests at opening ceremonies and so on. Even when they yawn the media write and photograph them. They are treated like some lords by some of our people though they themselves must know how small they are. See what damage that Gordon fellow who was attached to the UN try to do to us recently. After all the good time and good food in Sri Lanka.

It is time Sri Lanka learn a lesson from our neighboring India . They have their pride and they are proud of it.

I have no doubt that some countries were interested in a regime change because President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not bow down to them like our so called leaders. Neither did he run and complained to other countries about the leaders of his own country and the problems of Sri Lanka . SLFP always had a better foreign policy and stood for its people. Lakshman Kadirgamar stood tall as a Foreign Minister. He asked two UN heads to leave the country and gave a final warning to another.

Some INGO fellows were having a whale of a time in North and the East. Now they are out of work and that’s why they were not happy with the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka . Even the Galle Literary festival was taken over by foreigners.

We must stand up for our country with pride, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher or Malay we are Sri Lankans. Show the world we can do it. Whatever people say it is President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave us pride and the feeling of Sri Lankan. We can do more. Do you hear me?

February 17, 2010

20 years on, a collective voice for forgiveness in Kaathaankudy-A pictorial

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

It is always an enchanting drive through the city of Kaathaankudy. Kaathaankudy is a small city which is situated in the Eastern Province, Batticaloa District. It is known for its own distinct culture.

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Looking for a new beginning

[Click to see & read more]

A New direction for development of the North and East of Sri Lanka

By A. Chandrahasan

We have to find a new direction to lead our country to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future. War has given us an opportunity to rethink, reassess and change our traditional values and attitudes. While proudly following the footsteps of our forefathers, we as a generation need to develop a strong unified foundation

This article will aim to explore concept and strategies for a new urban and rural built environment, with particular reference to town of Jaffna, to fit within the context of a new political and social order that people of the north and east desire to create. The current post-war climate has given way to an exciting new opportunity to rebuild and re-develop these towns to meet new social and political needs. We need clearly defined planning policies and instruments to successfully direct and control future developments.

History

Cities and towns that we have now in third world nations were planned and developed by colonial powers to meet their political and military need. These towns were not designed to meet the social and cultural needs of the people.

Unlike western countries, towns in third world countries after independence ended up being merely a commercial centre without any social and cultural elements. There was no conscious attempt made to democratise or socialise the planning concept. In contrary, haphazard developments were made without a clear vision of urban planning for a democratic society.

Our towns have been developed during the colonial time with the clear demarcation of Administrative zone, Civic zone with recreational area, Commercial zone, Religious and Cultural zone and Educational zone. Very little developments have been taken place in these towns after independence. Most of the large towns in Sri Lanka have a long and rich pre-colonial history. For example, Jaffna had been developed as a town around Nallur prior to Portuguese arrival. It was built around temples with plenty of small water tanks (Kulam) interconnected with impressive water supply and drainage systems with segregated residential quarters based on caste and profession. The traditional planning principals of Jaffna town can still be traced from the remaining temples and water courses. A thorough historical study of the planning of these towns during pre and post colonial period need to be carried out. This study will help to identify the town’s potential new design having in mind the town’s traditional values and elements that should be preserved. We also need to understand the overriding aesthetic concept of planning and architecture that give our unique style.

Globalisation verses Regional identity

Most of the cities in third world counties that have very little to preserve as heritage are losing their little identities by massive reconstructions carried out mostly by multinational companies in recent times. Most of the new works in these countries are designed to meet global standards with no respect to local culture, social values and the history. The traditional relationship between people and their built environment is rapidly changing to a mono global culture that is conducive for multinational company’s investment

Cities and towns in third world countries are rapidly losing their identities in the name of development and globalisation while developed countries are consciously preserving their historical towns with stringent controls on developments.

Tamils in north and east have fought for last three decades and sacrificed their lives, wealth and future for their identity in the nation. Their struggle was not merely for development but for their identity in every sense. While our development will undoubtedly reach global standard , it has to respect the history, culture and geographical aspects of the people and land.

Planning concept and vision of our future cities

People of the north and east, want to develop their region as an integral part of Sri Lanka to meet global standard. We want to rebuild our towns symbolising harmony between tradition and modernity.

This is the commitment our generation will make for the generations of tomorrow.

A thorough study of the history is needed to identify existing planning criteria and heritage items that need to be preserved or developed. The analysis of the history and the present context will lead to identify the desired built form to achieve the vision of the town.

Local planning strategy

Strategic planning ensures the City:

* Plans for future growth.
* Maintains its environmental, heritage and cultural values.
* Identifies issues facing townships including community aspirations and needs.
* Articulates the preferred future directions for townships.
* Identifies appropriate planning controls to protect and enhance townships

A Local Planning Strategy is the key strategic urban planning document for the future growth and development of a city for the next 10-15 years.
The intent of the Local Planning Strategy is to provide long-term vision for sustainable planning that integrates diverse issues such as:

* Economy and Employment
* Centres and Corridors
* Housing
* Transport
* Environment and Resources
* Parks and Public Places
* Governance and Implementation

The community’s input to the community forums will contribute to the Local Planning Strategy and maintain the dialogue between the Authorities and its community. This partnership is the critical factor for the effective integration of community aspirations.

The immediate task ahead of us today is to stop any haphazard developments that will spring out of the urge for quick development after peace. Until a well worked out planning policy and Local Planning Strategy is formulated, temporary control mechanisms should be in place based on the vision and the planning concept.

Architectural symbolism Town Hall and Municipality buildings are the symbol of governance of the region. It is expected for the designer to understand the concept and basic principle of the Dravidian .The municipality building, as the most visible icon in the town, should strongly express the presence of Tamil Culture in the multi-cultural landscape of Sri Lanka . Even though our towns have not developed an identifiable architectural style of its own, it has a unique social and cultural history that separates it from the rest of the country. These unique social and cultural values determine the desired architectural design.

(A. Chandrahasan is an Architect in Sydney,Australia)

Full Text of 2010 Presidential election petition filed in courts on behalf of Gen.Sarath Fonseka

Sarath Fonseka,
No. 6, 37th Lane,
Queen’s Road,
Colombo 3.
And presently detained at
The Navy Headquarters,
Colombo 1.

PETITIONER
S.C. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
PETITION NO. /2010

Vs.

1. Mahinda Rajapaksa,

"Temple Trees", Galle Road, Colombo 3.

2. Mohomed Casim Mohomed Ismail, No 118, Soysa Watta, Welisara, Ragama.

3. Achala Ashoka Suraweera, Susiri Place, Muruthalawa.

4. Channa Janaka Sugathsiri Gamage, No 51, Piliyandala Road, Maharagama

5. W. V. Mahiman Ranjith, No. 3, 34th Lane, Queen’s Road, Colombo 3.

6. Anura Liyanage, No. 7, Sumner Place, Colombo 8.

7. Sarath Manamendra, No. 50, Ketawalamulla Lane, Colombo 9.

8. M.K.Sivajilingam, Ammankoviladi, Velvetithurai.

9. Ukkubanda Wijekoon, No. 24/6, 4th Lane, Pitakotte, Kotte.

10. Lal Perera, No. 7/9B, Sewana Mawatha, Gangabada Road, Suwarapola, Piliyandala.

11. Sirithunga Jayasuriya, No. 57/7, D.S. Fonseka Road, Colombo 5.

12. Wickramabahu Karunarathne, No. 17, Barrack Lane, Colombo 2.

13. Idurus Mohomed Ilyas, No 68, Masjid Road, Puttalam.

14. Wije Dias, No. 301 1/1, Main Road, Aththidiya, Dehiwala.

15. Sanath Pinnaduwa, No. 240/1 D, Boralugoda, Athurugiriya.

16. M.M. Mohomed Musthafa, No 16, Ramakrishna Road, Colombo 6.

17. Battaramulla Seelarathana Thero, No 185/B, Dewala Road, Thalangama South, Koswatta, Battaramulla.

18. Senarathne De Silva, No 5/B, Webada Road, Negombo.

19. Aruna de Soysa, "Susiri", Nape, Kosgoda.

20. Upali Sarath Kongahage, No. 02, Community Road, Obehena Road, Madiwela.

21. Muthubandara Theminimulla, No. 3/1, Sanghamitta Mawatha, Kandy.

22. Dayananda Dissanayake, Commissioner of Elections, Elections Secretariat, Sarana Mawatha, Rajagiriya.

23. Razik Zarook PC, 31/1 Horton Place, Colombo 7.

24. Kalinga Indatissa, 325 1/2, Thimbirigasyaya Road, Colombo 5.

25. Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Torrington Square, Colombo 7.

26. Wimal Weerawansa, 21/1, Asoka Mawatha, Jayanthipura, Battaramulla.

RESPONDENTS

TO: HIS LORDSHIP THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND THE OTHER HONOURABLE JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA.

On this 15th day of February 2010.

The Petition of Sarath Fonseka the Petitioner above named, whose name is subscribed below, respectfully states as follows:

1. The Petitioner, Sarath Fonseka, is a person who was a candidate at the above election, and claims to have had a right to be returned or elected at the above election.

2. Consequent to a Proclamation made under Article 31 (3a))(a)(i) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, an Election for the office of President of the Republic of Sri Lanka was held on the 26th day of January 2010. The candidates who contested the said election are those whose names are set out hereinafter at paragraph 4, namely, the Petitioner and the 1st to 21st Respondents above named.

3. The 1st Respondent above named, who was the candidate nominated by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (hereinafter referred to as the UPFA), was declared elected in terms of Section 56 of the Presidential Elections Act No. 15 of 1981, by Gazette Extraordinary No. 1,638/10 dated 28th January 2010 issued under the hand of the 22nd Respondent, Commissioner of Elections, notifying the result of the said Election.

4. Set out hereunder are the votes polled by each of the candidates who contested at the said election, as declared by the 22nd Respondent, Commissioner of Elections:

5. The 22nd Respondent is made a party hereto in view of the averments hereinafter contained in respect of the conduct of the said Election.

6. The 23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th Respondents have been made parties hereto as they have committed the corrupt practices as pleaded in paragraphs 16(B) & 16(C) hereof as agents of the candidate, the 1st Respondent. The 20th Respondent has already been made a party hereto and also has committed the corrupt practices as pleaded in paragraphs 16(B) & 16(C) hereof as an agent of the candidate, the 1st Respondent.

GROUNDS

7. The Petitioner states that the Election of the 1st Respondent to the Office of President of Sri Lanka is void and/or undue on any one or more of the following grounds:

(a) That by reason of the occurrence of the incidents and the commission of the acts set out in paragraph 8 hereof, there was General Intimidation as stated in Section 91 (a) of the Presidential Elections Act, by reason of which the majority of voters were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely, the Petitioner.

(b) That by reason of the occurrence of the incidents and the commission of the acts set out in paragraph 9 hereof, there was General Treating as stated in Section 91 (a) of the said Act, by reason of which the majority of voters were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely, the Petitioner.

(c) That by reason of the occurrence of the incidents and the commission of the acts set out in paragraph 10 hereof, there was General Bribery as stated in Section 91 (a) of the said Act, by reason of which the majority of voters were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely, the Petitioner;

(d) That by reason of the occurrence of the incidents and the commission of the acts set out in paragraphs 11 and 12 hereof, which constitute other misconduct and other circumstances as stated in Section 91(a) of the said Act, by reason of which the majority of voters were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely, the Petitioner;

(e) That by reason of the Non-Compliance with the provisions of the said Act relating to the Election as stated in Section 91 (b) of the said Act, for the reasons set out in paragraph 13 hereof, the aforesaid Election was not conducted in accordance with the principles laid down in the provisions of the said Act, and that Non-Compliance affected the result of the Election;

(f) That by reason of the corrupt practices as set out in paragraph 14 hereof, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of treating under Section 77 read together with Section 91(c) of the Presidential Elections Act.

(g) That by reason of the corrupt practices as set out in paragraph 15 hereof, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of bribery under Section 79 read together with Section 91 (c) of the Presidential Elections Act.

(h) That by reason of the corrupt practices set out in paragraph 16(A) hereof, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of making false statements under Section 80(l)(c) read together with Section 91 (c) of the Presidential Elections Act.

(i) That by reason of the corrupt practices set out in paragraphs 16(B) & 16(C) hereof, the said agents of the 1st Respondent named therein, namely the 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th Respondents, are guilty of the corrupt practice of making false statements under Section 80(1)(c) read together with Section 91 (c) of the Presidential Elections Act.

8. GENERAL INTIMIDATION : CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

There was general intimidation committed in connection with the election. This consisted of acts of intimidation. These acts of intimidation are set out below.

DATE OF COMPLAINT DISTRICT & ELECTORATE INCIDENT/COMPLAINT

23.12.2009 - Puttalam / Chilaw - Wife of UNP Janabala Secretary M D Jude Nishantha assaulted by unknown thugs requiring medical attention in Mundel Hospital for head injuries. Complaint made to Mundel Police.

24.12.2009 - Kurunegala/Alawwa - Dec. 20, 2009: Group of UNP workers campaigning for the Petitioner were assaulted by unknown thugs in Alawwa Town early morning. Police action not taken.

24.12.2009 - Ratnapura/Kalawana - UNP Local Government Group Leader Shayanaka Molligoda’s Tippers bearing Nos. SGLA 7913 and SLGE 0096 stoned by UPFA thugs. Complaint made to Kalawana Police about 10 persons who were involved in stoning. No action taken by Kalawana Police.

24.12.2009 - Vanni/Vavuniya - Group of unknown UPFA workers unlawfully entered the IDP Camp at Settikulam and threatened the refugees and demanded that they vote for the 1st Respondent or else that they all will be killed if they campaign for the Petitioner.

24.12.2009 - Matale/Dambulla - UNP Office at Kumbukkandanwela damaged by unknown thugs. UNP Janabala workers threatened with death. Incident reported to Sigiriya Police but no action taken.

24.12.2009 - Matale/Dambulla - UNP Election office at Kumbukkadawala has been attacked by UPFA thugs.

24.12.2009 - Ratnapura/Kalawana - Shooting at and stoning the two Tippers belonging to Jayanatha Molligoda PS Member of Kalawana and a complain has been made to the Kalawana Police.

24.12.2009 - Vanni/ Vavuiyawa - A group of persons who came from Colombo entered the camp illegally, got the inmates of the Ananda Kumaraswami IDP Camp to gather at one place and threatened to kill them unless they vote for the 1st Respondent.

26.12.2009 - Hambantota/Tangalle - Dec. 25 night: UPFA thugs have damaged the residence of W A Francis at Weeraketiya, Hakuruwela, active supporter of the Petitioner. Estimated damage to premises around Rs.75,000/- and ejected the residents. Complaint to Weeraketiya Police.

28.12.2009 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - Inspector Polonnaruwa Police has requested that all Police Officers/Policemen to bring at least ten Civil Defense persons to be involved in the election campaign of the 1st Respondent.

29.12.2009 - Kalutara/Bandaragama - During the protest staged in Bandaragama on the arrest of Rev. Dambara Amila Thero, UPFA thugs attacked the protestors and injured over 10 of the protestors causing hospitalisation due to injuries. Complaint made at Police Station Bandaragama.

29.12.2009 - Mahanuwara/Nawalapitiya - H.M. Manjula Bandara of Nawalapitiya has been attacked by thugs roaming about intimidating the voters.

30.12.2009 - Matara/Matara - Petitioner’s party office maintained by local UNP workers, attacked at 01.30 a.m. by UPFA thugs who came in a white van. Offenders have shot into the air with weapons and chased off the party workers who were in the office.

30.12.2009 - Matara/Matara - UNP Election offices situated at Makevita and Nagaha Junction has been attacked by thugs who came in white vans around 1.30 in the morning.

31.12.2009 - Anuradhapura/Mihintale - Rathnapala, resident at Sivalakulama, Puliyankulama in the Galenbindunuwewa electorate has been shot at using a firearm issued to farmers and caused damages. These firearms may be used for further election violence.

02.01.2010 - Gampaha/Kelaniya/ Kiribathgoda - Attack by thugs on SF supporters engaged in canvassing the voters legally.

03.01.2010 - Gampaha/Wattala - Attacking PS Member Malcolm Perera while he was riding a motor bicycle by a group of thugs of the UPFA who came in vehicle number GG-6677.

03.01.2010 - Colombo/Kelaniya - Attacking the group of people who were engaged in canvassing for SF in Kiribathgoda in Kelaniya and damaging vehicles by unknown thugs.

03.01.2010 - Kandy/ Nawalapitiya - Attack by an armed gang of over 100 persons on about 150 persons who were engaged in the distribution of Petitioner supporters who were canvassing for the Petitioner.

10-1-2010 - Galle/Hikkaduwa - A. G. Sirisoma was attacked and assaulted by unknown persons.

11-01-2010 - Galle/Hiniduma - UNP Pradeshiya Sabha Members, namely, Premalal Liyanage, Mangala Liyanage, P. Widuramarasinghe, M. Dayaratne were assaulted causing injuries and damaged the vehicle by PA thugs.

11-01-2010 - Galle/Karandeniya - Office in Mahagoda, Madakumbura, Kekiriya Junction, Mandorawala, Kurundugaha, Uragasmanhandiya were attacked and damaged.

11-1-2010 - Galle/Karandeniya - UNP supporter Hewage Nuwan was assaulted by UPFA thugs.

11-01-2010 - Gampaha/Minuwangoda - Election Office that was operated at the house of Leelananda Padmasiri in Medagampitiya, Divulapitiya was attacked and destroyed.

12-1-2010 - Hambantota/Beliatta - House of Senanayaka was damaged using firearms.

12-1-2010 - Kurunegala/Galgamuwa - R. Piyadasa was assaulted.

12-1-2010 - Batticaloa/Kalkuda - Hand Grenade was thrown and Kalkuda exploded.

13-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa/Minneriya - M.G. Wasantha, Prematissa, Kamani Kulawardena were assaulted.

13-1-2010 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - A.M. Somadasa was assaulted and his home and lorry were damaged.

13-01-2010 - Matale/Dambulla - Election Office of Petitioner at No. 786 B, Dambulla - Anuradhapura was attacked and damaged for six times.

13-1-2010 - Colombo/Kolonnawa - UNP supporters were assaulted by UPFA thugs in White Van.

14-01-2010 - Kurunegala/Dodamgaslanda - UNP Office was attacked and damaged by UPFA thugs.

14-01-2010 - Kandy/Kundasale - UNP supporter D.K. Nawaz was intimidated through a telephone call.

14-01-2010 - Colombo/Kolonnawa - UNP Urban Council Member Kamal Jayakody and his supporters were assaulted and were hospitalised.

14-01-2010 - Matara/Kamburupitiya - UNP Election Office was attacked and damaged.

14-01-2010 - Moneragala/Wellawaya, Habawa-luwewa - UNP Office was attacked and damaged.

14-01-2010 -Hambantota/Beliatta - M.Dayasena, D.D. Ranjith, V.A.K. Sarath, S. Agampodi, H.K. Chaminda Ariyapala and Gunadasa were assaulted causing injuries and some of them were hospitalised. Houses of Upali Palihakkara, Arman Perera, Dananjaya Senanayake were attacked and damaged. Election Office in Vijayasiripura, Godawela, Kambussawela were attacked and damaged. Kusumawathie Kuruppuarachchi, mother of 2, was shot dead on the way from a meeting of the Petitioner’s supporters and others got injured in Tissamaharamaya.

14-01-2010 -Polonnaruwa/Medirigiriya - Election office at Divutakkadawela was attacked and one Chandrasekara who was there was assaulted causing injuries.

15-01-2010 - Galle/Ambalangoda - UNP Polling Agent D.M. Darshana was assaulted and was hospitalised

15-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - UNP supporter K. Prasad Hemantha’s House and Rice Milt was attacked and damaged by UPFA thugs.

15-01-2010 - Kegalle/Kegalle - Public Meeting was attacked by UPFA thugs.

15-01-2010 - Galle/Karandeniya - Eight Election Offices of the Petitioner in operation in Karandeniya were destroyed

-Kandy/Naula Menikhinna - Petitioner’s supporter Siththi Basha’s house was attacked and destroyed.

15-01-2010 - Kandy/Kundasale - Election Offices were attacked.

-do- - Nawalapitiya - Chairman of Vtakadeniya UNP branch office was assaulted causing injuries

-do- Matara/Matara - Parliamentarian Sagala Rathnayake’s Office in Matara was attacked and destroyed. Police entries have been made.

16-01-2010 - Balangoda - Area residents of Viliyawaththa. threatened by UPFA thugs

16-01-2010 - Anuradhapura/Horoupathana - Election Office of the area was attacked and damaged. A. Dinapala was assaulted by unidentified persons

16-01-2010 - Anuradhapura/Nochchiyagama - Three wheeler of Nishantha Sujeewa Bandara was damaged

16-01-2010 - Puttalam/Anamaduwa - U.N.P. Pradeshiya Saba Member R. M. Ajantha Sadaruwan’ shop and Petitioner’s Office was set on fire and destroyed by people using T56 guns.

16-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa - Houses of D.G. Ranasingha, H.A. Darmarathne, S. K. Kulawardana, Miss M.S. Kamani Kumari, Sunil Senarathna, Fedrick Punchi Hewa, Nevil Wera Kumara, K. Premathilaka, T.M. Jayalath, Wasantha Kumara were attacked and damaged by thugs on 13th and 14th of January 2010.

16-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - House of UNP National Youth Front Nilanka Punchihewa was set on fire.

16-01-2010 - Anuradhapura/Kalawewa - Petitioner’s Election Office at Kalunduwa Thambuththegama, Rajanganaya Road was attacked and destroyed.

-do- Colombo/Kolonnawa - House of the Chairman of Urban Council was attacked, UC Member’s hose attacked. And Opposition Leader of Kotikawaththa-Mulleriyawa was attacked and damaged.

-do- Gampaha/Biyagama - UNP activist, Sirisena Panawala’s house was attacked and inmates were intimidated.

17-01-2010 - Batticaloa/Padiruppu - Eleven supporters of Sarath Fonseka were assaulted by UPFA thugs.

17-01-2010 - Rathnapura/Rakwana - U.N.P. supporter H.N. Hemadasa’s house was attacked and valuable goods were destroyed by unknown gangs

17-01-2010 - Gampaha/Attanagalla - Fifteen incidents were reported in this area from 16-12-2009 to 12-01-2010 (destroying cutouts of Sarath Fonseka, attacking supporters houses by P.A. supporters)

17-01-2010 - Puttalam/Kalpitiya - Patrick Perera a supporter of Sarath Fonseka was assaulted by People’s Alliance supporters and hospitalised with injuries.

17-01-2010 - Rathnapura/Rakwana - Sarath Fonseka’s Election Office was destroyed and those who were there were taken as hostages.

17-01-2010 - Kurunegala/Kurunegala - Election Office at Major. Milton Gunawardana’s building was destroyed.

17.01.2010 - Anuradhapura/Kalawewa - PA thugs came in three vehicles( Nos. 54- 5830 black Fargo, 51-0786 White Town ace and 325-3356 Double Cab) and caused damages to property of Petitioner’s supporters.

17.01.2010 - Galle/Ambalangoda - The house of Harrison Petitioner’s supporter, living behind the Police station at Ambalangoda had been attacked by a group of thugs of the PA. They have assaulted the inmates of the house too. 5 people of this house had been hospitalised.

17.01.10 - Kandy/Ududumbara - On 16th January 2010 the Artist returning after meeting caused damages to the UNP Office situated at Hasalaka in front of the house of Y.A.Piyadasa travelling in vehicle.

No.32 Sri 1352. They also threatened the wife of Piyadasa.

17.01.10 - Anuradhapura/Thambutthegama - Several thugs attacked the UNP Office at Ragina Junction at Thambutthegama and also attacked the record bar close to the UNP office and robbed money and the items belonging to the ‘record bar.

17.01.10 - Kandy/Hasalaka - The Security Inspector of the CTB Depot at Hasalaka one Mr. R M P G Navaratne assaulted by thugs.

17.01.10 - Anuradhapura/Talawa - At about 1 p.m. Lakshman Jayatilleke of Talawa, Gangasiripura was not well and resting at home when threatened by UPFA thugs, who also robbed the cash in the house.

18.01.10 - Kurunegala/Wariapola - On 18.01.2010 between 12 and I am at Ambakadawara Kanatte Wewa, Wariapola. about 15 thugs of the UPFA had assaulted some supporters of General Sarath Fonseka and killed one Dammika Herath by hitting him with iron rods on the head.

18.01.2010 - Kegalle/Aranayake - The owner of Rajapaksa stores and two of his brothers, Petitioner’s supporters, had been assaulted and they have taken treatment from the hospital.

18.01.10 - Gampaha/Mahara - On 17.01.2010 at about 2.30 a.m. the house of Mr. KBSM Jayasiri which is situated at Rodahenawatta, Henagama was stoned and the roofing sheets were damaged.

18.01.10 - Kurunegala/Mawathagama - At about 1. a.m. a crowd of thugs had come armed with weapons to the house of Mr. Ajith Rohana, the Chief Organiser of the UNP situated at Wellawa Maha kandegama and threatened the people in the house with death and caused damages.

18.01.10 - Kurunegala/Mawathagama - About 50 thugs came in 3 vehicles to the Nape Junction at Mawathagama and caused damages to the Office of Petitioner.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Gampola - The UNP Office at No.42 Angammana, Gampola or TB Panabokke Mawatha, had had been attacked by some thugs and two cut-outs of General Fonseka and the electrical switches damaged.

19.01.20 - Galle/Elpitiya - JVP MP Mr. Gamlath had been assaulted at Gurugodella in Elpitiya by some thugs.

19.01.10 - Hambantota/Mulkirigala - The Blue Brigade members are terrorising the supporters of Sarath Fonseka and threaten to assault them and damage their houses.

19.01.10 - Kurunegala/Bingiriya - On the 16th night a group of thugs assaulted UNP supporters at Bingiriya.

19.01.10 - Matale/Matale - One Lingeshwaran alias TS Weerasinghe Igneswaran who was attending to propaganda work with regard to the meeting which was held on 15.01.10 in support of Gen. Fonseka complained that her husband did not return home after the meeting. The next day his body was found near the rail track in Kandy having been brutally assaulted and murdered

19.01.10 - Polonnaruwa/Dimbulagala - The Office of Petitioner at Dimbulagala Siripura had been attacked.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Nawalapitiya - During the afternoon supporters of Gen Fonseka who were attending to canvassing work in Kurunduwatta Galpaya Nawalapitiya had been assaulted by some PA thugs.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Wattegama - Threats caused to the UNP and JVP supporters working at the CTB depot.

19.01.10 - Jaffna/Kilinochchi - Two people who had been supporting Gen Fonseka in the election campaign had been assaulted by thugs.

19.01.10 - Badulla/Mahiyangana - Jayawardene of Mahapitiya village had been abducted by some PA thugs.

20.01.10 - Colombo/Kaduwela - At about 1.10 am a crowd of people who came in 3 vehicles attacked the election office of the UNP at 112, Bomiriya, Kaduwela and caused damages to the office and robbed several item.

20.01.10 - Trincomalee/Trincomalee - UPFA thugs threatening voters.

20.01.10 - A’pura/Nochchiagama - H Kusumawathie a SF supporter of No 64 Rathanapala Mw, Nochchiagama complains that at 2 am a group of thugs vandalised her shop.

20.01.10 - Galle/Hiniduma - A meeting to be held with police permission in the Nagoda District has been obstructed by UPFA supporters by destroying the decorations and posters.

21.01.10 - Gampaha/Wattala - On the 20th night some people in a white van ha arrived at the Wattala and Ja ela area and have taken the polling cards of the residents by force.

21.01.10 - Kurunegala/Alawwa - PA thug has been terrorising UNP supporters by carrying a T81 weapon in a threatening manner.

22.01.10 - Digamadulla/Pottuvil - MP Chandradasa Gatappathi and MP Wasantha Piyatissa were distributing election leaflets from Ampara to Akkaraipattu, Tirukovil and Pottuvil just before the Akkaraipattu town when attacked by UPFA thugs.

22.01.10 - Galle/Hiniduma - Sampath Srilal and about 20 others were injured and were taken to the Hiniduma hospital.

22.01.10 - Gampaha/Kalagedihena - EA Siripala of Sapugastenne, Kalagedihena and Namatissa along with some friends were assaulted by an unknown group of people when they went canvassing for SF.

22.01.10 - Batticaloa/Nth/Sth - UPFA thugs intimidating the voters in Puttalam north and south areas.

22.01.10 - Ratnapura/Ratnapura - On the night of the 21st., 12 thugs forced themselves into the houses of the Hakamunwa village. They tore the polling cards and threatened the voters with death if they voted.

22.01.10 - Trinco/Trinco - UPFA thugs terrorising the supporters of the General in the Kappalthurai and Ambuvelupuram areas. District organisers Sivapathan and Polling officer T Vimaleshvari have been threatened with death.

22.01.10 - Matale/Matale - On the night of the 21st RP Dayananda’s residence at Rathgammanman Madawela had been looted and ransacked. He is now in Colombo in fear for his life.

22.01.10 - Kalutara/Horana - To day the following offices of the General have been attacked: Handapangoda, Bathugampola, Mahaingiriya, Ingiriya, Maputugala.

22.01.10 - Digamadulla/Ampara - For the security of the Polling stations in the Digamadullla District, female Police

22.01.10 - Colombo/Kotte - Tiran Alles’ house was bombed. This was done by the UPFA thugs

22.01.10 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - On the 17th Jan., some people arrived in vehicle Nos.32 Sri 4010 and 50-2040 to attack the UNP office and the residence at Galtalawa.

23.01.10 - A’pura/Mihintale - AB Arunolis of Ipologama Eppawala was visited by 25 thugs at about 11 p.m. He was told not to work for the General or else he would be killed. They caused minor damage and left.

23.01.10 - Kegalle/Deraniyagala - Petitioner’s offices at Tigala, Dehiowita, Udugampola and Ahettigama were burnt to the ground by UPFA thugs.

23.01.10 - Badulla/Hali-Ela - The UNP Hathakma and Ketawela offices were burnt and destroyed on the night of the 22nd.

23.01.10 - Kalutara/Agalawatte - Petitioner’s office at Urugoda has been destroyed by some people.

26.01.10 - Kandy/Nawalapitiya - School UPFA thugs chased away identified UNP Sarath Fonseka voters at the following polling stations. 1. Dolosbage Junior School, 2. Alagolla Junior School, 3. Senadhikari Junior School, 4. Yatapaana Junior Schoo, l 5. Galpaya.

9. GENERAL TREATING : CONCISE STATEMENT OF THE MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

There was general treating committed in connection with the election. The said acts of treating, consisted of the providing and serving food and drink, free of charge. The treating was done by the 1st Respondent, and his servants and agents acting on his instructions.

The treating was done at:

(a) "Temple Trees", the officially designated residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka which was illegally occupied by the 1st Respondent as one of his several residences and used as his election campaign office;

(b) President’s House in Kandy; and

(c) President’s House in Anuradhapura.

The treating was done between 23rd November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.)

The treating was of the groups of electors mentioned below. Each of the above events had at least 3,000 participants. Some of the Public Officers so treated were officials directly involved in the election process such as Police Officers, Public Sector Trade Union members, and even members of the Attorney General’s Department.

These acts of treating are set out below.

7th December 2009 - Recipients of Swarnabhoomi Deeds - Temple Trees

8th December 2009 - Mediation Board officers - Temple Trees

10th December 2009 - Children of Samurdhi beneficiary families - Temple Trees

10th December 2009 - Officers of the State Education Sector - Temple Trees

11th December 2009 - Members of the Women Lawyers’ Association - Temple Trees

12th December 2009 - Attorneys-at-Law (including those from the Attorney General’s Department) - Temple Trees

13th December 2009 - Police Officers - Temple Trees

14th December 2009 - Trade Union members - Temple Trees

14th December 2009 - Artistes - Temple Trees

15th December 2009 - Dairy Farmers - Temple Trees

________________________________________

Mahinda Rajapaksa (1st Respondent) 6,015,934 57.88%

Sarath Fonseka (Petitioner) 4,173,185 40.15%

Mohomad Cassim Mohomad Ismail 39,226 0.38%

Achala Ashoka Suraweera 26,266 0.25%

Channa Janaka Sugathsiri Gamage 23,290 0.22%

W.V. Mahiman Ranjith 18,747 0.18%

Anura Liyanage 14,220 0.14%

Sarath Manamendra 9,684 0.09%

M.K. Sivajilingam 9,662 0.09%

Ukkubanda Wijekoon 9,381 0.09%

Lal Perera 9,353 0.09%

Sirithunga Jayasuriya 8,352 0.08%

Wickramabahu Karunaratna 7,055 0.07%

Idroos Mohomad Ilyas 6,131 0.06%

Wije Dias 4,195 0.04%

Sanath Pinnaduwa 3,523 0.03%

Mohamed Musthaffa 3,134 0.03%

Battaramulle Seetarathana Thero 2,770 0.03%

Senaratna de Silva 2,620 0.03%

Aruna de Zoysa 2,618 0.03%

Sarath Kongahage 2,260 0.02%

M.B. Theminimulla 2,007 0.02%

Valid Votes 10,393,613 99.03%

Rejected Votes 101,838 0.97%

Total Polled 10,495,451 74.49%

Registered Electors 14,088,500

January 11 - Nawalapitiya - Chairman of Vtakadeniya UNP branch office was assaulted causing injuries

-do- Matara/Matara - Parliamentarian Sagala Rathnayake’s Office in Matara was attacked and destroyed. Police entries have been made.

16-01-2010 - Balangoda - Area residents of Viliyawaththa. threatened by UPFA thugs

16-01-2010 - Anuradhapura/Horoupathana - Election Office of the area was attacked and damaged. A. Dinapala was assaulted by unidentified persons

16-01-2010 -Anuradhapura/Nochchiyagama - Three wheeler of Nishantha Sujeewa Bandara was damaged

16-01-2010 - Puttalam/Anamaduwa - U.N.P. Pradeshiya Saba Member R. M. Ajantha Sadaruwan’ shop and Petitioner’s Office was set on fire and destroyed by people using T56 guns.

16-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa - Houses of D.G. Ranasingha, H.A. Darmarathne, S. K. Kulawardana, Miss M.S. Kamani Kumari, Sunil Senarathna, Fedrick Punchi Hewa, Nevil Wera Kumara, K. Premathilaka, T.M. Jayalath, Wasantha Kumara were attacked and damaged by thugs on 13th and 14th of January 2010.

16-01-2010 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - House of UNP National Youth Front Nilanka Punchihewa was set on fire.

16-01-2010 - Anuradhapura/Kalawewa - Petitioner’s Election Office at Kalunduwa Thambuththegama, Rajanganaya Road was attacked and destroyed.

-do- Colombo/Kolonnawa - House of the Chairman of Urban Council was attacked, UC Member’s house attacked. And Opposition Leader of Kotikawaththa-Mulleriyawa was attacked and damaged.

-do- Gampaha/Biyagama - UNP activist, Sirisena Panawala’s house was attacked and inmates were intimidated.

17-01-2010 - Batticaloa/Padiruppu - Eleven supporters of Sarath Fonseka were assaulted by UPFA thugs.

17-01-2010 - Rathnapura/Rakwana - U.N.P. supporter H.N. Hemdasa’s house was attacked and valuable goods were destroyed by unknown gangs

17-01-2010 - Gampaha/Attanagalla - Fifteen incidents were reported in this area from 16-12-2009 to 12-01-2010 (destroying cutouts of Sarath Fonseka, attacking supporters houses by P.A. supporters)

17-01-2010 - Puttalam/Kalpitiya - Patrick Perera a supporter of Sarath Fonseka was assaulted by People’s Alliance supporters and hospitalized with injuries.

17-01-2010 - Rathnapura/Rakwana - Sarath Fonseka’s Election Office was destroyed and those who were there were taken as hostages.

17-01-2010 - Kurunegala/Kurunegala - Election Office at Major. Milton Gunawardana’s building was destroyed.

17.01.2010 - Anuradhapura/Kalawewa - PA thugs came in three vehicles( Nos. 54- 5830 black Fargo, 51-0786 White Town ace and 325-3356 Double Cab) and caused damages to property of Petitioner’s supporters.

17.01.2010 - Galle/Ambalangoda - The house of Harrison Petitioner’s supporter, living behind the Police station at Ambalangoda had been attacked by a group of thugs of the PA. They have assaulted the inmates of the house too. 5 people of this house had been hospitalised.

17.01.10 - Kandy/Ududumbara - On 16th January 2010 the Artistes returning after meeting caused damages to the UNP Office situated at Hasalaka in front of the house of Y.A.Piyadasa traveling in vehicle

No.32 Sri 1352. They also threatened the wife of Piyadasa.

17.01.10 - Anuradhapura/Thambuththegama - Several thugs attacked the UNP Office at Ragina Junction at Thambutthegama and also attacked the record bar close to the UNP office and robbed money and the items belonging to the ‘record bar.

17.01.10 - Kandy/Hasalaka - The Security Inspector of the CTB Depot at Hasalaka one Mr. R M P G Navaratne assaulted by thugs.

17.01.10 - Anuradhapura/Talawa - At about 1 p.m. Lakshman Jayatilleke of Talawa, Gangasiripura was not well and resting at home when threatened by UPFA thugs, who also robbed the cash in the house.

18.01.10 - Kurunegala/Wariapola - On 18.01.2010 between 12 and I am at Ambakadawara Kanatte Wewa, Wariapola. about 15 thugs of the UPFA had assaulted some supporters of General Sarath Fonseka and killed one Dammika Herath by hitting him with iron rods on the head.

18.01.2010 - Kegalle/Aranayake - The owner of Rajapaksa stores and two of his brothers, Petitioner’s supporters, had been assaulted and they have taken treatment from the hospital.

18.01.10 - Gampaha/Mahara - On 17.01.2010 at about 2.30 a.m. the house of Mr. K.B.S.M. Jayasiri which is situated at Rodahenawatta, Henagama was stoned and the roofing sheets were damaged.

18.01.10 - Kurunagala/Mawathagama - At about 1. a.m. a crowd of thugs had come armed with weapons to the house of Mr. Ajith Rohana, the Chief Organiser of the UNP situated at Wellawa Maha kandegama and threatened the people in the house with death and caused damages.

18.01.10 - Kurunegala/Mawathagama - About 50 thugs came in 3 vehicles to the Nape Junction at Mawathagama and caused damages to the Office of Petitioner.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Gampola - The UNP Office at No.42 Angamana, Gampola or TB Panabokke Mawatha, had been attacked by some thugs and two cut-outs of General Fonseka and the electrical switches damaged.

19.01.20 - Galle/Elpitiya - JVP MP Mr. Gamlath had been assaulted at Gurugodella in Elpitiya by some thugs.

19.01.10 - Hambantota/Mulkirigala - The Blue Brigade members are terrorising the supporters of Sarath Fonseka and threaten to assault them and damage their houses.

19.01.10 - Kurunegala/Bingiriya - On the 16th night a group of thugs assaulted UNP supporters at Bingiriya.

19.01.10 - Matale/Matale - One Lingeshwaran alias TS Weerasinghe Igneswaran who was attending to propaganda work with regard to the meeting which was held on 15.01.10 in support of Gen. Fonseka complained that her husband did not return home after the meeting. The next day his body was found near the rail track in Kandy having been brutally assaulted and murdered

19.01.10 - Polonnaruwa/Dimbulagala - The Office of Petitioner at Dimbulagala Siripura had been attacked.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Nawalapitiya - During the afternoon supporters of Gen Fonseka who were attending to canvassing work in Kurunduwatta Galpaya Nawalapitiya had been assaulted by some PA thugs.

19.01.10 - Kandy/Wattegama - Threats caused to the UNP and JVP supporters working at the CTB depot.

19.01.10 - Jaffna/Kilinochchi - Two people who had been supporting Gen Fonseka in the election campaign had been assaulted by thugs.

19.01.10 - Badulla/Mahiyangana - Jayawardene of Mahapitiya village had been abducted by some PA thugs.

20.01.10 - Colombo/Kaduwela - At about 1.10 am a crowd of people who came in 3 vehicles attacked the election office of the UNP at 112, Bomiriya, Kaduwela and caused damages to the office and robbed several item.

20.01.10 - Trincomalee/Trincomalee - UPFA thugs threatening voters.

20.01.10 - A’pura/Notchchiagama - H Kusumawathie a SF supporter of No 64 Rathanapala Mw, Notchchiagama complains that at 2 am a group of thugs vandalized her shop.

20.01.10 - Galle/Hiniduma - A meeting to be held with police permission in the Nagoda District has been obstructed by UPFA supporters by destroying the decorations and posters.

21.01.10 - Gampaha/Wattala - On the 20th night some people in a white van ha arrived at the Wattala and Jaela area and have taken the polling cards of the residents by force.

21.01.10 - Kurunegala/Alawwa - PA thug has been terrorising UNP supporters by carrying a T81 weapon in a threatening manner.

22.01.10 - Digamadulla/Pottuvil - MP Chandradasa Gatappathi and MP Wasantha Piyatissa were distributing election leaflets from Ampara to Akkaraipattu, Tirukovil and Pottuvil just before the Akkaraipattu town when attacked by UPFA thugs.

22.01.10 - Galle/Hiniduma - Sampath Srilal and about 20 others were injured and were taken to the Hiniduma hospital.

22.01.10 - Gampaha/Kalagedihena - EA Siripala of Sapugastenne, Kalagedihena and Namatissa along with some friends were assaulted by an unknown group of people when they went canvassing for SF.

22.01.10 - Batticaloa/Nth/Sth - UPFA thugs intimidating the voters in Puttalam north and south areas.

22.01.10 - Ratnapura/Ratnapura - On the night of the 21st., 12 thugs forced themselves into the houses of the Hakamunwa village. They tore the polling cards and threatened the voters with death if they voted.

22.01.10 - Trinco/Trinco - UPFA thugs terrorising the supporters of the General in the Kappalthurai and Ambuvelupuram areas. District organisers Sivapathan and Polling officer T Vimaleshvari have been threatened with death.

22.01.10 - Matale/Matale - On the night of the 21st RP Dayananda’s residence at Rathgammana Madawela had
been looted and ransacked. He is now in Colombo in fear for his life.

22.01.10 - Kalutara/Horana - To day the following offices of the General have been attacked: Handapangoda, Bathugampola, Mahaingiriya, Ingiriya, Maputugala.

22.01.10 - Digamadulla/Ampara - For the security of the Polling stations in the Digamadullla District, female Police

22.01.10 - Colombo/Kotte - Tiran Alles’ house was bombed. This was done by the UPFA thugs

22.01.10 - Polonnaruwa/Polonnaruwa - On the 17th Jan., some people arrived in vehicle Nos.32 Sri 4010 and 50-2040 to attack the UNP office and the residence at Galtalawa.

23.01.10 - A’pura/Mihintale - AB Arunolis of Ipologama Eppawala was visited by 25 thugs at about 11 p.m. He was told not to work for the General or else he would be killed. They caused minor damage and left.

23.01.10 - Kegalle/Deraniyagala - Petitioner’s offices at Tigala, Dehiowita, Udugampola and Ahettigama were burnt to the ground by UPFA thugs.

23.01.10 - Badulla/Hali-Ela - The UNP Hathakma and Ketawela offices were burnt and destroyed on the night of the 22nd.

23.01.10 - Kalutara/Agalawatte - Petitioner’s office at Urugoda has been destroyed by some people.

26.01.10 - Kandy/Nawalapitiya - School UPFA thugs chased away identified UNP Sarath Fonseka voters at the following polling stations. 1. Dolosbage Junior School, 2. Alagolla Junior School, 3. Senadhikari Junior School, 4. Yatapaana Junior Schoo, l 5. Galpaya.

9. GENERAL TREATING : CONCISE STATEMENT OF THE MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

There was general treating committed in connection with the election. The said acts of treating, consisted of the providing and serving food and drink, free of charge. The treating was done by the 1st Respondent, and his servants and agents acting on his instructions. The treating was done at:

(a) "Temple Trees", the officially designated residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka which was illegally occupied by the 1st Respondent as one of his several residences and used as his election campaign office;

(b) President’s House in Kandy; and

(c) President’s House in Anuradhapura.

The treating was done between 23rd November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.)

The treating was of the groups of electors mentioned below. Each of the above events had at least 3,000 participants. Some of the Public Officers so treated were officials directly involved in the election process such as Police Officers, Public Sector Trade Union members, and even members of the Attorney General’s Department.

These acts of treating are set out below.

7th December 2009 - Recipients of Swarnabhoomi Deeds - Temple Trees

8th December 2009 - Mediation Board officers - Temple Trees

10th December 2009 - Children of Samurdhi beneficiary families - Temple Trees

10th December 2009 - Officers of the State Education Sector - Temple Trees

11th December 2009 - Members of the Women Lawyers’ Association - Temple Trees

12th December 2009 - Attorneys-at-Law (including those from the Attorney General’s Department) - Temple Trees

13th December 2009 - Police Officers - Temple Trees

14th December 2009 - Trade Union members - Temple Trees

14th December 2009 - Artistes - Temple Trees

15th December 2009 - Dairy Farmers - Temple Trees

20th December 2009 - Invitees to the Fourth Presidential Environmental Awards Ceremony - Temple Trees

21st December 2009 - New Manufacturers Forum - Temple Trees

21st December 2009 - Provincial Council Candidates who were not elected - Temple Trees

22nd December 2009 - Principals & Teachers of Central Province - Kandy President’s House

22nd December 2009 - SLFP Activists in Central Province - Kandy President’s House

23rd December 2009 - Group of UNP dissidents and former members - Kandy President’s House

23rd December 2009 - Invitees to Fourth Convention of Sanasa - Kandy President’s House

23rd December 2009 - Invitees to Meeting of members of Medarata Janatha Front and Kandy District United Front - Kandy President’s House

24th December 2009 - Invitees to Meeting organized by Tharunyata Hetak - Kandy President’s House

24th December 2009 - Invitees to Felicitation of Sportsmen & Sportswomen of the Central Province Presentation of Certificates - Kandy President’s House

24th December 2009 - Kandy Professionals Meeting - Kandy President’s House

27th December 2009 - Invitees to Meeting of members of the Anuradhapura Civil Defence Force - Anuradhapura President’s House

27th December 2009 - Public Service United Nurses Union members - Temple Trees

28th December 2009 - Vocationally trained youth, representatives of Youth Organizations and Sports Associations - Anuradhapura President’s House

29th December 2009 - Invitees to Meeting of Businessmen of the North Central Province - Anuradhapura President’s House

29 December 2009 - Meeting of 5,000 persons who purportedly left UNP & JVP - Anuradhapura President’s House

30th December 2009 - Invitees to Meeting of Teachers of Dhamma Schools and Pre Schools - Anuradhapura President’s House

31st December 2009 - Ayurveda Physicians - Temple Trees

1st January 2009 - Students and Teachers studying Vocational and Industrial Training Institutes - Temple Trees

4th January 2010 - Female Family Health Officers - Temple Trees

4th January 2010 - Persons living around and each were given gifts "Temple Trees" - Temple Trees

5th January 2010 - Handicraftsmen, National Poets Association, Dhamma School Teachers -Temple Trees

8th January 2010 - Meeting of 3,000 representatives of the Community Water Project of Urban Development Ministry members of the Nenasala - Temple Trees

11th January 2010 - Graduates - Temple Trees

10. GENERAL BRIBERY : CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

There was general bribery committed in connection with the election by the 1st Respondent or with his knowledge or consent or by his agents. These acts of bribery took place between 23rd November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.) These act of bribery are set out below.

(a) The 1st Respondent increased or caused the increase of salary of State officials (numbering approximately 1 million) by Rs. 2500/- outside the approved Budgetary provisions

(b) The 1st Respondent caused members of the Civil Defence Force to be granted permanency in employment.

(c) Subsequent to the meeting with Police officers at "Temple Trees", the official residence of the 1" Respondent on 13-12-2009, Police batta (to approximately 200,000 police personnel) was increased and added to the December 2009 salary.

(d) The "Mediation Board day" was held on the 8th of December 2009 (instead of the scheduled 18th July 2010) at the official residence of the 1st Respondent. More than 3000 people were present, as each mediation board member was requested to attend with ten others. Lunch and cash rewards were given to at( participants.

(e) The Railway Department recruited 650 people from the Matara District as temporary labourers on 23rd November 2009. However, the appointments were backdated to read 17th November 2009 (to circumvent the provisions of Law / guidelines prohibiting such recruitments).

(f) People from Mannar who attended a public meeting in support of the 1st Respondent at the Alankuda Grounds in Kalpitiya were paid Rs. 500/ each by the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services.

(g) 40 persons nominated by Minister Karuna Amman were employed by the Eratteperiyakulam, Vavuniya Office of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on or around 21st December 2009 till the conclusion of the poll.

(h) All Officers of the Sri Lanka Fisheries Corporation were promoted with increases in salary with effect from 1st December 2009.

(i) Promotions were effected to persons employed within the National Housing Development Authority by letter dated 10th December 2009.

(j) State officials attached to the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs were granted permanency in service by virtue of circular no. EST-4/PEMNT/03/0201 dated 25th November 2009.

11. OTHER MISCONDUCT OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES: USE OF STATE RESOURCES: CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

There were other misconduct or other circumstances which occurred between 23rd November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.) These incidents were also contrary to the Guidelines issued by the Commissioner of Elections dated 8th December 2009, and consisted of the use of State resources towards promoting of the candidature of the 1st Respondent, between the 23rd November 2009 (the date of proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of election).

These acts of the use of State resources are set out below.

(a) Use of a large stage belonging to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority for the public rallies promoting the candidature of the 1st Respondent.

(b) Vehicles belonging to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority were deployed to the Southern Province to transport supporters and used for propaganda of the 1st Respondent


(c) 20 Vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Road Development used to transport cut-outs of the 1st Respondent

(d) Use of several hundreds of buses belonging to the Central Transport Board to transport, free of charge, supporters of the 1st Respondent to rallies held right around Sri Lanka in support of his candidature.

(e) Use of Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters to transport family members of the 1st Respondent, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Directors and Heads of Statutory institutions, to public meetings in support of the candidature of the 1st Respondent.

(f) Use of facilities/head office of the Department of Government Information to record the programs promoting the candidature of the 1st Respondent, at the expense of the Department of Government Information.

(g) Public officials employed by, and vehicles belonging to, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority were used during working hours to set up stages for public meetings in support of the 1st Respondent.

(h) The following State institutions sponsored hoardings/ advertisements supporting the candidacy of the 1st Respondent at the places set out below:

- Hoarding at Nugegoda by the State Trading Corporation

- Hoarding at Town Hall (Colombo) by Presidential Secretariat

- Hoarding at Thimbirigasyaya by Presidential Operational Office

- Hoarding at Matara by Southern Development Authority

- Advertisement published in the "Daily News" 24th November 2009 by the Water Supply and Drainage Board

- Advertisement published in the "Daily News" 24th November 2009 by the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration.

- Advertisement published in the Ravaya 20th December 2009 by Board of Investment

- Advertisement published in the Lankadeepa (Sunday) 28th December 2009 by Ministry of Tourism

- Advertisement published in the Divaina 29th December 2009 by Urban Development Authority and Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development

- Advertisement published in newspapers by Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

- Advertisements published in all newspapers by State Institutions at State expense promoting the candidature of the 1st Respondent.

(i) Contrary to the guidelines issued by the Commissioner of Elections, a senior police officer, on 23rd December 2009, directed the OICs of the District that they should not permit the removal of cut outs of the 1st Respondent.

(j) The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka in violation of the Telecommunication Act and especially section 5 thereof, directed mobile phone operators to transmit a New Year’s Day greeting / message from the 1st Respondent to their respective subscribers (totalling 13.5 million), which message was supportive of the election campaign of the said 1st Respondent. Such facility was not given to the Petitioner although it was requested by the Petitioner.

(k) The following State buildings and vehicles were misused for the election campaign of the 1st Respondent:

Kelaniya - Sri Lanka Transport Board Bus Depot, Peliyagoda - used as campaign office of the 1st Respondent, placards, hoardings, flags displayed within and outside the premises.

Puttalam - Sri Lanka Transport Board Office - used as campaign office of the 1st Respondent.

(l) Propaganda on Government websites in favour of the election campaign of the 1st Respondent, and against the candidacy of the Petitioner (www.gov.lk, www.defence.lk, www.news.lk)

(m) 140 vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Livestock Development, MILCO, State Engineering Corporation, were used in the election campaign of the 1st Respondent.

(n) 220 vehicles belonging to the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka were used in the election campaign of the 1st Respondent.

(o) Officers of the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka were used in the election campaign of the 1st Respondent.

(p) Two schools in the Anuradhapura District (St. Joseph’s College - Primary Section, and Mahabodhi Vidyalaya) were closed to enable the chairs to be used for a Bodhi Pooja to invoke blessings on the 1st Respondent.

(q) 71 security officers / employees attached to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority were released to carry out election work for the 1st Respondent in the Southern Province.

(r) Several serving Ambassadors, diplomats and officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been actively involved in the election campaign of the 1st Respondent white still being officially in State employment.

Hemantha Warnakulasuriya (Ambassador to Italy), Bandula Jayasekera (Consul General - Canada), and M M Zuhair (Ambassador to Iran), Jaliya Wickremasuriya (Ambassador to US), Palitha Kohona (Permanent Representative to the UN), Newton Guanratne (Ambassador to Myanmar), Nihal Jayasinghe (High Commissioner to the United Kingdom) made statements to the print and electronic media, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent. These persons were based at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for international Relations, Horton Place, Colombo 7, and carried out a campaign for the re-election of the 1st Respondent at state expense. These persons, white in Sri Lanka, continued to receive their official emoluments, and their respective consutates/embassies were compelled to function, until the conclusion of the election, in the absence of a head of mission.

(s) Sub Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Navy, a son of the 1st Respondent, while serving as an Officer in the Sri Lanka Navy, appeared on the electronic media and at public meetings, making statements supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(t) Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, while serving as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(u) Lalith Weeratunga, while serving as Secretary to the President made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent

(v) Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, which is not a legally valid office, made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(w) W. Karunajeewa Chairman, Chandrasiri de Silva, Director of the Peoples Bank organized the distribution of leaflets at the Colombo Fort Railway Station, World Market, and at the Head office of the People’s Bank, on 6th January 2010, promoting the candidature of the 1st Respondent.

(x) The Commandant of the STF issued a direction to distribute a leaflet directing the officers of the STF to vote for the 1st Respondent.

(y) Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya, Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(z) Major General Shavindra Silva, while serving in the Sri Lanka Army, made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(aa) Major General S. Manawadu, while serving in the Sri Lanka Army, made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(bb) Senior Police officers summoned all police officers of police stations along Galle Road from Colombo - Moratuwa, Gampaha, Negombo, Colombo South, Colombo Central to meetings, at which they delivered a speech canvassing the re-election of the 1st Respondent.

(cc) High officials of at[ the Universities in Sri Lanka including the Vice Chancellors made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(dd) Many Heads of State Media, or State controlled media organisations, continued to hold positions within political parties supporting the 1st Respondent, contrary to the Regulation 15 of the "Guidelines to be observed by the Electronic and Print Media in regard to Broadcasting /Telecasting/Publishing of Matters relating to the Presidential Election", issued on 17th December 2009 by the 22nd Respondent Commissioner of Elections. The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Hudson Samarsinghe, (25th Respondent hereto) is also the SLFP Organiser for the Colombo West Electorate. Deputy General Manager of the Independent Television Network Sudharman Radaliyagoda holds the position of SLFP Organiser for the Kurunegala District. The reviewer of the newspapers for ITN Latith de Silva, functions as an SLFP organizer for the Colombo District. CEO of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Karunaratne Paranavitane is the SLFP organizer for the Ratnapura District. These persons participated in news programs and discussions and used their official positions in their respective media organizations to promote the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(ee) Ariyaratne Athugala, Chairman, Sri Lanka Ruapavahini Corporation, Anura Siriwardena, Chairman, ITN and Mahinda Abeysundera, Editor, Dinamina newspaper, white holding their respective positions, made statements to the print and electronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(ff) Several serving high officers of the Sri Lanka Army, made statements to the print and etectronic media and addressed public meetings, supportive of the candidacy of the 1st Respondent.

(gg) The Commissioner of Elections issued Guidelines dated 17th December 2009 with regard to the conduct of Electronic and Print Media with regard to the Presidential Elections 2010.

(hh) Notwithstanding the said directives, and in direct contravention of the Order of Your Lordships’ Court dated 15th January 2010 in SC FR Application No.957/2009, the State Media including the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the State controlled Independent Television Network Limited and Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, have deliberately acted in a manner extremely partial and favourable to the 1st Respondent, by carrying news items, documentaries and advertisements advocating his election and totally defamatory of and against the Petitioner. The Petitioner was not given the right of response to such items.

(ii) The said institutions have gratuitously carried the news items, documentaries and advertisements advocating the election of the 1st Respondent thereby causing toss of revenue to the State.

(jj) Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd actively promoted the candidacy of the 1" Respondent in its daily and weekly newspapers and publications by including over 10 pages of propaganda material for the 1st Respondent in each such publication.

(kk) The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation refused to broadcast paid advertisements submitted by the Petitioner despite the Petitioner having indicated the ability to make full payment in advance.

(ll) The State media gave live coverage to meetings at which the 1st Respondent participated white the Petitioner’s such meetings were not given any publicity at all, or virtually none.

(mm) On 17th December 2009 Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation was given the sole right to televise live the proceedings of nomination day at the Elections Secretariat. It showed the handing over of nominations by all 22 candidates except the Petitioner.

(nn) The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited has carried false statements with regard to arms deals allegedly carried out by the son-in-law of the Petitioner.

(oo) Notwithstanding, and in contravention of, the specific direction of the Commissioner of Elections, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation failed to afford the Petitioner a reasonable amount of airtime to reply to defamatory statements made against him.

12. FALSE STATEMENTS WHICH CONSTITUTE OTHER MISCONDUCT OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES :

CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

These false statements of facts are in relation to the personal character of the Petitioner as set out below.

(A) The 1st Respondent, during the last few days of the election campaign, falsely alleged and presented a fake document purporting to be an alleged agreement between the Petitioner and the Tamil National Alliance which would lead to the division of Sri Lanka in the event of the Petitioner being elected President of Sri Lanka.

(B) The 20th, 25th & 26th Respondents, as agents of the 1st Respondent, during the Last few days of the election campaign, falsely alleged and presented a fake document purporting to be an alleged agreement between the Petitioner and the Tamil National Alliance which would lead to the division of Sri Lanka in the event of the Petitioner being elected President of Sri Lanka.

(C) Commencing approximately at 1 p.m. on the day of the Election, 26th January 2010, Sarath Kongahage, Razik Zarook, Kalinga Indatissa, Hudson Samarasinghe & Wimal Weerawansa (the 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th Respondents hereto) made false statements, that the petitioner was not qualified to be elected as President of Sri Lanka, and that even if the Petitioner were elected as President he will be disqualified from holding such office. These false statements were broadcast without break until the close of poll at 4 p.m. by Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Lakhanda and the Independent Television Network. These false statements repeatedly broadcast on the above media had a deterrent effect preventing voters supporting the Petitioner from exercising their franchise. The said Upali Sarath Kongahage, Razik Zarook, Kalinga Indatissa, Hudson Samarasinghe & Wimal Weerawansa were supporters of the 1st Respondent, and had been actively engaged in speaking and working to promote the candidacy of the 1st Respondent throughout the period from the nomination to the close of the poll., The said institutions which broadcast the said false statements were’ owned and/or controlled by the State and therefore by the 1st Respondent, and were agents of the 1st Respondent. The said false statements were made and broadcast with the knowledge and consent of the 1st Respondent.

The Petitioner further states that 10,495,451 voted over a period of 9 hours on 26th January 2010 at an average of 1.15 million votes per hour and that the said false statements had a direct bearing on the voters in that the electors were made to believe that the Petitioner was not eligible to be elected as the President of Sri Lanka and a vote cast in his favour would be wasted and thus affected the free and fair exercise of the people’s franchise.


13. NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ACT: CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES

(A) There were instances of non-compliance with the provisions of the Presidential Elections Act. Threatening and chasing away by UPFA thugs of counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent], and the failure of the election officers and police and security forces personnel to prevent this, and thereafter election officers continuing with the count in the absence of the said counting agents.

Matale District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from all counting centres in the Dambulla, Laggala, Matale and Rattota Electorates

Ratnapura District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from at counting centres in the Rakwana and Balangadoa Electorates.

Puttalam District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from at( counting centres in all Electorates in this District.

Kurunegala District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from all counting centres in all Electorates in this District.

Gampaha District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from at[ counting centres in all Electorates in this District.

Anuradhapura District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from all counting centres in all Electorates in this District.

Polonnaruwa District

Counting agents of all candidates [other than the agents of the 1st Respondent] were threatened and chased away by unknown thugs from all counting centres in all Electorates in this District.

(B)

(1) After the count was concluded, 65 ballot papers, many clearly with a "x" or "1" in front of the "swan" symbol of candidate Sarath Fonseka were found in Ratnapura, wrongly bearing an indication of the reverse thereof that same were rejected votes. Several hundreds of burnt ballot papers were also found in the vicinity.

(2) Eastern Provinces / Vavuniya / Killinochchi - Many voters, including IDPs, were effectively disenfranchised in the provinces due to the irregularities on the part of the Government in organizing documentation (including identification documents and delivery of polling cards), and the failure to provide transport facilities to IDPs, notwithstanding previous assurances of transport facilities.

(3) Failure to provide transport facilities to residents of IDP camps in the North. As a result only 5,000 out of 100,000 eligible and registered voters could cast their votes.

(4) Over 627,000 Potting Cards were not delivered to registered voters.

(5) Colombo District Notwithstanding prior notification that the seating of ballot boxes for postal voting would commence at 7.30 a.m. on 4th of January 2010, when the Petitioner’s potting agents arrived at the designated place by 7.30 a.m. it was apparent that seating of ballot boxes had concluded by that time.

14. CORRUPT PRACTICE BY CANDIDATE UNDER SECTION 91(c) OF THE ACT: TREATING : CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES Et FULL PARTICULARS OF CORRUPT PRACTICES

Corrupt practices of treating contemplated under Section 91 (c) of the presidential Elections Act were committed in connection with the election by the 1st Respondent and/or with his knowledge or consent or by his agents.

The said acts of treating, consisted of the providing and serving food and drink, free of charge. The treating was done by the 1st Respondent, and his servants and agents acting on his instructions. The treating was done at:

(a) "Temple Trees", the officially designated residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka which was illegally occupied by the 1st Respondent as one of his several residences and used as his election campaign office;

(b) President’s House in Kandy; and

(c) President’s House in Anuradhapura.

The treating was done between 23rd November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.)

The treating was of the groups of electors mentioned below. Each of the above events had at least 3,000 participants. Some of the Public Officers so treated were officials directly involved in the election process such as Police Officers, Public Sector Trade Union members, and even members of the Attorney General’s Department.

15. CORRUPT PRACTICE BY CANDIDATE UNDER SECTION 91 (C) OF THE ACT: BRIBERY: CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES & FULL PARTICULARS OF CORRUPT PRACTICES

Corrupt practices were committed in connection with the election by the 1st Respondent or with his knowledge or consent or by his agents. These corrupt practices took place between 23 d November 2009 (date of Proclamation of the election) and 26th January 2010 (date of Election.) These corrupt practices consisted of acts of bribery are set out below.

(a) The 1st Respondent increased or caused the increase of salary of State officials (numbering approximately 1 million) by Rs. 2500/- outside the approved Budgetary provisions.

(b) The 1st Respondent caused members of the Civil Defence Force to be granted permanency in employment

(c) Subsequent to the meeting with Police officers at "Temple Trees", the official residence of the 1st Respondent on 13-12-2009, Police batta (to approximately 200,000 police personnel) was increased and added to the December 2009 salary.

(d) The "Mediation Board day" was held on the 8th of December 2009 (instead of the scheduled 18th July 2010) at the official residence of the 1st Respondent. More than 3000 people were present, as each mediation board member was requested to attend with ten others. Lunch and cash rewards were given to all participants.

(e) The Railway Department recruited 650 people from the Matara District as temporary labourers on 23rd November 2009. However, the appointments were backdated to read 17th November 2009 (to circumvent the provisions of law / guidelines prohibiting such recruitments).

(f) People from Mannar who attended a public meeting in support of the 1st Respondent at the Alankuda Grounds in Katpitiya were paid Rs. 500/- each by the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services.

(g) 40 persons nominated by Minister Karuna Amman were employed by the Eratteperiyakulam, Vavuniya Office of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on or around 21st December 2009 till the conclusion of the poll.

(h) All Officers of the Sri Lanka Fisheries Corporation were promoted with increases in salary with effect from 1st December 2009.

(i) Promotions were effected to persons employed within the National Housing Development Authority by letter dated 10th December 2009.

(j) State officials attached to the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs were granted permanency in service by virtue of circular no. EST-4/PEMNT/03/0201 dated 25th November 2009.

16. CORRUPT PRACTICES : FALSE STATEMENTS WITH THE KNOWLEDGE AND CONSENT BY THE CANDIDATE AND/OR BY HIS AGENTS WITH HIS KNOWLEDGE AND CONSENT AS CONTEMPLATED IN SECTION 91 (C) OF THE ACT: CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL PACTS ON WHICH THE PETITIONER RELIES Et FULL PARTICULARS OF CORRUPT PRACTICES

Corrupt practices were committed in connection with the election by the 1st Respondent or with his knowledge or consent or by his agents. These corrupt practices consisted of acts of false statements of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of the Petitioner made for the purpose of affecting the result of that election set out below:

(A) The 1st Respondent, during the last few days of the election campaign, falsely alleged and presented a fake document purporting to be an alleged agreement between the Petitioner and the Tamil National Alliance which would lead to the division of Sri Lanka in the event of the Petitioner being elected President of Sri Lanka.

(B) The 20th, 25th & 26th Respondents, as agents of the 1st Respondent, during the last few days of the election campaign, falsely alleged and presented a fake document purporting to be an alleged agreement between the Petitioner and the Tamil National Alliance which would lead to the division of Sri Lanka in the event of the Petitioner being elected President of Sri Lanka.

(C) Commencing approximately at 1 p.m. on the day of the Election, 26th January 2010, Upali Sarath Kongahage, Razik Zarook, Kalinga Indatissa, Hudson Samarasinghe & Wimal Weerawansa (the 20th, 23rd 24th, 25th & 26th Respondents hereto) made false statements, that the petitioner was not qualified to be elected as President of Sri Lanka, and that even if the Petitioner were elected as President he will be disqualified from holding such office. These false statements were broadcast without break until the close of poll at 4 p.m. by Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Lakhanda and the Independent Television Network.

These false statements repeatedly broadcast on the above media had a deterrent effect preventing voters supporting the Petitioner from exercising their franchise. The said Upali Sarath Kongahage, Razik Zarook, Kalinga Indatissa, Hudson Samarasinghe & Wimal Weerawansa were supporters of the 1st Respondent, and had been actively engaged in speaking and working to promote the candidacy of the 1st Respondent throughout the period from the nomination to the close of the poll. The said institutions which broadcast the said false statements were owned and/or controlled by the State and therefore by the 1st Respondent, and were agents of the 1st Respondent. The said false statements were made and broadcast with the knowledge and consent of the 1st Respondent.

The Petitioner further states that 10,495,451 voted over a period of 9 hours on 26th January 2010 at an average of 1.15 million votes per hour and that the said false statements had a direct bearing on the voters in that the electors were made to believe that the Petitioner was not eligible to be elected as the President of Sri Lanka and a vote cast in his favour would be wasted and thus affected the free and fair exercise of the people’s franchise.

CONCLUSION

17. The Petitioner states that by reason of the separate and/or cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances set out in paragraphs 8 to 16 above, the majority of electors were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely the Petitioner, and/or the result may have been affected.

18. The Petitioner states further that by reason of the of the separate and/or cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances set out in paragraphs 8 to 16 above, the said election was not free and fair, and thereby the majority of electors were or may have been prevented from electing the candidate whom they preferred, namely the Petitioner, and/or the result may have been affected.

19. The Petitioner states that by reason of the corrupt practices pleaded in paragraph 14 above, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of treating under Section 77 read together with Section 91(c) of the Presidential Elections Act and therefore the said election of the 1st Respondent be declared void and/or undue.

20. The Petitioner states that by reason of the corrupt practices pleaded in paragraph 15 above, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of bribery under Section 79 read together with Section 91(c) of the Presidential Elections Act and therefore the said election of the 1st Respondent be declared void and/or undue.

21. The Petitioner states that by reason of the corrupt practices pleaded in paragraph 16(A) above, the 1st Respondent is guilty of the corrupt practice of making false statements under Section 80(l)(c) read together with Section 91(c) of the Presidential Elections Act and therefore the said election of the 1st Respondent be declared void and/or undue.

22. The Petitioner states that by reason of the corrupt practices pleaded in paragraphs 16(B) & 16(C) above, the said agents of the 1st Respondent named therein are guilty of the corrupt practice of making false statements under Section 80(l)(c) read together with Section 91 (c) of the Presidential Elections Act and therefore the said election of the 1st Respondent be declared void and/or undue.

23. The Petitioner states that by reason of the separate and/or cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances set out in paragraphs 8 to 16 above, the election of the 1st Respondent is void and/or undue, and the Petitioner ought to have been returned.

24. The Petitioner states that in the circumstances that the majority of electors had in fact and in law returned the Petitioner as the duty elected President of Sri Lanka- and is therefore entitled to a declaration that the Petitioner was duty elected and ought to have been returned as the President of Sri Lanka

25. The Petitioner states that he is therefore entitled to declarations and determinations and reliefs sought hereinafter.

26. The Petitioner further states that by reason of the by reason of the separate and/or cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances set out in paragraphs 8 to 16, above, the Petitioner had a majority of the votes, and is therefore entitled to a scrutiny of the ballots.

27. The Petitioner’s Affidavit is annexed hereto, in support of this Petition.

WHEREFORE THE PETITIONER HUMBLY PRAYS:

(a) That Your Lordships’ Court be pleased to determine and declare that the election of the 1st Respondent above named was void;

(b) That Your Lordships’ Court be pleased to determine and declare that that the return of the 1st Respondent above named was undue;

(c) That Your Lordships’ Court be pleased to determine and declare that the Petitioner was duty elected and ought to have been returned as the President of Sri Lanka;

(d) That Your Lordships’ Court be pleased to order a scrutiny of all the ballots cast at the said election held on 26th January 2010, to be carried out by the 22nd Respondent and his officials in the presence of the Petitioner and the 1st to 21st Respondents and/or their authorised representatives;

(e) That Your Lordships’ Court be pleased to award the Petitioner costs, and such other and further relief as to Your Lordships’ Court shall seem meet.

Sarath Fonseka
Petitioner

February 16, 2010

Upali Wijewardena: Memories of the unforgettable tycoon

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

If Philip Upali Wijewardena was among the living he would have reached the Seventy-two today. (February 17). Alas, this was not to be as he disappeared 25 years ago, just four days before his 45th birthday. This article is written as tribute to the man in this eventful week of significant anniversaries.

Legally, Wijewardena is presumed dead though his body was never found. He was travelling in his own Lear jet from Malaysia to Sri Lanka when the plane disappeared. The disappearance continues to linger in the collective memory of the nation as an unresolved mystery. There are people who ask me even now, “I say, what really happened to Upali? Don’t know, no?” [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

Repeal repressive laws that permit abuse of power

Full text of Media release by The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

The recent Presidential elections were widely heralded as being the first in recent times in which the people in the entire country could participate and as signifying the reunification of a country that was for so long divided by war

However, the political developments after the elections are indicative of a growing political crisis in the country and practices that are in contravention of the norms of democracy and good governance. At the centre of these developments has been the sudden arrest of the defeated Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka who represented a joint Opposition alliance less than two weeks after the election at which he obtained the votes of over 4 million voters including the bulk of the ethnic minorities.

At the time of his arrest General Fonseka was challenging the victory that President Mahinda Rajapaksa notched up with a large majority. He was in the process of filing an election petition to the Supreme Court, which he was not be able to pursue as actively in view of the time constraints on the filing of such legal petitions. In addition, General Fonseka was negotiating the continuation of the opposition alliance that together fought the Presidential Election to contest the forthcoming General Elections that have been scheduled for April 8 of this year.

The National Peace Council is distressed both at the manner of the arrest, in which General Fonseka was reportedly dragged out of a political meeting he was attending with the leaders of other national political parties, and the absence of formal charges against him that remain unknown to the general public. If they were conveyed to him before arrest we request the authorities to make them known to the public. We note that other civic and religious organizations, including Buddhist Mahanayakes and Christian Bishops, have issues public statements protesting the arrest of General Fonseka at this time. Street protests have also erupted on this issue which is proving to be politically very divisive. Members of the international community including the UN Secretary General have voiced their concerns and critical international media coverage is a further harming the international image of the country.

There is today the appearance of a crisis of democracy and good governance in which the basic political rights of the people to a free and fair election, to free political comment and to contest elections with the full protection of the law are under threat of being suppressed. The intimidation of opposition supporters who have sought to protest against the arrest of General Fonseka will thus have grave consequences for democratic participation in the future. This is even more alarming considering how the erosion of faith in the democratic process has metamorphosed itself into violence in the past on more than one occasion. Suppression of peaceful protests is known to drive protests underground as we saw in the 1980s when President J.R Jayewardene outlawed the JVP. The country had to pay a heavy price later.

The National Peace Council believes that a key element of the present crisis of democracy is the selective abdication of the rule of law that exists at national and local levels whereby arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and other illegal acts committed with impunity have caused a climate of fear and intimidation amongst the politically active sections of the polity. We further believe that the abuse of power is facilitated by the prolonged and unnecessary utilization of the Emergency Law and Prevention of Terrorism Act. The need for draconian legislation to be operative in the country cannot be justified any more as the war with the LTTE has ended more than 8 months ago.

Accordingly, the National Peace Council urges the government to take appropriate measures to honour the voice of all its citizens as the integration of diversity is at the core of democracy in a multi ethnic and plural society. We believe that it is the responsibility of the opposition also to ensure that Emergency rule and other repressive legislation are rescinded forthwith. The opposition needs to play its own part in securing the rule of law for the entire polity and creating a virtuous state of which it is an integral part together with the government. We also commend the Supreme Court and those members of the legal system who have taken a stand for democracy and rule of law in these uncertain times.

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country

'Mahinda Rajapaksa's plans sound good on paper'

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has published the following letters from readers, in response to the recent OPED by President Mahinda Rajapaksa that appeared in WSJ on Feb 4:

A Missed Opportunity for Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's plans sound good on paper ("Sri Lanka Looks to the Future," op-ed, Feb. 4), but until his government and the international community address the dire human-rights situation, the deterioration of the rule of law, and legitimate Tamil grievances, Sri Lanka will remain mired in turmoil.

More than 7,000 civilians died last year in what the United Nations called a "bloodbath" for which government forces as well as the Tamil Tigers were responsible. Yet the government has reneged on commitments to conduct a serious investigation. The president's ongoing crackdown on civil society, which has continued since election day, has resulted in killings, disappearances and unlawful arrests, and has caused many journalists and rights activists to flee the country.

Were Mr. Rajapaksa sincere about addressing the genuine grievances of all of Sri Lanka's communities, he would permit an independent international investigation into alleged abuses by both sides. And he would end the violence and harassment against peaceful critics of the government. Those concerned about Sri Lanka's future, whether to visit or to invest, should insist that respect for human rights be part of that vision. Only then will the stage be set for true reconciliation and a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.

Brad Adams
Asia Director,Human Rights Watch
London

It would be naïve to expect anything other than propaganda from a head of state, but the piece by Mr. Rajapaksa is more dangerous than hubris.

The presidential election was certainly quiet by Sri Lankan standards but hardly free and fair. Media outlets critical of the government were shut down, one newspaper editor has been arrested, another is still missing and even the state television station was commandeered by the military.

By writing in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Mr. Rajapaksa is trying to suppress these reports and avert international eyes from his crackdown on critics. The police and army have been purged of would-be threats and the "state of emergency" has been extended. Mr. Rajapaksa is consolidating his grip on the island.

Although he uses run-of-the-mill rhetoric to dismiss critics, the truth is that Sri Lanka needs more help from the international community than an IMF loan. The island might be a middle-income emerging market but inflation and unemployment are high, and the loss of preferential tariffs in the EU will hurt. Hence the feeble attempt to improve his reputation and the plea for aid.

Freedom of speech is a right that everyone should have. But by printing Mr. Rajapaksa's piece, the Journal not only contributes to the erosion of truth but bestows on him something routinely denied to the Sri Lankan media and public: a chance to say what he thinks, however unpalatable it may be.

Asoka Wijeweera
London

Mr. Rajapaksa correctly observes that his country's presidential elections were historic. But if the rest of his blinkered piece is any indication, Mr. Rajapaksa seems poised to miss this historic opportunity.

Mr. Rajapaksa gestures only vaguely toward a political solution and minority grievances, dwelling instead on Sri Lanka's potential for investors and tourists. Certainly economic development is necessary for sustainable peace, but this should neither substitute for nor distract from the critical challenges of reconciliation among the country's multiple communities, implementation of a permanent political solution and the demilitarization and democratization of society.

This last point is deeply concerning. Mr. Rajapaksa seems to believe these most recent elections were "peaceful" and "well-fought." Independent election monitoring centers, however, found more than 900 instances of election violence. Despite the war's end, he makes no mention of implementing parts of the Sri Lankan Constitution that would devolve power to local authorities, giving various communities more of a say.

The demise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam signals the possibility of a democratic future for a long-brutalized society. But in its postbellum conduct, the government of Sri Lanka under Mr. Rajapaksa has shown us that terrorism is not the only threat to democracy.

Sashi Selvendran and Ashwini Vasanthakumar
Lanka Solidarity,
Washington, D.C.

Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal

Thousands of IDPs miss resettlement deadline

Source: IRIN News

Sri Lankan government officials aim to resettle more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) by April after missing a self-imposed deadline to move everyone out of camps in the country’s north by end-January.

Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, said the delay was due in part to incomplete demining activities in northern areas. “It has impeded the resettlement process. The area needs to be completely safe for the people to resettle,” Bathiudeeen told IRIN.

“Administrative structures [in the areas] are now completely restored. They are also functional. Most schools, co-operatives and hospitals are now functioning,” he added.

A fortnight after re-electing incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa for another six years, Sri Lanka’s political focus is now on electing a new parliament, with the poll set for 8 April.

The secretary of the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, ULM Halaldeen, admitted there had been a delay in the resettlement process in the run-up to the presidential election on 26 January.

However, he said all the IDPs should be resettled by the time the parliamentary election is held, and insisted they would be able to vote.

“Come April, they all will be resettled in their own homes and leading more normal lives,” Halaldeen told IRIN. “This is a process and we are continuing to resettle people at our earliest,” he said.

As of 5 February, there were more than 106,000 IDPs remaining in camps in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna, according to the UN, citing government agents. About 160,000 IDPs have been returned to their districts of origin, while 29,060 people have been released from temporary camps into host families and elders’ homes.

More than 280,000 were displaced in the fighting and living in government camps soon after the war ended in May 2009.

Funding warning

At the same time, the latest report issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns of funding shortfalls from February for agencies operating in Menik Farm, the largest IDP camp.

The lack of funding is expected to affect services, including the maintenance of sanitation facilities, provision of food and education, it says in the report to 29 January.

It also says that most returnees have expressed satisfaction at restarting their lives in their areas of origin but notes several challenges, including insufficient basic services, transport limitations and damaged or destroyed property and shelters.

“Indications of tensions among communities arriving at different stages of the return process had surfaced, with the civil administration indicating that it would [be] strengthening its role to support resolution of disputes,” it says.

Legislators representing Sri Lanka’s northeastern provinces also expressed concern over the practicality of resettlement initiatives.

As a result of these, IDPs would be grappling with “uninhabitable homes without the necessary facilities to help them lead a normal life”, said Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, Suresh Premachandran. “It will take at least two years to resettle people properly with their infrastructure needs being met.”

The arrest and detention of General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka-A Statement by the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

The manner of the arrest and detention of General Sarath Fonseka, has disturbed all Sri Lankans who value dignity and order in public affairs. The world has also expressed concern over these happenings and their implications on the rights of individual citizens and the democratic integrity of our beloved Sri Lanka .

Whatever opinion people may have of General Fonseka, militarily or politically, all fair minded Sri Lankans are disappointed with the way a highly rated former Army Commander and his associates have been treated. It is a blot on the democratic, cultural and religious traditions and image of our country.

The people are also confused with the several and even conflicting reasons given for this action. If there have been violations of the military code, it must be left to the Military to handle professionally. If he was arrested for planning a coup and the assassination of the President, which are very grave charges, the people should know the basis of this allegation. In either case he should be entitled to his rights, including appropriate medical care and the right to defend himself with due access to lawyers and legal advisers.

In the event that the prevailing confusion is not clarified and a transparent judicial process is not set in place, this action is likely to be interpreted as an attempt to humiliate a presidential candidate who fought a hard campaign, or an attempt to obstruct him from campaigning and participating at the forthcoming general election; or both. The people’s right to clear information on such a serious matter regarding such a prominent personality should not be withheld.

When the reasons for the arrest and detention are clarified, the people will then be able to assess the information, judge the seriousness of the issue and draw their own conclusions.

With Peace and Blessings to all

The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo

Civil rights movement condemns attacks on peaceful protest

“…all parties that have hitherto shared in government must share in some measure the responsibility for these despicable tendencies.[1]”

“We have seen men enjoying positions of responsibility conniving with hoodlums and rowdies … The law, to be respected, must be enforced without fear or favour. There are people, probably, who fancy that they have the wit to flirt with thugs and thuggery, take what they want out of them…and then maintain a firm hand over them. To be so deluded is to ignore the lessons of history[2].”

The right to peaceful protest is only one of many current concerns of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). Human rights issues requiring attention arise from many events that took place in 2009 and the first few weeks of the present year. These include the armed conflict and its aftermath, the plight of the IDPs, killings, attacks on, abductions and arrests of journalists including Vidyadaran of Sudar Oli (February 2009), Poddala Jayantha (June 2009) and Chandana Sirimalwatte of Lanka (January 2010), the killing and disappearances of lawyers and journalists including Lasantha Wickremasinghe (January 2009), and Prageeth Ekneligoda (January 2010), the Tissanayagam case, and the presidential election. There are also issues relating to military law, and to the continued use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency powers. Vital among all this are the needs of the war victims of all communities and their families, of the war-torn civilian population of the North and East, and the building of a just and equitable post-conflict society. That the present statement is limited to the right to peaceful protest and counter protest by no means indicates a lack of consciousness of the many other issues. It is because of its immediacy in what CRM sees as an alarming slide towards further curtailment of democratic norms, particularly in view of the imminent general election, and because it has such a compelling significance for the long-term as well.

In 1956 Tamil political leaders engaged in a peaceful Satyagraha on Galle Face Green, and were attacked by thugs while the police looked on. A retired senior police officer has described how Tamils were taken out of buses and ducked in the Beira Lake while many young MPs watched from the steps of the Parliament building (now the Presidential Secretariat) and found it amusing; “Seeing the Parliamentarians enjoying themselves in this manner no junior police officer dared to order his men to arrest the ringleaders of this violent mob...[3]”. In 1972 forty two Tamil youth protesting against the 1972 Constitution were arrested and detained for over a year (some for over two years) before being released without charge. In the late 1970s and 1980s there were a series of attacks on peaceful picketers, demonstrators and others[4] which CRM has identified as a contributory cause to the terrible events of July 1983 when armed mobs roamed the streets killing Sri Lankans and destroying their property for no other reason than that they belonged to the Tamil community [5]. This sad recital can be continued to more recent times, but let us skip them and come to the present day.

On 11 February protests took place at the arrest two days previously by military police, by resort to the Army Act, of the defeated Joint Opposition candidate at the Presidential election, a recently retired General. Demonstrators were physically attacked by government supporters who to all appearances were well prepared with sticks and large stones. Several persons including policemen were reportedly injured, and the police used teargas. The version carried in the government-controlled Daily News that the demonstrators were targeting the Supreme Court and therefore had to be dispersed is hard to credit since the procession towards the Courts complex was connected with the presentation of a petition to the Supreme Court by the wife of the detained General challenging his arrest.

CRM has always recognised the right not only of peaceful protest but also of peaceful counter protest. When the counter demonstrators are government supporters there is a special responsibility on the government, and on law enforcement officers, to act strictly impartially, and to see that opposition demonstrators are given protection and are not attacked by the others. “For government supporters feel they can flout the law with impunity, and indeed some leaders may encourage them to do so. Similarly there are always some police officers who are reluctant to be firm with persons whom they believe to enjoy political patronage”. (CRM The 5th June Protest and Counter Protest, July 1980).

The tolerance of opposing views, not merely by governments and politicians, but by all the diverse elements that make up our society including each and every individual, is vital for us all. As the late Justice Mark Fernando said, “… stifling the peaceful expression of legitimate dissent today can only result, inexorably, in the catastrophic explosion of violence some other day”. We have seen this happen in our past; let us even at this stage try to secure a future where justice and dignity prevail.

Suriya Wickremasinghe
Secretary

[1] The June 5th Protest and Counter Protest. CRM statement E 02/07/1980
[2] Daily News editorial of 20 August 1983
[3] Without Fear or Favour, FND Jilla, Vishva Lekha 2001, previously serialised in Ceylon Observer
[4] Documented in “CRM catalogues complaints of thuggery” E05A/10/81
[5] Communal Violence July 1983, Civil Rights Movement

February 15, 2010

The General's wife speaks out:an Interview with Mrs. Anoma Fonseka

by Ravi Velloor in Colombo

LAST Wednesday, Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave me a telephone interview in which he detailed why he and older brother Mahinda, the country's president, felt a need to act so strongly against the military hero who delivered peace to the island after a quarter century's bloody insurgency.

Sarath Vigil.jpg

Women’s Group for Democracy held a vigil against the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka and the disappearance of several journalists this afternoon. Participants can be seen here holding banners and candles while taking part in the event. Pix by Samantha Perera-Daily Mirror.lk

For Gen Sarath Fonseka was no ordinary commander.

The victim of two assassination attempts, one of which needed him to evacuated to Singapore for treatment, Fonseka's relentless drive, fierceness and military cunning, combined with the political and material support he received from the Rajapaksas ensured the victory over what Sri Lankans call 'terrorism'. Others may not agree, of course, particularly the Tamils, who have a long history of grievances against the state, many of them legitimate.

The Gotabaya comments to the Straits Times were widely reproduced around the world and continue to reverberate. But unable to get through to the Fonseka camp at the time, I was eager to get the other side's story into the picture. With the general in military custody and under prodding from my editors, the only option was to talk to his wife.

When I reached the Fonseka residence on Queens Avenue, Mrs Anoma Fonseka was on Skype, chatting with her daughters in the US. Outside, Jerfy, the Dalmatian was howling away and I was told he'd been that way since Sri Lanka's war hero, now facing charges of treason, had been arrested last Monday.

When I went up to pet Jerfy I was warned by Mrs Fonseka's sister that this was no friendly dog. Aside from the general and his wife, said Mrs Chandana Peiris, Jerfy had gone for everyone else in the household, including the Fonseka girls. So I turned from admiring Jerfy to admiring the flowers in the garden.

Colombo was tense and unhappy about the treatment being meted out their war hero, but you couldn't tell from the tropical beauty that surrounds me here everywhere. 'Lands of charm and cruelty' -- the title of a book on Southeast Asia, kept coming back to my mind again and again as I inhaled deeply, savouring the moment.

Presently, Mrs Fonseka showed up, accompanied by her own pet, a Dachshund named Tutu. Tutu curled up at my feet and lay down, occasionally stirring to chase away a butterfuly, as we talked for an hour.

THE INTERVIEW

WHAT WENT WRONG BETWEEN YOU AND THE RAJAPAKSAS?

I cannot understand. We were very good friends. After the war ended, I began to feel it a bit. There were some misunderstandings. There was some ill-treatment just after the war. Sarath wanted to stay on as army commander, he didn't want to be Chief of Defence Staff. He wanted to work on the welfare of the war heroes. They didn't allow that. He asked Gotabaya if he could stay as army chief, but they didnt allow it. That was the main thing. He used to talk about it at night.

About the other things I do not know, but this was the main thing: he wanted to make sure that the soldiers had a home and were not living under trees.

IS IT TRUE HE WAS PLOTTING HIS POLITICAL CAREER WHILE IN OFFICE?

He entered politics after removing his uniform. He came very decently to politics. He is a civilian since he retired in November and now they are threatening him under the Army Act.

WERE YOU AWARE THAT HE HAD PLANS TO MOUNT A COUP?

If he wanted to do that he could have done it much earlier. He could have easily done that soon after Prabhakaran was killed. At that time, Sarath was the hero. These are made up stories. He gave full respect for the president and the defence secretary -- not any others. He obeyed them and trusted them 100 per cent. Afterwards he was disappointed. People around the president and the secretary bred suspicion.

WHAT ABOUT THE ALLEGATION THAT HE WAS INVOLVED IN MURDERING AND HURTING JOURNALISTS OPPOSED TO HIM?

That never happened. At the time of (Lasantha Wickrematunge's murder in Jan. 2009) he was directly involved in the war and had no time for other things. I can assure you that. He was too involved with operations. He was always with maps. There were maps on the floor, he was looking at maps while eating, walking... all the time. And there was a map in his mind. Nobody can fight a war and be plotting murder of civilians at the same time. They have taken one of his young officers and forced him to give evidence. These officers did a good job for my husband during the war. I can say with hundred percent certainty the murder charge is false.

WHAT ABOUT THAT ABOUT-TURN HE MADE ON THE IDP (INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE) ISSUE? HE OPPOSED QUICK RESETTLEMENT OF TAMILS THEN CHANGED HIS MIND ONCE HE ENTERED POLITICS.

The north was full of mines. He wanted 100 per cent demining to be done. That would have taken time -- that is why he asked for the Tamils to continue to be housed in the IDP camps. Even now he tells me they are resettling in too much of a hurry. It still bothers him. They did it quickly because of the elections. That is not the way to do it.

WHAT IS HIS MENTAL SHAPE?

He is very brave. Mentally, he is 100 per cent okay. He has tremendous will power and his morale is very high. No one can take that away from him.

WHAT ARE HIS PRISON CONDITIONS?

It is a normal quarters given to junior married officers. Not the luxurious apartment that they are talking about. I know because I am a military wife. There are two rooms, no air conditioning. Only fans. There is a common toilet.

WHAT DOES HE EAT?

Well, rice, curries, pol sambal... He likes jakfruit, fish curry -- seer fish and cod. And I take skimmed milk for him because he cannot take regular milk after his last assassination attempt.

I have to give my thanks to Singapore (for saving his life). Otherwise, he will not be here. We were were for a month while he was being treated in Singapore General Hospital. There is one mortar piece in his lungs. A second shrapnel is near his kidneys and his bowels were damaged in the third accident, which was a suicide attempt on his life.

IS THERE A CHANCE OF THE RAJAPAKSAS AND YOU CALLING A TRUCE?

He wants a reasonable way to come out. The law will give the correct answer. He has done no wrong. Why should we beg from them? Even I will not agree to that. The truth will come out some day.

IS HE A TAMIL HATER?

We have very good Tamil friends. They even give us our meals. In childhood, he was in Amparai with lots of Muslims (whose language is Tamil). My father had very good friends in Jaffna. During our courtship we used to eat in Tamil restaurants like Greenland and Saraswati Lodge in Colombo. I was a student then and he was a lieutenant in the Singha regiment.

IS IT TRUE YOU SPOKE TO MRS RAJAPAKSA AFTER HE WAS ARRESTED?

Yes, we were good friends. She was in Moscow when I called her and she called me back in two hours. I told her he wasn't arrested, he was abducted. They pulled him, lifted him like an animal. I asked her to save his life and she told me she would do something. I think she did. There is still a connection between woman to woman. We are wives and mothers after all. I give my thanks to her. ~ courtesy: The Straits Times ~

Tamils can opt for new beginning or let slip an opportunity that comes but rarely

by S. Sivathasan

To a segment of Tamils in Sri Lanka, alienation from mainstream life has become a habit of thought. It has now got embedded in sentiment and inertia. Perhaps to a people habituated to fatalistic propensities, this mode of action came a bit too easily.

So, for eighty years have we cherished this ‘gift’, without ever looking it in the mouth. Whatever the vicissitudes in the nation’s political life, we stayed put. The no-change stance was given an aura of principled politics, both consistent and continuous. The time is now to veer completely and absolutely.

May 2009 has cleaved the course of the nation’s history. The upheaval has altered the political contours drastically and irretrievably. It will be unwise for both North and South not to recognize it. A sea change has already taken place. Cataclysmic may be a more apt description. Never will the country be the same again, either post 1931 or post 1948 or post 1983. North South relations are destined to follow a new course. In appreciation of the changes, Tamils can opt for a new beginning or let slip an opportunity that comes but rarely.

What is needed? Tamils ridding their mind of intellectual rubbish. Cerebration at fever heat. Deliberations and debate to burn the dross of a past that is archaic. A critical appraisal of past strategies in order to reshape future courses of action. Whatever the character of the erratic approaches of the past, a clear thread is visible. It is exclusion. Self inflicted alienation and then rue the fact of isolation.

The predicament of the Tamils with its impact on the Sinhalese was certainly not caused by one side. To the injured Tamil mind, the southern polity provided the necessary grist. A perception of ethnic incompatibility arising there from led to a situation of political intractability. Both sides summoning courage have to consign the past to oblivion. Dwelling on the wholesome side of ethnic harmony, a new edifice on a sound foundation needs to be built.

The post war world has compressed a millennium of development into just half a century.

For no country is there an escape from a globalised economy. Technology cannot stall nor urbanization stop. Productive energies will proceed apace. Taking the whole gamut of development keenly into account, the Tamils have to set their feet on new territory. Basic wherewithal for a life of dignity is what a people rendered prostrate seek with fervour. The most alluring course is to perfect the strategies for collaborative effort, meaningful investment, commensurate returns and equitable distribution. Can the Tamils accomplish these by sulking in a nook and staying behind? Painting themselves into a corner and then complain that they are cornered?

For once, the political weight of the Tamils was felt and therefore sought after. Instead of benefiting from the new found strategic advantage we proceeded to reduce it to nullity with three counterweights. Firstly, a Tamil to contest and lighten the weight. Secondly, Tamils to boycott and lighten it further. Thirdly, the voters to spoil the ballot and consummate the process of weightlessness. Who are ruining the Tamils? Not the Sinhalese many would assert.

The erratic course, now jettisoned, bristled with levity and displayed avoidance of responsibility. ‘Carrying the deity, while not bearing the load’ goes a Tamil saying. They have been spurned by the Tamils as detrimental, disastrous and suicidal. Exercising one’s sagacity and opting for pragmatism, the Tamil leadership has to abandon negative sentiments and to lead the people courageously and single mindedly. A predilection for collaborative effort needs to supercede the withered attitude of self- exclusion.

Sinhala nationalists must be ib forefront of the struggle to find solutions for genuine Tamil grievances

by Gomin Dayasri

The voting pattern in the North and East is understandable as the Government had failed to attend to the legitimate grievances of the Tamils. It is a protest vote they registered against President Rajapaksa rather than a vote in support of Sarath Fonseka. They expressed confidence that some of the political parties allied to the opposition candidate are more acceptable than the Tamil parties that are aligned with the Government.

Even those who opposed the candidate marked a cross for the swan. This will become more pronounced at the General Elections with a larger turn out of voters with the political parties representing Tamil interest entering the fray and Tamil candidates on the slate. The government can expect a resounding defeat to which it is a contributory element.

It would be wrong to assume the vote is an endorsement of the LTTE but if the government fails to find remedies to the justifiable grievances of the Northern and Eastern Tamils, before long photographs of Prabhakaran will appear on the cadjan walls in the backwoods of the peninsula.

The protest vote carries the sound of a siren; it is a wake up call for the government. An opportunity was provided to build a permanent bridge of friendship to the North and the East after saving them from the clutches of the terrorists, credit for which must flow to the Government. Sadly it appears lost on the people in the North and East, as other mischievous forces have been at work. The Government and Tamils are both at fault.

The Sinhala nationalists must be in the forefront in the struggle to find solutions for the genuine Tamil grievances. They fought valiantly to save the country from the terrorist menace. Now they must step in to avert the country from falling again to a terrorists trap set by the Tiger proxy holders and there is no better remedy than attending to the justifiable grievances of the Tamil people and not of the Tamil politicians. It should not be with the expectation of any reciprocal Tamil support but with the objectivity of building a society where people can live in harmony with security. It is no fault if the Tamils even after some of their grievances are attended, still continue to vote for parties of Tamil origin. They would do so, considering the comfort factor but such parties would not be able to deliver the message of separatism effectively if the grievances are eliminated. This would be the first step in the distant dream of establishing national political parties representing members of all communities being elected to parliament from each district.

Still the Tamils of the North and East are economically dependent on the pocket money doled out by the Diaspora for their subsistence. The Diaspora through the strings of the purse control their brethren in Sri Lanka. It was stupid of the government to think that the Tamils will vote for them after seen their kinsmen incarcerated in camps for unreasonable long period of time. Indeed the votes obtained from Tamil voters by the President shows still there is space and goodwill for accommodation.

The solution to grievances has to be undertaken solely by the government and no assistance can be expected from the opposition or the major Tamil political party. If previous practice is an indicator, in solving the ethnic problem no bi party or multi party support from the opposition is likely to be rendered.

Tamils must equally reciprocate with demands that are reasonable and facilitate its implementation with patience. They brought anguish upon themselves by tacitly or impliedly aligning themselves with the terrorists for whom the Sambandan’s wing of TNA is largely instrumental. The Tamils will have to create a society with a more accommodating leadership prepared to offer a warm hand shake to the south after the elections.

The Sinhala majority showed its goodwill with largeness originating from all strata’s in society when the refugees made the crossing from areas under terrorist control. The nationalistic Manel Mal Movement was among the first to run a special train carrying supplies to Vauniya on a goodwill mission. That out stretched hand must be extended further but any such extension will be meaningless unless the Tamils show sufficient flexibility they are interested in safeguarding the territorial integrity of the country. Tamils must on their own suppress separatist tendencies in their districts to win the confidence of the majority.

Immediate solace must be offered through the present constitution without putting off the date of reckoning. It was a grave error to postpone in laying the foundation of amity until the elections are over in an effort to transact with the new parliamentarians. The next unreasonable postponement sought, will be to await the changes to the constitution. Delay is fatal and expecting the next batch of Tamil parliamentarians to be more conciliatory after an election would be wistful thinking and constitutional amendments will be a long and hazardous journey. Meanwhile the problems of the Tamils will continue to fester if it remains untouched and unattended.

The route the government will have to take to solve the grievances will be a lonely avenue, since like in the war, the opposition will not desire to give the President another victory march in solving the ethnic issue. Mahinda Rajapakse is a leader on whom the Sinhala majority has laid its faith to the utmost and has the confidence that he will not sell the country since he overcame terrorism that none could tame. The legitimate Tamil grievances can be listed briefly as follows:-

-Language
-Security
-Land & Water
-HSZ
-Welfare of Children
-Development
-Resettlement and Rehabilitation
-Cultural Advancement
-Employment Opportunities on Merit
-Speedy Social Progress in areas which were under terrorist control.

All these problems can be attended to under the present laws, the existing administrative powers and with presidential directives.

A dialogue directly with the Tamil inhabitants of the North and East is a necessity to understand the gravity of their grievances. The Colombian Tamils are more interested in their own social and economic progress which is not a priority, as they share problems common to the other communities. Muslim problems in the North and East have to be looked at in a separate chapter.

The 13th amendment was a midsummer nights dream conceived by India to bring the LTTE into mainstream politics through the provincial councils with the control of the North and East offered as bait to lure them. That experiment was a total failure and now after 30 years the provincial councils have proved to be a base to enrich another set of politicians in power. This exercise will only confer power privileges and perquisites to the politicians of the North and East while the genuine grievances of the Tamils will remain intact. Those politicians of the North and East with their greed for gain will not attend to the grievances of the people, to keep them dissatisfied and disenchanted being more satisfying, so that the people could be mobilized and motivated to agitate again for more power for the politicians, which will give rise to separatist tendencies. Therefore it is more in the interest of the central government to attend to the grievances of the Tamil people directly because the solutions to problems will bring a lasting peace to the country which may not be the aspirations of those politicians in the North and East who were the proxy holders of the LTTE.

The Governments efforts to assuage the Tamils by undertaking development projects in the North and East proved to be totally unsuccessful as reflected in the election results. It is obvious that the real benefits have not accrued to the Tamil people in the provinces. In the present day lexicon of words, development is associated with commissions. In any event development is only an aspect of the many grievances and relying too heavily on a single front alone, turned out to be disastrous for the government .It is a basket of grievances which must be handled simultaneously.

The government must create a climate that the Tamils are confident they can live with dignity and comfort. Much of the opposition to this proposition will come from the parties that were once aligned to the terrorists. The president in his second term can act with more statesmen like outlook since he does not have to face another election. The Sinhala majority in the interest of the coming generations must ensure the ethnic problem is solved by not permitting terrorism to rise again; the final answer kies in finding solutions to the legitimate grievances of the Tamils. Now not Later.

February 14, 2010

Future of Tourism and Hospitality Industry in North and East of Sri Lanka

by Tarrin Constantine

Any master plan for development of tourism for each of the provinces in Sri Lanka should be worked out within the wider framework of the tourism network of the country. For example, Jaffna alone cannot be the desired destination of a tourism development programme; instead it should fit within the market strategy of the tourist industry as a whole or for that matter The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (successors to The Sri Lanka Tourist Board)

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Casuarina Beach-pic. indi.ca

Organised tourism was institutionalised in Sri Lanka in 1966 and since then it has seen a rapid growth. This growth is in spite of 40 years of violence and communal unrest in the country, at certain time reaching its peak level. Further, the industry has gone through a setback in the aftermath of the Tsunami (2004) in the year 2005; however it got recouped within a short span of time. The year 2004 has witnessed the highest tourist arrivals of 566,202 and contributing USD 416 million to the economy. At that time the industry had direct and indirect employment of 112,000 people. In the years 2007 and 2008 there has been a sharp decline in arrival of 494,008 and 438,475 respectively. The decline is mainly due to the internal war in the country and the Global economic slump. Total arrivals of the year 2009 are expected to be around 439,000.

On the basis of research carried out by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau and the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), it is very clear that Sri Lanka has a long way to go to tap its full potential. Therefore it is vital that politicians and academics from the North East area should give the utmost priority in developing the area into a desired destination for tourists.

What we have to offer

Sri Lanka, apart from being gifted with diversity of attraction one of the very few which can fit in the ‘attraction diversity criterion’ with 65,525 sq km. With regards to North and East it should specifically initiate some programmes to attract the tourists. Tourists travel hundred of miles to arrive at some destinations. I do not have much knowledge about the Eastern province, hence explored some concepts for the other provinces. When a concept is developed it is always better to schedule during holidays and other major events of the country such as:Nallur Temple festival; Establishing shop points for day tour operators (Keerimalai, Jaffna town, Nallur Temple etc);Thellippalai Thukai Amman festival;Tamil New Year

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Keerimalai Springs-pic: indi.ca

It is also important to take into consideration that any tourism and hospitality industry will not succeed without well trained and motivated staff in the industry. Provincial bodies should encourage private investment to open hotels in Northern and Eastern provinces. Government help can also be sought to start tourist related courses in these provinces. Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management can venture into such activities.

Small provinces like Jaffna and Batticaloa will have two kinds of visiting:Day visits ;Long time visits

Market should be developed to capture both kinds of customers. In the South, Esala Perahara, Navam Perahara, Kelenyia Duruthu Perahara, Singhala New Year, Vesak Poya Celebration and Sri Pada Pilgrimage are some cultural activities that attract tourists and promotions in that respect is carried out Worldwide. It is important that we identify such events and carryout promotion in order to attract tourist. It will also help us to preserve our cultural identity. It will also project as a show case for our cultural enhancement.

Market Segment- Where we stand

The following are the top ten countries generating markets in this sector for Sri Lanka. India has overtaken UK as the major market for Sri Lanka over the past 3/ 4 years.

North and East have a unique advantage of attracting Diaspora community, as their desired tourist destination. This can be an easy market if it could be tapped. It is important that any marketing has to be completely out of any political or any other infuence.

Provincial councils in North and East should have strong representation in The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) representing the interest of North & East. It should ensure that North & East have appropriate representation in SLTPB and in its overall marketing plan.
At present North and East have no representation at all and it is completely understandable. However, future should be different.

History of SLTDA

In 1966, the Government decided to develop tourism in a planned and a systematic manner, after identifying the need to set up an institutional framework. The Ceylon Tourist Board (created by the Ceylon Tourist Board Act No 10 of 1966) and the Ceylon Hotels Corporation (created by Ceylon Hotels Corporation Act of 1966) were set up.With the new Tourism Act number 38 of 2005. which came into effect from the 1st October 2007 the following bodies became as successors to the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority:The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau: Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management: Sri Lanka Convention Bureau

Within these structures The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is the most operational aspect. Within SLTDA there are important projects where North and Eastern provinces should actively participate. These projects are as follows:

Tourism Infrastructure projects:New Product Development:Domestic Tourism Projects ;Destination Management System:Sustainable Tourism Developing and Regional Tourism project

It is important that provincial administrators and politicians are getting involved to make sure that the North and East interests are well represented by experienced and capable professionals.

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Beach in Alles Garden, Trincomalee-pic:drs. Sarajevo

Infrastructure

Tourism requires a good infrastructure. There are so many examples in the world where countries are suffering without proper infrastructure to attract the tourists. When the destination becomes popular more people want to visit the country. In return demand for travel will increase resulting in higher airfare. Then this will resent in catch 22 situations, whereby visitors demand increases and the flights decline. This is more common in small islands (e.g: Cyprus, Sri Lanka). Currently 99.9% of the people visiting Sri Lanka get into the country by air travel. SLTDA has set a target of reaching 2.5 Million tourists by the year 2016. This is 8.6 times over the current capacity. On the other hand environmental policies are getting stretched day by day resulting in more restriction on air travel. Therefore Sri Lankan target of 2.5 Million will become impossible as days go by. In such a situation, sea points have to be open up to meet such targets.

With India in the top of the market for tourists in Sri Lanka, the possibility of opening sea points- in the North and East will be one option for consideration. Therefore it is important that Tamil areas should take the full advantage of this new trend

Balancing the Market Economy & Social/ Cultural Framework

It is very important to make a balance of market economy with the social and the cultural environment of the region. Market should not be allowed to dictate the inhabitants of the land. Tourism is the industry that offers service. In many countries the concept of service is extended to child sex, prostitution, drugs and other inhuman activities. Sri Lanka is not an exception. In Sri Lanka an estimated 36,000 children are believed to be victims of prostitution, according to a study by UNICEF in 1998. An NGO, PEACE operating in Sri Lanka, estimates that 10,000 children, especially boys, may be involved in child sex tourism. Sri Lanka has a number of laws on child protection and the prevention of child abuse, including having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991. In 2002, the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography was signed and the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour ratified. Economical reality and day to day hardship had overtaken the implementation of it in the land. Therefore it is important that tourists and hospitality industry should grow under closer cooperation and network with several organisations. Tourism industry dictated by market will distract the community.

The future economy of Sri Lanka is dependent on tourism for many resources unique to Sri Lanka. Potentials still remain to be explored. Reconstructing Tourism industry would be crucial to uplift the Sri Lankan economy. As the Sri Lanka government seeks foreign investment, foreign entrepreneurs should invest in major projects including tourist industry.

Sri Lanka has named 2011 as “Visit Sri Lanka Year” by doubling the number of foreign tourists to one million. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given his personal utmost to this project. Therefore it is vital that government takes into full advantage the potential of tourist industry in Sri Lanka, formulate and implement a comprehensive and coordinated programme which will be resistant to all political stereotypes and enhance the life of natives.

(Extacts from paper submitted by Mr Tarrin Constantine, Fellow Member of British Association 0f Hospitality Accountants & Member of Institute of Hospitality. Currently working as the Group Financial Director of Desilu Group (owners & operators of Hotels & Properties) based in United Kingdom and Cyprus)

Why President Rajapaksa cannot appoint commission to review judgments given by ex-chief justice Sarath Silva

by Ruana Rajapakse

Last week, Minister of Nation Building, Jagath Pushpakumara, was quoted in more than one newspaper as having said that he would request the President to appoint a commission to review the judgments delivered by former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva.

This idea seems to have occurred to the Minister after a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the present Chief Justice Asoka De Silva implicitly overruled a 2005 judgment of a Bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva regarding the date on which the second term of an incumbent President who has won re-election begins.

The 2005 case took the form of a fundamental rights petition under Article 126 of the Constitution, by a Member of Parliament who claimed that his party’s political work was hampered owing to the uncertainty about the date of the next election.

The 2010 pronouncement was the result of a reference by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 129, whereby he may refer any question of law or fact which is of such nature and public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the apex court.

However Minister Pushpakumara’s suggestion, as it appeared in the press, has no place under the Constitution, and this column will attempt to explain why.

Firstly, it is a long established principle of law that overruling is prospective, not retrospective. It should not be confused with an appeal or revision application, which is a procedure whereby the finding of a lower court can be challenged in a higher court. Overruling occurs where a Bench hearing a particular case decides to re-interpret the law in respect of the case before it.

This does not happen very often. One of the best known examples in this country concerned the law governing divorce. In 1984 in the case of Muthuranee v. Thuraisingham, the Court of Appeal held that an amendment to the Civil Procedure Code giving parties who had lived apart for seven years the right to sue for divorce by summary procedure virtually created a new grounds of divorce, obviating the need of the plaintiff to prove marital fault on the part of the defendant. The aggrieved party apparently did not seek a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 1986 another Bench of the Court of Appeal reached a different decision in the case of Tennekoon v. Somawathie Perera, holding that the amendment to the Civil Procedure Code only changed the procedure for obtaining a divorce where the parties had lived apart for seven years, and did not change the substantive grounds for divorce which still had to be established before a divorce would be granted. In this instance the losing party sought and obtained leave to appeal to the Supreme Court which had to decide which of these conflicting interpretations represented the correct law.

A five-member Bench decided (with one dissenting judge) that the interpretation in Tennekoon v. Somawathie Perera was to be preferred and affirmed that judgment while declaring that the interpretation in Muthuranee v. Thuraisingham was thereby overruled. However the divorce that had already been granted in the latter case was not interfered with.

The practical necessity of following this principle can be well understood when one considers the adverse consequences that could follow from interfering with seemingly final judgments in matters of land ownership, family relationships or employment status, years after the parties have acted on the basis of those judgments.

Returning to the present, an equally apt illustration can be furnished if we consider the recent Supreme Court rulings regarding the commencement of the President’s second term of office.

To re-cap for the benefit of any readers who did not see last week’s article in this paper on that subject, the Third Amendment to the Constitution permitted an incumbent President to call a presidential election any time after completing four years in office (although his full term is six years) and Article 31, sub-article (3A)(d) of the Constitution provides the following formula for determining when the new presidential term of office begins:

"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."

Having called and won a Presidential election in the latter part of 1982, President Jayawardene took oaths for his second term on February 4, 1983, on the anniversary of the commencement of his first term of office which was deemed to have begun on February 4, 1978.

The interpretation of this Article became a matter for the Supreme Court when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga ran for a second term in 1999.

Having commenced her first term on November 10, 1994, President Kumaratunga took advantage of the Third Amendment to call a presidential election on December 21, 1999, approximately 11 months before her term was due to end, and was declared duly elected on December 22.

In a court case filed by a Member of Parliament in 2005, the Supreme Court was asked to determine when President Kumaratunga’s second term would end.

A five-member Bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva unanimously determined that President Kumaratunga’s second term began on December 22, 1999, the day on which she was declared elected, and therefore would end six years from that date, namely December 22, 2005.

This judgment came under criticism even at the time it was delivered. If the second term of the incumbent President was to begin on the date that the election result was declared, such person would be in the same position as a candidate newly elected to the post, and there would have been no need for the separate sub-sections "(d)(i)" and "(d)(ii)" quoted above.

This same issue surfaced following the re-election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa on January 27 this year. A seven-member panel headed by the present Chief Justice Asoka De Silva determined that in accordance with sub-section (3A)(d)(i), the President’s second term would begin on November 19, 2010, being the first date after the election coinciding with the day on which he began his first term of office.

Had this determination been made to operate retrospectively, by setting aside the judgment of the Sarath Silva Bench, what would have been the result? Would President Rajapaksa have been asked to step aside so that President Kumaratunga could come back and finish the unexpired period of her term, of which she seems, on hindsight, to have been wrongfully deprived?

This example, one hopes, will close the door on any idea of introducing retrospective overruling.

Furthermore, in any country which claims to function under the Rule of Law, one does not set out to review the decisions of a particular judge, but only, if at all, of a particular case or cases.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) comprising of the Chief Justice and two other Supreme Court judges exercises disciplinary control over judges of High Court level or lower. Such judges are removable by the President only on the recommendation of the JSC.

Serving judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are removable by the President only upon an address of Parliament, on the ground of proven misbehaviour or incapacity. Article 107 of the Constitution prescribes the procedure for doing so.

Under Article 116 of the Constitution, every person who, without legal authority, interferes or attempts to interfere with the exercise of judicial powers or the functions of any judge shall be liable to be tried without a jury and could face up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine and loss of civic rights for up to seven years.

13th amendment to the constitution can be fully implemented by president without reference to parliament

by Batty Weerakoon

What is attempted in this brief comment is to draw certain positive conclusions from the published result of the Presidential election just concluded.

The position popularized in the course of the election was that it was a contest between two individuals, the C-in-C of the Armed Forces and the General that led them on ground to what was claimed as the liquidation of the LTTE and its military and political capacity. It signified to the country that the election was an opinion poll on credit (kudos) claimed by the rival contestants on the success of the military operations elevated for better effect to the level of war. We do not know who commenced the war - who in fact and in truth closed the Mavilaru sluice gate except for the charge made on it by the Government.

Mini Iraq operation

The result was predetermined by the Constitution itself. As ‘gold standard’ there were the previous Presidents fearful on the issue, and Generals without initiative. This time there was the needed meeting of minds, and a mini Iraq operation in all dimensions - ground, sea and air, and as Tony Blair has claimed the villain and maniac exterminated with the fall out being considered as of no consequence. All that we did not have were the drones and, of course, the phosphorous gas which the Israelis, caught in the act, say they use cautiously.

The cost both economic and political still not in public knowledge is for the present not for consideration, and happily we went to the poll without concern for the hard issues. The result did not surprise us.

It is not suggested that the result in votes cast would have been any different had the economic and other hardship issues as relate to welfare systems had come to the fore. The UNP chose not to cross swords with the SLFP on these very live and pertinent issues for on their own record they had lost credibility on them.

What enlivened the contest was the reduction of the Presidential election to an exercise in the absurd; for this comic relief in a time of world economic crisis we need of course to be thankful to the contesting teams.

The focus was taken off the fact that what was being staged was the contest of two political alliances, one led by the SLFP and the other by the UNP. The vote reflected the traditional voting pattern in the predominantly Sinhala electorates with the SLFP having the advantage of the incumbent President leading it. The UNP suffered from an inability to mobilize its traditional vote for political and other reasons, one being the no-nonsense level of intimidation of its supporters ahead of the polling day as reported by the Opposition.

North and East and TNA

The vote the UNP alliance gathered from the northern province was wholly a TNA contribution. It is reasonable to assume that the Tamil people in the North and the East too had no reason to vote for either of the main contestants. As to results for the SLFP alliance there was Minister Douglas Devanandan making his contribution in and around Kayts, and Sampanthan adding his weight to the other. Muslim parties in the UNP alliance made their investment on SF.

Convincing lead

Given the convincing lead secured by the SLFP alliance in all the districts except those of the northern, eastern and central provinces it may be safely concluded that the alleged intimidation and malpractices could have made no more than a marginal difference to the result of the election as declared by the Commissioner.

The military operations against the LTTE were carried out as part of the USA led ‘War on Terror’; on this there was no difference on principle as between the SLFP and the UNP. The JVP, and the LSSP and CPSL in their respective Alliances did not give voice to what misgivings they may have had on the choice of the leadership of the USA under declared mutual commitments for reciprocal use of common facilities in their respective territories in military operations against third parties. The TNA turned a blind eye on it, and academia itself, the pride of our country, together with the artistes of stage and screen crowded into the respective bandwagons enthused by nationalism, patriotism, jingoism or just plain US State Department scholarship purveyed among its Third World friends on the ethics of terrorism.

Political solution


That the LTTE, right, wrong, or diabolical, had a political agenda that exploited the failure of successive governments to distance the Tamil populace from LTTE terrorism received no serious consideration. What was needed was the offer of an adequate political solution to the Tamil people without making LTTE intransigence on the issue an excuse for caving in under the pressures of electioneering in the south: and this despite the fact that devolution of political power started by the 13th Amendment has been accepted by both major parties, UNP and SLFP, as basis for a political solution as could counter the LTTE and its separatism.

As to principled political issues there were none except perhaps what related to the precipitate holding of the election itself; but that is always left to the governing party to be decided on the basis of personal - political advantage. That the northern province, as revealed by the Elections Commissioner, had no valid electoral register of voters was ignored despite the constitutional requirement that electoral registers had to be part of the valid national register. The northern register had been compiled in 1988 on the census conducted for that purpose and was no longer part of the updated national register. Hence it is that the votes from over there came as though from ghost towns and villages despite the peace that had prevailed for some time.

The vote

On the results announced it is observed that more than half the voters listed in the Jaffna district had not voted. Those who did vote seized the go-ahead signal of the TNA to vote for the battle-hardened General who had risked his life to get the LTTE off their backs! Other districts too in the north had failed to draw in the listed votes. In Vauniya that presumably had enjoyed the calm and quiet of several fruitful years the vote was a 50,000 from a list of 113,000 voters. The vote whereever it was expressed in the province was clearly against the Sinhala majority establishment. It was as though the rhetoric that minorities no longer exist in Sri Lanka did give to the Tamils the wrong message as made them react with, vengeance!

A clearer political meaning has come from the minorities outside the northern province. In the Batticaloa, district, Kalkudah with a 60% turn out gave SF a 60% vote and MR a 34%; in the Batticaloa electorate with a 67% turn out SF had a 69% vote, and MR 28%; Padiruppu with its 47% turn out gave an 80% vote to SF, and a 13 % to MR. In the Digamadulla district Ampara with its mixed population had a 74% turn out with a 68% vote for MR, and less than half that to SF; with a lesser voter turn out Samanturai gave a 56% vote to SF, and a 42% to MR; Kalmunai showed a 67% turn out with 76% to SF, and a one-third of that to MR, and Potuvil with a 67% turn out gave SF a 60% vote, and MR a 38%. A marked feature in all these electorates was that candidates banking on a minority ethnic vote were discounted.

In the Trincomalee district barring the predominantly Sinhala electorate of Seruvila which gave 63% of its vote to MR as against the 34% to SF, the electorates of Trincomalee and Muttur showed a comparatively higher vote to MR though SF got the big hand. In the Nuwara Eliya and Badulla districts the recognizably plantation voter made the difference between MR and SF.

Pattern of voting

This perceived pattern of voting suggests an ethnic or communal bent in the minority vote. We do not however see it as a political polarization as has been characterized by the prophets of doom and those stuck in the blind alley of communal politics. With them the TULF remained demonized on its apparent adoption of separatism. The late Dr N. M. Perera put this in context in his ‘critical analysis’ of JRJ’s magnum opus - what Dr. Colvin R de Silva pilloried as the ‘Constitution for Dictatorship’.

NM’s brief comment is given here in full as it is self explanatory. He recalled that the TULF in response to the militancy which the Tamil youth invested in separatism acted to mollify them. He wrote: "At a recent conference of the TULF held in Jaffna hot heads were apparently mollified. While lip service was paid to separatism, the door was not banged against co-operation to achieve an agreed solution acceptable to both the North and the South within the ambit of a Unitary state."

13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution introduces the principle of devolution of political power which is about the only way of seeking to satisfy Tamil aspirations within the ambit of the unitary state in a country that remains unified.

It would be correct to say that the large and generous vote received by the President in the predomintly Sinhala electorates is, as requested by him, an enabling vote to complete the social cohesion which he projects in his vision of development though presented in less meaningful rhetorical terms. The vote that went against him was irrespective of ethnicity and was a rejection of the political establishment as presently exists, and is no reflection on himself with his known affirmative position on the devolution of political power.

What is suggested here is the forthwith implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. It can be done wholly on the decision of the President and without reference to Parliament in that it is within the provisions of existing law. It may prove to be the basis for agreement between the two major parties, the SLFP and the UNP on further reform for a meaningful system of devolution.

It may be mentioned here the immediate need for a valid voters register for the Northern Province in time for the expected Parliamentary election. Failure to do this is a serious infringement of the fundamental rights of the citizens in the North eligible to vote but have been deprived of their right due wholly to administrative failure.

NB. As this goes to press for favour of publication I have the news that SF has been taken to custody by the Military Police in connection with discovered plans for an attack planned against the government. This development does not require any change in the positions I have stated here except that in the circumstances given here I cannot understand how an armed move for seizure of power or sabotage of government as alleged could have been of any service to the General at any point of time after the election. It is to be hoped that the President will go into this matter.

(The writer is a veteran Trade Unionist and former LSSP Member of Parliament)

Why the Mahanayakes are annoyed with President Rajapaksa and backing General Fonseka

by C.A. Chandraprema

In this country no issue remains at the forefront of the public consciousness for long. The arrest of General Sarath Fonseka last week basically put an end to the election rigging circus. Now nobody is talking about election rigging and everybody is talking about Fonseka. A new twist to events that emerged with the arrest of Fonseka is the comments that the Ven Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter made about the arrest and about democracy in the country in general. Many people may be wondering what that is about.

The vast majority of the Sinhala voters and the Buddhist voters especially, voted deliberately for Mahinda Rajapaksa in the pursuance of a national objective just last month. Why now does it appear that the Mahanayake’s are taking a stand against Mahinda? Some think it may be because wrong information about Fonseka’s arrest had been fed to them.

But the fact is that the alienation of the Ven Malwatte Mahanayake has less to do with Fonseka or democracy than with the parochial interests of the Buddha sasana. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005, he brought the various religious affairs ministries, the Bauddha Sasana Ministry and the Ministries for Hindu Cultural Affairs, Christian Affairs and Muslim Affairs into one ‘sarva agamika’ ministry styled the Ministry of Religious Affairs and he appointed himself as the minister in charge. For the past four years there has been no Bauddha Sasana Ministry and the Mahanayakes had requested that it should be re-established, obviously on the grounds that the Sri Lanka constitution gives foremost place to Buddhism and that it should not share a ministry with the other religions. But the president did not respond favourably. This is why the Malwatte Mahanayake complains that what they say is not taken note of by the powers that be. With the commencement of Eelam War IV from around mid 2006, other events overtook the simmering dispute and it remained unresolved.

Now the president has been re-elected for the second time, parliament has been dissolved, and a new government is to be elected into power. Obviously this is the time to strike, so that when the new cabinet is sworn there will be a Bauddha Sasana Ministry as requested by the Mahanayakes. There is no harm in the president being flexible on this matter. Having separate ministries for the various religions may not be a bad idea because that would create more goodies to hand out and senior ministers from the minority communities can be kept happy by giving them the portfolio for their religion as it may give them an edge in getting the votes of their community. Some may see this as pandering to parochialism. But then that is what politics is all about. On the part of the Mahanayakes, it may be prudent for them to consult the attorney general, the military authorities and the government itself before they make any commitments on the Fonseka issue.

When General Fonseka entered politics, he was a decorated war hero held in high esteem by the whole country and especially by the Sinhala public. Yet the present columnist was bold enough to predict that not only was he going to lose to Mahinda, but that he would not get even the votes polled by Ranil Wickremesinghe - the so called signer of the ceasefire agreement and the ‘betrayer’ of the country. In similar manner, what seems to be clear is that if the Mahanayakes seek to confront the present government, they are not going to come out on top. What last month’s presidential election showed in a magnitude unanticipated even by the present columnist is that there is an overarching national interest profoundly etched in the minds of the Sinhala Buddhist voter which they will pursue regardless of whoever opposes it.

One thing that the people don’t want to see is the joint opposition which has just been resoundingly rejected by the people going to the Ven Mahanayake’s in a delegation and Rauff Hakeem telling the Mahanayakes that the opposition was now helpless - ‘asarana wela inne’ and asking the Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter to start a process under his venerable leadership to restore democracy. This is precisely what they did to Sarath Fonseka as well. They went in delegation to him, and tried to use his credentials with the Sinhala public to further their own political project – and it did not succeed.

Having failed in that, they now go in delegation to the Ven Mahanayakes and tell them to assume leadership of their project. When the joint opposition meets the heads of foreign missions, that is always done behind closed doors. But when they meet the Mahanayakes, it’s always with TV crews in attendance. Over the past few weeks, how many times did we see members of the joint opposition going to see the Ven Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter in particular, carrying tales (kelang) against the government? Never before have we ever had a situation in the country, where the opposition has tried to get the Mahanayakes to confront the government in this manner. But then again, never before have we had a situation where the opposition would get the senior most serving soldier in the Army to resign from active service to confront his own commander in chief! These are strange times when strange things happen. The people of this country and especially the Sinhala Buddhist public are not going to react positively to this attempt to recruit the Ven Mahanayakes to carry on from where Fonseka left off.

Unsurprising finale

The arrest of General Fonseka was an unpleasant but unsurprising finale to the whole sorry misadventure that began with the joint opposition fielding him as their common candidate against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We often hear people saying that political parties should be mindful about whom they field at elections and that unsuitable people should not be given nominations. The joint opposition was clearly not careful about whom they fielded at the last presidential elections. Given his temperament, Fonseka was a most unsuitable presidential candidate.

This whole episode was a costly misadventure for Fonseka. Never have we seen a downfall of a man so complete. After the election, I have not yet met a UNPer who is disappointed that Sarath Fonseka lost. Those who saw SF at work at close quarters and knew what kind of plans he had if he won the election, are those who are most relieved that he lost. The problem is that when UNPers go to see the Ven Mahanayakes they don’t tell the monks how relieved they are that the voting public delivered them from Fonseka! What they are now trying desperately to do is to look for a replacement – preferably someone in robes!

Various opinions have been expressed as to whether Fonseka should have been arrested or not. However, the present columnist fails to see how an arrest could have been avoided. On the night of Fonseka’s arrest, the director of the BBC’s Tamil service Tirumalai Manivannan came on the BBC’s Asia Today programme and wondered aloud whether General Fonseka’s earlier statement to the BBC that he was willing to testify at an international war crimes tribunal, had anything to do with the arrest. Fonseka’s repeated assertion to almost anybody who was willing to listen that he was willing to testify before an international tribunal on war crimes and his repeated accusation that the defence secretary had given wrong instructions to the ground commanders to shoot surrendering LTTE leaders obviously had much to do with his arrest. Some people feel that the government should be magnanimous in victory, and ignore such remarks. If the International Criminal Court gives Sri Lanka a written guarantee that they will not regard anything said by Sarath Fonseka as admissible evidence against Sri Lanka but as the hate filled ravings of a defeated and thwarted politician, motivated by the need to bring his victorious opponents down, then I suppose the government can afford to be magnanimous and ignore Fonseka’s remarks.

But so long as he is not officially certified by the ICC as ineligible or incompetent to testify before a war crimes tribunal, you can expect the government to keep Fonseka safely locked up and gagged. Once a former army commander makes accusation such as those made by Fonseka against a serving defense secretary, and serving senior army officers, no country can ignore it. No nation can tolerate a former military officer turned politician who openly says he is willing to testify against his former superiors and subordinates who have since become his political opponents at an international war crimes tribunal as such ‘evidence’ will inevitably be coloured by the over-determining need to bring his political opponents down . This is the first time in living memory that any country in the world has had a former army commander like this - a point that the Ven Mahanayakes appear to have missed when considering Fonseka’s arrest.

All this started because of Fonseka’s clearly demonstrated tendency to loose control of his tongue when he sees a crowd. At a felicitation ceremony held in Ambalangoda after the victory against the LTTE, Fonseka shot his mouth off and said that in prosecuting this war, they had to overlook the usual norms of war and shoot even surrendering LTTE leaders who came out with white flags. The Americans picked this up and featured it in their US state department report to Congress on war crimes allegations in Sri Lanka. Fonseka is a US green card holder and his family lives there. When he went to the US late last year, this obviously would have figured prominently in the interview he had to face for the renewal of his green card.

Obviously in order to get himself out of a sticky situation, he palmed off the blame on the defence secretary whom he accused of having given wrong instructions to the field commanders over his head. That statement he made to the Sunday Leader was in my view given deliberately to exonerate himself in the eyes of the USA. Later, when pressure mounted on him to retract it, he did so only half heartedly and kept returning to the issue on the public stage where he repeatedly accused the defense secretary of having given wrong instructions to ground commanders and asserted he was not willing to sacrifice himself to protect those who gave such wrong instructions to field commanders. What he was in essence saying was that he was willing to rat on both his superiors who were supposed to have given such instructions and his subordinates suspected of having carried them out at an international war crimes tribunal. This is not an issue that the Ven Mahanayakes can solve. There is no way that they can get Fonseka to shut up or to give the war heroes a guarantee that he wouldn’t rat on them to the international community. Only the International Criminal Court can solve this by either classifying Fonseka as incompetent to testify or declaring that whatever evidence he gives is tainted because he is a now a politician and his evidence will be against his political opponents.

Puthujjana reprisals

One must also not forget the fact that Fonseka is the only presidential or prime ministerial candidate in the post independence history of this country who publicly sought a mandate to put virtually all his opponents in jail if he is elected. If one examines the speeches he made during his campaign and counts the number of times he mentioned the Rs 10,000 pay hike for example, and compares that with the number of times he promised to put those who oppose him in jail, one sees that he campaigned mainly on a platform to put half the population in jail. In such circumstances, to expect his opponents who narrowly escaped being marched off to jail not to come down hard on him is to expect too much. The Rajapakse’s are ‘putujjanas’ (ordinary unenlightened people) like the rest of us and not arahants. My personal opinion is that a sojourn behind bars will always do a politician good, and every politician should be made to spend at least three to six months in an ordinary jail in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa spent three months in jail in the 1980s and this obviously is one major reason why he never tried to put any opponent in jail after he assumed power. In the case of Fonseka, threats to put other people rolled off his tongue far too readily for comfort and the present unpleasant experience it is hoped, will help him to become a better man.

When Fonseka was endorsed as the UNP’s choice as presidential candidate by the UNP working committee around three months ago, we heard even the party chairman saying that 99% of his constituents wanted Fonseka as the presidential candidate. At that working committee, only a few like S.B.Dissanayake, Johnston Fernando, and Azath Salley opposed the decision. However at the working committee meeting held on Wednesday last week, not one member said that the broad opposition alliance that was formed under Fonseka should be continued. The decision to contest the parliamentary elections under the elephant symbol (and therefore under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe) was unanimous. Just three months ago, everybody in the UNP wanted to contest the presidential elections under the leadership of General Fonseka but today not a single member of the UNP working committee wants to contest the parliamentary elections under him. Why this change?

The UNP’s experiment with Fonseka has been the costliest political misadventure in the history of the party. The gap of 180,000 votes between the UPFA and the UNP which we saw at the 2005 presidential elections has now widened tenfold to a whopping 1.8 million. Usually, when a party loses power and goes into the opposition, it has to improve its performance at the next major election. When the UNP lost power in 1994, they got close to 3.5 million votes. At the next major election they faced, the presidential elections of 1999, this had gone up to something in excess of 3.6 million votes. It is this incremental progress that helped the UNP to push the PA out and come into power at the parliamentary elections of 2001, getting over 4 million votes.

In 1977, when the SLFP lost, they got 1.8 million votes. At the next ensuing major election, which was the presidential elections of 1982, they managed to increase this to 2.5 million. (At the presidential elections of 1989, the SLFP got a little less with only 2.2 million votes mainly because of the disturbed conditions under which that election was held. The UNP’s votes also declined even more precipitously at that election.) However, it was this incremental progression that helped the SLFP to come back into power in 1994 with 3.8 million votes. A party in opposition failing to increase its vote at the next major election after being voted out of power is a phenomenon that we have not seen before. What we saw last month is that the UNP has gone backwards at a rate unprecedented in our post independence history – which is why no UNPer today talks of contesting the parliamentary election under the leadership of Fonseka.

A tragedy of errors

All the minority leaders who supported Fonseka have also been floored. The JVP is worse off after having supported Fonseka than they would have been if they had fielded their own candidate and contested separately. If Rauff Hakeem and Mano Ganesan thought Fonseka was their ticket to power, all that has happened is that their sojourn in the opposition has been extended by another clear seven years with no light at the end of the tunnel. It will be Wickremesinghe who will contest the presidential elections in 2017, and there is no guarantee that he will win. So those allied with the UNP like Hakeem, Mangala Samaraweera and Mano Ganesan are obviously in a bind. They have run out of options. They put all their eggs into one basket by fielding Fonseka and with the failure of this gamble, they have come up against a rock wall which is why they have now started working on the Ven Mahanayakes.

The dream of all minority political parties in this country is to split the Sinhala vote and to become kingmakers by backing the side that is most amenable to their demands. The very reason why minority parties like the TNA, SLMC and the Ganesan group supported Fonseka is because they thought he would be able to split the patriotic Sinhala vote and thus make the minority vote the decisive factor in the election. However, the Sinhala voter had proved for the second time that this moth eaten old strategy will not work. In 2005 there was at least the doubt that had the Tamils of the north been allowed to vote, the minority vote may have brought Wickremesinghe into power. At last month’s presidential election however, even if every minority party in the country had supported Fonseka they would still not have succeeded in winning.

But one wonders whether any lessons have been learnt from this. Rauff Hakeem and Mano Ganesan, are still among the most ardent supporters of Fonseka even after his defeat. They are among those who are keen to preserve the grand opposition alliance. The reason for this is, that if the alliance continues for the parliamentary elections as well, the leader of the outfit will be Fonseka who is much more amenable to various demands than is the UNP. For example, Ganesan and Hakeem will both want a certain number of parliamentary slots in the Colombo district which the UNP will not grant them; but Fonseka will. If Ganesan wanted the UNP to sideline his better placed rival Alagan Digambaram in the Nuwara Eliya district, Ranil would have none of it but Fonseka obliged.

So these minority parties will prefer Ranil to Mahinda because they will get more from Ranil than Mahinda and they will prefer Fonseka to Ranil because they will be able to get more from Fonseka than from Ranil! The TNA preferred Fonseka to Mahinda for much the same reason. This is an unholy game of communal one upmanship against proximate rivals within the ethnic community at one level and with the majority community at another level. The minority parties will not hesitate to use the strength of the majority community party against their rivals within their own community. The TNA will support a Sinhala majority party that pledges to sideline Douglas Devananda even though he too is as Tamil as they are. Over the years, the SLMC has destroyed the UNP’s Muslim base, which was an integral part of the grand old party from its very inception, by forcing them to sideline UNP Muslims in exchange for SLMC support at elections.

None of this really has anything to do with minority rights. Rather it’s a political industry, which does no good for the country. The significance of last month’s presidential election is that this industry has ceased to be profitable. What this election showed was that the sight of minority leaders ganging up on one side is going to panic the Sinhala voter into voting for the other side so that minority leaders who try to make use of the split in the Sinhala vote for their purposes will always be left holding the short end of the stick. The Sinhala voter has now convincingly demonstrated that they will overwhelmingly vote for one side if they feel threatened ~ courtesy: Sunday Island ~

No enemy of Sri Lanka could match the damage done to the country's image by our own govt.

by Dayan Jayatilleka

No enemy of Sri Lanka could have matched the damage done to the image of the country and the Presidency by our own Government’s recent.

"All my life I have been a gentleman to my adversaries, even in war situations surrounded by death. I’ve never humiliated, offended nor wreaked revenge on a single prisoner, not even in the case of the Bay of Pigs while my comrades lay mortally wounded or dead around me…One must be honorable." - Fidel Castro ( May 1st speech, 2002)

Are we headed for a third great cycle of violence? Sri Lanka has experienced two so far: the violence of the Sinhala underprivileged youth vs. the System, and the youth of the Tamil periphery vs. the Sinhala heartland. Are we living through the prelude of a third cycle, this time of a Cold war turning hot –factional strife turning into civil conflict- within the Sinhala establishment itself?

It was Theodor Draper who described the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as "one of those rare political events…a perfect failure". The Fonseka Affair, the timing and tactics of the handling of Gen Sarath Fonseka, and in general (pun intended) the handling of the post Presidential re-election period so far, has been no less a rarity, a perfect blunder.

Even the right or necessary thing, done in the wrong way or at the wrong time, can do more harm than good. Mao Ze Dong urged the importance of "the correct handling of contradictions" and this one, the contradiction between the state and Gen Fonseka, has been grotesquely mismanaged politically. Every state has a right to defend itself against attempts at violent putsch. A democratic state has an even greater moral right and obligation to do so.

While there was every reason to launch a serious and thorough investigation into the activities of Gen Fonseka, an investigation that was multipronged and sweeping as it was deep-going, the manner in which he has been arrested and detained ("nabbed brutishly" as The Economist put it), as well the timing of that action (following an election and just prior to another), has been appalling in the damage it has done to the country internally as well as to its international standing.

Joseph Nye, distinguished professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has in a recent article on the New Public Diplomacy, stressed a point that helps us understand the depths and dimension of the damage Sri Lanka is doing to itself internationally. He writes that: "In today’s information age, politics is also about whose "story" wins. National narratives are, indeed, a type of currency. Reputation has always mattered in world politics, but credibility has become crucial …"

No enemy of Sri Lanka could have matched the damage done to the image of the country and the Presidency by our own Government’s recent actions, commencing with the deployment of troops – some with black masks—outside the Cinnamon Lakeside on January 27th. That clumsy melodrama (I was right there, being interviewed by Al Jazeera) permitted a different story line to emerge in and through the international media, obscuring the clear, conclusive electoral victory handed to Mahinda Rajapakse by the masses.

The political commentary in the Sunday Times of Feb 7th, which disclosed that teams of crack detectives had been aghast by the hair raising evidence that emerged about the abduction and murder of media men, read together with the DBS Jeyaraj column in the Daily Mirror of Saturday Feb 13th, make it impossible for the serious minded citizen to ignore the fire or the glowing embers of clandestine networking to coercive purpose, beneath the billowing smoke of controversy swirling around the Fonseka issue. While no state can blink in the face of attempts at extra constitutional coercion, and a determined crackdown is necessary whoever the perpetrator and however exalted, it is no less true that the rule of law has to be upheld and due process observed.

Surely a lesson could have been drawn from the conduct of Madam Sirima Bandaranaike and Felix Dias Bandaranaike in the face of the 1962 coup attempt? Those leaders smashed the coup attempt, but did not seek to try those involved under military regulations despite the fact that those regulations existed and the accused were serving officers of high rank. The matter was brought to court (despite some controversy regarding the role and rulings of the Privy Council), heard in court, and those found guilty were jailed.

If Gen Fonseka and his associates have sought to usurp power, then the example of 1962 is the one the administration should follow, in order to avoid any hint of a witch-hunt and the persecution of a war hero. If there are serious allegations of a criminal nature, then all the more reason that he should be tried in a civil court and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

There should be no attempt to do both, i.e. to try him in a military and then a civil court, because the opaque character of a military court undermines the social legitimacy of the findings and could have an adverse effect on the public perception of the criminal proceedings themselves. If the case of an attempted coup d’état is weak, there will be temptation to massage the evidence if the process is than transparent. This will not be possible in a civil court.

An issue similar to the one facing us here today was wrestled with in the open by President Obama. This was to do with the 9/11 suspects and military trials at Guantanamo. In deciding that the terrorist suspects will be tried in civil courts in the USA, including New York, and in imposing an unconditional ban on torture, President Barack Obama, ex-editor of the Harvard Law Review and former professor of constitutional law, now the key global leader in the struggle against terrorism, made the point that a democratic state must be seen as morally superior than its terrorist enemies, and that conceding the legal rights of its enemies enhances this ethical superiority which in turn strengthens rather than weakens the USA (and any democratic state).

The principle is true for Sri Lanka as well. If the Al Qaeda terrorists including the mastermind of 9/11 can get a trial in a civilian US court, there is no reason why, in Sri Lanka, the former army commander who played a major role in defeating Tamil Tiger terrorists, should not be not entitled to an entirely and exclusively civilian legal process which presumes innocence until proof of guilt is established.

Civility is not a weakness but a strength which confers legitimacy. The ham-fisted manner of the Government’s actions so far has generated the following negative consequences:

1. By deeming as ‘treason’ and a breach of national security, Gen Fonseka’s sporadic and strangely timed utterances about war crimes and his willingness to testify about them, the Government has fallen into a trap. It has stupidly lent veracity to those claims which have been made by our detractors overseas. If there were no war crimes or violations of international humanitarian law, why not simply laugh off Gen Fonseka or use his utterances for election propaganda?

On the other hand by making the most awful fuss about them, how do you prevent the impression from being created throughout the world, that there is indeed something to hide; that we are trying to shut him up so he cannot spill the beans?

By resorting to closed military proceedings on issues of security" rather than a civil trial on criminal charges, the Govt is painting itself into a corner by creating situation in which Gen Fonseka winds up either a hero or worst of all, a martyr.

Furthermore, the world community may conclude that the shutting up of a former army commander who was supposedly about to blow the whistle on war crimes means impunity is rampant within the Sri Lankan state system and therefore the only path to justice here is the invocation of the doctrine of ‘universal jurisdiction’ by as many national courts as possible, worldwide.

2. Public opinion in the South is confused and despondent; the Sinhala people are demoralized, with only some endorsing the treatment of General Fonseka. There is dissent at the highest level of the Buddhist hierarchy. It is safe to assume that there would be loss of morale among the rank and file military.

One can only wonder whether a call for recruits, should there be one, would be met with a successful response. The official/dominant ideology of "Apeykama" or "ourness" has been fissured, not so much by Fonseka’s flopped candidacy, but by the ignoble treatment of the General, because even those great numbers who voted against him still consider him very much "apey" ("ours") and a martial national hero. It is not a few ideologues but we ourselves, "api apimai", who define who and what is "apey", ours. Today no personality (except Mahinda Rajapakse) radiates more "apeykama" or generates more empathetic resonance than Anoma Fonseka, after listening to whose tale of travail, "api" exclaim "apoi"!

3. Doubts have been needlessly cast on the President’s electoral victory and questions raised whether Gen Fonseka was incarcerated so as to prevent him from filing an election petition or to delay, divert and derail that process. An impression has been needlessly created that the President and the Government are "afraid" of Gen Fonseka emerging as a politician in parliament. It is said that this is why the arrest was made before the parliamentary election.

4. Gen Fonseka’s profile has never been higher, more than compensating for the huge loss he suffered at the Presidential election.

5. The Opposition which was in disarray and limping after its last defeat, has been gifted a rallying cry.

6. Demonstrations, however modest in scale, have broken out in the South, and been met with a crackdown, cumulatively giving rise to a picture of growing political instability.

7. The hardliners in the Tamil Diaspora have been given the chance to say "if this is how they treat their own former army commander, a war hero and later, presidential candidate, imagine how they treat the Tamils—so don’t blame us for wanting a separate existence".

8. The administration is potentially on a collision course with the judiciary.

9. Every institution of the state and ‘cell’ of society will be divided and/or demoralized on this issue.

10. The administration is on a potential collision course with the JVP. If the JVP is driven underground, it will link up with disaffected Fonseka loyalists among the rank and file of a large military. From a security point of view, it was far easier to isolate Tamil Tigers, who were, all identifiably Tamil, than it will be to identify violent anti-Govt Sinhala militants, including Buddhist monks. Such militancy could also block much needed progress on the ethnic front.

I am proud to have supported President Rajapakse at the 2005 and 2010 elections and I think he is the best leader the country can have at this point of time. However, the practice of political cannibalism must cease! A balance must be restored. At the parliamentary elections the voters should exercise their franchise in such a manner so as to deprive the ruling coalition of a monopoly or overwhelming preponderance of power. The present path on which the government is proceeding is adventurist.

It inhabits an echo chamber in which only the reverberations of its own ideological discourse are heard. This attitude needlessly exacerbates and prolongs instability, renders the political crisis chronic and endemic, and debilitates the nation. Unless the limits of power are recognized, this path will lead needlessly but inexorably over the precipice I leave the country for scholarly reflection and writing for a period of (at least) two years, with a heavy heart.

Related: The Arrest of Sarath Fonseka and Comrade Dayan's critical response ~ by Nalin Swaris

Rajapaksa and cohorts justified Fonseka "action" against the media earlier

By Kshama Ranawana

Is it selective amnesia, emulating Pontius Pilate or both?

That’s what crossed my mind when I read the interview on the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka, given by Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to the Straits Times, headlined “He was definitely planning a coup”.

Referring to Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunge’s murder and the violence unleashed on other journalists and media activists, the Defense Secretary blandly claims that Fonseka was behind the attacks. “Some of the media people harmed had never criticized any other person except him, or people close to him. Nothing happened (emphasis mine) to those who had been criticising me or the president”. Perhaps the attempt to arrest Wickramatunge in 2006 was ordered by Fonseka then, as also the defamation case filed against the Sunday Leader, though the plaint was filed by Rajapaksa, and was proudly posted on the Defense Ministry website titled “An End to "Sunday Leader" Slander!” Rajapaksa was dismissive of Wickramatunge and his murder in an interview with the BBC. http://inmutiny.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/who-is-lasantha-wickramatunga/

I am neither a supporter nor defender of the General or the Rajapaksas. Whether Fonseka did plan a coup or not is a moot point that the people of Sri Lanka would have to be convinced through a credible judicial process, and if found guilty be taken to task.

However, as a Media activist dedicated to upholding the public’s right to information, and having closely followed the vicious campaign conducted against the media in the past four years, this attempt to lay the blame for all these evil deeds solely at Fonseka’s feet is incredulous.

Speaking further, Rajapaksa says that he is quite sure who had been used by Fonseka to carry out the attacks. “We have a clue whom he has used. We are very convinced. In fact, I know for sure. He was definitely responsible for 5 or 6 cases (of disappearances) where media people were involved. Now I am going after the people who did the executions. The truth will come out very soon, then the people will know.”

This is indeed very encouraging. However the Rajapaksa regime’s suppression of the media increased as the war against the LTTE intensified. Protests by media workers and human rights activists were met with threats, physical assaults and malicious verbal and written attacks. In fact the Defense Ministry’s website was used on more that one occasion to slander all those who dared to question the line of the government. State media was used to brand dissenting journalists as traitors seriously endangering the lives of these individuals and bringing immense pressure on their families.

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Associations(SLWJA) General Secretary Poddala Jayantha, had his face shown repeatedly on state television carrying a report on journalists being in the pay of the LTTE, - that was a few days before he was abducted and brutally assaulted in 2009.

Keith Noyahr, Associate Editor of The Nation newspaper, was abducted and brutally assaulted in 2008. The Island newspaper report on May 26, 2008 , Defence Secretary defends military stated “Rajapaksa accused interested parties including a section of the media of targeting the military over the attack which was being investigated by police. The press couldn’t be allowed to undermine the military, he said, asserting the protests launched by the media would have a negative impact on the war effort against the LTTE.”

The Defense Secretary said he was prepared to face criticism and wouldn’t mind media attacks on the political leadership but security forces shouldn’t be at the receiving end of what he termed media assaults.”

Soon after media organizations staged a protest in Colombo against Noyahr’s assault, Poddala Jayantha and then President of the SLWJA, Sanath Balasooriya were reportedly summoned before the Defence Secretary. That meeting was reported in The Sunday Times of June 1, 2008 , Death Bells Toll for the free Media thus: “I have summoned you to inquire about a serious mistake you have committed. How can you stay at Lake House and criticize the Government? How can people employed in a Government institution criticize the military and its Commanders? Journalists: The Chairman of the Lake House is here. There is a management in the organization. There are two Ministers (for media). If we are violating discipline, they can look into it. This is not something that should be a subject of your concern. Defence Secretary: Don’t I have the right to ask you? You are criticizing the military and its Commanders. You are attacking (Lieutenant General) Sarath Fonseka who has committed his life forthe past 18 years to waging a war. He had a narrow escape (following a suicide bomb attack). When we have committed our entire lives, you are attacking us. This is no laughing matter. Tell me one thing you have done for this country compared to Lt Gen. Fonseka. He is loved by the soldiers. They can cause harm.

Journalists: Sir, we came to see you because you wanted to have a discussion with us. What is happening here is an attack on us. We are just not two individuals but leaders of the main media organization in the country.

Defence Secretary: What discussion? What discussion with you people. I told you to come to tell you what I have to say. This is not a discussion. Just listen. You attack anybody. Don’t attack the Army. Can you do even a minute bit of service like what the Army has done?

Journalists: We are not related to the allegations you are making, Sir. During the protest demonstration and thereafter, we only demanded that proper investigations be carried out into the attacks on journalists. We said the culprits should be brought to justice. This Government cannot escape responsibility.

Defence Secretary: These theories are of no use to me. I live with my feet firmly on the ground. Isn’t the Army of special concern to these so called big media organizations? Isn’t their service special?

Journalists: Just because a war is being waged, if some wrongs are being committed by the military under that guise, it has to be exposed. There is no need to hide behind the guise of war.

Defence Secretary: Don’t you understand what I am trying to say? If you don’t agree and continue with what you are doing, what has to happen to you will happen. There is no necessity to have defence columns to discuss military matters. Laws will be introduced to restrict reporting on the conduct of military or on Commanders of the Armed Forces. The military will campaign for such laws. We can see whether the voice of the military is stronger than the campaign of the journalists.

Journalists: You are making a serious threat on our lives.

Defence Secretary: No, No. I am not doing it. I am definitely not threatening your lives. I am not. It will happen from where it happens. Our services are appreciated by 99 per cent of the people. They love the Army Commander (Lt. Gen. Fonseka) and the Army. Those who love us do what is required. We cannot help that. Journalists: If newspapers and media are publishing falsehood, you can correct them. Those mechanisms are still in place. If you cannot correct them through the media, then file action in courts. Otherwise, if some wrong information is printed, doing such things is not the answer.

Defence Secretary: File cases? I was slandered over the MiG-27 procurement deal. I filed a case. We have to wait for ten to fifteen years.

It was the Defense Secretary who insisted that the Editor of a Tamil Daily newspaper in Sri Lanka , N Vidyatharan was an LTTE operative.

Interestingly, Vidyatharan was released with no charges a few months later.

Whether media personnel were killed, maimed and tainted at the behest of Fonseka is not the dispute here. That may be entirely possible. But it was Rajapaksa, and his cohorts who publicly justified those actions. Now he appears to be wanting to absolve himself and the government for some of those actions, and the sacrifice they offer is Fonseka. His statement to the Straits Times that he would go after the perpetrators now, though late, is most welcome. In his interview he claims the war could have been won without Fonseka at the helm, as there are better officers who could have commanded the Army. Well, if Fonseka was directing those assaults on the media – and the Defense Secretary knew about them and opposed them he could have surely removed the general and saved the journalists. What hold did the Commander have on the government, that they justified those crimes through various statements, and never once apprehended the culprits? Government Minister, Mervyn Silva, who has been caught more than once on tape leading physical assaults on media professionals continues to roam free and enjoy many perks.

Why suffer the ignominy of local and international censure if the government had no involvement? The war was prosecuted successfully in May 2009, but media suppression continues. Who is behind media censorship during and after the recently concluded presidential election? Fonseka? An editor of Lankaenews, who went missing two days before the election has not been heard of since.

If Fonseka alone spearheaded any or all of these actions, he has certainly wielded unbridled power over the Rajapaksa regime. Little wonder then, that he needs to be put away.

February 13, 2010

Ethnic consciousness: The case of Sri Lanka

By Daya Somasundaram

The dangers inherent in emphasising difference and exclusiveness as the foundations of collective identities are not to be underestimated. While group identities provide various benefits, the consequences of a group considering itself superior to others often results in violence. The polarised ethnic consciousnesses of the two main groups in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, has fuelled a violent civil conflict for over 25 years.

Ethnic segmentation in Sri Lanka evolved from the colonial and post-colonial experiences that divided the population along racial lines. In the pre-colonial period, different linguistic groups coexisted in relative harmony for centuries despite dynastic feuding, intense rivalry among kings, and inter-caste conflicts. The initial categorisation of the population in ethnic terms came from European theories of racial classifications; these divisions have unfortunately persisted after decolonisation with devastating consequences.

Though socially concerned scholars (Committee for Rational Development, 1983; Spencer, 1990; Jeganathan & Ismail, 1995; Roberts, 1977; 1994; 1997; Obeyesekere, 1988; Tambiah, 1992; Bastian, 1994) have belatedly begun to deconstruct these divisive consciousnesses, these nationalisms have already become invested with considerable emotion.

They are supported by strong mythic beliefs that defy rational argument. Ultimately they are “imagined” (Anderson, 2006), or what Marxists call false consciousness, or what Buddhist and Hindu philosphers would call maya. As Allport (1958) points out: “A subtle and attractive mystery surrounds the concept of blood... This symbolism has no supportfrom science. Race is a fashionable focus for the propaganda of alarmists and demagogues... Racists
seem to be people who out of their own anxieties,

Amongst scholars and academics who trace the origins of ethnic consciousness, most agree that its current manifestation in Sri Lanka is of recent origin. Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic identities are not genetically inherent. Low Country and Kandyan Sinhalese used to be considered different groups only a century ago, more so than the Sinhalese- Tamil demarcation that, at the time, overlapped in many castes without apparent tension. The sharp divide in Sinhalese-Tamil identities evolved from a confluence of socio-cultural, political, economic, ecological, contextual, and psychological factors.

Aspiring leaders and interested parties have astutely fanned and manipulated these points of contention to serve their own ends.

According to Sivaram (Whitaker, 2007), modern ruling elites have found ethno-nationalism to be the most effective principle to organize and govern emerging modern nation-states. The emotional loyalty and passions it generates make it an easy mechanism to garner votes, obedience, sacrifice, and control. Gilroy (2000) eloquently opposes the “emergence and entrenchment of biopolitical power as a means and technique for managing the life of populations, states and societies.” Biopolitical power is based on ethno-nationalism. It is a form of ‘New Racism’ in the post-colonial world, arising out of beliefs in discrete and exclusive racial and national identities that are then linked to a genomic, essentialist fundamentalism.

Today’s ethno-nationalist politicians and academics in Sri Lanka have used these divisive ideas to influence peoples’ perceptions of themselves as part of exclusive ethnic categories. Sri Lankan parliamentary politics have produced ethnically-based tyrannies of the majority. Aspiring leaders have learned to appeal to ethnic passions as an easy route to power, thus prolonging the war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils that has left deep emotional scars on individuals, families, and communities.

Moreover, the acrimonious debate as to which ethnic group came to Sri Lanka first, which features prominently in the discourse of group divisions based on historic grievances, is laden with misunderstanding. No evidence exists to support the Sinhalese argument that their group came to Sri Lanka first as an ‘Aryan’ migration from North India, nor for the Tamils’ claim to South Indian origins. Rather, the historical record shows that the island’s local inhabitants adapted to influences from mainland India fomented by the movement of traders, craftsman, skilled workers, mercenaries, prisoners of war, and brides in both directions (Indrapala, 2007).

Further, migrants came not only from various parts of India but also from Java, Malaysia, Arabia, and more recently, Europe. People also migrated within Sri Lanka and freely switched from one language to another. Thus ethnic, linguistic, and religious identifies were fluid, overlapping, and inclusive.

I contend that the only path to reconciliation is to make people aware of the value of other ethnic constructions by breaking down and rebuilding these historically-rooted but ultimately perceived identities. However, before this can take place, the underpinning socio-economic factors that have worked to maintain polarised attitudes must be transformed. Taking these steps is the only way can we begin to build a vision for lasting peace in Sri Lanka’s future.

The Colonial Origins of the Conflict

The extreme polarisation of the country’s two main groups, the Tamils and the Sinhalese, is the largest obstacle standing in the way of a lasting solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife. The basic divide is one of language. Seventyfour percent of the population is categorized as Sinhalese speakers. Of these, over 93 percent are Buddhist. The remainder of the population is mostly composed of the 25.7 percent Tamil-speaking minority, about half of whom are Sri Lankan Tamils. Almost 29 percent are Muslims and the remaining 21 percent are Hill Country Tamils. There is a negligible number of Burghers, Malays and Veddas that account for the remaining 1.5 percent of the country’s population.

The source of the highly charged division between the Sinhalese and the Tamils can be linked to the cycle of ethnically-motivated inequality that was experienced by both sides during the past century. Under British rule, Tamils were perceived as holding an unfair advantage, since they were disproportionately better educated and better employed by the state. However, the situation was inversed in other sectors such as commerce and agriculture, as the arid and underdeveloped land of the northeast Tamil territories lacked the level of resources available to the rest of the island.

The disproportionate number of Tamils in these sectors led to affirmative action campaigns by the subsequent Sinhalese governments. In time, however, the government overshot the mark and Tamils began to see themselves as disadvantaged in relation to the Sinhalese in terms of government investment (mainly in education) and felt themselves slipping from the privileged position they had previously enjoyed in certain key areas. They felt they had become “2nd class citizens” (Schwarz, 1988). Now, not only the state but the private sector and even some diplomatic missions discriminate against Tamils in their hiring practices, as well as when issuing visas and scholarships. While employing Sinhalese workers engenders good relations with and benefits from the state for employers, hiring Tamils can bring trouble due to costly intrusions by the police and armed services, who frequently arrest and detain Tamil employees.

The Construction of Ethnic Consciousnesses

An interesting characteristic of the ethno-national discourse between the Sinhalese and Tamil groups is that the majority and minority ideologies are, in many ways, mirror images of one another. Both ideologies define the ‘other’ in terms of exclusion and opposition. War, then, becomes a contest between hegemonic ideologies for supremacy in an attempt to impose a particular construction of social reality. However, both operate within the same paradigm of ethno-nationalism by producing a master narrative that is hegemonic within the group and totalitarian in nature. In a politically contested, polarised, and violent situation, attempts to transcend these narratives can be taken as treason; the mentality becomes one of either being with or against the group, with little room for flexibility or compromise.

The majority Sinhalese Buddhist consciousness has evolved to identify itself with a territorial claim to the whole island (Sinhadeepa), as well as the Sinhalese language and the Buddhist religion. However, Sinhalese Christians form about seven percent of the Sinhalese population and mostly share the beliefs of the dominant Sinhalese consciousness. Many Sinhalese nationalist elite leaders came from this social stratum, and later converted to Buddhism.

According to Kumari Jayawardena (1986), the Sinhalese-Buddhist consciousness is based on:

1) The doctrine of the primacy and superiority of the Sinhalese `race' as the original, true inhabitants of the island. This is linked to a myth that the Sinhalese were `Aryan' migrants from Bengal.

2) The concept that the Sinhalese race has been placed in a special relationship to Buddhism as its protector. Appeals to save Buddhism from infidels are frequent in the rhetoric of Sinhalese ethno-nationalism. In recent years, some Sinhalese leaders have gone as far as calling for a dharma yudhaya, or holy war, to protect the Buddhist religion.

3) The feeling of insecurity that stems from the fact that, unlike the other minority groups which have ethnic links with other countries, the Sinhalese are a regional minority that does not exist outside of Sri Lanka. This is particularly true in reference to the Tamils, who, while a minority within Sri Lanka, identify ethnically with the 50 million Tamils living in South India.

Despite the relatively recent emergence of the conception of this identity, it has profoundly influenced today’s Sinhalese people. Violence and political action against those perceived to threaten this identity is commonplace (Gunawardana, 1990).

Prominent Sinhalese have reinterpreted history to arouse strong feelings of injustice. An example of this is the 1956 All Ceylon Buddhist Congress’s Committee of Inquiry report, “The Betrayal of Buddhism,” written while Sri Lanka was still under British rule (Tambiah, 1992). The sentiments expressed in this document later grew into virulent Sinhalese Buddhist ethnocentrism, culminating in the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom.

Anthropologists Obeyesekere (1988, with Gombrich, 1988), Kapferer (1988; 1997), and Tambiah (1992) have elucidated how this identity came into being from a deeper intra-psychic, socio-cultural perspective. Ancient Buddhist chronicles like the Mahavamsa and the Dipavamsa as well as many myths and legends, such as those of Duttugemunu and Vijaya, have been reconstituted and imbibed with new meanings in the current socioeconomic and political context to identify the Tamils as the archetypal “dangerous other” (Nissan & Stirrat, 1990). These beliefs have become deeply ingrained in the Sinhalese psyche. The collective fear of the other manifested itself in periodic mob violence against Tamils while providing the impetus behind the continuing machinations of state terror. The current model of extreme Sinhalese Buddhist ideology and politics are represented by Jathika Chinthanaya or “national consciousness” (Goonewardena, 2007), which had maneuvered itself into the driving seat of the Sri Lankan state under the Rajapakse regime and through the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP/NPM) parties (UTHR-J, 2008).

Unsurprisingly, modern Sri Lankan Tamil identity developed as a reaction to the increasing dominance of the Sinhalese Buddhist identity (Wilson, 2000; Arasaratnam, 1998). Successive Sinhalese leaders rose to power by exploiting ethno-nationalism and then proceeded to use the state machinery to promote Sinhalese superiority. This was accomplished by enforcing Sinhalese as the only official language in 1956, enshrining Buddhism as the state religion in the 1972 constitution, and discriminating in favor of the Sinhalese in educational and employment opportunities as well as in the allocation of resources and land. These leaders also encouraged periodic mobviolence against the Tamils, notably in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983. In turn, the Tamils feared that their existence and identity as a separate and unique group was under threat. Furthermore, claims to a Tamil homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka clashed with Sinhalese perceptions of territoriality. It was only after the 1983 pogrom that the Tamil resistance became militant and fascist in turn. Tamil nationalist groups adopted methods of terror against the state, Sinhalese and Muslim communities, and those in the Tamil community reluctant to participate in the Tamil ethnonationalist narrative.

Like its Sinhalese counterpart, Sri Lankan Tamil ethno-nationalism developed over the past century. Over the course of decades of discrimination and violent repression, Tamils have acquired a minority complex based on their collective experience of persecution at the hands of the state. This complex has often led them to hide their identity in public areas outside of their traditional territory in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Despite these efforts, they are frequently required to identify their ethnic background at military checkpoints and are subject to government-sanctioned house-to-house searches. The recent detention and internment of close to 280,000 Tamil internally displaced persons (IDPs) exemplifies the outcomes of this anti-Tamil state aggression.

Many Tamils who consider these conditions intolerable have fled the country, spreading ethnonationalist sentiments throughout the Tamil diaspora. The spread of Tamil nationalism and its linkages to a pan-Tamil nationalism are already apparent in Sri Lanka, across the straits in India’s Tamil Nadu province, and, increasingly, worldwide. Large pro-Tamil movements exist in Western countries such as Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, France, Sweden, Norway and Germany. With the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, there are now growing efforts to form a more unified transnational Tamil movement. Those who support the establishment of a separate Tamil Eelam state argue for the group’s entitlement to ethnic sovereignty by referencing the ‘purity’ of the Dravidian race, the descendants of the ancient Mohenjadaro civilization, the greatness of the 5000-year-old Tamil language, and the glories of the Chola Empire.

This exclusive ethnocentric identity alienates other minorities within Tamil-speaking areas and has resulted in the expulsion and massacre of Muslims in the north and east. Eastern Tamils, who perceive themselves as being historically marginalised by their northern brethren and feel that their identity, history, culture, and problems are somewhat different, voice fears of being dominated by the northern Jaffna Tamils (Reddiar, 1997). Such fears resurfaced once again with the internal LTTE-Karuna split in 2005. Thus, for all their nationalistic rhetoric, the Tamils have not demonstrated the capacity to overcome a narrow ethnocentric consciousness and develop
a tolerant, multicultural one.

As a reaction to these cycles of ethnic identification, exclusiveness, and persecution, other minorities within the country have begun to assert their identities. In particular, the Muslim community has undergone a rapid political awakening as a reaction to local ethnic hostilities. Political parties and a extremist youth militant organisation have surfaced to represent Muslim interests. The electoral success of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has consolidated
requests for an autonomous Muslim territory in eastern Sri Lanka. Furthering this paper’s thesis regarding the contextual determinism of ethnic consciousness, Sri Lankan Muslim identity is increasingly taking on an international dimension. Muslims are now beginning to identify and perceive themselves as members of the international Muslim community, which transcends national boundaries.

The Institutionalisation of Difference

The hegemony of the ethnonationalist Sinhalese line is found at all levels of society. An illuminating study of Sri Lankan school textbooks by Siriwardene (1984) reports:

“Millions of school children [are] taught, in the name of social studies, through text-books published by the state, the myths of divergent racial origins which will help to divide the Sinhalese and Tamils for more generations to come... What this lesson does is to evoke the child's memories of being frightened by his parents with threats of the mysterious and fearful `billo' to identify these bogeymen as Tamil agents, and thus to enlist the deep-seated irrational fears of early childhood for the purpose of creating apprehension and hatred of Tamils.”

DSTC214A.jpg

Although the Tamil insurgency acknowledged military defeat on May 17, 2009, vestiges of the civil war are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka: PIC-Arun Pillai-Essex/MFAR

Referring to the exploitation of history as an instrument of divisive ethnic ideologies, Siriwardene says history texts "project an image of Sinhalese- Buddhist identity which is defined fundamentally through opposition to and struggles against Tamils in history.”

The misappropriation of education for ethno-nationalist purposes is by no means only a Sinhalese problem. Siriwardene quotes a professor who says that Tamil textbooks "[inculcate] in the Tamil child a special feeling for his or her community and language, and [help] to strengthen communal attitudes... and to foster a kind of patriotic feeling, not towards Sri Lanka but towards Tamil Nadu.” This is but one example, and a very telling one, of how deeply these divisions run and how difficult it will be to overcome them if they are entrenched in the minds of the members of both groups from childhood.

However, despite the institutionalisation of these divisions by state and community actors, the narrow categorization of current identities does not accurately reflect the lived experience of most Sri Lankans. Their reality is a much richer blend. Many people share multiple identities, loyalties, beliefs, and common cultural practices (Silva, 2002). Clear examples of a shared consciousness can be found in cultural festivals such as the Sinhalese-Tamil New Year celebrations, in the ever-popular World Cup cricket matches, and in religious practices at Kataragama, Bellanvilla, and countless other shrines around the country (Gombrich & Obeyesekere, 1988; Kapferer,1988). Despite numerous attempts on the part of leaders on boths sides to sow the seeds of division in these popular gatherings, these important cultural phenomena have been sustained.

The only way to achieve reconciliation is to address the genuine grievances of the minorities. For example, if official use of the Tamil language can be genuinely implemented, as promised under the constitution, Tamils would start to feel that they have a place in their country. However, such measures would by no means solve the problem overnight. It is the perception of being treated as second-class citizens and of being discriminated against because of their ethnicity that has caused such deep-seated resentment. Fear of being assimilated at the expense of their group identity and culture is at the heart of their struggle. However, creating an environment in which such fears would no longer have any basis in reality would entail a drastic transformation of attitude on the part of the Sinhalese community, which would have to accept the responsibility to allow for the needs of a pluralistic, multicultural polity.

Apart from the aspects of the conflict rooted in ethnic difference (whether perceived or real) and with commensurate implications for seeking prospective solutions, it is crucial to acknowledge that there are vested economic, psychological, and political interests in continuing the war. The military, security, and political establishment, as well as militant organizations, all have stakes in maintaining the status quo. Included in the perks that come from positions of power are economic benefits to be had from salaries and allowances, not to mention the myriad corrupt practices generated by times of conflict (TI, 2001). In effect, it can be said that the major organisations acting in the war perceive themselves as existentially dependent on the continuation of the conflict. This idea is not without some truth to it, thus rendering reconciliation all the more difficult due to the extremely high costs such a change in dynamics would incur for many powerful groups. Furthermore, since 9/11 Sri Lanka has been pulled into the Global War on Terror, a connection that is sure to linger as Sri Lanka’s Muslim population becomes increasingly politicised.

In addition, the geopolitical considerations of the regional superpowers and internal politics of the Indian subcontinent continue to have powerful repercussions on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately for ordinary civilians, the conflcit has become inextricably entangled in webs of international, regional, national, and local struggles for power. Appeasing and reconciling this plethora of diverging interests
will be no simple feat.

Clearly, the military defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Army last year did not and cannot end the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese. It is a historical conflict rooted in colonial policy and driven by firmly entrenched, diametrically opposed, and mutually exclusive ethnic consciousnesses. If there is to be any progress towards peace as a conclusion to this protracted ethnic conflict, all of these vested interests and socioeconomic, historical, political, psychological, and ideological dynamics will have to be taken into account and addressed in practical, effective ways. Ideally, this would transform the underlying ethnic consciousnesses and attitudes on both sides. Despite the difficulty of this task, undermining the exclusive identities of each group in favor of a shared positive ethnic consciousness appears to be the only route to lasting peace for warravaged Sri Lanka.

For works cited: Click PDF File [ MCGILL FOREIGN AFFAIRS REVIEW, Volume II, Issue 1 - Winter 2010]

Daya Somasundaram, is former Senior Professor of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna and psychiatric consultant who worked in northern Sri Lanka for over two decades. His research and publications focused on the psychological effects of ethnic conflict and disasters, and the treatment thereof. He is currently on an extended sabbatical, working in Australia as a consultant psychiatrist as well as treating refugees and asylum seekers who have survived torture and severe trauma, while writing a book on collective trauma.

Rajapakse regime is a bundle of "criminal" contradictions

by Dushy Ranetunge

Dr. Rajapakse's administration, now champions of a “Russian” doctorate of world peace has taken refuge behind the law to justify its latest unprecedented action in arresting the main opposition Presidential candidate, when there are so many contradictions in its actions.

On the conclusion of the Presidential elections, the military surrounded Cinnamon Lake Side hotel on the allegation that a coup was being planned in the hotel and a conspiracy to assassinate the incumbent President.

MRR213.jpg

President Mahinda Rajapakse was awarded a Honoris Causa Doctorate by the Peoples’ Friendship University (PFU)-pic:Infolanka

But the arrest of Fonseka is justified by Dr. Rajapakse's administration on grounds of offences committed while in uniform.

This contradiction seems to be to justify the administrations wish for a closed-door military trial, rather than a public trial in the courts.

Interviewed by the BBC this month, the defense secretary stated that Fonseka is a retired person and that allegations that his arrest was imminent were a figment of Fonseka's imagination. A few days later he was arrested by the military police on the orders of one Manawadu and was a missing person for many hours.

Not long ago we were told that Sarath Fonseka was the best army commander in the world, a true Patriot, a war hero, who had survived an assassination attempt by the dreaded LTTE and led “our heroic forces” to victory.

Less than 12 months later we are told that he is letting our “heroic” soldiers down by conspiring with foreign forces to bring disrepute to the armed forces of Sri Lanka by volunteering to provide evidence to war crimes tribunals.

But the Defence Secretary told the BBC this month that we have done nothing wrong and that “I/we” will never allow war crimes investigations.

Then, what's the problem? If the military has not done anything wrong and there is not going to be any war crimes investigations, there should be no issues with Fonseka giving war crimes evidence, but yet this seem to be the trigger for his arrest.

Surely, if the military has not done anything wrong, Fonseka will only be embarrassing himself and not our “war hero?s”.

When the Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was brutally executed by a military style operation, the defense secretary ranted on the BBC stating, “who is Lasantha”?

Now we are being told by Dr Rajapakse's regime that Lasantha was killed on orders of Sarath Fonseka.

We have no reason to doubt the Rajapakse regime, but this latest allegation confirms that the Rajapakse administration provides refuge to alleged criminals and even present them to the country as war hero's after decorating them, up to and until they change their loyalties.

For “Suba Anagathayak's” sake let us presume for the moment, that amongst these criminals taking refuge as “war heroes”, within the Rajapakse regime, there are no war criminals.

Some Tamils say that Prabakaran was a creation of Sinhalese oppression. Fonseka is definitely a creation of the Rajapakse's. Fonseka should have been removed immediately when he gave that infamous interview to a Canadian newspaper that “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese”. In any other democracy, this would have been the case, but not Sri Lanka.

Today, Dr Rajapakse's regime is struggling to contain their creation; they are struggling to stabilize the instability they have created and are introducing more instability in the process. When Dr. Rajapakse has failed to reconcile with his own General, talk of reconciliation with the Tamil minority seem cheap.

It is another fire fighting exercise like so many we have witnessed before, but each time, there is this strange feeling that the air is getting warmer and its certainly not global warming.

With Parliament dissolved, the strategy is to create chaos in the opposition ranks with a view to secure that elusive 2/3rd majority, but will the rural electorate play along with Dr Rajapakse's prescription?

What ever the excuses and explanations provided by the state, the prime motive for arresting Fonseka and the decision to use the military courts seem to be to contain the issue of war crimes.

Fonseka is a fighter, and a man of extraordinary grit and determination with long service in the military establishment from a minority community within the Sinhalese. This is a community that has traditionally had its political base within the old JVP, conditioned with a perception of being the underdog. There are many soldiers who would die and have died for him.

Dr Rajapakse having battled a ferocious Tiger is now faced with a deadlier Lion, created by him. There are reports of stripping Fonseka of rank, of arresting some JVP leaders etc. but all these have explosive, further destabilising potential.

As the juggernaut rolls on with traitors here, traitors there and traitors everywhere, the risk of the wheels coming off the bandwagon seem a distinct possibility. Perhaps Rajapakse sensed it, and decided to secure the Presidency 2 years in advance.

The Defence Secretary told the BBC “we have peace now”. The absurdity of that statement was lost to him.

On Wednesday there was video footage on International TV of Sri Lankan police firing tear gas and water cannon, demonstrators battling in front of the Supreme Court, followed by a Tourism advertisement inviting you to visit Sri Lanka. It was bizarre.

Welcome to Dr Rajapakse's second term.

February 12, 2010

Were the General and JVP involved in a coup conspiracy?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

A striking facet of Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s intriguing personality is the candour he displays in some media interviews. Instead of bluffing, sidestepping or trying to wriggle out of answering tricky questions the Defence secretary responds directly and fields them in a frank,forthright manner.

This characteristic was very much evident in the telephonic interview given by the Presidential sibling on Wednesday Feb 10th evening to Ravi Velloor of the Singapore-based “Straits Times” barely 48 hours after the controversial arrest and detention of ex-Army commander and defeated Presidential elections candidate General Sarath Fonseka. [Please click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

February 11, 2010

Arrest of Gen. Fonseka has nothing to do with political differences-Def. Secy Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa interviewed by Ravi Velloor, South Asia Bureau Chief of Straits Times ~ on the matter of Gen. Sarath Fonseka:

Full Text of the interview:

On the circumstances that prompted Fonseka's arrest:

The episode has nothing to do with our political differences. The biggest damage he has done is by coming into politics in the manner he did. After 35 years in the military he should have thought of the institution as a whole.

Our forces never used to be involved in politics but this time they were fully involved and this divided the military. He used to telephone officers directly. Some officers told me they switched off their cell phones because of this. His campaign staff comprised mostly military officers and their main task was trying to reach the security commanders.

He divided the army. Because of this, the government had to bring some of the officers on television to defend its position. He started his political campaign when he was occupying the army commanders house!

On Fonseka's charge that his military security was deliberately reduced to expose him to danger:

He had requested for a certain number of security personnel. This was granted, but he kept more than that. The army couldn't do anything. If it tried to take away the extra security and vehicles, he would immediately have claimed the government was harassing the commander.

He created the situation and then he began attacking the president and myself in a third grade manner, more than any other politician ever would. It was so dirty.

On the main reason for Fonseka's arrest:

The main reason is whatever he had done in the military. He will be charged under the army act. Under the army act, any officer can be charged under military act within six months of leaving the military. There are other things we will do under civil code.

Such as what?

It was clear that while he was holding the Chief of Defence Staff assignment he was working with politicians and held discussions with them and tried to win them over. That was completely wrong because he was sitting in Security Council meetings. It amounts to treason. He knew everything that was going on.

The IDP (internally displaced persons) situation for instance. He is the only person who disagreed that the people should be resettled promptly. He completely opposed it. In fact, he said there should be no resettlement for three years. (Presidential adviser) Basil (Rajapaksa) wanted it. The security force commaders wanted it. But Fonseka said, no , he can't agree.

Once in the Eastern Province (a war-ravaged province where Tamils are a majority) he even told the security commander to bring back to camps those who had been resettled. Everyone in the army knows that. But once he left the army, he said just the reverse.

On the other civil offences:

Well, he alleged that I gave orders for shooting at people holding white flags (of surrender). It is utter lies. You can understand the difficulty he put the government in.

On Tuesday, he told the BBC that he will give evidence in any court. That type of thing. He simply cannot do that. For one thing it is a lie. The other thing is to give evidence... after all he was one of the people involved.

Also, certain things he said in the political campaign we cannot ignore. It wasn't in the heat of campaigning. He was serious. Such as how to get rid of certain people.

On Fonseka knowing about the murder of the journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge beforehand:

Yes, of course. We know there was no other person. You have to see the circumstances. Some of the media people harmed had never criticised any other person except him, or people close to him. Nothing happened to those who had been criticising me or the president.

We have a clue whom he has used. We are very convinced. In fact, I know for sure. He was definitely responsible for 5 or 6 cases (of disappearances) where media people were involved. Now I am going after the people who did the executions. The truth will come out very soon, then the people will know.

On government fears that he was heading towards leading a coup:

He was planning on a military rule. It was very clear in the latter stages, in the way he had spoken and addressed the people. He said he wouldn't allow the politicians to rob the military of the victory they had achieved and offer a political solution.

He was completely trying to isolate the politics and take the country on a different path. In his very last stages as army commander he began bringing his people into Colombo and his regiment, positioning his senior regiment people all over.

All these things were looking like a military coup. He also took a keen interest in changing the previous navy commander (who was not well inclined towards him).

All that hastened our decision to move him to a higher apppontment. I had to take that decision to take him out from the commander's position and make him CDS (Chief of Defence Staff). The CDS is not a ceremonial post, but he created that impression.

The fighting phase (against the Tamil Tigers) was over and in the second phase what was required was more intelligence and planning. It needed careful planning, rebooting. You can't do it the same way you conducted a military operation. Hence, the CDS appointment.

Outsiders don't know all this and call it a demotion. In fact, the JVP (Janatha Vimukti Peramuna) who are his present supporters criticised the government at the time for creating such a position with huge powers. They said we are trying to create a dictator. They said too much power vested in a single person. If Fonseka's aim was to serve that would have been a better position.

On the impact on the army:

They understand. They know he has made mistakes. His behaviour during the campaign antagonised the military. And in any case he wasn't a very popular army commander. We ourselves gave him more credit than he deserved. There were better officers in the army.

He was appointed 12 days before retirement. If President Rajapaksa had not been elected in 2005 Fonseka would have retired as a major general. What he achieved we could have done with any other commander. We had better officers who had made more sacrifices.

We had four presidents previously. None of them were convinced it (the Tamil Tiger separatist insurgency) could be tackled militarily. Only Rajapaksa (the President) was convinced it had to be tackled as a military problem.

All the others were half hearted. It was only purely numbers. I gave numbers and increased the army's strength by three times to close to 300,000. We put more people on the ground.

On Fonseka's wife saying she has no clue to his whereabouts:

He is being kept in a naval base. He is not in a cell or anything. We have given him an apartment that was once used by the navy commander when he was a chief of staff. It is pretty luxurious.

If Fonseka had won he wouldn't have given all these facilities even to President Rajapaksa. But he lies, his wife lies. And his supporters lie.

On letting him campaign in the parliamentary polls:

Now he can't. The court martial will begin immediately after the assembling of the summary of evidence is done. I don't know how long it will take because that depends on lawyers. But we want to finish it soon, in less than six months maybe. The severity of the charges is very high. He can be put in jail for as long as five years.

On Fonseka alleging serious human rights violations by the Sri Lankan military:

I am not bothered. He can tell any lie but he can't prove anything. At one time he says defence secretary wasn't in office at a particular time, at another time he says I gave illegal orders (of shooting at people holding white flags of surrender) during that time. We can prove these allegations aren't true.

We are 100 per cent convinced that western countries with vested interests were backing him. Even the US, and countries like Norway, spent lots of money on his campaign.

I have proof of the Norwegian government paying journalists to write against the government. They have vested interests and used to support the Tamil Tigers in various ways. They also supported Fonseka to try oust the president.

On Gotabaya's personal plans:

There are still a lot of things that need to be done. As secretary for defence I have to bring stability. The Tamil Tigers has a big network outside. We have broken much of that but we have to continue.

The military can do a lot for reconciliation. People don't understand how good our soldiers are. A lot of people tell me that in the Eastern Province they want army around, not police. The army can also play a major role in development because we have trained, disciplined people.

On whether he is standing for the parliamentary polls like his nephew, the president's son:

I won't be contesting for parliament.

courtesy: StraitsTimes

Tamil American Peace Initiative Deplores the Detainment of Fonseka

Full text of press release:

The Tamil American Peace Initiative (TAPI), a group of Tamil Americans dedicated to peaceful change in Sri Lanka, condemned the arrest and detainment Monday of defeated presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka. The group called it an attack on democracy that diminishes the possibility of reconciliation on the island.

“In a country already fraught with ethnic and religious conflict, the arrest of Fonseka can only make things worse,” said Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham, a TAPI spokesman. “The newly reelected president should be working for reconciliation, security for all citizens, rebuilding and restoring peace. Instead, he is fomenting strife and insecurity.”

Fonseka’s arrest showed total disregard for democracy and the rule of law, TAPI said, and demonstrated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was using state security forces against political opponents. The group fears that the Tamil community, which overwhelmingly supported and voted for Fonseka, will now face even more retaliation than before. TAPI urged other countries and international groups to voice their opposition to Fonseka’s treatment and to monitor the situation closely.

“If the government treats a presidential candidate -- who is also a former general and considered by many a war hero -- so egregiously, the threat to the Tamil community that overwhelmingly supported Fonseka in last month’s presidential election is grim,” Arulanantham said.

TAPI called on the Government to end politically motivated arrests, to restore free speech and freedom of movement for all people, and to release Fonseca and the tens of thousands of Tamils who still remain in detention camps. Only by taking such steps – and promoting equality among all people, regardless of their ethnicity and religion -- can lasting peace be brought to the island, the group said.

“Rather than conducting personal and political vendettas, we urge the President and his government to pursue a course of democracy and reconciliation, and to make progress on the difficult job of rebuilding the country,” Arulanantham said.

About TAPI

The Tamil American Peace Initiative was formed by a group of Tamil Americans to help bring lasting peace, justice, democracy, and economic development to Sri Lanka; to focus attention on the destruction of Tamil communities and culture caused by 30 years of war; and to demand an end to the continuing oppression of Tamils on the island.

Ranil Wickremesinghe demands release of Gen. Fonseka

General Sarath Fonseka's arrest

Ranil Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister and leader of Sri Lanka's main opposition party, demands his release - An Audio interview by The Economist

A serious division-By The Economist: Click below for Audio:

General Sarath Fonseka's arrest: ETC211.jpg

Arrest Most Foul

by Rajan Philips

The Rajapakse brothers are turning Sri Lankan politics into a blood sport. The arrest of Sarath Fonseka is an abuse of state power for the purpose of personal vengeance. The decision to subject him to Court Martial is to try him behind closed doors and find him guilty as charged. The charges are fabricated and the judgment may already have been written. Whether Sarath Fonseka deserves this is not the question.

“Deserving has nothing to do with this”, Clint Eastwood tells Gene Hackman in that blood sport of a Western – Unforgiven. Vengeance has everything to do with this arrest in the blood sport of Sri Lankan politics. That Fonseka has insulted, angered and even slandered the Rajapakse brothers is not a secret. But that is no excuse for them to abuse the power of the state to destroy him.

That General Fonseka would have done worse things had he won the election and become President would be the lamest of all excuses for arresting him now. In that counterfactual scenario, those of us, who are committed to constitutional democracy, rule of law and due process, will be opposing the hypothetical President Fonseka just as vigorously and vehemently as we are now opposing President Rajapakse and his brothers for their dealing with General Fonseka.

The abuse of state power has been the rule and not the exception under the Rajapakse regime. There is no rule of law in this arrest, but only the rules of the Animal Farm. Most of all, the arrest is an assault against Sri Lanka’s tottering democracy. For the first time in Lanka’s electoral history, a political opponent has been arrested following a national election. And for the first time a political candidate is going to be tried in a military court.

No due process, only brute force

Even the accused in the 1962 coup, distinguished service men and who never ran for public office, were not court-martialed but tried in the civil courts. They were prosecuted and defended by the best and the brightest among Sri Lanka’s lawyers. When the government first set up a Special Court to try the accused, the judges appointed to that Court, men of character, learning and independence, ruled that their Court had been improperly constituted! The government was forced to properly reconstitute the Court.

The accused in 1962 were tried in open court and punished under the law. In punishing them somewhat uniformly the judges were critical of the law for not allowing them to impose different sentences in proportion to the level of involvement of each accused. The men were later acquitted on appeal to the Privy Council. Due process was in full force then. There is no process now. Only the brute force of a regime that is insecure in spite of its secure victory only two weeks ago.

The trial of the accused in 1962 at least had the semblance of defending a duly elected government. The impending trial of Sarath Fonseka and the co-accused already has all the symptoms of an elected government going mad, violating the trust of the electors and trampling over the limits of constitutional government. Governments are elected to govern within the law and in accordance with common decency. The Rajapakse government has no respect for the law, national or international, and has no regard for decency.

The Rajapakse regime is a regime of intolerance. It does not legally go after bad men. But it will protect bad men illegally even if they are Tamils, and will harass good men illegally even if they are Sinhalese. It is a government without precedent for state-sponsored and state-ignored harassment of independent journalists and political opponents.

While accusing Sarath Fonseka for dabbling in politics when he was in uniform, the Rajapakse brothers are running the military and the police without wearing uniforms. Having irreparably alienated the Tamils and the Muslims, they are now irreconcilably dividing the Sinhalese. The JVP and the LTTE sowed dissension from outside the structures of the State. The Hambantota brothers are devouring the state from within.

The regime’s hired ideologues never miss the opportunity to hail the victory over the LTTE as restoring the State’s monopoly over violence. Monopoly, yes; restored, indeed! But for what purpose, and to what end – is the question. What good is it for the people when the State restores monopoly over violence but throws away the moral compass of good government?

Rather than being humbled by the victory in the 26 January presidential election, the government has arrogated itself to turning the heat on all its critics and opponents. Instead of being magnanimous the government is being mean spirited. The arrest of Sarath Fonseka is not the culmination but the beginning of a new phase of intolerance and repression.

Push back the government within its limits

Has the Rajapakse government dared too much? We will not know unless the people are organized to push back and reestablish the constitutional limits of government. The push back has already begun. People have begun protesting. The government thugs could not stop them at Hulftsdorp and the Police showed more tolerance than what the government leaders would have wanted them to.

The location of the first protest near the Supreme Court was both symbolic and significant. The Court cannot be oblivious to the public concern and even anger over the arrest and detention of Sarath Fonseka when it hears the fundamental rights petition that has been filed by the General’s wife. And the Court should be inspired by the example of independence that their predecessors demonstrated in 1962.

The legal profession in Sri Lanka has an important role to play in pushing back this regime’s thrust towards totalitarianism. Pakistan’s slide into becoming a military polity was blessed by a pliant judiciary that invoked the doctrine of necessity. It would take fifty years before an irrepressible Supreme Court Judge and marching lawyers could end Pakistan’s military dictatorship. Sri Lanka’s judges and lawyers must act now and not let their country go under a family dictatorship. No doctrine of necessity can justify a dictatorship. The only necessity is to resist and reverse this trend towards dynastic dictatorship.

It is heartening to note that Ranil Wickremasinghe has publicly promised to secure the release of General Fonseka. One would only hope that he would try to accomplish this in a more public way than through working out backroom deals with a government that deserves a good load of public scolding. By arresting Sarath Fonseka the government has given the Common Opposition the biggest reason to stay united, rise above the pettiness of party symbols, and contest the April parliamentary election as a common front.

The immediate release of Sarath Fonseka and all political prisoners including journalists should be the first goal the protesting people. If there are charges against the detainees, let them be investigated independently by the Attorney General and the Police and let the law take its course. The culture of independent investigation has become quite alien to Sri Lanka, but it is time that it was restored within the state to countervail the state monopoly over violence.

The assurance and the conducting of a free and fair parliamentary election should be the second goal. For starters, the opposition parties should insist on the establishment of an independent coordinating committee acceptable to all recognized political parties, to assist the beleaguered Commissioner of Elections in the conduct of the elections.

Chinese Boy singing tamil song-Vasantham Star

From Singapore television:

"Vasantham Star sets to unearth talented youths and transform them to stars. It is renowned as a platform for artistes to be discovered..."

From Singapore television

February 10, 2010

'Between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians died during the final, desperate battles'-Gordon Weiss

Gordon Weiss, the Resident United Nations representative in Colombo who was summoned by the Government of Sri Lanka and later made to leave the country last year for commenting about a civilian "bloodbath" has given several interviews to Australian media recently. Gordon Weiss is now free to reveal all the happenings in Sri Lanka, as he is now resigned from the United Nations Organization after 14 years of service.

In an exclusive interview aired on Feb 9th with Eric Campbell of Australia's ABC News in its program "Foreign Correspondent", Gordon Weiss says between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians died during the 2009 final battles in Sri Lanka North-East.

"The Sri Lankan government said many things which were either intentionally misleading, or were lies", Gordon Weiss tells Australia's ABC Network journalist Eric Campbell in the documentary "Hell or High Water".

Gordon Weiss says that after the war ended, a senior civil servant openly admitted that the authorities had deliberately underestimated the number of trapped civilians “as a ploy to allow the government to get on with its business.”

Video: The ABC documentary "Hell or High Water", is about Tamils fleeing to Australia on small boats amidst high risks, both from sea borne and from Sri Lankan Government in their attempt to migrate:

Video Courtesy: abc.net.au

GWTC210.jpg

Gordon Weiss

Hell or High Water

As many as 40,000 civilians could have been killed during the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, according to someone with detailed knowledge of the conflict – the former United Nations’ spokesperson in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss. Mr Weiss has resigned from the UN after 14 years and returned home to Australia. He’s now free to speak openly about the situation in Sri Lanka, for the first time and does so candidly and unflinchingly in Foreign Correspondent’s return program.

He tells reporter Eric Campbell that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians died during the final, desperate battles - last year - of one of the world’s longest running and bloodiest civil wars.

“About 300,000 civilians, plus the Tamil Tiger forces, were trapped in an area of territory about the size of Central Park in New York,” says Weiss. “They were within range of all the armaments that were being used, small and large, being used to smash the Tamil Tiger lines … the end result was that many thousands lost their lives.”

Gordon Weiss says his information comes from reliable sources who had a presence inside the battle zone, not Tamil civilians or fighters.

"The Sri Lankan government said many things which were either intentionally misleading, or were lies", Weiss tells Campbell. He says that after the war ended, a senior civil servant openly admitted that the authorities had deliberately underestimated the number of trapped civilians “as a ploy to allow the government to get on with its business.”

He acknowledges that the Tamil Tiger forces were also regularly and ruthlessly killing people, to stop them from leaving the battle zones.

Campbell talks to Tamils who were caught trying to flee to Australia by boat. Despite facing criminal charges in Sri Lanka as a result, one of them admits he’s going to try to make the journey again, as soon as he can. He says he can’t live in Sri Lanka any more.

Claims of Tamil persecution are denied by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who tells Campbell asylum seekers are criminals – drug dealers and arms traffickers. The President says the problem will disappear and national unity will prevail now that the Tamil Tigers have been destroyed. Tamils prepared to farewell their home, friends and extended families to make the dangerous journey to Australia are a clear indication rhetoric and reality are along way apart.

Fonseka arrest and the Govigama-Karawe caste equation in Sinhala society

by Lakruwan de Silva

I read with concern reports of the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka. As a Sinhala Buddhist, I had voted for Mahinda Rajapakse at the last presidential polls. Mahinda had after all done a commendable job at synchronizing the foreign policy, the military policy, the India policy and the domestic policy to ensure a complete route of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, something no president before him had accomplished.

SFPA210.jpg

Supporters of former army commander General Sarath Fonseka hold up his poster during a protest against his arrest in Colombo February 10, 2010-Reuters pic.

I was also taken aback by Fonseka's war crime allegations against Gothabaya Rajapakse, the brother to the President and respected Secretary, Ministry of Defence. I viewed that as high treason, a betrayal of the Sinhala Buddhist cause where the Sinhalese had until the Rajapakse administration been isolated, marginalized and without friends in the international arena. We were the Serbs of Asia, misunderstood abroad and sidelined. Our victimhood at the hands of terrorism was never acknowledged overseas just as the Serb victimhood at the hands of a western conspiracy to fragement Yugoslavia was never conceded. Fonseka had done us a great disservice.

I was happy therefore that Mahinda had won the polls with a resounding victory. This said, the subsequent turn of events that included the harassment of the Fonseka family, the purge of military officials, including senior generals, and now the arrest of the erstwhile general himself on the eve of the dissolution of parliament saddens me. The grand war time alliance of Sinhala Buddhist interests appears to have unravelled. I attribute the bad blood between the Rajapakse and Fonseka camps to vendetta and revenge. This is largely a personal feud born of a sense of betrayal. However, I wonder whether the legacy of caste has had a tangential role in the matter after all. Rajapakse is the scion of an old southern Govigama family while Fonseka was a Karave general also from the south.

Let us explore the issue in some detail. Professor K.M. de Silva in his "History of Sri Lanka", refers to the migration of the Karawe, Salagama and Durawe castes from southern India to Sri Lanka between the 14th and 17th centuries AD. The Karawe, a maritime caste, appear to have had a disproportionate influence in the Sinhala military in medieval times. M.D. Raghavan's publication, "The Karave of Ceylon: Society and Culture" illustrates the cultural history in some depth. Michael Roberts also documents Karawe elite formation in his seminal publication "Caste Conflict and Elite Formation, the Rise of the Karave elite in Sri Lanka: 1500-1931".

Traditional Karawe surnames in the Sinhala language illustrate this military history. Patabendige means the local headman. Hewage translates as soldier.Hennedige means militiaman. Tantrige translates as the strategy expert. Vidanage means civil administrator.

Karave folklore describes the community as Kuru-kula i.e. the descendents of the famed Kuru or Kaurava dynasty in the classical Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The Buddha preached the Satipattana sutta, one of his two foremost sermons, the other being the Dhamma chakka pavatana sutta, to the people of Kuru when he visited that old Indian kingdom in the 5th century BC.

The Mukkara Hatana, an old palm manuscript currently in the British musuem, derives the name Kuru-kula from Kuru-mandala which was later anglicized to the Coromandel on the South Indian coast. Once again, the etymological links with the Kuru tradition of the Mahabharata are evident. The 17th century Sinhala chronicle, the Rajavaliya refers to the settlement of the Karava people in Kuru-rata which is today identified with the land between Kurunegala, Chilaw and Negombo. There is a persistent tradition that links the Karave with the Kuru of the Mahabharata. The Ceylon Tamil maritime castes share this Kuru-kulataar tradition.

Caste divisions are not unknown in Sinhala Buddhist history. The Govigama-Karave competition intermittently resurfaces in our history. The Govigama are the farmer caste akin to the Tamil Vellalar. The Govigama are perhaps 50% of the Sinhala population while the Karave are likely 10%. The Govigama unfairly dismiss the Karave as a fishing caste.

King Vijayabahu in the 11th century denied access to the so-called lower castes to venerate the Buddha's footprint at the summit of Sri Pada or Adam's Peak. These castes were confined to a lower terrace further down. This led to an immediate counter when a 12th century rock inscription of King Nissanka Malla warned that the Govigama caste could never aspire to high office. The 13th century Sinhala literary work, the Pujavaliya went on to assert that a Buddha would never be born in the Govigama caste.

The Govigama reaction was swift. Kandyan Buddhist civil law as later documented in the Niti Nighanduwa, placed the Govigama at the top of an elaborately ordered caste hierarchy. The Kandyan Buddhist clergy - the Siam Nikaya - denied entry into the Buddhist monkhood to the non-Govigama. They excluded the Karave. This led wealthy Karave merchants in the maritime districts to finance the journey of Ambagahapitiya Gnanawimala Thera to Amarapura in Burma for the ordination into the Buddhist monkhood in 1800 AD. While the newly founded Amarapura nikaya had 21 sub-sects defined on caste lines (i.e. Karave, Salagama and Durave), it nonetheless offered a rare opportunity for the Karave to join the Buddhist religious order. Other Karave abandoned Buddhism altogether and converted to Roman Catholicism to seek caste emancipation. 50% of the Karave caste might well be Christian today. At present, Karave Christian youth have the best education outcomes in Sinhala society.

Many of us were thankful that these caste divisions in Sinhala Buddhist society had ebbed. However, recent events indicate that this may not entirely be so. In the late 1800s, Charles Henry de Soysa, the foremost Karave philantrophist, had hosted a banquet to the Duke of Edinburgh in Colombo, an event boycotted by the Govigama political elite led by Solomon Bandaranaike. Dr. Marcus Fernando, a Karave leader of no mean accomplishment, ran for the Educated Ceylonese seat at the 1911 elections. The Govigama elite, led by the Senanayakes, successfully defeated him and ensured the victory of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, a Tamil candidate, instead. The Govigama preferred Tamil leadership to that of the Karave Sinhalese. That was treachery on the part of the Govigama.

We now witness a situation where Rajapakse has literally crushed Fonseka. Let us not forget that all Sri Lankan heads of state, with just one exception, have been Govigama. Non-Govigama representation in Sri Lanka's legislature has declined since independence. And all three revolts against the post-independence Sri Lankan state were led by the Sinhala Karave or Tamil Karaiyar.

The feud between the President and the erstwhile General, while personal in nature, has now developed caste over tones. The President's camp was uncertain of victory in the run-up to the polls. Reports suggest that it deftly and subtly played the caste card within the military to deny Fonseka the military vote. The President succeeded. In the ensuing post-poll purge of the military, the Karave have disproportionately been targeted. Other Karave generals have been sacked from the armed forces. Karave Buddhist monks had been arrested. Much to my chagrin, caste may still be alive in Sinhala Buddhist society, albeit as an undercurrent.

The best the President can do to help heal the wounds, is to allow General Fonseka a quiet uncelebrated exile overseas. General Sarath Fonseka, despite what some consider to be his betrayal, is Sri Lanka's first four star general. He had won one of Sri Lanka's highest awards of military heroism - the 'Rana Wickrama Padakkama'. India's national security advisor had described Fonseka as the best army commander in the world. Its time he is set free. Let us close this unfortunate chapter in the run-up to the upcoming legislative polls in the interests of the hard won Sinhala unity.

Fonseka's arrest is part of multi-pronged effort by the Rajapakses to intimidate opposition

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength.” - George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Thus begins the Rajapakse era, with the arrest of Gen. Sarath Fonseka.

I did not and do not consider Sarath Fonseka to be a hero, any more than I consider Mahinda Rajapakse and Gotabhaya Rajapakse to be heroes. Still I believe Fonseka’s arrest should be a matter of gravest and most intimate concern to all those who value democratic freedoms, because it symbolises the conclusive triumph of a new political commonsense which equates Mahinda Rajapakse (and his brothers) with the country and thus damns any opponent of Rajapakse rule as an enemy of the nation. A democracy which equates opposition to the powers that be with treachery to the nation is no longer a democracy but an autocracy.

Fonseka’s arrest must be opposed with vigour and determination not because he was or is a hero but because his fate presages the fate of all those who oppose Rajapakse rule, however peacefully and democratically.

The arrest of Gen. Fonseka, not by civilian authorities but by the military police, is a measure of the Ruling Family’s determination to perpetuate its rule via a new constitution. The UPFA has to win the upcoming parliamentary election with a two thirds majority (or something close) or its chances of constitution making will evaporate.

Without a new constitution, the Rajapakse Family Oligarchy will not be able to survive beyond the second term of President Rajapakse. A disunited and enfeebled opposition is a sine qua non for this purpose. The Fonseka candidacy gave the Rajapakses an unexpected scare during the Presidential election. With him in the picture, the possibility of a UNP-JVP alliance to contest the parliamentary election cannot be ruled out; even if the two parties contest separately, Fonseka could act as a bridge between them, to ensure that there is some element of cooperation between them during the parliamentary election campaign. And a UNP-JVP alliance or even a degree of cooperation between them is a development the regime seems to regard with particular misgiving, as its propaganda clearly indicates. A natural reaction since a united opposition has a better chance of impeding the forward march of the Rajapakse Juggernaut than a fractured opposition, at war with each other as much as with the government.

Then there is the need to make an example of Fonseka, to make sure none follows in his footsteps, to give a lesson in obedience to other potential dissenters, especially within the SLFP. After all, Fonseka was the man, who together with Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapakse, ensured the defeat of the LTTE. Less than one year ago, he was the third or fourth most powerful man in Sri Lanka, a man with the power of life and death over mere mortals. If such a man can be arrested like a common criminal, what cannot happen to lesser beings who dare to go against the Rajapakse project? That is a lesson which will not be lost on many, including those within the SLFP who are unhappy with the Rajapakse yoke.

With Fonseka gone, the opposition is likely to fall back faster into its customary mode of lethargy and disunity. It is likely to run a lacklustre campaign and achieve an indifferent result. The ruling coalition will abuse state resources with a vengeance, aided by the newly supine Election Commissioner. Given such a context, the UPFA will be able to achieve a two thirds win or something close; whatever gap there is, will be filled by engineering some crossovers from the UNP.And the path to a Rajapakse Constitution, a Constitution sans democracy or devolution, will open.

Fonseka’s arrest was preceded by a state sponsored campaign of vilification which is straight out of the ‘Two Minute Hate’ in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The aim of the campaign, which commenced with the Presidential election and reached its nadir after the resounding victory of Rajapakse, was to turn a man, who rather less than a year ago was a patriotic hero to the absolute majority of Sinhalese, into a villain and a traitor. He was accused of named and unnamed crimes and compared with such figures of dread as Adolf Hiter and Idi Amin.

The purpose of this carefully orchestrated propaganda effort, which mixed a pinch of truth with an ocean of lies, was to create a ‘hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness’ in the pro-Rajapakse populace. In the last few days, demonstrations organised by the SLFP were held in a number of provincial towns to proclaim ‘public’ hate towards Fonseka and to demand his immediate arrest for the heinous crime of opposing Rajapakse.

The effort seemed to have paid off, at least to some extent. When the Tigers killed President Premadasa, some SLFPer lit crackers, the logical conclusion of a hate campaign (permeated with coded casteism) conducted by the SLFP (in which a younger Mahinda Rajapakse, together with Mangala Samaraweera and SB Dissanayake, played a key role). When the news of Gen. Fonseka’s arrest became known some SLFPers lit crackers.

Premadasa did more for the development of this country and the betterment of the common people than any other leader previously or since. Fonseka played a key role in defeating the LTTE. Both became victims of a hate campaigns by the SLFP which convinced a large segment of the populace that they were primal enemies whose removal was vital for the safety of the nation.

According to media reports Fonseka is to be tried by a military tribunal. This would enable the government to minimise media scrutiny, especially by the international media. It will also enable his prosecutors to substitute theories and suppositions, canards and charges in place of solid proof – an absolute necessity since solid proof cannot exist when the charge is made of whole cloth (a la the Naxalite plot of 1982 which was used by President Jayewardene to enfeeble the opposition and win the Referendum). In any case, it is hard to believe that the politicised military of today will give a verdict other than the one expected by the political leadership.

The only question is whether Fonseka will receive a long jail sentence or a death sentence (a technical possibility since he is likely to be charged with treason). Since Minister of Justice Milinda Moragoda, thoughtfully, brought back the death penalty, the possibility of Fonseka having to pay with his life for the crime of lèse majesté cannot be ruled out.

According to the political commonsense of the Rajapakse era, Mahinda Rajapakse (and his brothers) embodies the nation. This transforms opposition to the Rajapakse rule into an act of treason. In monarchies, acting against the person of the ruler was tantamount to acting against the country. Today Sri Lanka seems to be retrogressing to that pre-democratic and anti-democratic times, as a function of Rajapakse rule.

The regime may act in a hurry, to prevent the opposition from gathering its strength and to preclude international pressure. Since it is willing to face Western sanctions (the cost of which will be borne by the masses and not the rulers, like in Burma, Iran or Zimbabwe), the pressure the West can exert on the regime would also be limited. A military tribunal will not be subjected to any of the delays that is part and parcel of a normal civilian court. The fate of Fonseka may be settled in a matter of weeks rather than months, perhaps in time to strike fear into opposition parties and activists and prevent them impeding the triumphant march of the Rajapakse Juggernaut.

Fonseka’s arrest comes as a part of a multi-pronged effort by the Rajapakses to intimidate the opposition. The arrest of Lanka editor Chandana Sirimalwatte, the failed attempt to seal the Lanka paper, the sealing of the office of Lanka e news website and the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda (who worked for the website), the continuation of low key post-election violence and the strange metamorphosis of the Elections Commissioner from a principled bureaucrat to a willing man are all pointers to the future that is awaiting us, if the Rajapakses manage to embed themselves via a new constitution.

When the ruler is a king, there are no citizens; only subjects. And subjects are bound to obey the king unquestionably since monarchical infallibility was a belief that premised absolute monarchies. If we permit Rajapakse to have his way with Fonseka, we will be undermining our own basic democratic rights to speak, write and do, to support and oppose, in accordance with our ideas and beliefs. If we remain inactive, in the face of the unjust persecution of Fonseka, we will be cooperating with the Rajapakses’ effort to turn us from citizens with rights into subjects with duties. At this juncture of our history, we cannot fail Fonseka without failing ourselves. And if we do fail, like Orwell’s Winston Smith, we will deliver ourselves into the mind-killing embrace of our High King.

Mahinda Rajapaksa has enlivened the SLFP for yet another vital era in Sri Lankan politics

by Prof. Wiswa Warnapala

The Coalition of parties, a motley group of political parties with divergent views, for which General Sarath Fonseka gave leadership, has been defeated at the Presidential poll which gave special recognition to some of the fundamental realities of the Sri Lankan polity. As Aristotle once said, the study of politics signifies a method or a form of enquiry, concerned with the human behaviour in political societies.

Ernest Barker, a British political scientist too saw this fundamental difficulty in the study of highly volatile political societies. Sri Lanka, since 1931, developed into an effective political society based on a dynamic electoralism that helped in the construction of popularly elected Governments based on a fairly fluid competitive party system. As we all know, electoral changes in a third world polity cannot be studied with an acute analysis and with an excessive claim to exactitude. In other words, psephology cannot be easily applied in the context of certain third world states largely because of the fact that the fundamental realities of an electoral change cannot be easily dissected. Complexities associated with an electoral change are many and varied, and the variables cannot be easily identified. Yet the major trends associated with the process of change could be identified and this has been the experience of Sri Lanka.

In my view, this kind of interpretation is applicable in the context of the electoral changes in the developing world where the style of the leader makes a big impact on the popular electorate. The style of leadership and the charisma which one commands is of fundamental importance. In Sri Lanka, all our national elections or electoral contests, since 1947, have been studied and the unique feature, which came to be highlighted, has been the changing nature of the electoral dynamics in the country. It is in this particular context that a short analysis needs to be made of the Presidential poll of 2010 which, as we witnessed at all elections since 1956, activated the traditional rural base, from which Sri Lanka Freedom Party, since 1951, derives immense political inspiration. This base, though sometimes changes with grievances and aspirations of the rural voter, remains solid when it is tied with the electoral fortunes of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

It was the SLFP, since its inception in 1951, built its electoral fortunes on the basis of the loyalties of the rural masses, whose leaders constituted the alternative political leadership which came on the scene in 1956. Since then, the SLFP remains the main political agent of the rural masses and it is on the basis of their active support that the party is sustained. This interpretation, though unpalatable to our opponents who still grudge the solid rural base of the party, speaks of the fundamental reality; it was the rural voter, whose political potentiality came to be mobilized by a plethora of pressure groups associated with the SLFP since 1951, who became the arbiter in the island’s electoral conflict.

The principle of representative government is based on consent, and this consent is achieved through periodical elections, and Sri Lanka, through a variety of elections, has shown its vibrancy as a democratic State.

It was through this principle the Governments in the past carried out the wishes of the majority of the governed, and at all situations of electoral change it was the rural voter who determined the course of change. In the post-1956 Sri Lanka, people elected a majority of representatives to give effect to their wishes, and all public policies of the period were introduced with a view to addressing the issues of the rural Sri Lanka. The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa introduced a series of such programmes to benefit the rural poor and the backward areas in the country and such programmes helped in the mobilisation of support from the rural areas where the SLFP was strong.

This, however, did not mean that the interests of the urban areas were not addressed; the fundamental need was to focus on the needs and interests of the rural people as they represented the historical base of the SLFP – which always claimed that it was a political party based on the interests, grievances and the aspirations of the common man – the common man was in the rural peasantry who stood behind the party since its inception in 1951. The political activism of the rural peasantry is an integral element of the historical foundation of the SLFP which, though enters into alliances with the progressive political parties, continued to strengthen its historical base in the rural areas. The fundamental issue of the Presidential election was whether President Mahinda Rajapaksa should remain in power for another term; he began with a massive fund of popular support as he was the architect of the victory over the LTTE which, in the eyes of the rural voter, was historically an outstanding achievement unparalleled in the history of modern Sri Lanka.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, with this singular achievement, emerged as the most popular political leader of post-independent Sri Lanka, and it was through this posture of a leadership that he achieved an unique charisma which no other leader achieved in modern Sri Lanka. This achievement of his, along with the unique charisma of his own, was enough to enthuse the rural voter who, under the astute leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, saw a plethora of rural reconstruction programmes in the rural areas of the country. The public policy decisions began to focus on the development of the infrastructure in the rural areas, from which the SLFP traditionally derived political inspiration and political support. SLFP’s ideology, to a large extent, is based on the interests and aspirations of the rural peasantry.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, as a person nurtured in the politics of the impoverished Hambantota, always thought in terms of the historical foundations of the SLFP and he never deviated from the SLFP’s main standpoints of policy. It was this commitment to the historical foundations of the SLFP which helped him, on two occasions, to obtain an astounding victory. The historic victory at the Presidential poll 2010 – where the coalition of evil of the Opposition was defeated – was primarily a victory for the SLFP as it was its traditional base in rural Sri Lanka which gave the required majority.

The results indicate beyond doubts that the rural voter, unlike its urban counterpart, gave near-total support with both commitment and gratitude; we know that gratitude is culturally an important trait of the rural voter who, in addition to his attachment to the historical foundations of the SLFP, saw the birth of a new era in the emergence of Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is a period of resurgence for the oppressed people in the rural areas. All traditional instruments of political mobilisation and all symbols of political legitimacy were effectively activated and the traditional rural voter extended absolute support to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to provide leadership to a new process of change, and it, though likely to be based on the requirements of the changing world in the 21st century, need to be based on the historical experience of the SLFP which still remains the dominant political party in the country. Its unique ability to derive inspiration from the Sinhala heartland cannot beunderestimated.

It has a strong political base which, as the Congress Party of India, gets itself activated during national elections and the people are mobilised politically to rally round the party and its candidates. Mahinda Rajapaksa, like both S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike continued to believe in the traditional mould of the SLFP and remains absolutely loyal to its traditional commitments. Its ideology is always articulated and this gave him enough dividends during the course of the campaign which made him the most formidable political personality in Sri Lanka. This is no exaggeration; it, in my view, was the fundamental truth. Max Weber, referring to the charismatic qualities of leadership, says that ‘men do not obey him by virtue of tradition or statute, but because they believe in him’.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s charismatic qualities of leadership reached its Himalayan peak during the course of the campaign and the ordinary rural vote, including the down-trodden in the urban areas, saw him as the sole saviour of the nation, and it was his populist style of leadership with which he reached the rural voter whose attendance at public meetings was at its historic height. His gift of grace, as Max Weber described, was ‘the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in heroism or other qualities of individual leadership’. This is charismatic domination exercised by a great political leader who displays immense capacity in mobilising the masses, and no leader in the post-independent Sri Lanka has achieved this feat – the mobilisation of the masses with such political alacrity.

It needs to be mentioned that the campaign, at its initial phase, suffered a set back primarily due to the lethargy of certain activists who were more interested in the ‘preferential vote’ but this trend, though registered a bit of a decline in support, was immediately arrested with the active intervention of the SLFP organisers in the respective electorates, and it was achieved through the activation of the network of the SLFP branches in the electorates. In Sri Lanka, the grass root level political organisations always play an active role, and the SLFP, in particular, activated its grass root level base through which the entirety of the rural electorate was mobilised for the purpose. The party has a network of branch organisations and affiliated organisations which are traditionally activated during election time, and this has been the experience of the party since the time of the leadership of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

It was as a result of the activation of the traditional base of the party that the campaign reached its heights in the last three weeks of the campaign, and it was this stepping up operation of the campaign which influenced the final result. All the traditional supporters of the SLFP, including those supporters associated with the established pressure group network which is integrally linked to the party, were effectively mobilised for the purpose. We all know that the SLFP has a network of pressure groups, and they, as constituent elements of the 1956 emerged alternative political leadership, have successfully influenced the verdict at elections.

Its base is in the phenomenon called the Pancha Maha Balavegaya which represented a collection of traditional pressure groups, whose one element, the Buddhist Sangha entered the fray through indirect methods. The majority of the Buddhist Sangha were mobilised and no village level propaganda meeting could be held without the active participation of the Sangha; these are fundamental realities in our political culture in the rural areas and the SLFP, whose presence has improved the capacity of the State for representative government, has been mobilising the traditional institutions and interest groups to inspire the voter.

It is this historical base of the SLFP which finally assisted Mahinda Rajapaksa to obtain a massive mandate at the Presidential poll. The urban vote, which traditionally UNP-oriented, along with the urban minority vote, went against the SLFP and this is nothing unusual, and this, though in terms of its impact was insignificant, is a matter which needs consideration. All the minority areas, primarily the voters in the North and East, though voted against Mahinda Rajapaksa, have begun to experience democratic politics. In addition, it sends a signal to focus attention on the interests and aspirations of the minorities who, after three decades, exercised their franchise.

Dennis Austin, a leading British political scientist, once stated that ‘Sri Lanka was a ballot-box-oriented democracy’, and this description amply fits into the situation which the country experienced at the 2010 Presidential poll. The electoral dynamism is ever present in the Sri Lankan national electorate, and this is largely due to the competitive nature of the party system. The electoral competition between the party in power and the opposition is the life blood of democracy.

In other words, representative government, underwritten by electoral competition, requires a responsible opposition which has the ability to present an electoral threat to the party in power. An opposition, which is in total disarray, cannot present itself as an alternative. No opposition should specialise on political slander. Sri Lanka displayed its ability to derive inspiration from the deep seated values in the Sri Lankan society which the political parties are obliged to express if they are to mobilise support for a candidate. It is my view that SLFP is the only established political party which can rightly mobilise people on the basis of the innate values of the Sri Lankan people and it successfully did it to bring about a historic victory to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It, undoubtedly, is a victory for the SLFP which still remains the dominant political formation in Sri Lanka.

The opposition, which projected itself as a major bundle of contradictions, has been decimated and no credible alternative is likely to emerge in the near future. The debacle, which both the UNP and the JVP experienced at the Presidential poll, is certain to have an impact on their electoral fortunes in the future. It needs to be emphasised that the SLFP is not merely a political party; it is some kind of a social movement with deep roots in the rural masses of the country and it is this character of the party which gave Mahinda Rajapaksa an impressive mandate.

With the fresh mandate, the popular basis of which is very solid, the SLFP and its political leadership has inaugurated yet another important period of consolidation of political power and this remarkable victory is certain to influence the course of events for a couple of decades. Mahinda Rajapaksa has enlivened the SLFP for yet another vital era in Sri Lankan politics. Is this not enough to say Sri Lanka is still a flourishing democracy?

(The Writer is Sri Lanka's minister of Higher Education)

A Nation is whole only when its people feel they all belong to it equally

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The Sri Lankan crisis continues, sourced in and stemming from two major flaws/factors:

(i) There is no comprehension that “justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done” and that what is legal in the narrowest sense may not be perceived as legitimate or ethical in the broader sense. The consequences for institutions, the long term health of the body politic and the larger national ethos are never considered.

(ii) None of the major political players have a correct grasp of the problem of evolving/constructing a broad, truly Sri Lankan national identity.

President Rajapakse had it right on the issue of the Tamil Tigers; the issue of fascist separatist-terrorism. He had it more correct than all his predecessors and his critics here and overseas. He has it wrong at least some of the time on the Tamil ethno national question. I say “some of the time” because he has broadly distinguishable positions on that issue and some of the time he has it right.

That he was right on the Tigers, and therefore we who supported him were also right and those in Sri Lanka and outside who opposed him were wrong, is fairly conclusively settled by the rarest of encomiums paid him by one of the world’s most respected intellectuals. Meghnad Desai, who initially earned his reputation as an authority on Marxian economics but is much better known as a renowned economic theorist, Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics and member of the House of Lords, has credibly likened the role of Mahinda Rajapakse to that of Abraham Lincoln. In a piece entitled ‘Unity in Diversity: Sri Lanka @62’, Lord Desai writes:

“Was Abraham Lincoln a war criminal? He took the US or at least its northern states to a war with the south, which resulted in the largest loss of lives in that nation’s history. The south was ruined and did not recover economically for at least 50 years.

The Black slaves were freed, but their condition remained miserable for another 100 years. Lincoln fought in the name of the Union, not for the abolition of slavery, which did not happen till halfway through the War, while the Southern Confederacy fought in the name of States’ Rights. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, remained a hero in the south as did General Robert E Lee. Lincoln remains a hero not just for the Americans but the world over.

I write this because within India’s neighbourhood we have had a civil war, which has just ended. The man who led the nation to a victory has just been re-elected President. Yet he is widely reviled internationally and even within Sri Lanka. Except that a majority of his people re-elected him, Mahinda Rajapakse has few friends in high places...

By some device or other, Rajapakse, whom many underestimated, took the decision that he would end the war regardless of the loss of life involved. The carnage was incredible but in the end, Prabhakaran was defeated and killed. The LTTE’s gamble had failed.

It may sound callous to say this, but Rajapakse would be regarded as the saviour of his nation. Modern nations, especially post-colonial ones, value the integrity of their territory and do not entertain violent sub-nationalisms. India has had its share in Khalistan and in the many struggles in the north-east and continues to have problems in Kashmir. Yet, Indian citizens have allowed their government to ride roughshod over human rights as long as national integrity has been preserved...”

The President’s distinguishable takes on the Tamil issue are four fold: village level devolution, the 13th amendment, the 13th amendment plus and a homegrown solution. Now the first and the last – village level devolution and a home grown solution—tend to go together as in a home grown solution that will lead to village level devolution or the other way around. But luckily, as Bess told Porgy (or maybe the other way around), “it ain’t necessarily so”, and the President occasionally indicates that a homegrown solution may result in the Thirteenth amendment plus, meaning the 13th amendment and a Second Chamber.

Mahinda Chinthana Mark II (MC2), the manifesto of the Presidential election 2010, for which the President has now obtained a clear mandate, correctly commits him to “implement and improve” upon the 13th amendment. However this is not what the President says in the text of his Independence Day speech this year, the first after the war and re-election:

“I am certain that the people in the North and East could stand on their own feet through a solution wrought by devolving powers to the villages and empowering them in the entire country.” (‘Sri Lanka Entering Golden Era of International Relations’, The Island, Feb 5th 2010)

Option one has the village as the basic unit of devolution. A variant is the district. This is supposed to be the “Panchayat raj” solution, except that the Panchayat Raj never purported to be a solution for this kind of problem – a problem of the framework of the state and its relations with the constituent communities - but for a different one of making development and governance more participatory of the rural peasantry and the poor. The second and third options (13A and 13A plus) take the province as the basic unit of devolution. The fourth is or seems silent on the unit.

An optimist may say that by pitching it low, the President is engaging in a pre-emptive negotiating tactic. The problem with that argument is that we have done this before and gained nothing from it. Instead we lost decades. This was when the UNP administration of President Jayewardene pushed for the district as the unit of devolution but had to settle on the province instead. Today we have the province. So why slide back to the village or district and have to be pushed back to the province by a process of negotiations and external pressure?

The first and fourth options require time, because the existing Constitution has either to be amended according to Constitutional methods or a new Constitution has to be drafted and promulgated. From one point of view, Colombo or we the people would thereby be “buying” time. From another, which I share with most of our Asian friends, we would be losing time, wasting time.

There are several basic problems with the “village level devolution” solution. One is that the problem is not to do with the village; it is not village-sized. The map of the war and that of the recent vote, reveal the contours and dimension of the problem: it is that of the Tamils and Muslims, primarily the Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces. It excludes the Sinhala majority areas of the East. It is certainly a provincial or regional level problem. The solution must fit the dimensions of the problem. This much was recognized even by Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike in the 1957 Pact with SJV Chelvanayagam. The Tamil nationalities question of the North and East cannot be reduced to fit the Procrustean bed of village or district level devolution by the political equivalent of Procrustean ‘surgery’.

The second problem area is that of our international relations and the balance of power. The state of Sri Lanka’s international relations is inextricably intertwined with the state of its interethnic relations. Mervyn de Silva used to say in the 1980s that the world community is interested in two issues: the economic and the ethnic. However, I would add that the salience of the economic has declined relative to the globalization of the market economy model (we are no longer a pioneer of the open economy in statist South Asia) and the dawn of the Information Age with its concomitant strengthening of global civil society has shifted the emphasis from the economic to the ethnic.

India has a vested interest in the 13th amendment or a variant, because it is then able to show the people of Tamil Nadu that the solution is something that contains a contribution by Delhi. The consequence of “village level devolution” could be that instead of providing us part of the Asian umbrella that has protected us from the West in all forums, India could dilute its support or stand aside. There are big and medium powers, including in the Third World, who take their cue from the Indian stand.

The administration and the Sinhala nationalists simply must grasp that the way in which the world – including Asia – saw the terrorist Tiger secessionists will be very different indeed from the way it will perceive an elected TNA led by the veteran parliamentarian Mr. Sambandan. The former had little or no legitimacy in comparison with the Sri Lankan state, while the latter may be able to compete in the arena of legitimacy with the Sri Lankan state, especially if state policy reverses existing levels of autonomy and instead offers village level devolution that is unrecognized as a solution to the ethno national question anywhere in the world.

The Sri Lankan state must not give the impression that it denies the existence of a problem that the world community recognizes exists, and denies the need for a political solution ( “what political solution?” ) that the international system and world opinion have long agreed is necessary. Worst would be non-violent mass protests by the Tamils, (an old Federal party tradition) honed by a new generation of activists and Western “public diplomacy” training camps, met with the heavy hand or rather, the mailed fist, of the Sri Lankan state (an old SLFP tradition as with Major Richard Udugama and the Satyagraha of 1961)—but captured this time on cell-phone cameras and carried into homes across the world by the international media. When ordinary American citizens are lobbied by Tamil Diaspora activists into calling their Congressmen; when we have a Kashmir or an Intifada in our North and East with Tamil Nadu in sympathy next door, then we will be in danger of losing in the arena of ‘soft power’ that which we won by the resolute exercise of ‘hard power’. We shall have fallen into the trap of our external and narrowly ethnocentric enemies.

One can must hope that on his important and long overdue visit to Moscow, President Rajapakse took time off to ask Prime Minister Putin how he followed up his successful war against Chechen separatist terrorism with the kind of political success in Chechnya. Putin stabilized and pacified the place politically by operating through a young Chechen ally who had partnered Russia during the civil war and represents Moscow. Today, Grozhny, the capital of Chechnya is economically modern and prosperous, the state of emergency has been lifted, and bands of residual or recidivist Chechen terrorists are being engaged in the mountains by the forces of the Chechen ‘president’ Ramzan Kadyrov. Putin did not seek to keep Chechnya united with and within Russia by trying to compete directly with Chechen nationalism on its own terrain in the aftermath of a bloody war. Instead of trying to unite it under his party flag or that of any Russian party, still less proscribe any party bearing the name of Chechnya, he kept it united by granting Chechnya some real autonomy and promoting a pro-Moscow Chechen political option.

There is a stated intention on the part of the country’s leadership that ‘everything that was lost to the nation shall be restored’. This is a splendid statement if the vision is one of a multiethnic and meritocratic Sri Lankan nation restoring the standards of its institutions, catching up for thirty lost years as the Chinese did for the “lost decade” of the Cultural Revolution, integrating with the revolution of Asian modernity and the resultant Asian economic miracle. The President also talks of equality, defined in his Independence Day speech as “equality of facilities”. Equality of rights and status as citizens would be as important. As Lord Meghnad Desai writes in his article that is so laudatory of President Rajapakse: “A nation is whole not just when its territory is single but only when its people feel they all belong to it equally”.

Editorial, Independent, UK: Gen. Fonseka arrest utterly unjustified and disturbing

Editorial - The Independent, UK, Feb 10, 2010:

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a reputation for toughness and decisiveness, and his latest actions only confirm it. By dissolving parliament yesterday, he has cleared the way for early elections, which his Sri Lanka Freedom Party is likely to win handsomely. The move will thus further strengthen his grip on the country after his clear-cut win in the presidential election last month. It is, however, perfectly legitimate.

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The outgoing parliament's term only ran until April, and a new one is needed to push through the reforms that Mr Rajapaksa has promised – both to improve the economic lot of ordinary Sri Lankans, and to use the opportunity provided by last year's conclusive military defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers to heal the country's enduring ethnic tensions. Far more disturbing is the arrest of Sarath Fonseka, the commander who led the victorious campaign against the Tigers and who was Mr Rajapaksa's election opponent last month. The retired general could now face a court martial, apparently on the grounds that by meeting with opposition politicians while still in uniform he had, in the words of a government spokesman, committed "treason to some extent."

The arrest is utterly unjustified. Mr Rajapaksa won re-election by a convincing margin, and General Fonseka has shown no sign of being able to make parliament his new powerbase. The most charitable explanation is that the arrest is part of the long feud between the two men that a bitter election campaign only exacerbated. But it could equally portend a crackdown on the opposition. Last month's result underlined the depth of the divide between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, as the Tamil National Alliance, the moderate grouping that urged a negotiated peace to the 25-year civil war, actually backed General Fonseka, a Sinhalese, as a lesser evil.

In his victory statement, Mr Rajapaksa spoke of the need to overcome "the violence and division of the past." The way to achieve that is to devolve power, as the constitution prescribes, to the provinces, including Tamil provinces, and by building a genuinely multi-ethnic military and police – and not by arresting the political candidate whom Tamils overwhelmingly supported barely a fortnight ago. - courtesy: The Independent, UK -

BBC in pictures: Protest in Colombo, Gen. Fonseka's wife Anoma vists him

The opposition rally near the Supreme Court is the second mass demonstration to be held in the capital in the space of a week.


Gen Fonseka's wife, Anoma, visited him at the navy headquarters where he is being held. She said he trusted no-one there and had therefore not eaten or drunk anything until she had taken him a meal.

Thousands of supporters of defeated Sri Lankan presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka have protested in the capital, Colombo, on Feb 10th, against his arrest.

 

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The protests turned violent in some places and several people were injured

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Police were deployed in large numbers, but reports said they had been slow in taking action against government supporters.

pictures & captions ~ courtesy: BBC

Video: Government, Opposition Supporters Clash in Colombo

Sri Lankan government supporters clashed with opposition activists protesting the arrest of their defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka.

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A pro-government supporter hurls a stone towards supporters of defeated presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka during a clash in Colombo on Wednesday.-The Hindu

video by vikalpasl

Thousands of opposition demonstrators gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Colombo Wednesday, when they were confronted by ruling-party activists who pelted them with stones.

Police stepped in to break up the clashes. Witnesses say several people were wounded.

Opposition supporters are demanding the release of Fonseka, the former chief of the armed forces, who was arrested Monday on charges of conspiring against the government.

Fonseka lost last month's election to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the retired general and his allies allege the polls were rigged. The Sri Lankan election commissioner said there is no evidence of any tampering.

On Tuesday, Mr. Rajapaksa dissolved parliament to clear the way for parliamentary elections to be held in early April.

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Anoma Fonseka, wife of Sarath Fonseka, arrives to address the media at her residence in Colombo 09 Feb 2010-VOA News

Opposition Outraged by Ex-General's Arrest

Sri Lanka's opposition parties are protesting the arrest by the military of their defeated presidential candidate, the former top Army commander credited with helping to defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels.

A day after the arrest of former opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lanka's government called the former top military chief a man "hell bent" on betraying the nation and conspiring against the president, who defeated him.

Government and military officials say Fonseka faces a court-martial for getting involved in politics before his retirement, last November, and disloyalty for saying he would testify about war crimes committed against the Tamil Tigers.

A U.S. State Department report has accused the military and the defeated rebels of possible war crimes.

At a news conference in Colombo Tuesday, the former general's wife, Anoma Fonseka, tearfully called his arrest "an abduction", saying soldiers refused his request, as a civilian, to surrender to the police.

She says the family does not know where he is being held and calls on the government to release that information.

The military denies Fonseka is being held in a secret location and says the family and legal counsel are allowed access to him.

Fonseka contested last month's presidential election as a candidate of a coalition of opposition parties. He lost to the incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, by an 18 percent margin.

The leader of one of those parties, Rauff Hakeem of the Muslim Congress, says the way Fonseka was apprehended Monday night is reprehensible.

"He was summarily hauled, dragged by his feet and legs and taken away in a very undignified and humiliating fashion. And, for all of us, it was evident that this is a government which is simply not dictatorial but fascist and they are all out to humiliate him, harass him and go on a journey of vendetta and witch hunt," said Rauff Hakeem.

Fonseka and others in the opposition alleged rigging of the counting of ballots, after the January 26 presidential election. The election commissioner has stated there is no evidence of any tampering.

Since the election, both the government and Fonseka have traded conspiracy allegations. Government officials say some former soldiers who supported Fonseka have been arrested for a post-election plot to assassinate the president. Fonseka denies any involvement and accuses the president, considered an ally during the civil war, of wanting to see him killed. [VOA News]

Sri Lankan government arrests opposition presidential candidate

By K. Ratnayake

Sri Lankan military police last night detained General Sarath Fonseka, the common candidate of the main opposition parties in the country’s January 26 presidential election. The arrest is a marked escalation in the government’s crackdown on political opponents over the past fortnight and foreshadows widening intimidation and repression in the lead-up to parliamentary elections expected to be called this week.

Fonseka was meeting in his office with opposition leaders, Somawansa Amarasinghe of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Rauff Hakeem from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Mano Ganeshan of the Democratic Peoples Front. They were discussing a legal challenge to results of the presidential poll, which Fonseka lost by a wide margin, as well as strategies for the general election.

According to Ganeshan, dozens of military police officers entered the office and told Fonseka he was under arrest. The retired general demanded to know the charges and insisted that any arrest should be by civilian police. When he resisted, Fonseka and his secretary Senaka de Silva were dragged away. “They arrested him and carried him out like a dog,” Ganeshan told the New York Times. The office was cordoned off by heavily-armed troops, who prevented the media from entering the building.

The arrest follows two weeks of sharpening political tensions after the government accused Fonseka, who was the country’s top general until he resigned in November to contest the election, of planning a coup against President Mahinda Rajapakse. On election day, hundreds of soldiers surrounded Fonseka’s hotel in a tense standoff. Police have already detained retired military officers and journalists over the coup allegations. The government has purged the top ranks of the army and police of Fonseka supporters.

The detention of Fonseka under military regulations means that he will be tried behind closed doors by a court-martial, which can deliver the death penalty. The arrest steps up the Rajapakse regime’s use of the military for political purposes. While Fonseka is accused of engaging in political activities as a serving officer, President Rajapakse has increasingly politicised the military since he restarted the war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in mid-2006.

The exact charges against Fonseka have not been made public, but defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the media: “When he was the army commander and chief of defence staff and member of the security council, he had direct contact with opposition political parties, which under the military law can amount to conspiracy. He’s been plotting against the president while in the military... with the idea of overthrowing the government.”

To date, the only evidence of any “conspiracy to overthrow the government” has been Fonseka’s candidature in the presidential election. In other words, challenging the government at an election is tantamount to a coup attempt. If the government presses charges along those lines, the arrest is a major step toward illegitimising political opposition and undermining parliamentary rule. Over the past four years, Rajapakse has increasingly ruled through a presidential cabal and flouted constitutional and legal norms.

Charging Fonseka over his activities as a serving officer raises the obvious question as to why the government has waited months to act. Fonseka’s meetings with opposition leaders were public knowledge before he resigned to become a presidential candidate. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the allegations are a convenient pretext to end Fonseka’s political career, conduct a trial without public scrutiny and intimidate opposition parties.

The immediate trigger appears to have been Fonseka’s comments, just hours before his arrest, threatening to testify to war crimes committed during the war that ended with the LTTE’s defeat last May. Fonseka told reporters in his office: “I am definitely going to reveal what I know, what I was told and what I heard [about war crimes]. Anyone who has committed war crimes should definitely be brought into courts… Those who reveal the truth are not traitors.”

During the election campaign, Rajapakse and Fonseka traded accusations that each was involved in war crimes. In comments to the media, later retracted, Fonseka claimed that the president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who heads the defence ministry, ordered the military to kill top LTTE leaders rather than accept their surrender last May. The defence secretary responded by accusing Fonseka of divulging state secrets, and the pro-government media branded him a “traitor.”

In reality, both men are responsible for the atrocities that took place. According to UN estimates, at least 7,000 civilians were killed between January and May 2009, mainly by indiscriminate bombing and shelling by the Sri Lankan military of the remaining pockets of LTTE-held territory. In addition, pro-government death squads, acting with the military’s complicity, killed hundreds of people, including journalists and politicians. Following the LTTE’s defeat, the army herded 280,000 Tamil men, women and children into squalid detention camps guarded by heavily armed soldiers.

Sri Lankan war crimes became a sensitive issue after the US and European powers called on the UN Human Rights Council last May to instigate an independent investigation. The Sri Lankan government blocked the resolution with the assistance of China, India and other allies, but President Rajapakse and other top officials are concerned that the demand could be resurrected. For the US and EU, which backed Rajapakse’s criminal war, the issue was a convenient means for putting pressure on Colombo in an effort to sideline their rivals, particularly China.

Defence Secretary Rajapakse hinted last week that the government was preparing to move against Fonseka through military charges. He told the BBC: “He [Fonseka] has made certain mistakes. He was a member of the security council… He has divulged security information to the public. He accused me of giving wrong orders [during the war].” During that interview, the defence secretary insisted that he would not allow any war crime investigation.

Fonseka’s offer to testify at an international war crimes investigation was an open offer to the US and the EU to use him as a tool to pressure the Sri Lankan government. In the course of the campaign, the general criticised Rajapakse for alienating the “international community” and disadvantaging Sri Lankan businesses as a result of the EU’s decision to end its preferential subsidies for the country’s exports.

For now, the US and European powers appear to have spurned Fonseka. Washington’s response to the election result, allegations of electoral fraud and the subsequent crackdown on the opposition has been muted. After Fonseka was arrested yesterday, the US State Department spokesman could only muster “concerns that any action be in accord with Sri Lankan law”. In typical diplomatic understatement, he said the arrest was “an unusual action to take right on the heels of an election”.

These comments are in line with the Obama administration’s downplaying of the so-called human rights issue in Sri Lanka. A US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report in December recommended “a broader and more robust approach to Sri Lanka” that was “not driven solely by short-term humanitarian concerns” in order to counter growing Chinese economic and political influence in Colombo. Such an approach could easily change if Washington senses an opportunity to exploit Fonseka to advance US interests in the island. The country’s entanglement in rivalry between the major powers is a key factor intensifying the factional warfare in Colombo.

In the final analysis, the Sri Lankan government’s crackdown is not primarily directed at Fonseka and the opposition parties but is in preparation for a confrontation with the working class as it implements the International Monetary Fund’s austerity program. The arrest of Fonseka, who was until relatively recently a trusted ally, is a sharp warning of the measures that will be used against the opposition of working people seeking to defend their living standards. ~ courtesy: WSWS ~

Sri Lankan government purges the military

By Sarath Kumara

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse carried out a major shake-up of the army last week, sacking a number of top-ranking officers. A defence ministry statement claimed that some senior officers were “sent into compulsory retirement” because they were considered a “threat to national security,” but gave no details.

Rajapakse carried out the purge after winning a second term in the presidential election held on January 26. He is clearly aiming at establishing his full control of the army, using the pretext that his main rival, former army commander General Sarath Fonseka, was planning a coup. The “retirements” are part of a broader crackdown on opposition as bitter infighting between rival camps of the ruling elite continues.

According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, 14 officers—five majors general, five brigadiers, a colonel, a lieutenant colonel and two captains—have been sent on compulsory leave. The newspaper reported that Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya summoned the officers personally and forced them to retire under threat of losing their pensions. The government has also transferred several top defence officials.

This unprecedented action was carried out under the Army Officers Regulations 1992, which allows the president, who is also the commander-in-chief, to ask an officer to “retire or resign” for “misconduct or in any circumstances that in the opinion of the president requires such action”. The regulations have been used only once in the past—in 1999 to punish officers held responsible for the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) overrunning a number of military camps.

Lakshman Hullugalle, director of the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), issued a statement noting that the government had received information “with regard to the active participation in political work prior to and during the recently concluded presidential elections by a handful of armed forces officers”. It decided to “terminate their services by awarding compulsory retirement irrespective of their ranks”.

“Active participation in political work” has only one meaning. Whether true or not, it signifies support for Fonseka and his election campaign. In the course of the election, Rajapakse openly used the resources of the state apparatus—including the police and military—for his campaign. All the “retired” army officers were regarded as close to Fonseka, who had 40 years of military service and was army commander when Rajapakse restarted the war against the LTTE in 2006.

In the course of the 26-year war that ended in the LTTE’s defeat last May, the Sri Lankan military became one of the largest, per capita, in the world, consuming a large share of government resources. The officer caste also became increasingly politicised and determined to defend its own vested interests.

As the country’s top general, Fonseka was part of Rajapakse’s ruling cabal and a member of the National Security Council that took all the major decisions on the war. After the LTTE’s defeat, however, he was pushed into the largely ceremonial post of Chief of Defence Staff and increasingly sidelined. He resigned from the military in November to contest the election as the common candidate of the opposition parties. In his resignation letter, he expressed the resentment of sections of the officer corps who felt that their role in winning the war had been insufficiently rewarded.

The bitter acrimony between the government and opposition camps continued after the election. In extraordinary scenes, the government dispatched hundreds of heavily armed troops on January 27 to surround the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, where Fonseka and opposition leaders were staying. A military spokesman claimed that the soldiers were sent to arrest “army deserters” who had been assisting Fonseka.

The government later accused Fonseka of planning a coup to assassinate Rajapakse and his top officials, oust the government and take power. To date, no evidence of a coup attempt has been made public. Fonseka and opposition leaders insist that they gathered at the hotel for security after hearing that the government was planning to physically harm them.

The government has instigated an investigation by the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under the control of the country’s police chief. The CID is notorious for carrying out political witch-hunts and cooking up stories to frame detainees. So far, 37 people, including several retired generals and other military personnel, have been detained for questioning.

Among the arrested is Brigadier Duminda Keppetiwalana who is accused of killing Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge, in January 2009. That assassination sparked local and international outrage. Wickrematunge’s murder in broad daylight a few hundred metres from a high security zone was almost certainly carried out by one of the pro-government death squads that have killed hundreds of people over the past four years.
The decision to suddenly pin the murder on a Fonseka supporter is utterly cynical. As recently as the killing’s anniversary last month, the CID claimed to have no credible leads. Both Rajapakse and Fonseka are responsible for these death squads, which operated with the tacit, if not direct, support of the security forces. Keppetiwalana is one of the very few ever detained over any of these crimes.

The CID has detained others over the “coup attempt,” including the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel’s security manager Ranjit Dayaratne, a former army major. Three journalists closely associated with Fonseka when he was army commander are also in custody. To keep the “coup” story alive and to justify the continuing investigation, the CID claims to have extracted evidence from those arrested.

The purge has not been limited to the army. The Sunday Times reported yesterday that 209 police officers, including 18 deputy inspector generals, superintendents and headquarters inspectors, have been transferred. No reasons have been made public, but the newspaper declared that they were considered “disloyal” to the government.

In his statement on the military “retirements”, MCNS spokesman Hullugalle declared that the government intended to “end the involvement in political activities by officers”. In reality, supporters of Fonseka are being removed and replaced by officers considered loyal to the Rajapakse regime. Last Friday the government also announced an upcoming pay rise in a further bid to quell discontent, particularly in the lower ranks where support for Fonseka is, if anything, stronger than in the top hierarchy.

While the government is currently targetting Fonseka, his supporters and the opposition parties, the main purpose in purging the police and military is to prepare for a confrontation with the working class. In conditions of worsening economic and social crisis, Rajapakse is committed to carrying out the International Monetary Fund’s austerity measures, including deep cuts to public spending and the restructuring and privatisation of state-owned enterprises. The autocratic methods being used against the Fonseka faction will be applied with far greater ruthlessness against protests and opposition by working people. - courtesy: WSWS -

February 09, 2010

Sarath was arrested because of what he did while wearing the uniform

by Ranmali Fernando

Sarath Fonseka was arrested yesterday and reports say he will be court marshaled for divulging military secrets. I would like the readers to detach themselves and look at the situation Sarath Fonseka put himself in to, purely because of his own hatred and anger.

Yes. Sarath has a colorful history. It is well known and most of it came out after he entered public life. It so happens to all politicians. Sarath became one unfortunately. If he remained a General he would have just faded away.

Let us examine why he was arrested. He was not arrested because he became a politician but for what he did whilst wearing the uniform. When he was the Army Commander and the Chief of Staff he was privy to military and state secrets as a member of the National Security Council. He was also bound to protect them. When he became unhappy Sarath reached out to the opposition and tried to strike a deal. Remember, that when he was in uniform. He linked up with the JVP. He communicated with them instead of his Commander in Chief, the President. He bypassed his immediate Boss, the Defence Secretary. Whilst in uniform he held several meetings with the likes of Mano Ganesan. Is it right and correct to do so? Remember, all of them were people who had worked against the government’s war on terror.

Sarath did not stop at that. He started preparing dossiers and collecting military secrets. He was getting ready to use it against his own country. Whilst on his way to the US he consulted with the opposition leader. The Chief of Defence staff does not consult the leader of the opposition. The authorities kept quiet when he was doing all that. Fonseka ridiculed them. He thought no one would ever touch him and that he was above the law. Sarath suffered from I, me and myself syndrome.

Having sent his resignation to the President giving a time frame he went on to play a political drama even without waiting for the President to accept his resignation. He showed disrespect to his Commander in Chief, who kept his cool even then. Fonseka then wore the National costume and immediately called President Rajapaksa a tin pot dictator. Dirty words coming out of an angry and venomous General.

He did not stop at that. He thought he was almighty and wrote a political type of letter to the armed forces whilst in uniform. He then ridiculed and betrayed his own Defence Secretary and his former security force commanders and soldiers with the white flag story. That was the ultimate betrayal. He never went back on it. He continued to threatened and warned that he would not defend them. Even his last BBC interview says it all. He was an angry man who had lost badly. Here was a man full of hatred for personal vengeance trying to sacrifice his country.

I can go on and on. But, do we need to say more? Sarath can be his own enemy. But, not the enemy of the country. He himself has betrayed and tarnished his own image and self.

No one will be able to hide anything and the world will know the truth soon. So, lets stop the blame game and wait for the inquiry to take place.

Their "Amma" is "Amma" but others "Amma" is "Summa"

by Chakravarthy

Gen. Fonseka to be hauled before military court
The Sunday Times 07, 2010

Fonseka ready to be arrested
MONDAY, 08 FEBRUARY 2010 19:12 Daily Mirror

New York Times February 09, 2010
Sri Lankan Opposition Candidate Arrested

Bloomberg News. Feb. 9.
Sri Lanka Arrests Defeated Election Candidate Fonseka.

From the time he expressed his intention to run for a political office, the regime was highly shaken with the belief that the crocodile would jump into their boat. Therefore they got into character assassination as the first step to kill the crocodile.

This city has enough garbage uncollected from the streets in dumps. But insufficient vehicles to remove them. That is what the Muni [municipal] always says. But they have the caliber to make mission impossible into mission possible. Because they care or cared no law and the lows do not care about that too.

Even military trucks driven by top officials brought heap of rubbish from the garrison. In addition, plane load of degraded waste were brought from Washington and Oklahoma by American Airlines transferring to Sri Lankan Airlines at Narita and Heathrow.

It was a merry game like Calvin throwing snow balls at Hobbes. As a result, their hands were dirty. They were touching each and every thing with muddied fingers. The whole country was stinking. But their media was there to call the crow white and Swan black.

They have enough buffoons in the pay roll to blow it like Virgin Air Hot Balloons with their own passion. They would love to share it with the masses, and launch them into the majestic world of hot air balloon rides to experience the sheer joy of it. Now the assignment is the General’s arrest.

Here the rule is, the government media including the television channels can bring out any thing in support of the state - at any time, if others do differently, it is to be cracked. A private channel that is always an irritant to the state’s hooligans was to lose the license on the 31stJanuary for replaying the scene where the General was attacked by a suicide bomber. But the letter was with held due to change of mind by the authorities, for unknown reason.

They can bring Idi Amin on the screen but private channels will be arm-twisted for Lawrence of Arabia even. The contention is, their ’Amma” is ‘Amma’ others Amma are ’Summa’. This is the autocratic state of affair here, where rights of the people are not different from that of in Burma, China, Iran, Russia and Libya who are the best friends of Sri Lanka at the moment.

If, what the General revealed to a Sunday paper on the 13th December, after his retirement from the post was defined as treachery, internationally every head of armed forces had written or still writing their memoir in retirement in the same manner.

How about former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharaff’s book “In The Line of Fire” that he wrote while in power? It mainly revolved around Musharraf vs. Nawaz Sheriff, Kargil War 1999, War on Terrorism after 9/11, and Mulla Umar and Osman Bin Ladin. He placed before the people so many unknown facts. Did any one call him a traitor? Was he taken for court martial even after he gave up power?

Many IPKF chief’s had brought to light unknown events to the masses. India never called them traitors or charged them for leaking state secret or accused them of plotting to kill the head of state or topple the government. Why is Lanka so paranoid?

According to the Daily Mirror, Media Centre for National Security Director General Lakshman Hulugalle told that Gen. Fonseka had committed a military offence by striking deals with the opposition parties during his service period as the Chief of Defense Staff and Army Commander. “In this manner, he has acted against the President and created rifts within the military. It is an offence. He has now been arrested to be court martialled,” he said.

One should note here up to the last moment the government was telling the public that the General plotted a military coup and wanted to kill the president and his family. Now the story is different.

Unauthenticated ‘truths’ come in large scale to fool the masses from the place where nine bags of lies fell. A so called Lawyer, a presidential contestant who could not get his wife‘s vote even as she is an UNP provincial council member, filed a case against the General that he being a US Green Card holder - ineligible to contest the presidential election.

On the 24th January after the campaign officially came to an end on the previous midnight, there was a full page multi colour advertisement, in violation of law, [payment made or on public account?] in the Fake House - sorry Lake House papers, with the text of the US oath of allegiance, saying the General who took oath to bear arms on behalf of the United States, was not eligible to be a president of SL.

Oh God, only citizen’s take oath not permanent residents who have no right to vote even. If those who took oath of allegiance are unfit to hold such government posts, in reality, there are some in the dark rooms of the Secretariat who have really taken the same oath as citizens of the US.

Does the said Lawyer, a high jumper, have the guts to say that they are too not qualified? No he would never. They are his masters. It is they who instigated him to do this clownish act for the crumbs they throw.

Another funny drama took place in the after noon of the election day of 26th. As the General’s name was not found to be in the electoral list, a relentless propaganda blitz was staged by the government media that the General was not qualified to be a president.

Any Maha Vidyalaya student would know that a citizen of a particular country will be eligible to contest any election whether he/she is registered as a voter or not in an electorate. Even though the election commissioner immediately disclaimed such argument, an ex Law Professor chaired a press meet in the evening, supporting the claim with his bombastic talk.

The present cabinet was joined by few overseas residents. Were they registered voters at that time? If had, wasn’t it wrong to have maintained the names in the voters list having taken up residence abroad?

Do you laugh? Please do not though we are laughable. These are to fool the masses thinking they are pricking spikes on the General’s campaign.

The contest was described as the ‘Clash of the Titans’. In fact it was a boxing title where one boxer was with Ever Last boxer shorts, Ever Last boxing shoes and gloves while the opponent was with a folded sarong, barefoot and no gloves.

Those who shower the winner with accolades, failed to say it was not a level playing field. If your son asks, “Thathi, is it OK to win our football match by any means disregard to the yellow card and red card?” What would you answer? Is this the type of governess we should leave for our future generation? If these arguments fall like water on duck’s back, what is harm in people going for a Swan?

Besides, Traitor! Traitor!! Patriot! Patriot!!. This was the mantra in the election, nothing else. Tell me, who is a traitor? The one who made a deal with the enemy, or the one who was targeted by the enemy?

In fact, it was on the 15th August 2005, on his funeral oration of late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirkamar, [who president Chandrika Kumaratunga wanted to appoint as the prime minister and a MP from Hambantota district rallied around some Buddhist monks and thwarted the idea on ethnic line] , the Premier at that time made his ‘tough’ speech against the perpetrated killers undoubtedly the LTTE, raising his hands in full anger, like he did on stages during the presidential election.

One could still remember how he walked like an elephant to the podium when his name was called and returned to his seat like a “Lion” after delivering his speech. Observers felt that he had declared war on the LTTE.

No, all were misled. Within few weeks this “practical man” made rapport with the terrorists. How can one, who had an under hand deal with a sworn enemy be a patriot and the one who nearly lost his life by the same rebels be a traitor? Is not it hypocrisy and treachery?

The photo of the laughing “Prince” with Emilkanthan, financial controller of the “most ruthless terrorist organization in the world”, according to their own vocabulary speaks thousand stories.

"What sort of support the LTTE wanted from the premier to strengthen their link” -

“The outfit wanted Rs.180 million to buy boats”. Though this was not a fresh meal to readers as it was already served by a Sunday paper many months ago, yet the very sentence “what sort of support the LTTE wanted to strengthen their link?”, from the horse’s mouth is really a chilling dialog that can not be digested by any right thinking person.

What a friendly request and what was the “link” mentioned there with a sworn enemy? How sharp the LTTE was to say that they needed boats to attack him if he comes to power or his country.

Well, what would have the American voters felt if it was revealed that President George W. Bush, after the 9/11 attack, and before he launched war on al-Qaeda in the Afghan mountains on October 7, 2001, had asked Osama bin Laden through Ayman al-Zawahiri asking ‘what sort of support the al-Qaeda wanted to strengthen their link with the president?. Would not the Americans have come to the streets asking him to resign?

This hypocrisy - treachery act is enough for any people to disown a leader in any country but not in Sri Lanka. Why was the Lankan community so mute? Do they condone secret flirtation - infatuation with enemies?

Let any body rule. Let them rule by the books. We do not appreciate but hate the sales man who gave us a pirate CD for the price of an original CD. Our desire is we should have food on table, our children should have bright future - not only the politician’s, our passport should command respect. This, ‘house maids’ country image should change.

Finally, as the general election is around the corner, AVATAR like science fiction stories would keep coming based on the General. The motto is, kill the crocodile or be killed by the crocodile.

"Set General Fonseka free" Says "The Hindu" Editorial

If the combined forces of the opposition in Sri Lanka showed appalling political judgment in fielding retired Army general Sarath Fonseka as their presidential candidate, the government has returned the favour through an act that is as miscalculated and reckless as it is authoritarian and ugly.

The decision to arrest and court martial the former Army Chief, and the manner in which his arrest was carried out, has shocked everyone who values democracy. Even at face value, the allegations made against General Fonseka are dubious, with the government apparently confused about what exactly he was guilty of (other than vaingloriousness, political ambition, paranoia, and foot-in-the-mouth disease, which are not really prosecutable offences.

In fact, the official versions have been such as to challenge credulity: while a press release posted at the Army’s website informs us that General Fonseka has been “taken into military custody on charges of alleged fraudulent acts and military offences,” a government Minister has accused him of “direct contact with opposition political parties” amounting to conspiracy (while he was Army Commander, Chief of Defence Staff, and member of the Security Council), and the director-general of the Media Centre for National Security has spoken darkly of charges of plotting a military coup and conspiring to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa. To the public in Sri Lanka and abroad, what all this signals is a witch-hunt that makes no political sense.

True, the general has been provocative beyond normal limits. Instead of accepting the people’s decisive verdict, he has made false allegations that the presidential election was stolen from him. He has hurled accusations of war crimes against field commanders who served under him in the 34 month-long-war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He has spoken of an official plot to assassinate him. He has even given hints of political blackmail by saying that upon his death an affidavit containing the government’s ‘secrets’ would be made public. Statesmanship demanded that these provocations be treated as acts of political folly born of failure and frustration. President Rajapaksa, after all, is in an extremely strong position.

Following his 17+ percentage point triumph in the presidential contest, he expects his party and alliance to make substantial gains in the parliamentary election that will be held in the first half of April. Sri Lanka, in the post-LTTE era, needs normalcy, reconciliation, a just and sustainable political solution to the Tamil question, and development of all regions starting with the North — not the politics of vendetta, more divisiveness and strife, and further politicisation of the military. Assuming that President Rajapaksa was persuaded or pressured by the hawks around him to go against his better political judgment, he must act boldly to reverse course and set General Fonseka free.

(Editorial appearing in "The Hindu" of February 10th 2010)

Where is my father?-Sarath Fonseka's younger daughter

By Aparna Fonseka

Iam Aparna Fonseka, youngest daughter of General Sarath Fonseka of Sri Lanka. Today, 8 February 2010, I decided to start this blog because of the unfortunate and disgraceful incident that happened to my father. I am tired of watching from the sidelines and reading what people have written without being able to defend.

However vile, destructive or poisonous the remarks about him and my family have been, I’ve been listening silently. I’ve stayed silent even after there was an assassination attempt on his life. I’ve been silent when they accused my brother-in-law of being an arms dealer. I’ve been silent when they surrounded our house and put us under arrest. But today, my father was dragged away before his family and his life is in danger again. I cannot be a silent spectator any more.

My father dedicated forty years of his life to serving my motherland, Sri Lanka. Unlike other politicians or top officials, he did not earn a single penny other than respect from his country men. He rescued Sri Lanka from the ruthless terrorists, the LTTE (Liberation of Tamil Tiger Eelam), who spread fear and violence in the nation. Today, he was arrested without a warrant or a valid reason at his office in a manner that even a criminal or enemy would not be treated.

The person who came to the office to arrest my father was Major General Sumith Manawadu who was the officer in charge of Mullaitivu during the Eelam War IV and he was transferred to the Army headquarters in Colombo as punishment for issuing wrong orders to the ground troops, which resulted in the death of 117 soldiers in combat. According to what I’ve seen in newspapers, The Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa knew of this rift and used Major General Manawadu for several operations against my father.

It was Major General Manawadu who also played the role of Commanding Officer in “Operation Trans Asia” who kept us under house arrest till the election results were called off and spread false rumors saying we were keeping army deserters. The only men who were with us on Election Day were my cousins, some party leaders, few retired army officers and the men who were legally appointed by the court for my father’s protection. The state media published news stating that the military that surrounded the hotel was for our own protection.

This coming from a government who wouldn’t even assign enough military personnel for my father’s protection after he had resigned! Why would they send five hundred for our protection on Election Day? It was another story that the government cooked to silence skeptics and dampen questions that were being raised. We had decided to go to a hotel because of the threats we’d been getting from the government.

The state media is trying to label my father as a traitor to brainwash civilians. The rural areas only hear the voice of the state media and if some person raise their voice against the government in power, they will lose their jobs and even their lives. As soon as the election was over, the government seized my father’s office, took most of the equipments, and with no valid reason, arrested over 13 men who worked there. This was only the beginning they had launched against my father. They fired 14 military officers with the accusation that they were planning a military coup. There is no evidence for any of these allegations but I am also aware that they are capable of making false evidences after taking these people under arrest. Democracy in Sri Lanka has screeched to a halt. As the president said after the rigged election results were announced, “the law is equal to every person who lives in the country but to the president.”

On 2009, my father was known as the best army commander in the world. (Eg. http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items09/150109-8.html

Everyone wanted to know his methods and tactics. They were impressed by how he ended terrorism which had been going on for almost three consecutive decades. I can wholeheartedly say that he is the most patriotic man I know and possibly the most patriotic man who has ever lived in Sri Lanka. He sacrificed his life in the war not once, but three times! Sri Lanka, what more do you want from him?

Only my mother, sister and I can understand the amount of work and thought he put into the miraculous victory. There were countless days when I fell into restless sleep not knowing whether he would arrive home from work safely because of the many threats he had on his life. For weeks we wouldn’t see him because he had gone to join our brave soldiers at the war front. After the suicide bomber’s attempt, I sat for two whole days in the emergency room praying for a miracle to save my father’s life.

Now, I am sitting here clueless begging people for information and for help. I do not know where my father is, where they’ve taken him, what they’ve done to him. Why are they attacking him? For trying to save our country from corruption? Or because he is the only man with courage enough to stand up against the corrupt government? Or is it because he was the only one who understood the hardships of Sri Lankan civilians who live from one day to the next? My father is a hero and this is how they show their gratitude? I need my father back. This is an urgent and sincere request to help find him.

Sincerely,

Aparna Fonseka
(Daughter of General Sarath Fonseka)