Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Stability achieved in yahapalana style



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, struggling for its survival in the wake of a humiliating drubbing the three-year-old coalition had suffered at the Feb. 10 local government polls, received a much needed respite, thanks to the massive ethnic violence, in the Kandy district.

President Maithripala Sirisena has promised to establish a presidential commission to inquire into the circumstances leading to the violence that couldn’t be contained until the Army moved in. The proposed commission will also examine various other aspects, particularly the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities to thwart organized attacks on Muslims.

The Kandy mayhem swiftly diverted public attention while Western powers reiterated their commitment to the fragile UNP-led government struggling to cope up with the crisis caused by the polls debacle. Influential civil society groups, one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as well as the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) insisted that the government stayed with the Geneva process or face consequences.

Parliament enacted the much opposed Enforced Disappearances Bill on March 8 amidst the Kandy mayhem. The Bill received 53 votes in favour while 16 voted against. Two-thirds of the 225-member parliament conveniently missed the vote. The passage of the Bill took place close on the heels of the setting up of the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) in accordance with the ongoing Geneva process. In spite of the delay, the Geneva project seems to be on track.

The OMP is one of Sri Lanka’s four big transitional justice mechanisms – the others being an office to handle reparations, a truth commission and a judicial mechanism to address allegations of wartime abuses.

Sri Lanka, last March, received an additional two years to bring the project to a successful conclusion.

The government’s poor electoral performance dominated both print and electronic media with a section of the UNP demanding an immediate leadership change in the aftermath of the debilitating polls setback. An attempt was also made to explore the possibility of moving a no-faith motion against beleaguered Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe after the UNPer turned down President Maithripala Sirisena’s demand to quit the premiership. Intra-party trouble persisted regardless of a foolish attempt to deceive both public and party alike by changing some cabinet portfolios.

Interestingly, Digana erupted on March 5, over a week after Premier Wickremesinghe succeeded Sagala Ratnayake as the Law and Order Minister in a cabinet ‘reshuffle’ that State Minister of Foreign Affairs Wasantha Senanayake called a farce. Wickremesinghe gave up the Law and Order portfolio on March 8. He received it on Feb 25.

There had been a number of major incidents during the period Wickremesinghe held the portfolio. Tambuttegama erupted on Feb 28 over a violent protest against a move to introduce new drinking water distribution scheme at the expense of the people living in the area. Tambuttegama violence was followed by an eruption in Ampara, on Feb 26, as a result of false allegations pertaining to crushed birth control pills being mixed with food. But the Kandy violence was the worst.

The Kandy crisis diverted media attention. For over a week, the media largely ignored the crisis in the UNP, their failure to locate disgraced Central Bank Governor Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran wanted in connection with his role in the treasury bond scams that had been perpetrated by Arjun Aloysius, the owner of Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and its CEO Kasun Palisena, in 2015 and 2016. Mahendran last week spurned a second opportunity given by Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne to surrender to the Criminal Investigation Department(CID).

The Geneva issue, too, hadn’t received the required media attention in spite of a treacherous government decision not to take up British wartime dispatches from its High Commission here to London, though Lord Naseby made representations on behalf of Sri Lanka. Those dispatches clearly show that the UN and other interested parties had levelled highly exaggerated war crimes charges against Sri Lanka pertaining to civilian casualties during the final phase of the war here to defeat the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation.

At one point, the Kandy crisis threatened to engulf the entire country, though it brought immense relief to those who had been severely weakened by former war winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining ground at the recently concluded polls. Although, the government received relief, the yahapalana partners, much to the disappointment of their foreign sponsors, couldn’t reach consensus on Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s political future.

Defeated presidential candidate Fonseka has declared, in no uncertain terms, his keen interest in the Law and Order portfolio.

The relationship between the SLFP and the UNP further deteriorated due to the latter not being able to convince President Maithripala Sirisena to appoint Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka as Law and Order Minister. The new crisis certainly gave President Sirisena an opportunity to consolidate the SLFP’s position vis-a-vis the UNP, at the expense of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Amidst the turmoil in Kandy, the UNP desperately tried to secure President Sirisena’s consent for Fonseka’s appointment, repeatedly asserting there couldn’t be a better choice than former war-winning Army Chief Fonseka, who, subsequently, declared that had he been in charge, he wouldn’t have allowed the Kandy crisis. But, finally Moneragala District MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara received Law and Order portfolio, much to the disappointment and anger of Fonseka, who condemned President Sirisena’s decision.

Imagine war hero Fonseka who had been the common candidate at the 2010 presidential election had been denied the Law and Order Ministry.

Having suffered a debilitating setback, as bad as the one suffered by the UNP, at local government polls, the SLFP worked overtime to overcome its own crisis at the expense of Wickremesinghe. Amidst political turmoil, the UNP leader undertook an investment promotion visit to Singapore

A Rajapaksa folly

National Freedom Front (FF) spokesman Mohammed Muzammil, who hails from Digana, last week explained to the writer how local police had turned a blind eye to threatening developments in the wake of 41-year-old H.A. Kumarasinghe, succumbing on March 3, to injuries caused by four Muslim men on Feb 22. Muzammil asserted that the situation could have been easily averted had law enforcement authorities called in military reinforcements to Digana, ahead of Kumarasinghe’s funeral.

It would be pertinent to examine the circumstances leading to the organized violence, directed at Aluthgama residents in, June 2014.

The then IGP N. K. Illangakoon received a timely warning on a planned Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) protest at Aluthgama, on the morning of June 15, 2014. The warning was given by National Unity Alliance (NUA) leader, M. Azath S. Salley, a strong critic of the then administration. Salley sent a letter, warning of BBS plans to go on the rampage, to the IGP, with a copy to senior DIG, in charge of the Western Province, Anura Senanayake.

The police had ample time to thwart the BBS protest. Police could have swiftly called in the elite Special Task Force (STF) as well as the Army. In spite of having the wherewithal to disperse the BBS, the then government allowed the situation to get out of hand. The local police turned a blind eye, believing the BBS had the backing of the then government.

The then Colombo Mayor, A.J.M. Muzammil, reacted angrily to the UPFA’s failure to rein in the BBS. Muzammil alleged the UPFA had caused irreparable damage to its relationship with the Muslim community. The Rajapaksa government would have to face the consequences, the veteran politician thundered, alleging that the BBS was pursuing an agenda extremely hostile to the UPFA, though it pretended otherwise. The Colombo Mayor alleged that the BBS had been specifically created to cause the downfall of the Rajapaksa administration.

The writer received a copy of Salley’s letter to Illangakoon. Then UNP Central Provincial Councillor, Salley, emphasized that the Alutgama mayhem could have been easily thwarted had Police Headquarters promptly responded to his request.

The then government allowed the BBS to storm the Trade and Commerce Ministry, in late April 2013.

The BBS was looking for Ven. Watareka Vijitha alleged to be close associate of the Trade and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who developed a special relationship with a section of the Buddhist clergy to counter the threat posed by the BBS. Bathiudeen played an extremely dangerous game, though he realized the very existence of his relationship with the SLFP was at stake.

Salley asserted that the Alutgama violence could have been prevented if the police had heeded his plea to prevent a gathering of extremists at Alutgama. Unfortunately, the police, obviously acting at the behest of the government, allowed the gathering, leading to unprovoked attacks on the Muslim community. Responding to a query, Salley said that having urged Senior DIG Anura Senanayake to prevent the gathering, the situation was also brought to the notice of IGP N. K. Illangakoon. Asked whether he identified those planning to gather in Alutgama, Salley released a copy of his letter, addressed to the IGP, in which he accused the BBS, as well as Sihala Ravaya, of planning to go on the rampage. Salley warned the IGP that the gathering in Alutgama was nothing but a planned attempt to cause mayhem.

The previous government never bothered to find out the circumstances leading to the Aluthgama violence. Today, the Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna have conveniently forgotten the then government’s failure at Alutgama.

Yahapalana debacle through the eyes of LSSP

Obviously, the yahapalana arrangement could have certainly collapsed if not for the swift intervention by a section of the international community. The civil society groupings, too, played a significant role in saving the yahapalana arrangement. Efforts to save the government received unexpected assistance by way of the Kandy turmoil that diverted public attention. But, it would be pertinent to mention that the government hadn’t addressed contentious issues. Yahapalana partner Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP/United Left Front) in the wake of Feb. 10 polls debacle reprimanded President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe. In fact, the LSSP statement issued by its General Secretary Lal Wijenayake at a media briefing chaired by MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne flayed the President and PM for the defeat. The statement very clearly asserted that the yahapalana leaders were responsible for the present pathetic situation. In fact, the LSSP statement is the toughest issued by a coalition member in the wake of their defeat. The LSSP alleged that President Sirisena interfered in high profile cases involving monks, military officials and public servants while PM Wickremesinghe shielded the Rajapaksas. The LSSP pointed out that the yahapalana administration suffered the polls setback in spite of some significant constitutional reforms, including the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the Right to Information Act. But, unfortunately, the Sirisena-Wickrenesinghe duo subsequently had pursued a personal agenda in addition to following the strategies of their respective political parties. In a bid to facilitate their personal strategies they had reached deals with those corrupt elements at the expense of yahapalana principles. The LSSP asserted that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe leadership failed to bring those defeated criminals and corrupt elements before court of law thereby contributed to the current unfavourable situation. The LSSP faulted the government for its failure to restore law and order as expected and desired by the public.

Obviously, the LSSP has cleared former Law and Order minister Sagala Ratnayake of any wrongdoing on his part. Those who had repeatedly accused Sagala Ratnayake and the Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya of continuous interference in police investigations and wrong decisions, respectively, should re-examine the original accusations. President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe had never responded to LSSP allegations in respect of the law and order situation and judiciary. Therefore, the decision to replace Sagala Ratnayake is questionable and misleading. Can anyone imagine Ranjith Madduma Bandara managing law and order against the backdrop of Premier Wickremesinghe’s deplorable failure, in his capacity as law and order minister to curb the Kandy violence. Battle hardened Fonseka would certainly have been a better choice and capable of meeting any eventuality. There cannot be any justification in depriving Fonseka of the Law and Order portfolio.

The LSSP also found fault with President Sirisena for being always critical of economic policies proposed by Wickremesinghe. Asserting that President Sirisena’s response to UNP economic policies, too, contributed to the current crisis and some presidential criticisms weren’t acceptable. The LSSP explained how the Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna exploited President Sirisena’s statements in the absence of a government common economic strategy. The LSSP termed the failure on the part of the government to reach agreement on economic policy the second major reason for yahapalana defeat at the local polls.

The LSSP asserted that the treasury bond scams that had been perpetrated in 2015 and 2016 were the third reason for the yahapalana debacle. Pointing out that the treasury bond scam crisis erupted in the run up to the 2015 August parliamentary polls, the LSSP accused Wickremesinghe of shielding Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, a Singaporean of Sri Lankan origin alleged to have carried out the scam. Mahendran continues to evade the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in spite of a directive issued by Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne. The LSSP alleged that massive treasury bond scams had diverted public attention from corruption charges directed at the Rajapaksas and their associates. The LSSP also faulted President Sirisena for exploiting treasury bond scams for his/SLFP advantage at the Feb 10 local government polls at the expense of the UNP. The battle between the President and the Prime Minister caused immense damage to the coalition and boosted the Joint Opposition, the LSSP alleged that ill-fated strategies adopted by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo allowed the Rajapaksas-led extremists to make electoral gains. The LSSP, however, asserted that the gains made by the Rajapaksas hadn’t undermined the collective 2015 January 8 mandate. Dr. Wickremaratne’s group expressed confidence that the electorate had declared that it wasn’t ready to bring the Rajapaksas back to power though a red light was shown to the yahapalana leaders. The group called for a united effort to consolidate the yahapalana administration and tangible effort to defeat those threatening the 2015 mandate.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Govt. continues to ignore UK wartime dispatches



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Nearly a decade after the successful conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still struggling to achieve national reconciliation.

The previous Rajapaksa administration brought the violent conflict to an end on the morning of May 19, 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon,o n the Vanni east front, by militarily crushing the ‘world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation’.

In spite of rhetoric, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has pathetically failed to accomplish a genuine rapprochement. Instead, the yahapalana leadership has allowed further deterioration of the situation by deliberately suppressing a comprehensive dialogue on wartime British High Commission dispatches that surely cleared, both previous political and military leaderships, of war crimes, as alleged by a section of the international community. In addition to British dispatches, Sri Lanka could have utilized specific US declaration at the first defence, seminar organized in June 2011, and also Wiki leaks, to deny unverified allegations thereby encourage post-war national reconciliation.

The British had certainly, but unintentionally, dealt a devastating blow to a brazen project to humiliate the country on unproven crimes allegations.

Yahapalana leaders, since coming to power in January 2015, pursued an agenda severely inimical to Sri Lanka. Their despicable strategy was meant to address post-war issues in terms of the Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the GoSL on Oct 1, 2015. Yahapalana cabinet spokesman and Health Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, last Wednesday (Feb. 28) fiercely argued with the writer that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government didn’t co-sponsor the Oct 1, 2015 resolution during the post-cabinet media briefing.

In its haste to appease Western powers and onetime LTTE mouthpiece, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that had helped Maithripala Sirisena to secure presidency, the government depicted the Geneva prescribed new Constitution as the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had no option but to ignore British dispatches as they strongly disputed the very basis of the Geneva Resolution. In other words, had the government utilized official British data, presented by Lord Naseby, in the House of Lords on Oct 12, 2017, Sri Lanka could have sought re-examination of the Geneva Resolution. No less a person than UNSG’s Deputy Spokesman Frahan Aziz Haq said so when the writer sought an explanation as to how Sri Lanka could use Naseby’s revelations. Haq told the writer that decisions regarding actions taken by the UNHRC were solely in the hands of the members of the Human Rights Council. Haq said that member states could decide whether to revisit Sri Lanka’s case (Naseby revelations: UNSG Spokesman: Decision to revisit resolution in the hands of UNHURT members-The Island, Dec 1, 2017).

Lord Naseby requested Geneva to review the Sri Lanka case while a shameless yahapalana leadership ignored the opportunity for petty political reasons.

A deeply rattled British High Commission in Colombo, in response to The Island query dismissed Naseby’s statement (Naseby’s call doesn’t reflect UK’s stand-HC - The Island, Dec 6, 2017).

Those who had been shaken by a massive drubbing suffered by the UNP and SLFP, at the Feb.10 local government polls, and wanting to examine ways and means of enhancing their image should at least now re-think their Geneva strategy. They cannot continue to ignore fresh review of accountability issues, especially in view of scheduled elections to nine Provincial Councils followed by presidential and parliamentary polls. The presidential polls are less than two years away, after the Supreme Court ruled that President Sirisena cannot continue beyond five years.

Sri Lanka will have to take a clear stand in Geneva during the ongoing sessions. The sessions commenced on Feb. 26. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government will have to face political consequences soon depending on its Geneva strategy. Decisive decision on a future course of action cannot be put off, against the backdrop of the recent LG polls debacle.

The Marxist JVP, too, should accept responsibility for remaining mum on this vital issue. Anura Kumara Dissanayake, in spite of being the Chief Opposition Whip, never pushed the government on the Geneva issue in the wake of Naseby’s revelations. In fact, all political parties, that backed Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena, respectively, at 2010 and 2015 presidential polls, conveniently refrained a from seeking fresh examination of the Geneva Resolution as they felt the outcome could be advantageous to the previous administration. The coalition that had been in existence, since late Dec 2009, comprised the UNP, the JVP, the TNA, the SLMC and few other minor and minority parties. The vast majority of the Sinhala electorate will surely react angrily to their combined failure to exploit an opportunity to counter lies propagated on behalf of the Eelam lobby by the so called international community, made up of mainly powerful Western countries.

A deeply flawed yahapalana policy

Those who had been spearheading the post-war reconciliation process, under the current administration never paid attention to available information that could be effectively used to convince the Tamil speaking people that the government offensive was never meant to annihilate the civilian population. Naseby’s declarations and assertions in the House of Lords as well as other forums, subsequently, could have had helped Sri Lanka to set the record straight. Unfortunately, the yahapalalana government lacked the courage and vision to use undoubtedly the most important data that had been made available, courtesy the British government, nine years after the conclusion of the war, to convince the Tamil speaking people.

Had the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government acted responsibly and made representations to the international community, it could have taken the first step in the right direction to clear Sri Lanka’s image.

When the writer inquired from co-cabinet spokesman and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera whether Naseby’s revelations had been discussed at the cabinet, Jayasekera asserted that there were far more important issues than that. It would be pertinent to mention how Jayasekera reacted angrily when the matter was raised by The Island at the weekly cabinet briefing over a month after Lord Naseby’s explosive statement (Cabinet spokesman provoked by query on govt. response to Naseby move - The Island, Nov 15, 2017).

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government tried its best to downplay the importance of Naseby’s defence. Instead of exploring ways and means to push for reappraisal of the Geneva Resolution 30/1, the government made a desperate bid to divert attention. The Foreign Ministry’s despicable initial response to Naseby’s defence of Sri Lanka shook the conscience of the vast majority of people. Even those who had been wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before a hybrid court in terms of the Geneva Resolution 30/1 were certainly surprised by the servile manner the current political leadership refused to defend its own. A deeply embarrassed Foreign Ministry issued a second statement to clarify its first that exposed the unashamed mindset of officialdom hell-bent on appeasing foreign powers.

When The Island inquired from the leader of the Sri Lankan delegation to Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in Nov. 2017, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva, whether Naseby’s revelations would be raised by Sri Lanka, the economist asserted that the House of Lords statement wasn’t directly connected to the matter at issue (House of Lords statement not directly relevant to UPR-Dr. De Silva-The Island, Nov 14, 2017)

Failure of new ministry

Against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s continuing failure to ascertain the truth, the role of the National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry should be examined. No less a person than President Sirisena heads the ministry with veteran politician A. H. M. Fowzie functioning as the State Minister. Ministry Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy has explained to the media how foreign students were here to study Sri Lanka’s integration and reconciliation programme. Among them were a group of 20 Virginia University MBA students headed by Professor Marc Modica who participated in a knowledge sharing exercise.

The foreign group studied the innovative interventions such as integration friendly schools programme, ‘peace journalism’ and integration friendly media programme, District Reconciliation Committees with inter-religious leaders to address ethnic and religious tensions, National Integration Week, Reconciliation Declaration, 7 core virtues on reconciliation and reconciliation focused economic empowerment programme, initiated by the Government of Sri Lanka.

But, unfortunately, the ministry hasn’t paid attention to the fact that the very basis of the primary allegations directed at Sri Lanka needed to be re-examined and Geneva Resolution 30/1 amended in view of the Naseby revelations. In fact, President Sirisena’s ministry has missed a golden opportunity to promote national reconciliation by effectively using Naseby’s assertions, based on the British High Commission’s wartime dispatches, to disprove deliberate propaganda against us. Sri Lanka should have had asked the UK, a key member of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), to help convince Tamil speaking people that the Sri Lankan military didn’t massacre over 40,000 civilians. Had the British been so keen to assist post war national reconciliation process here, they would have surely helped establish the truth. Instead, the British worked overtime to deprive Sri Lankans of the battlefield truth. Thanks to Lord Naseby, the British had been badly exposed. National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry could have played a pivotal role in restoring genuine peace, following nearly 30 years of war. The ministry engaged in futile exercises to promote reconciliation while turning a blind eye to trustworthy information that could have been used to deny unsubstantiated allegations. The government cannot ignore the need to challenge the Geneva Resolution, based on unproven accusations accepted and presented by Western powers. Theirs had been an effort meant to change the previous Rajapaksa administration due to its close relationship with Beijing in addition to domestic political reasons. Western powers and India felt that the Colombo-Beijing relationship posed a regional threat to them.

The recent British demand that Sri Lanka’s defence attache in the UK be recalled immediately following the officer’s controversial throat-slitting gesture indicated the hardened British stand vis a vis Sri Lanka.

However, ongoing countrywide survey undertaken by the National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry to ascertain the number of war dead, both civilians and combatants as well as the circumstances under which alleged disappearances took place et al should be appreciated.

ONUR project

In support of post-war reconciliation efforts, yahapalana grandees launched a film project soon after the change of government in January 2015. Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), headed by twice-president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, funded the project carried out by Asoka Handagama, Vimukthi Jayasundara and Prasanna Vithanage, the directors of the omnibus film ‘Thundenek’, under the English title ‘Her. Him. The Other’

The film produced by ONUR premiered at the Regal cinema on February 27. Thundenek comprised three short movies that addressed post-war issues.

On the invitation of Kumaratunga, President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe joined the event at the cinema where the former President launched ‘National Policy on Reconciliation and Coexistence Sri Lanka’

The Island features editor, Sajitha Prematunge, dealt with the movie consisted of three short films in an article headlined ‘ONUR never dictated terms’ with strap line Handagama, Vithanage and Jayasundara on making of ‘Thundenek’ the March 2, 2018 edition of The Island, also accessible online. Therein, the directors maintained, quite rightly the movie does not advance personal political agenda, though being funded by Kumaratunga’s ONUR.

The writer had an opportunity to join the audience that included civil society activists, Colombo-based diplomats, embassy local staff et al at the screening. ‘Her’ directed by Prasanna Vithanage based on actual events, as claimed, dealt with an LTTE media unit man (videographer Kesa) who wanted to locate the wife of a Sinhala soldier killed on the Vanni front in 2008., Kesa, succeeded in locating the woman married to another man living in the north central province in 2010, a year after the successful conclusion of the war. Interestingly, Kesa, figured in recruitment of child soldiers at the last phase of the war on the Vanni front in Asoka Handagama’s ‘The Other’. ‘Her’ reminded the LTTE’s despicable tactics. The LTTE used a telephone number written on the other side of a photograph found in the wallet of the soldier killed on the Vanni front to contact his wife. Although, ‘Her’ depicted a story about a man, who had been involved in the conflict coming to terms with his own conscience, the reality is different.

Vimukthi Jayasundara’s ‘Him’ dealt with reincarnation of an LTTE terrorist into a Sinhala family and how subsequent media exposure of the rebirth as a result of a foolish intervention by a school principal compelled the latter to flee their coastal village.

‘The Other’ by Asoka Handagama discussed the sufferings of a woman who had lost both her husband and her only son during the war, with the latter portrayed as a young warrior ready to sacrifice his life for their cause to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Having had reached Colombo with a young war widow to participate in a post-war protest demanding to know the whereabouts of her missing son, the lady follows a young man whom she wrongly recognized as her son. Later, the young amputee turned out to be a Sinhala soldier now attached to the army hospital after being wounded in the battle against the LTTE. ‘The Other’ underscored the State’s roughshod response to those wanting closure in the wake of the end of war.

The writer felt the film makers had certainly tried to address post-war issues in an impartial way though those who had lost loved ones cannot simply feign ignorance of the actual ground situation.

Beyond ONUR initiative

Mrs. Kumaratunga, one-time Commander-in-Chief, was once called Mother of all battles. Kumaratunga earned the wrath of the LTTE and those who believed in its war after she fought back after the LTTE resumed hostilities in April 1995. She has been accused of committing atrocities. Rev. Father Emmanuel, President of the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), had called her mother of all battles in the wake of the Eelam War III (April 1995 to Dec 2001). Since the change of government, Kumaratunga, on a number of occasions, declared that by the time she handed over presidency to Mahinda Rajapaksa in Nov 2005, the LTTE controlled maximum 30 per cent of the Vanni territory. Obviously, she was lying or simply didn’t have a real sense of the actual ground situation. But Kumaratunga deserve praise for bringing the entire Jaffna peninsula under government control though the military couldn’t sustain the offensive due to strategic miscalculations and unpreparedness.

Had the Army failed on the Vanni front during Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency (2005 Nov-January 2014), there wouldn’t have been space for much touted projects to promote national reconciliation. The ‘Thundenek’ would never have been made. An influential section of the Tamil community would have remained in perpetual belief the war could be brought to a negotiated settlement in terms advantageous to the LTTE. None of those demanding genuine reconciliation or seeking closure felt such requirement as long as the LTTE had the wherewithal to wage war. Today, they had quite conveniently forgotten that reconciliation wouldn’t have been possible until Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion. In fact, had Sri Lanka failed, the LTTE could have overwhelmed the Army on the northern front. Had that happened, Western powers and their agents would have propagated a different theme today.

Let there be a genuine effort to inquire into still unproven accusations to ascertain the truth.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A threat to quit unholy alliance



By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader and Chief Opposition Whip, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, on Feb. 19, 2018 declared that those who had joined forces to oust the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the Jan.8, 2015 presidential election would never get together again.

An irate Dissanayake warned SLFP leader President Sirisena not to entertain the hopes of securing a second five-year term. The JVPer also warned UNP leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that he would never be the President. Wickremesinghe unsuccessfully contested the Nov. 1999 presidential election.

A dejected JVPer said so at the first parliamentary session, following the humiliating defeat suffered by the UNP, the SLFP and the JVP at the Feb. 10 local government polls. Dissanayake acknowledged that the Marxist party couldn’t secure anticipated polls result, though some progress was made. Dissanayake asserted that some gains had been made in the predominately Tamil northern region.

It would be pertinent to examine Dissanayake’s assertion that those who had been involved in the high profile 2015 political project wouldn’t join forces again.

Having assumed JVP leadership on Feb. 2, 2014, Dissanayake paved the way for the party to join the UNP-led alliance. Dissanayake replaced Somawansa Amarasinghe, who assumed the party leadership about six years after the extra-judicial execution of party founder Rohana Wijeweera in government custody. The UNP executed Wijeweera on Nov. 13, 1989, in Colombo. Amarasinghe passed away, in June 2016, following a brief illness.

Under Dissanayake’s leadership, the JVP threw its weight behind the UNP-TNA (Tamil National Alliance) combine to help Maithripala Sirisena thwart twice-president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to secure a third term. Dissanayake took over a much weakened JVP due to heavyweight Weerawansa switching allegiance to Rajapaksa during his first presidential term. Subsequently, Dissanayake suffered another setback due to Kumar Gunaratnam forming his own outfit, the Front-line Socialist Party (FSP).

In the wake of the recent drubbing, at the countrywide polls, three years after the Jan. 8, 2015 presidential election, the JVP has declared its intention not to continue with the UNP-led political alliance against Rajapaksa. The JVP announced its decision after having blamed Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for the debilitating defeat suffered in the hands of Rajapaksa, whose re-emergence as the most influential political leader obviously stunned the Marxist party.

The JVP also joined forces with the Joint Opposition to question the validity of the UNP-SLFP arrangement, alleging that their pact lapsed in Sept. last year, therefore the continuation of the National Unity Government cannot be accepted. The JVP didn’t find fault with the yahapalana partners failure to extend the agreement until they were routed at the Feb. 10 polls. The JVP cannot be unaware that the UNP-SLFP agreement had lapsed four months ago. The SLFP purposely refrained from extending the agreement as it felt it could be severely disadvantageous due to the UNP being implicated in the Treasury Bond scams that had been perpetrated in 2015 and 2016.

However, Dissanayake made no reference to the origins of the UNP-led political alliance that ousted Rajapaksa, three years ago.

An unprecedented alliance

The alliance that successfully challenged the Rajapaksas came into being in late 2009 in the run-up to the Jan. 26, 2010 presidential polls. The alliance backed war-winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka. After having alleged Fonseka as well as the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil, had committed war crimes, the US Embassy, in Colombo, played a critical role in the formation of the alliance. The US succeeded in its efforts though, at the onset, minority parties, particularly the then four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), was skeptical about the project. The US also brought the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) into the project meant to defeat Rajapaksa. The US compelled the TNA to back Fonseka, while the JVP, too, played a significant role in the campaign.

Somawansa Amarasinghe had been in command of the party, with Dissanayake being a member of the parliamentary group, at the time the JVP joined the original US-led project to elect Fonseka president. The project went awry. The JVP ended up alleging that the Rajapaksas of perpetrating what was then called computer jillmart (manipulating computers to fix the polls result).

The US role in a despicable bid to change the government in Sri Lanka (as it has done in many countries world wide) wouldn’t have come to light if not for the secret revealing WikiLeaks. Thanks to WikiLeaks, the electorate is aware how the US Embassy ran a political project to defeat the war-winning president. Disclosure of classified diplomatic cables, pertaining to the then SLMC Chairman and Opposition Leader of the Eastern Provincial Council, Basheer Segudawood, as well as TNA leader R. Sampanthan, sent shock waves through political parties. However, the electorate hadn’t been largely unaware of the political parties here being used by the US Embassy to implement its strategies.

After the 2010 project to instal Fonseka as the president went awry, the UNP quit the alliance to contest parliamentary polls on its own. A disappointed Fonseka had no option but to team up with the JVP to contest on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket. The grouping managed to secure just seven seats, including two National List slots. Among the five elected were Fonseka and World Cup winning cricket captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, from Colombo and Kalutara districts, respectively. The Rajapaksas angered especially by Fonseka’s foul mouthing used the existing system to punish him by depriving him of his parliamentary seat. Later Fonseka registered his own, Democratic Party and contested the parliamentary polls in Aug. 2015 at which he suffered a terrible defeat with many of his close supporters having abandoned him along the way. Fonseka couldn’t even retain his seat. The UNP accommodated him on its National List in spite of him not being a member of the party and hadn’t been on its lists at the last parliamentary polls.

The JVP has now distanced itself from both Fonseka and Sirisena and obviously in a quandary.

The JVP had been deeply involved in the both the 2010 and 2015 projects. Interestingly, on both occasions, so called common candidates, Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena, though being backed by the UNP, contested on the New Democratic Front (NDF) ticket, an offshoot of the Democratic United National Front (DUNF). Chairman of the outfit, N.M. Shalila Moonesinghe, was arrested in Oct. 2017 for having transferred more than a million USD illegally from the Far Eastern International Bank of Taiwan, to his personal bank account at the Bank of Ceylon. At the time of his arrest, Moonesinghe, a British national of Sri Lankan origin, functioned as Chairman of LITRO Gas, a state-owned enterprise.

None of those political parties, including the JVP, had ever commented on the case involving the NDF chairman. The National Election Commission (NEC) is yet to initiate action in respect of Moonesinghe registering a political party through some devious means, way back in 2009. Now that Dissanayake has declared that the 2015 group would never get back together to back a presidential candidate at the next presidential poll, in 20 months time, the JVP’s position would certainly have a bearing on the overall political situation and is likely to be advantageous to the Rajapaksas.

The NDF, with its swan symbol, is unlikely to receive an opportunity again to participate in a high profile campaign again though incumbent president Sirisena remains its man.

JVP’s dilemma

The JVP managed to secure six seats at the last parliamentary polls, in Aug. 2015 The JVP parliamentary group comprised two National List members. In spite of promising to introduce a new political culture, the JVP, too, accommodated two defeated candidates, Sunil Handunetti and Bimal Ratnayake on its National List slots.

In the run-up to the Feb. 10 local government polls, the JVP really believed that it could comfortably gain sizable electoral gains at the expense of the UNP and the SLFP. The JVP asserted that the situation couldn’t have been better for the party to register its best performance, at national level, especially in the wake of the UNP being humiliated over Treasury Bond scams, involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), and Sirisena accused of shielding some of those facing corruption and alleged murder charges. A confident JVP went to the extent of declaring intentions to achieve kingmaker status at the next presidential and parliamentary polls. Instead, the electorate has delivered a humiliating snub to the JVP, perhaps for its perceived role in backing the government at crucial junctures, especially in helping to get certain anti-democratic legislations passed with 2/3 majoprity, at the commencement of a crucial period with provincial councils polls for nine regions, followed by presidential and parliamentary polls.

In fact, the JVP has been compelled to acknowledge, in parliament, that those who had believed in the SLFP policies voted for the rebel SLFP group thereby strengthening the hands of the former president. Obviously, the JVP ended up with egg on its face due to its failure to achieve noticeable progress in urban areas or provinces.

The JVP like all other political parties and civil society organizations that campaigned for Sirisena at the 2015 presidential poll, repeatedly stressed that Rajapaksa couldn’t secure 50 per cent of the vote. They pointed out that for those who had called the Feb. 10 polls a sort of national referendum on the performance of the three-year yahapalana government suffered a debilitating setback. The overtly pro-government civil society outfit ‘Purawesi Balaya’ that briefed media twice and Government National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne underscored that Rajapaksa couldn’t secure the required 50 per cent of the votes cast to claim victory. In fact a pathetic attempt was made to portray Rajapaksa’s failure to achieve 50 per cent as defeat for the Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the next parliamentary and presidential polls.

Crisis faced by anti-Mahinda elements

The SLPP polled 44.69 per cent of the votes cast at the LG election. The UNP obtained 32.61 per cent. The UPFA polled 8.90 per cent. The SLFP polled 4.48 per cent. The two governing parties secured together 45.99 per cent, almost 46 per cent. Rajapaksa led SLPP polled 44.69 per cent, nearly 2 per cent less than the other three parties put together.

But those wanting to use these figures to depict a defeat for the SLPP at a referendum, had conveniently forgotten that the vote received by the SLFP and the UPFA couldn’t be under any circumstances counted as anti-Mahinda vote. The majority of those who had exercised their franchise in support of Sirisena are likely to switch their allegiance to the SLPP at the forthcoming PC polls, followed by presidential polls and parliamentary polls.

The JVP secured 6.26 per cent and the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi polled 3.06 per cent. Let me reproduce the relevant section from a statement issued by TNA leader R. Sampanthan following local government polls drubbing: "If one was to add the percentage of votes polled by those two parties together with the percentage of votes polled by the UNP, the UPFA and the SLFP, the total would be 55.31 per cent. So, in other words, parties opposed to the SLPP have polled 55.31 per cent and the SLPP has polled only 44.69 per cent. This is indisputable.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the Presidential Election, held in 2015, polled 47.58 per cent. The votes he polled at the Presidential Election, in January, 2015, were more than the votes he polled at the LG election. There have been three elections in recent times; the Presidential Election in 2015, the Parliamentary Election in 2015 and the Local Government Election held this month. In none of these elections has former President Mahinda Rajapaksa been able to obtain more than 50 per cent.

His vote has always been below 50 per cent at the Presidential Election, at the Parliamentary Election and at the Local Authority Election. So, there is nothing to get excited about: elections are held; parties win; parties lose. The Local Authority Elections have been held and you have won. One does not dispute that fact, but the fact of the matter is that you have polled only 44.69 per cent as opposed to 55.31 per cent cast against you. So, what is there to get excited about? Nothing at all. Parliament is not constituted on the basis of votes cast at the Local Authority Elections. Parliament is constituted, - the President is elected, on the basis of votes cast at the Presidential Election – at a Parliamentary Election held for that purpose in keeping with the Constitution and the laws of this country."

Why worry?

Those who had claimed that Rajapaksa lacked electoral support to achieve 50 per cent of vote cast at 2015 national elections and the 2018 countrywide local government polls, in spite of rhetoric, seemed to be seriously concerned about the rapid reemergence of Rajapaksa.

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera in the run-up to the Feb. 10 polls warned that the yahapalana project could be in jeopardy in case Rajapaksa led the SLPP to victory. Samaraweera’s fears have now been realized and an unexampled threat emerged at a time the government is struggling to come to terms with the TNA demand for a new Constitution. The TNA itself is under heavy pressure in the north with the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) making progress in the north at the recently concluded polls.

Sampanthan cannot ignore Rajapaksa himself declaring that he wanted the post of the Opposition Leader. Rajapaksa has challenged Sampanthan’s right to remain the Opposition Leader in the wake of the JO/SLPP consolidating its position in areas outside the Northern and Eastern provinces. Sampanthan must be really worried over the situation developing in the Northern Province, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula where the stage is set for a virulent political battle at the forthcoming second Northern Province Provincial Council polls. The TNA-held council will be automatically dissolved in Oct. this year. The TNA faces the challenging task of dropping incumbent Northern Chief Minister, retired Supreme Court judge C.V. Wigneswaran, from its list of candidates. Wigneswaran’s next move can cause turmoil in the Northern Province and undermine the TNA hold, especially in the wake of the TNPF taking a harder stand on the accountability issue. Having made electoral gains in the Jaffna peninsula at the recently concluded polls, the TNPF, ahead of the next Geneva sessions, is now campaigning for the Sri Lanka issue to be moved from Geneva to the UN Security Council. The TNA alleges that the Security Council should now move in as Colombo hasn’t adhered with Geneva Resolution 30/1. The TNPF leadership recently asserted that in case the matter cannot be taken up in New York, the UN should consider the setting up of an international war crimes tribunal.

Wigneswaran is likely to come under pressure to throw his weight behind the TNPF at the coming PC polls campaign. The possibility of the outspoken politician, who is now at loggerheads with the top TNA leadership, joining the fray, too, cannot be ruled out.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Bid to bring in New Constitution in the balance

In the wake of UNP-SLFP rift



The then Gen. Sarath Fonseka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya at an event in Colombo before the breakup of the team that spearheaded the war against the LTTE.

By Shamindra Ferdianndo

Yahapalana leaders as well as those who had furiously campaigned to thwart war-winning president Mahinda Rajapaksa securing a third term at the Jan. 2015 presidential polls, attributed the humiliating defeat suffered by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition at Feb. 10, 2018 countrywide local government polls, to its failure to honour pledges made at the 2015 presidential and parliamentary polls.

 Addressing the media, at the Center for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana, on Feb. 13,     co-convenor of the Purawesi Balaya, Gamini Viyangoda, flanked by former Ravaya editor K.W. Janarangana and Saman Ratnapriya asserted that the ruling coalition lost because of its failure to enact a new Constitution, subject to a countrywide referendum, and robust police-judicial action against corrupt and murderous Rajapaksas and their henchmen. The briefing at CSR was their first response to the LG polls outcome.

Two days later, Ven. Dambara Amila of the same outfit and at the same venue, called for the immediate appointment of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka at the expense of Wickremesinghe loyalist, Sagala Ratnayake to carry out a special operation against the robber barons and murderous Rajapaksa clan. Interestingly, among those who had participated at the media briefing, under the ‘Purawesi Balaya’ banner, were executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, and Nimalka Fernando at the forefront at a campaign to inquire into accountability issues during the conflict, with the focus on Eelam War IV (Aug 2006-May 2009). The first briefing at CSR too had been held under the banner of ‘Purawesi Peramuna’, with Viyangoda and Janaranjana attacking the administration’s failure to enact the new Constitution, though progress was made in parliament to a certain extent.

Janaranjana also pointed out how the inordinate delay in enacting the much-touted National Audit Bill and taking action against the bond scams, involving the Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), influenced the electorate.

An influential section of the UNP blamed party leader and Premier Wickremesinghe for the latest electoral drubbing, while President Sirisena, whose SLFP too experienced a shameful defeat, exploited the opportunity to oust his partner.

 Sirisena’s so far failed plan was meant to pave the way for some sort of a political arrangement with his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa whose Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna/Joint Opposition dealt a massive blow to both the UNP and the SLFP.

Yahapalana proponent, the JVP, and the much troubled Tamil National Alliance (TNA) too suffered significant setbacks in the South and the North, respectively.

The JVP’s situation is far worse than that of the TNA with the electorate in no uncertain terms rejecting its efforts to attract voters on the basis of corruption charges levelled against the UNP, the SLFP and the Joint Opposition.

 A spate of issues influenced the electorate with cost of living, waste, corruption, mismanagement, treasury bond scams, garbage mountains, breakdown in fertilizer supply, problems in school uniform material distribution, foolish move to lift existing restrictions on women buying alcohol and unemployment. The electorate dismissed as ridiculous a promise on the eve of the election to provide free Wi-Fi with disdain.

Both winners and losers obviously ignored perhaps one of the major influencing factors in respect of the Sinhala electorate in their post-poll analysis.

Hostility caused by a failed bid by President Sirisena to oust Premier Wickremesinghe will certainly undermine the project to enact a new Constitution, by end of this year, as demanded by the TNA.

LG polls outcome could have been worse for govt...

 Had the UNP – UNP coalition tried to enact a new Constitution, on the basis of Geneva directives the ruling coalition would have had suffered a far bigger defeat. Geneva prescribed a new Constitution, in accordance with overall remedial measures to address accountability issues. Although two years later Lord Naseby produced irrefutable evidence, in the House of Lords, to justify reexamination of the Geneva Resolution 30/1, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government steadfastly refused to act. For nearly five months, the government ignored nationalist group and JO/SLPP calls to back Lord Naseby, much to the anger and disappointment of a vast majority of people. There had never been an instance of a government refusing to defend its own armed forces at an international forum.

Lord Naseby delivered a stunning blow to the conspiracy involving Western powers, foreign NGOs, civil society groups here, the TNA, LTTE rump and the incumbent regime against Sri Lanka by proving in no uncertain terms that 40,000 Tamil civilians hadn’t been killed during the Vanni offensive.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to act on Lord Naseby’s revelation made on the basis of confidential wartime (Jan-May 2009) British High Commission dispatches from the Office of the Defence Attaché. Reexamination of Geneva Resolution would have derailed the project to introduce a new Constitution.

Outgoing UNHRC chief, Zeid-Hussein, at the 32 Geneva sessions, on June 28, 2016, dealt extensively with Sri Lanka. The former Jordanian career diplomat, in a statement headlined ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, explained, in no uncertain terms, what Geneva expected Sri Lanka to do.

The project to introduce a new Constitution should be examined along with Zeid-Hussein’s statement on June 28, 2016 and the findings and conclusion of the so-called comprehensive investigation undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Zeid-Hussein wanted Sri Lanka to implement recommendations contained therein. The Jordanian also wanted other countries to abide by the recommendations, in line with his request. Australia, last year, denied a visa to Maj. Gen. Chagi Gallage, Director General of Infantry. They found fault with the Gajaba Regiment veteran for commanding a fighting formation on the Vanni east front, during the last phase of the offensive.

Although President Sirisena assured the Army that he would look into foreign governments causing embarrassment to senior military officers, the government did absolutely nothing. Among those who had been present at the time the assurance was given were Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne and Army Chief Lt.Gen. Mahesh Senanayake. 

The bottom line is that Zeid-Hussein unveiled a despicable political agenda meant to transform Sri Lanka at the expense of its unitary status.

 Western powers and India, at the onset of 2015, caused the change of government to enable the intended transformation. Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism in May 2009 had been used as a rallying point twice; against the war-winning President on the basis his armed forces committed war crimes. Although the first project, in which they used General Sarath Fonseka failed in January 2010, the second attempt succeeded. Maithripala Sirisena’s election was meant to ensure political transformation. The handing over of the Interim Report of the Steering Committee, tasked with framing a new Constitution, to the Constitutional Assembly, by Premier Wickremesinghe last year, marked an important step towards achieving that overall political objective, namely a brand new Constitution.

Delayed new Constitution project lessens impact

 Although, the Geneva project has been delayed, it has been on track until the electorate inflicted a heavy defeat on those pushing for a new Constitution. Although, they hadn’t commented on how the project to introduce a new Constitution could have had caused/contributed to debilitating polls setback, they cannot ignore the Geneva factor with the next sessions scheduled to commence next week. Before discussing the matter further, let me reproduce verbatim what Zeid-Hussein stated in respect of the proposed new Constitution being pushed by them in his June 28, 2016, address in Geneva:

* Significant momentum has been achieved in the process of constitutional reform. On 10 March 2016, Parliament adopted a resolution establishing a constitutional assembly to draft and approve a new constitution or amendments by the end of 2016, which would then be put to a referendum in 2017. The drafting process has benefited from an inclusive public consultation process overseen by a Public Representations Committee that received submissions and held district level consultations in the first quarter of 2016.

= From a human rights perspective, the constitutional reform process presents an important opportunity to rectify structural deficiencies that contributed to human rights violations and abuses in the past and reinforce guarantees of non-recurrence. These could include a more comprehensive Bill of Rights, stronger institutional checks and balances, enhanced constitutional review, improved guarantees for the independence of the judiciary, effective individual complaints mechanisms and greater direct enforceability of international human rights treaty. Also, as demonstrated by other countries’ experience, is the strengthening of civilian oversight over the military in the form of multiple oversight and accountability mechanisms over defense policy, discipline and promotion, budgeting and procurement. The new Constitution will also be important in facilitating the establishment of the transitional justice mechanisms envisaged by the Government, for instance the criminalization of international crimes in national law or allowing for the involvement of international judicial personnel. At the same time, the High Commissioner hopes that the political process of adopting constitutional changes will not involve tradeoffs and compromises on core issues of accountability, transitional justice and human rights.

 For some strange reason, the previous Rajapaksa government steadfastly refused to make representations on behalf of Sri Lanka. In fact, their refusal facilitated the UN project. The previous government’s foolish response to war crimes allegations certainly facilitated the UN project in which the US played a significant role in forming a UNP-led alliance that involved the TNA, the JVP the SLMC and well paid civil society groupings.

Unholy alliance intact

 Having suffered an LG polls debacle, an influential section of the government and those civil society groups repeatedly claimed that President Sirisena’s 2015 mandate was still intact therefore the government should go ahead with the project to introduce a new Constitution. They insisted that the anti-Mahinda vote comprising the UNP, SLFP, JVP, TNA and the SLMC among others still amounted to nearly 55 per cent, whereas the former president received approximately 44 per cent.  They convincingly refrained from mentioning the so-called anti-Mahinda vote comprised the grouping that had received instructions from the US to bring Rajapaksa rule to an end in January 2010. The same grouping succeeded five years later. And in spite of the LG polls defeat, leading proponents of the yahapalana government seemed to be confident that even if President Sirisena quit his alliance with the UNP, the grouping can continue.

False, malicious and still unproven war crimes allegations remained intact and needed to be challenged in Geneva without further delay.

With crucial elections to nine Provincial Councils, including the Northern PC, now scheduled to be held in 2018 and 2019, in addition to presidential polls, in one year and 8 months, and parliamentary polls in two and half years, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe cannot continue to ignore the need to review their joint stand on the Geneva Resolution.

 Yahapalana partners certainly paid a very heavy price for not addressing human rights issue in a professional manner. Instead of defending the country, they allowed the UN to pursue a high profile campaign against it on the basis of unproved allegations.

Foreign Ministry co-sponsored Geneva Resolution 30/1 just over a week after outgoing Sri Lankan’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, rejected the original draft alleging it didn’t help post-war reconciliation process. Aryasinha will return to Colombo later this month.

The Foreign Ministry that had virtually turned a blind eye to Lord Naseby’s explosive revelations which could have been comfortably used in Sri Lanka’s defence, pounced on military attaché Brigadier Priyankara Fernando, attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission, in London, in the wake of his ‘throat slitting’ gesture during a protest outside the mission by British nationals of Sri Lankan origin. The Gemunu Watch officer is on record as having said that he only signalled the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE. The writer, in the run up to the Feb. 10 polls, had an opportunity to present an alternative opinion regarding war crimes issue to authoritative British representatives. They reminded how former British HC translator Anton Balasingham, after having had received British nationality, ended up in the UK as LTTE theoretician ‘Dr Balasingham’ (although in actual fact he had no doctorate) and was allowed to operate with impunity, even after the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug. 2005.

A dismal past

 The UNP hasn’t been able to stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE contrary to predictions of many pundits, in May 2009. In fact, the UNP pursued its strategy on the basis that the LTTE cannot be defeated, militarily, under any circumstances. Throughout the combined security forces campaign, beginning with the seizure of Sampur, in early Sept. 2006, close on the heels of Mavil-aru battle, the UNP, Colombo based diplomatic community, so-called civil society, as well as an influential section of the media, believed it was only a matter of time before the LTTE inflicted an irrevocable defeat on the Army. They believed the LTTE had the wherewithal to crush the Army on the Vanni west. They were certain that the Jaffna-based fighting Divisions couldn’t break through the Vanni front-line in the peninsula extending from Kilali across Muhamalai-Eluththumaduval to Nagarkovil.

The LTTE strategy could have succeeded had its assassination attempts on the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came through in late April and early Dec. 2006.

Soon after the armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009, the UNP reached an understanding with the TNA and the JVP to field Fonseka against Rajapaksa. The UNP ignored that the TNA, until the very end of the war, stood by the LTTE after having declared it as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in late 2001. The parliament never responded to the TNA endorsement of both locally and internationally proscribed terrorist organization. The parliament also conveniently ignored the EU Election Observation Mission report that dealt with the April 2004 parliamentary polls. The EU accused the TNA of being the direct beneficiary of violence directed by the LTTE at those who contested the parliamentary polls in the then temporarily merged northern and eastern province. It even accused Tigers of stuffing ballot boxes to help the LTTE to secure victory.

The Kumaratunga-Rajapaksa administrations are accountable for not taking action against the TNA until the grouping ended up in the UNP-led group. All major political parties and the Elections Commission cannot be excused for not taking up with the TNA its part accountability in the Eelam War IV. The electorate never pardoned the UNP for belittling the war effort and post-war treatment of the armed forces. Sirisena’s SLFP too cannot absolve itself of its failure to defend the armed forces during the past three years, though the writer firmly believes a comprehensive judicial inquiry with full participation of foreign judges and other experts is mandatory to clear bogus charges. Stepping up on the earlier accusation against Sri Lanka of massacring over 40,000 civilians within five months, a British MP told UK parliament in Sept, 2015 that the SLA massacred 100,000 Tamils, including 60,000 LTTE cadres in 2009. Western powers and the UN should have presented all available information/data for verification. They refused to do so for obvious reasons. Thanks to Lord Naseby, the world now knows what the British government refused to divulge officially so far. In fact, Lord Naseby’s assertion tallied with wartime UN report that estimated the number of dead, including LTTE combatants at 7,721, between Aug. 2008 and May 13, 2009.

 Wickremesinghe’s UNP never appreciated the Rajapaksa’s strategy. Addressing a public rally in Galle in mid-2007, the then Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe questioned the importance of the Army capturing strategically vital Thoppigala in the eastern theater of operations. Wickremesinghe belittled the army’s success and queried why the government felt regaining Thoppigala was so important. Wickremesinghe declared: Thoppigala is a big jungle. What is so important about Thoppigala? When we implemented the Mahaweli project, we left Thoppigala. How many times Thoppigala was captured? It was nothing but a massive forest, comprising 700 square kms. Thoppigala is bigger than the Colombo district."

Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who had been a member of the Rajapaksa’s cabinet responded to Wickremesinghe: "Clearing of LTTE bases in Thoppigala region marked the liberation of the entire Eastern Province. All Sri Lankans are happy about the armed forces victory over terrorism." Referring to Wickremesinghe’s declaration that clearing of Thoppigala jungles didn’t matter and wasn’t militarily important, Dr. Senaratne said Wickremesinghe always made such blunders. Wickremesinghe had paid a heavy price for disparaging statements on the armed forces. Wickremesinghe hadn’t been able to achieve political victories for want of a sensible approach towards the armed forces, Dr. Senaratne said. Senaratne said that no sensible person could be unhappy over the LTTE’s defeat in the east. The outspoken politician declared that those who couldn’t appreciate the armed forces triumph over terrorism were traitors.