Daily Archives: July 2, 2006
The long distance call for Bala was from the Wanni. It was from Velu and he was angry…
"Bala, what have you done this time?" Velu asked.
"Why, Thambi, what is wrong?"
"You have apologised to India for killing their Prime Minister…"
"No, Thambi, I didn’t…"
"But that is what everyone is saying and it’s all over the newspapers and television…"
"I only expressed regret, Thambi…" Bala explained.
"I would think, that is the same as saying sorry…"
"No, Thambi, it is slightly different…" Bala pointed out.
"What is the difference anyway? After all, the man is dead now…"
"But, Thambi, why are you so worried about this?" Bala asked.
"Why, Bala, can’t you think of what will follow?"
"There is nothing to worry about regretting an incident, Thambi…"
"But imagine what can happen next, Bala…"
"Why, Thambi, what are you worried about?"
"Everyone will be demanding apologies, Bala…" Velu said.
"And who would they be?" Bala queried.
"Why, we have so many on the list, I do not know where to begin…" Velu observed.
"But Thambi, we don’t have to apologise to any of them…" Bala assured.
"Just imagine, Premadasa’s family will want an apology, Gamini’s family will demand an apology and so will Ranjan’s family…" Velu pointed out.
"But that does not mean we will apologise to any of them…" Bala insisted.
"And even Satellite might demand an apology for trying to get her killed and damaging her eye…"
"But we will not apologise to her either…" Bala persisted.
"And then, what about the thousands we have massacred at various times, Bala?" Velu wanted to know.
"Well, what about them?"
"They too will be demanding apologies and expressions of regret…" Velu argued.
"But the truth is, we don’t regret any of those events…" Bala said.
"But they will still demand apologies…" Velu argued.
"And we will not apologise, Thambi…"
"But, Bala, there is another problem…" Velu said.
"What is that, Thambi ?" Bala wanted to know.
"Now we are denying everything that we do; we even denied what happened in Kebithigollewa…"
"But that has been our style all these years…" Bala said.
"But when you start apologising for killing India’s Prime Minister, people will think we are a murderous outfit and will lose faith in our denials…" Velu pointed out.
"Thambi, did you really think that people believed our denials?"
"Well, at least some of them might have…" Velu was hopeful.
"No, Velu, I don’t think anybody did…" Bala said.
"Then, why do we take the trouble to deny all that we do?" Velu was puzzled.
"Ah, we do that because we have to look decent and because all the foreign media will then begin their reports of the incident with the fact that we have denied it, instead of reporting the actual incident…" Bala explained.
"Bala, there is still something I don’t understand…" Velu said.
"What is that, Thambi?"
"What is this difference between expressing regret and apologising that you refer to?"
"Take the incident of Karuna leaving us, for instance…" Bala said.
"Well, what about that?" Velu asked.
"It is an incident we deeply regret now," Bala said, "but we do not apologise for it, do we?"
Velu thought he understood.
Courtesy: Sunday Times
Sajin (circled with top peace players at Chateau de Bossey in Geneva. (right below) Paulina Edwina Williams’ special power of attorney to take legal action against Sajin are
A man is often judged by the company he keeps. President Mahinda Rajapakse is no different. Already the President has come under heavy fire for his association with Ajith Nivard Cabraal, and questions have been raised regarding various business dealings of Cabraal and how it would impact on the nation’s economy given Rajapakse’s recent appointment of him as governor, Central Bank.
Now it seems that President Rajapakse’s blue eyed boy and his coordinating secretary to boot, Sajin de Vass Gunawardena comes with a dubious track record dotted with remand time, fraud bureau investigations, unpaid loans and unfulfilled promises.
President Rajapakse’s style of choosing his advisors and close allies become even more pertinent given that Sajin de Vass Gunawardena was refused a place by Ranil Wickremesinghe when the then prime minister was told that Sajin had a criminal track record. Wickremesinghe was to advice the young man to clear his name first.
It was after this that Sajin went off to Dubai to work with Trico and even there allegedly fell out with the management. However by a happy coincidence he was to meet the then Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapakse who was in Dubai on a visit and young Sajin showed him around.
Rajapakse comfortable in the vernacular and a more simple way of life was rather enamoured of the well spoken young man who was both good in his English and rather spiffy on the computer. To Rajapakse this made Sajin seem like an excellent catch. "Why don’t you come and work for me," the Opposition Leader invited. Sajin de Vass Gunawardena didn’t have to think twice. All his life he had wanted to get into politics. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. But more on Sajin’s re entry anon.
Meanwhile who is this young man so close to the Chief Executive?
Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, 33 years of age, is already Coordinating Secretary to President Mahendra Percy Rajapakse and is a well spoken, charming young man. He is also a key though nebulous figure in Rajapakse’s peace process.
In February this year at the first round of peace talks between the Tigers and the government, Sajin was to creep into the negotiation room at Chateau de Bossey in Geneva in a surrepticious manner. His name did not appear in any of the official lists.
He arrived a day later than the official delegation which consisted of such renowned names as H. L. De Silva, Gomin Dayasiri, Palitha Kohona and John Gunaratne. He was sent there as a special emissary of the President himself to oversee and spy on the proceedings and the government players. Already seniors in politics such as Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Mangala Samaraweera were beginning to look upon him as an unsavoury upstart.
If the second round of peace talks scheduled for April had materialised no doubt Sajin would have winged his way to cooler climes again. However in June his role in the peace process became less nebulous and more potent. The LTTE while rejecting the peace talks on various grounds agreed to meet in Oslo to discuss the limited issue of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, its constitution and its security.
Having hemmed and hawed over its participation, the government finally decided to send a third level team to Oslo for the talks to be held on June 8 and 9 headed by Peace Secretariat Chief and consummate diplomat Palitha Kohona. To assist him was none other than young Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Shanaka Jayasekara of the Peace Secretariat and Attorney-at-Law, Gomin Dayasiri.
So who is Sajin? What perhaps has endeared him to President Rajapakse and why has this young man been shot to the top like a Sirasa Superstar?
Sajin is the son of A. De Vass Gunawardena who was for a space after Chandrika Kumaratunga’s regime took over government in 1994, the director general of the Board of Investment.
Vass Gunawardena senior was a remnant of the Premadasa era. However he continued as BOI chairman for sometime until replaced by Chandrika’s favourite, Thilan Wijesinghe.
It was during his father’s time at the BOI in 1995 that he got involved with the Grayline Group which at the time was considered controversial in their business dealings. At Grayline owned by Lal Wijeratne, as the new Project Development Manager Sajin proved a useful tool able to have easy access to the much sought after BOI due to his father’s position.
Sajin was still a young buck of 22 and was described by those who knew him then as an enthusiastic gung ho chap with a silver tongue and a smooth and slick manner. This always fooled the gullible person into helping him with money matters. And Sajin had one flaw. He couldn’t stop borrowing money and not paying back, until the police came knocking on his door. Before long, due to various issues he parted company with Grayline.
Sajin then decided in 1994 to launch into business at the Biyagama Free Trade Zone. He set up a company called Tapes International Pvt Ltd. Incorporated on October 11, 1994 the objectives of the company were to carry on business as manufacturers and dealers of adhesive gum tape, cellotape, silicon plated paper and aluminium coated sachets and byproducts.
In order to start the company at the time he was to obtain a loan of Rs. 2.5 million from a couple, Wimalasiri and Shirani Fernando of 14, Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7. A cheque was accordingly made out and one of the witnesses to the transaction was his father A. D. de Vass Gunawardena. After a couple of months however Sajin began to default on his interest payments and the Fernandos filed action for Rs. 3.5 million inclusive of interest in the district court of Colombo.
Shirani Fernando when contacted by this newspaper declined any further comment except to state that the case had been concluded and the chapter was closed.
That apart, the subscribers to this company were of course Sajin de Vass Gunawardena of 4/1, First Lane Egodawatte Road, Boralesgamuwa, his brother Rohan de Vass Gunawardena also of the same address and Charini Vilakshana de Silva of 117/18, Jaya Mw; Temple Road, Kalubowila who was his first wife.
The smooth talking Sajin is currently in his third marriage and the relevance of that is only to focus on a financial issue involving the second wife.
As at the annual return date of 14/01/1997 Sajin held the majority shares in the company while CF Venture Fund Ltd. was the only other major shareholder.
CF Venture Fund was the finance management company that Sajin approached to finance his FTZ venture. One Hiniduma Liyanage Lakpriya Manoharan Nanayakkara was on the board of CFVF and to the powers that be at CFVF Sajin looked like a personable young man who could get things done. And so they backed his venture for approximately Rs. 2-3 million.
At the time 40% of the funding was provided by CFVF. Approximately 20% by the NDB through equity injection and the rest of the funds was provided by Sajin himself.
It was not soon after that it was discovered that he was siphoning funds from Tapes International Company account to a private bank account. He was in fact drawing out money and issuing certificates on board resolutions even though the Board had never met or resolved any such money transactions.
On June 21, 1996 Sajin was to bring in his father Abeydeera De Vass Gunawardena as a director. At the same time he was also to bring in his uncle, Nandana Abeysuriya who was last month killed in a claymore attack at Wilpattu .
Be that as it may, it was now discovered by the board that Sajin had allegedly claimed he had paid a sum of approximately Rs. 5 million to a construction contractor, Sarath De Costa.
By this time one of Sajin’s close friends, Manoharan Nanayakkara had taken majority control of the company. But Sajin and Manoharan were to fall out – with Sajin in fact even walking into Manoharan’s room at CF Venture Fund and abusing him.
Manoharan Nanayakkara was to resign as a director of Tapes on October 29, 1996.
In January 1997 Manoharan more famously known as Mano Nanayakkara was to sell his shares in the company. It was a Korean company called Young An Lanka Pvt. Ltd. of Export Processing Zone Malwana, Biyagama in the exclusive business of making caps that bought these shares. Thus on February 5, 1997 Choon Jo Kim, Sang Heon Lee and Hyn Jun Lee of this company were appointed as directors of Tapes.
It was on the very same day that Charini Vilakshini De Silva, daughter of former SSP Carlyle Silva resigned. Charini was of course Sajin’s first wife.
Subsequently the Korean company was also to become suspicious about the financial activities of Sajin de Vass Gunawardena. They immediately prepared to bring in lawyers from the United States and to retain other legal luminaries from Sri Lanka to look after their interests at Tapes.
It was at this time that one Sharma of Indian origin was brought in to pump money to the ailing Tapes International Pvt. Ltd. Sharma was in fact introduced to Sajin through his uncle Gamini Abeysuriya who in turn was introduced to Sharma by Dubsy Kanagaratnam of George Steuart fame.
Somewhere in 1999/2000 relations began to sour between Sharma and Sajin. On a complaint made by Sharma the Fraud Bureau filed a case against Sajin in the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court. Sajin was then remanded for a period of 10 days in the Mahara remand prison. However his father again had to rescue the young alleged habitual fraudster and pull some strings in order to place him at the Mahara prison hospital instead.
Standing bail for him in the case were his uncles, the late Nanda Abeysuriya, and Gamini Abeyusirya, formerly director marketing at Singer Sri Lanka. Later Sajin’s father sold his house in Wijerama Mawatha, Gangodawila to settle Sharma and thus the case was settled. Sajin’s father then moved to a residence in Battaramulla.
Account wiped out
The lawyer who appeared for Sajin in the case was Lakshman Ranasinghe.
There is now also a debt recovery action filed against Gunawardena by HNB over Tapes International and the case is now pending in the Colombo Civil court.
Nonetheless it was not long after the Sharma affair that Sajin left for Dubai to work with Trico.
If this were all it would yet be sufficient. However the list of Sajin’s transgressions goes on and on. It was his first wife Charini’s father, former Senior Superintendent of Police, Carlyle de Silva that was now the victim of this smooth talking man. Sajin it is alleged had wanted Rs. 600,000 to get him out of another familiar financial crisis. Being a kind and trusting father-in-law, Carlyle was to give his son-in-law at the time, Sajin, a blank cheque. Sajin allegedly quickly wrote down the enhanced sum of Rs. 2 million and by this wiped out the bank account of Carlyle Silva. Carlyle, a long time friend of President Rajapakse’s brother Chamal, himself a former police officer in despair wrote to him detailing the facts of the matter and Sajin’s subterfuge.
Sale of car
And then of course there was the other little matter of the car. It was somewhere in early 1996 that his business ally at the time, Mano Nanayakkara who was then married to Lakmali Nanayakkara of Ernst & Young, was successfully sold a car by Sajin that did not belong to him.
In 1996 Mano Nanayakkara was still dealing with Sajin in connection with Tapes International and was perhaps still a tad impressed by the smart smooth talking young man. So when in February or March 1996 Sajin drove in with an almost new black Mitsubishi Lancer and made a sales pitch the couple decided to purchase the car. The car had done some ridiculously low mileage of 2000 miles. The couple felt that a new car would go at about Rs. 950,000 and was happy to pay Rs. 850,000 for it. Sajin in fact even issued a receipt for the payment received.
It was then that the excreta hit the fan. One day as the old driver employed by Nanayakkara was driving in to United Motors he was stopped and told that the car he was driving was infact theirs. Sajin had apparently leased the car from United Motors and with no ownership title had sold the car to a third party. He was also overdue in rental payments and had defaulted for about four months.
United Motors now made a complaint to the police and very soon uniformed police personnel visited the Nanayakkara house in Talahena and requested them to report to the Mulleriyawa police station.
Sources close to Mano Nanayakkara who now reside in Brisbane, Australia told this newspaper that it was then that Mano had confronted Sajin and asked him to return the Rs. 850,000 and return the car to United Motors or face a jail term given the fact he had a reciept for the sale, and the matter was sorted out accordingly.
But as we said the list does not stop. Now he gets entangled with a foreign national, Pauline Edwina Williams, holder of British Passport Number 022542371. Somewhere in September 2002 she was residing in room 242 at the Trans Asia Hotel. Williams was distraught. She was the proprietor of a pleasure yacht ‘Croft Original’ which was at the time lying at the yard at Colombo Engineering Enterprises in Colombo.
She had entrusted the repairs of this yacht to one Frank Wilfred Perera of No. 6, 7th Avenue, Alexandria Estate Jaela. She had remitted to the account of Wilfred Perera the sum of Sterling Pounds 9500 for the said repair to account number 8810002051 at the Commercial Bank at Jaela on April 24, 2002.
Wilfred Perera meanwhile had passed away on June 10, 2002 without being able to effect any repairs and Williams now proceeded to intervene in the testamentary proceedings 324/T for the recovery of this amount.
The late Wilfred Perera of course was interestingly connected. Sajin having divorced Charini De Silva married for the second time Wilfred Perera’s daughter, Dilrukshi, an airline stewardess. Pauline Edwina Williams also alleged that she had sent in October 2000 another sum of US$ 11,000 to Perera also for repairs but no repairs were done.
But Pauline had another grouse. It was obvious that Sajin was now getting involved in yacht repairs. Perhaps it was one reason why his father requested the top post at Sri Lanka Ports Authority during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership. A post that was denied him.
Be that as it may, Pauline Edwina Williams in her complaint to the Fraud Bureau stated that Sajin De Vass Gunawardena accepted a sum of US$ 8,000 for the repair of her yacht but no repairs were affected by him. As Williams was leaving the country she effected a Special Power of Attorney through K. P. Law Associates of 218 Hulfstdorp Street, Colombo 12 on September 27, 2002 appointing an associate to act as her attorney. He was empowered through the special power of attorney to appear before the Colombo Fraud Investigation Bureau or any other police station in respect of the complaint made against Sajin.
In fact the Fraud Bureau through Inspector Pillai (now ASP) obtained an arrest warrant and informed the person holding the power of attorney they were looking to arrest Sajin. The Fraud Bureau thereafter went to the Jaela residence at Alexandria Estate only to be told Sajin was working at Trico. At Trico the Fraud Bureau was told Sajin had left to work in their Dubai office.
Not long after Sajin was to be divorced from Wilfred’s daughter.
So it is this very disturbed and habitually fraudulent young man who had already been rejected by Ranil Wickremesinghe for his dubious track record who was now taken in by Rajapakse, desperate perhaps for English speaking personable young persons to flash up his act.
Anyway having invited the young man to work for him Rajapakse winged his way back having been shown around Dubai by Sajin. When Sajin returned in 2003 he was to work for Rajapakse. Immediately after the general election victory of the UPFA in 2004 and Rajapakse ascended the Prime Ministership and the Highways Ministry, Sajin was appointed General Manager of the Maga Neguma project. Later however he was accused of making over payments to a company run by one of his uncles who stood bail for him in the Sharma case and he was moved out from this position as consultant to the the Palaly runway and KKS breakwater rehabilitation projects.
Sajin was in fact so influential with the then Prime Minister Rajapakse he would sit on invitation at board meetings of the Maga Neguma Road Construction Equipment Co. Ltd. even though he was not a form 48 bona fide director.
But if he was invaluable for whatever reason when Rajapakse was prime minister and leader of the opposition he became even more useful during the presidential campaign last year.
Sajin booked in his name and on behalf of the Rajapakse camp 25 rooms at the five star Cinnamon Grand Hotel to promote the Mahinda Chinthana campaign. The massive bills run up by those using the rooms were however paid regularly with Sajin coming over to the hotel personally and settling the bills. Sajin himself occupied one of the rooms.
However things became a little more sticky after Rajapkse’s victory in November 2005. Almost all those who were occupying the rooms vacated them but there was an outstanding bill of well over Rs. 2 million. To the consternation of the hotel this bill was not settled.
However the Cinnamon Grand now resorted to ‘hostage’ taking in sheer desperation. Fortunately for them one single remnant of the Rajapakse campaign camp remained. That was none other than Dayan Jayatilleke, who is a presidential advisor.
Lo and behold when Jayatilleke having possibly had enough of hotel life attempted to check out he was told that the hotel could not let him leave unless the outstanding bill is paid in full.
Apologising profusely, the hotel told him ‘we are very sorry but you are the only insurance we have to get our money back.’
Jayatilleke shot back, "don’t ask me, ask Sajin about this. He is supposed to make the payments."
So Dayan stayed on as insurance while the hotel tried to contact Sajin who was not available for a couple of days. Nonetheless when the hotel finally reached him Sajin immediately told them, I will have the cash for you in half an hour. And as he promised, the cash of approximately over Rs. 2.5 million was paid and Jayatilleke released from ‘hotel’arrest.
Question is how did Sajin have the money in half an hour? Has he declared these monies to income tax? Worse still is he collecting these from public funds with or without the knowledge of the President?
In the final analysis does a man with such a track record deserve to hold public office? As Coordinating Secretary to the Head of State at that? In President Rajapakse’s book, we guess he does.
Sajin unavailable for comment
The Sunday Leader tried several times to reach Sajin’s office and get through to him on his mobile phone but could not do so. We thus left a message with a lady staffer in his office at the Presidential Secretariat and stated we were writing an article and would like to speak to him urgently in that regard.
We also verified with her Sajin’s email address and sent him a list of questions which we hope he would answer for publication in next week’s issue of The Sunday Leader. By Sonali Samarasinghe
With no clear strategy to face the mounting problems confronting the country, President Mahinda Rajapakse looked to the UNP for help last week even as the LTTE upped the stakes by assassinating the army’s third in command, and calling for a federal solution to resolve the ethnic crisis.The LTTE, no doubt realising the President did not have a game plan to deal with either the international community or the Tigers given the government’s ad hoc reactions to situations as and when they developed, has now opted to toy with Rajapakse as would a cat with a trapped rat in an endeavour to completely isolate him internationally. And this fact was underscored by the LTTE’s response to the secret deal offer made last week by President Rajapakse.
The President’s offer to strike a deal for a two week truce bypassing Norway with an assurance to contain the Karuna group was communicated to the Tigers by Uthayan Editor, N. Vidyaharan on Wednesday, June 21 and the LTTE responded on the evening of Saturday, June 24 in writing by way of an unsigned communiqu‚ from Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan.
It is 36 hours later that the army’s third in command, Major General Parami Kulatunga was murdered by a suicide bomber, but this time round, there was no retaliation by the government in the form of aerial strikes as was the practice in the past.
To that extent the government had learnt its folly given the international condemnation, particularly from India, on the aerial attacks due to the rising civilian casualties but the absence of a clear message from the state following the attack underscored the fact it had no fall back strategy to deal with the emerging scenario.
And having sent a proposal to the LTTE for a secret deal, the President was not in a position to go on a bombing spree either especially when the Tiger response was yet to be communicated to him, notwithstanding the murder of Maj. Gen. Kulatunga.
What the LTTE did with the attack on the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff however was effectively send a message it can strike at will in the south and that no amount of aerial bombardment will deter them. In fact it was just the previous week, the LTTE informed the government officially through Norway, it will retaliate for the aerial attacks and retaliate it did, making Rajapakse look helpless.
Having already flexed its muscles through aerial bombardment following the earlier Tiger attacks, the government’s silence following Parami Kulatunga’s murder was all the more deafening in the backdrop of LTTE having threatened retaliation and Rajapakse was looking increasingly helpless.
Interestingly, at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the decision not to launch counter attacks was discussed and attributed to mounting international criticism due to the resultant civilian casualties with the President himself acknowledging that fact.
It was Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who broached the subject and said that the fact there was no retaliation even in a limited form was a positive sign and viewed as such by the diplomatic community.
"Several ambassadors spoke to me and hailed the President’s decision not to retaliate and said that should be sustained," Samarasinghe said, with Rajapakse nodding his assent.
The President in fact said there was no need for retaliatory attacks especially with the international community monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka and added it was important for the government to get its act together.
How he was going to do that was not vouchsafed in the cabinet though the ministers were given a 45-minute briefing on VIP security by the Commandant of the Special Task Force, DIG Nimal Lewke, the details of which are withheld for national security considerations.
The harsh reality is that the LTTE has incapacitated the Army Commander and murdered the number three and with Deputy Commander Maj. General Nanda Mallawaarachchi on leave pending retirement, the top three are for all purposes out of the military equation and with desertions among the ranks also high, the President now realises war is clearly not an option.
The Supreme Court order on Thursday staying the appointment of Deputy Secretary of Defence Daya Sandagiri was yet another body blow to the President in this respect.
The plummeting state of the economy has further reinforced this thinking since no way is he in a position to finance a war with even the dollar kept at an artificial low by releasing dollar bonds and it won’t be long before the crippling inflation hits the people like another claymore bomb.
It is then a question of facing the ground realities and engaging the LTTE in talks but to do so meant not only neutralising the JVP but getting the UNP on board, both of which were no easy task.
However the JVP, the President has succeeded in subduing to a point under the threat of a snap general election and the Marxists’ silence despite the President attempting to clinch a secret deal with the LTTE underscored this fact.
Interestingly, the President made his offer of direct talks and a two week truce to the LTTE through the Uthayan Editor Vidyaharan and its Publisher, E. Saravanabhavan, just hours after JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa called for the Tigers’ proscription and having Velupillai Pirapaharan charged in the Hague as a war criminal but there has been not so much as a murmur of protest from the Marxists on that score.
It was just days earlier, the likes of Weerawansa marched to the Norwegian Embassy calling for the facilitator’s ouster for being a ‘Tiger sympathiser,’ culminating with the demand for the LTTE’s proscription but then you have the ironic situation of President Rajapakse striving to strike a secret deal with the very same Pirapaharan with an offer to contain Karuna hours later and suddenly the reds’ sense of national fervour has got anaesthetised.
Not only was the JVP completely silenced but even their fellow travellers of extremists who screamed of a ‘Ali-Koti givisuma’ were not only apologetic but blaming the media for disclosing details of the secret offer on various web sites.
And with the extremists eating out of his hand, it was the UNP that was becoming a problem and the President started exploring all avenues to bring the Greens on board to help him out of the situation he has gotten himself into.
Thus on Sunday, June 25, when the President met Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Kotte Raja Maha Vihare, where both were attending the 150th anniversary of the Sri Kalyani Samagi Sangha Sabawa, Rajapakse walked upto the UNP Leader and said "We must get together," indicating an urgent desire to meet.
Wooing the UNP
It was only days earlier the President had informed the media he received SLFP central committee approval to enlist individual UNP MPs to government ranks and the party took this announcement as an act of bad faith by Rajapakse at a time the greens were cooperating with him at the All Party Conference (APC) and Wickremesinghe therefore was not about to jump at the invitation for a dialogue.
And Wickremesinghe politely told the President he was leaving the country Tuesday night and would meet with him after his return.
Rajapakse however was a man desperate since he realised the entire exercise of the APC was rendered impotent with the UNP backing out of the representative committee and that without keeping the greens at the table, he could no longer play for time with the international community on the commitments sought with regard to the Tokyo Declaration and the Oslo Communiqu‚, which called for a federal solution.
Unable to commit to a federal solution as called for by the international community because of the JVP threat, the President hoped to drag out the process by keeping the APC going and claiming a devolution package was being worked out through that forum but that excuse could no longer be trotted out with the UNP calling Rajapakse’s bluff.
Thus, with the UNP reiterating its commitment to the Tokyo Declaration and the Oslo Communiqu‚ and stating in writing it was now upto the President to clearly state his position, it was decision time for Rajapakse.
Further, with the war option already ruled out, the President was now faced with the breakdown of the APC as well, leaving him nothing to offer the country, the LTTE or the international community, hence the desperate attempt to woo the UNP and the Tigers for separate dialogues.
And having failed to get Wickremesinghe’s ear, the President through a mutual friend invited UNP MP Milinda Moragoda for a discussion at Temple Trees on the night of Tuesday, June 27, where once again he broached the subject of the UNP’s participation at the all party representative committee.
Months earlier he made the same attempt to rope in UNP MP G.L. Peiris but failed in that attempt with the member realising the President had no strategy whatsoever to deal with the LTTE politically. Now it was Moragoda he looked to once again, with not much success.
President meets Moragoda
The President told Moragoda he was prepared to work out three or four options through the APC and place it before the LTTE and it was therefore of paramount importance the UNP takes part in the process.
That point of the President alone underscored the reality there can be no consensus through the APC and he was at best only hoping to throw up the respective positions of the various parties, making the exercise one in futility.
Moragoda of course for his part said he believed in a bipartisan approach and promised to communicate the President’s request to Wickremesinghe upon his return, not knowing that earlier in the day the UNP’s political affairs committee had decided it will under no circumstances participate in the representative committee until such time the government makes its position on the issues raised clear.
The UNP in fact took the view the President had burnt his boats by not taking action on the extra judicial killings as well as his failure to contain attacks on civilians, thus queering the pitch for a negotiated settlement.
Joining hands with the President in such a backdrop would taint the UNP too with the extra judicial killings and human rights violations, was the party’s thinking which emerged at the political affairs committee.
Furthermore, the UNP political affairs committee took the view there was no longer a government in force but a limited liability company of the Rajapakse family members and relatives running the country and no way could the party cooperate with such a set up.
What the party decided accordingly was to take the fight to Rajapakse from July and force a general election at the earliest.
Be that as it may, there was one other issue which was niggling the President that day and it concerned the interview LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham had given NDTV of India where the focus was on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The President asked Moragoda whether the LTTE was trying to build bridges with India by expressing regret and describing the murder as a "monumental historical blunder" and the UNP MP said it could possibly be the case.
The conventional wisdom on the issue was that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his alliance partners were working towards bringing a rapprochment between the Congress Party and the LTTE and that an expression of remorse over the Gandhi killing was the first step in that healing process. Hence Balasingham’s statement.
This to the President was a matter of concern given the pressure already brought to bear on the government by India following representations made by Karunanidhi, and Rajapakse made no bones about it.
It was only in January this year, India had provided the government radars to monitor air movements based on an agreement reached by late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure but now such support is not forthcoming primarily due to the influx of refugees to India following attacks on civilians and Rajapakse’s gravitation towards Pakistan and China.
What the President and the government missed however on the Balasingham interview due to the preoccupation with the comments on Gandhi’s assassination were the comments made by Balasingham in relation to a federal solution.
And this is what Balasingham told NDTV as reported in the pro-Tiger TamilNet website on June 27 on being asked about a political solution:
"We were not very happy with the political solution proposed by India because it did not satisfy the political aspirations of our people. If India has offered a federal solution as she has in her own country, then we would have definitely responded positively but the provincial administration proposed by India was totally inadequate to meet the demands of the Tamil people so that’s why we did not support the accord."
The underlying message is that the LTTE would have accepted a federal solution based on the Indian model, a position not only taken by the UNP but also the international community.
That is Balasingham, the fox, once again indirectly recommitting to the Oslo Communiqu‚ called for by the international community and which calls for the exploration of a federal solution, thereby placing the burden on Rajapakse to do likewise.
Mind you, this statement of Balasingham also coincided with Tamilselvan’s response to the President’s proposal for a secret deal which also brought Rajapakse into conflict with the international community.
Having readied the response to the President’s offer in the Wanni, Balasingham gave the finishing touches over the telephone and it was later faxed to Vidyaharan, on the night of June 24, for delivering to the President.
Having got a full toss from the President, the LTTE hit it right out of the ground taking the moral high ground in the process as is clearly evident from the response.
And the LTTE response under the title ‘LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan’s response on the evening of June 24, 2006′ read thus:
"We reaffirm our firm commitment that the LTTE is not prepared for any secret talks with the government.
We further insist that if the government is interested in direct talks with the LTTE without the good office of Norway as facilitator, then the government must publicly and openly declare its intentions. If the government has the will and determination, we will consider to engage in such a dialogue.
Let us point out categorically that it is possible even now at this late stage to hold peace talks with Norway as facilitator without any further delay if the following meaningful steps are taken swiftly:
A) Since it is state forces that commenced killings in north and east with the murder of Vigneswaran, president of the Trincomalee People’s Front, the responsibility lies on the government to halt forthwith all atrocities and violence against Tamils by the security forces and paramilitary groups in the ‘Tamil Homeland.’
b) Paramilitary groups must be disarmed so as to ensure cessation of their activities in the ‘Tamil Homeland’ by removing them out of the north east.
c) The limited economic ban imposed on the Jaffna peninsula must be lifted.
d) Steps should be taken to prevent the abduction of under-aged children with impunity in public and under coercion by Karuna group in collaboration with the Sri Lanka armed forces in the Eastern Province.
e) In view of the harassment and humiliation caused to the LTTE as a result of desecration of the burial ground of the LTTE martyrs, humiliation undergone by the LTTE delegates returning from Oslo talks at the Katunayake International Airport, and the denial of usual transport facilities extended to the LTTE district leaders, we request the government to create a congenial atmosphere of goodwill as a necessary condition for talks.
We reaffirm that if the government adopts these proposals then the LTTE would be prepared to commence talks with Norway functioning as facilitator to prevent an imminent war."
The response was finally handed over to President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga on Thursday, June 29, which the President looked at only later that night.
What the LTTE has done through its response is not only tell the President it is not prepared "for any secret deals," but that they are ready to talk provided the proposals forwarded are agreed to.
It is also pertinent to note the final paragraph which states war is imminent unless the above mentioned steps are adopted and talks resumed with Norwegian facilitation.
More importantly, whilst the LTTE seeks to score brownie points with the international community by insisting on Norwegian facilitation, which the President has sought to bypass, it also calls the bluff on Rajapakse’s pledge to oust Norway as facilitator and have direct talks by calling on him to declare such intentions publicly.
With that said, no longer can the government complain about its inability to oust Norway or for the JVP to keep harping on the subject since the LTTE has given the option to the President, stating it will engage in direct talks if the position of Rajapakse of bypassing Norway is declared publicly.
Furthermore, the President’s pledge to contain the Karuna group during the proposed two-week truce has also given lie to the government’s claim that paramilitary groups do not operate from government territory, a point not lost on the international community either. Those words of the President have also helped prove the SLMM report on the issue wherein the government was blamed for the breakdown of the Geneva talks.
Meanwhile, pressure in India continued to be built up with a protest campaign also planned in Tamil Nadu in support of the Tamil people. And an alliance partner of Chief Minister Karunanidhi, the founder of the Pattali Makkal Katchchi (PMK), Dr. Ramodass last week demanded that the union government take into confidence the Tamil Nadu government and her political leaders before taking any action on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.
Calling on the Indian government not to extend any military assistance to Sri Lanka, Ramodass said India’s help to Sri Lanka should be such that it ensures equal rights for Tamils on par with the Sinhalese. "Otherwise any military assistance will not help in resolving the problem," he said.
Added he – "On providing weapons, a distinction should be made between the island nation and other countries. In respect of Sri Lanka, the possibility of weapons being used against Tamils should not be lost sight of."
This opinion, the government itself helped build in India by its ill considered aerial attacks and is now paying the price for it. Though the President subsequently called a halt to it, the damage has been done and much hard work will have to be done to rebuild the confidence that was lost.
One option the President has in this regard is to take Balasingham at his word and offer a federal solution, placing the burden on the LTTE to come good.
But that calls for the JVP’s sidelining and the million dollar question is whether Rajapakse has got what it takes to do so. The signs don’t look promising.
[Lanka Page Editor's Pick from Inside Politics with Suranimala Sunday Leader]
It was a week of confusion; only the LTTE were not confused but went about their business with deadly precision.
But come to think of it, they too seemed confused. A calculated diabolical pretense of attrition backfired, causing confounded confusion. The ideologue/chief negotiator to the Supremo, obviously on the latter’s orders, cringed to the Indian government with abject apologies for the death of their then heir apparent and beloved of the people. They did not admit killing Rajiv Gandhi, neither did they deny it in their expressed regret. The Indians remember; they never forgave the LTTE nor did they forget their dynastic son. So they turned Anton Balasingham down and indicated he make himself scarce with his croco tears.
Now here was another spot of confusion in our minds. We read in the newspapers that Balasingham was direly ill in England and, within the week, there he was apologizing to the Indians and imploring them to step more forcibly into the peace and war situation in Sri Lanka. Miracle recovery, and exhibiting great energy in their bid to win over India.
The schools closing on Wednesday and thereafter, was justified looking at it from both the parents’ point of view and school administrations’. How hold schools when many parents did not send children to school on Wednesday and others returned promptly to take their children back home when they heard the rumour, which they considered a warning.
The editorial in Friday’s Island understood the situation perfectly. Who is the parent, the editor asked, who would send his/her child to school when a threat makes the rounds. You may know full well that it is a rumour; you know very well that the LTTE will strike when you least expect it and it will be spot on. But how take a risk with your child.
Politicians and even the police promised security and said that schools would be tightly guarded and safety ensured. Stuff and nonsense! If a walking grenade in the form of a pregnant woman was allowed to freely roam within the most tightly guarded (so said) army headquarters, how can thousands of schools be so securely guarded? Also what guard against a suicide bomber?
Send you child to school exhorted the powers that be. We will look after them. Don’t listen to rumours, we were told; rumour mongers would be dealt with severely. We cynically smirk. We heard that the motorcyclist who killed Major General Parami Kulatunge had ridden alongside him on the right and fallen back, ridden alongside on the left and fallen back, and then after having checked whether the target — the third in command of the Sri Lankan army — was within the vehicle and having made sure on which side, precisely collided with the car doing the most damage possible. His flanks were uncovered, there being no outriders on his escort. Didn’t the army personnel going in front or behind see the maneuvering of the motorcyclist? They should have, and rammed into the cyclist, or shot him even if they thought he was a mere rider. Our people, even army and police escorts seem to sleep too much with eyes wide open. We admit that a suicide bomber is absolutely deadly and causes the worst kind of damage, but remember the quick action of an outrider escort to the Army Commander who saved the Commander’s life by ramming the woman, pregnant though she was. That’s the sort of instant reaction that should come naturally to military or police escorts.
And what about the call to the hospital warning that Monday morning they would have extra work shortly? Was the police informed; the army? No, I am sure not! I can well imagine how it went. Either the receiver of the call would have just shaken off the call, not even spending a moment to consider whether it was a call to be taken note of. Or else the receiver would have said, if a woman, s"See aney I am getting a silly call. Must be to speak to me. Aiyo, these nuisance calls talking utter rot."
A friend of the late Major General says that he was not given a house in Colombo though requested for, and so had to continue the long commute, very dangerous, to his headquarters. This is what a friend said. Also this same friend, in high anger continued thus. "And every useless politician is given huge escorts. We were returning from Parami’s funeral when the car I drove was shoved into the drain by the advancing pilot vehicle. Then they whizzed past. I am certain it was a mere minister who is no target of the LTTE." Unuttered was the mix of emotions: sorrow at the brutal death of a good friend and excellent army person, and anger his life was exposed to attack.
Confusion regards matters in ole Blighty — security for an ex; and a show
Confusion in many minds over the great expense, as reported in a newspaper, incurred on the security provided our ex Prez in England. An astronomical figure was quoted as the daily deemanawa to the chief security man over there, probably enjoying spring and summer in the land of the Brits. Is that necessary is what she herself should ask. We ordinary folk feel that the LTTE will now not waste a bullet, leave alone a suicide bomber, on her. Someone should take action on this. Save the money and save our armed forces officers who have given so much to save our country and you, me and the other.
No one in power, probably, wants to bell the cat, (no innuendo intended). So look into that matter and cut the expense incurred on Madam’s security. A letter to the editor even said she helped Prabhakaran’s daughter to have her higher education in Britain. We don’t quarrel with that fact. After all that young woman is a citizen of Sri Lanka, though the daughter of the potential ruler of Eelam. My point is that Madam CBK is in no danger of her life by a suicide bomber or claymore mine. And this is not merely my opinion. This is what is said by the many. Back home here in SL we need money sorely. People are back to feeding their crying infants with spoonfuls of watered down milk, we hear. And fat cats (no innuendo again, only a generalization) have a continuous ball. What about the renovated-at-immense-expense mansion down Independence Square — unoccupied.
I will quote an email that I received from a friend in London. Thus I hope to save my head from the guillotine of avenge for saying nasty things, the truth really.
Waste of money
"Last Saturday we went for the show they had at Trafalgar Square. What an utter waste of money. It would have been a fantastic affair and a wonderful showcase for Sri Lanka, its culture and its products. The venue, as you know, has a rolling populace throughout the day. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, was the chief guest and fine. But our entourage of ministers seemed unnecessary. The First Lady walked in a procession — an idiotic and unprofessional perahera, which only created pomposity. It was a sad sight. The people of importance on stage were like statues from Madam Tussaud’s. No Minister spoke, only the First Lady read a message from HE the President. We suppose the Ministers did some work at the events that followed. We hear there was a retinue of beauticians and hairdressers all having a ball at the Hilton. We left before Channa Wijewardene’s dancers performed and Bhatiya and Santosh sang their songs."
The confusion in my mind is; what good promoting Sri Lanka at a time like this, whether to attract investors or tourists. Both shy away from a terror ridden country where murder most foul in multiplicity is of daily occurrence. Could not the event have been postponed for a time when SL will improve?. Maybe not, after the planning was done and its execution set rolling. But it seems to be a colossal waste of money at this juncture when we are so rock bottom economically. The President had, reportedly, very rightly been furious that so many ministers went on the jaunt, my correspondent says, and I add: thank goodness, at least one person was prevented from swelling the crowd in London. But did the government get back his air ticket money — not economy class for sure?
Confusion over compulsory bedtime for the nation at ten sharp
Much has been written about the Minister of power and energy’s decision to have all TV stations close down by 10.00 p.m. Nothing could be more of an incursion into the general public’s freedom. I won’t repeat the very cogent arguments put forward by the public in letters to the editor and feature articles protesting this ban and showing how idiotic it is. There are other ways to cut costs and reduce electricity consumption. Why not privatize the CEB or use another term but do what privatization does. Yesterday (Friday) on Biz News over MTV an expert said that from the daily loss incurred by the CEB a small hospital could be built. That should wake people up. No, somnambulance is in our very blood, except in the North and East, and if a party shouts loud enough, the powers that be get cowed down. Threatened strikes and strikers could be dealt with, couldn’t they?
Another matter of confusion. The time change, putting our clocks back by one hour seemed to be to accommodate school children so they did not have to rise so early. Now schools start a half hour earlier!
One really thinks we as a nation leap before we even glance around, leave alone look and consider. So we’ll bungle on, making a rule this minute and withdrawing it the next.
We stumble on, from confusion to confusion confounded and mayhem all around. -Sunday Island