Daily Archives: October 23, 2006
Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema signed the MoU at the Temple Trees at the auspicious time in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
President Rajapaksa said that the new agreement is aimed at ushering in a new culture where everybody puts the country first, without thinking of personal gains. “This culture would help us to defeat terrorism and ensure a conducive atmosphere in the country where everybody could live in peace and harmony,” he said. President emphasized that a nation could march forward only by shedding petty political differences and work in unity.
Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayakethero and Speaker of Parliament W J M Lokubandara also spoke at this occasion.
The signing took place amidst chanting of pirith by Buddhist monks. Hindu, Christian and Muslim priest too offered their prayers at the occasion. The Sri Lanak Rupavahini Corporation and several other television channels telecasted the event live.
This is the text of the historic MOU.
This Memorandum of Understanding between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party represents the inauguration of a new political environment eagerly awaited by the public of this country, which replaces the hitherto existing politics of confrontation with the politics of active cooperation on national issues, in the interests of the nation.
On the 12th of October 2006, H E President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is the Head of the Government and the Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and the Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and the Leader of the United National Party, after careful and sustained deliberation have agreed to collaborate in addressing the national issues in regard to peace, good governance and development.
The Parties, recognize that the fundamental challenge that stands in the way of the realization of the goals of peace, good governance and development is that of a just political solution acceptable to all communities.
In pursuance of the objectives referred to above, we, Maithripala Sirisena, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Malik Samarawickrama, Chairman of the United National Party, hereby declare our agreement to cooperate as set out below:
1. The plenary meeting of the Delegations of the two Parties discussed the following Papers submitted by the sub-committees for presentation to the two Leaders:
i. Conflict in the North & East
ii. Electoral Reforms
iii. Good Governance
iv. Social Development
v. Proposed structure for collaboration
2. The two Parties will cooperate with each other in the areas enumerated in Clause 1(i) to (iv) above. The issues referred to in Clause 1 (v) above, including the modalities for collaboration, will be implemented at an early date after further direct discussion between the two Leaders and acceptance by the appropriate bodies of each of the two Parties.
3. The United National Party in Parliament will support the Government to implement the policies and programmes in the areas enumerated in Clause 1(i) to (iv) above.
4. The United National Party reiterates its commitment to extend support to the Government in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict while opposing terrorism in all its manifestations, and upholding human rights.
5. The United National Party in Parliament shall extend its support to the Government to achieve a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict.
6. The Leader of the United National Party will nominate two Members to the Representative Committee of the All Party Conference.
7. Both Parties agree to expedite the resolution of the present impediments to the effective operation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and to finalize the passage into law of the amendments under consideration to the 17th Amendment.
8. Both Parties will observe the accepted political and democratic norms applicable to governing good relations.
9. The time frame during which this Agreement will remain operative will be two (02) years from the date of signing hereof.
10. Both Parties agree to the establishment of a High-Level Committee headed by the H. E. the President and the Leader of the Opposition (including an equal number of representatives of each of the two Parties) to oversee the implementation of the above agreements arrived at between the two Parties and to cooperate with each other in regard to the resolution of any disagreement which may arise in the course of implementation of this Agreement and the policies and programmes set out in Clauses 1 to 8 above, and the fulfillment of the agreed national agenda, so as to achieve just and durable peace, good governance and sustainable development in Sri Lanka".
By N. Sathiya Moorthy
The ongoing discourse in Sri Lanka and outside over the Supreme Court’s order invalidating the merger of the North and the East may in a way open up a new debate on the confusion in certain quarters between ‘cultural nationalism’ and ‘constitutional nationalism’. Each flows from the other and into the other, too, but then it is a part of an evolutionary process. Over the decades and centuries, this process saw participating political kingdoms identified with an underpinning of ‘cultural nationalism’ evolving and merging as parts of a constitutional nation-State in the modern sense of the term.
Today, ‘cultural nationalism’ has greater significance in personal and societal lives, even in a political and electoral sense. ‘Constitutional nationalism’ is related even more to exercises in nation-building and Constitution-building as they have evolved in turn. ‘Cultural nationalism’, while desirable, does not make for a ‘nation-State’. A good example is that of the ‘Tamil Diaspora’ of the Indian or/and Sri Lankan stock, their centuries-old migration either as traders to the Bali Islands, or as interred labour across the world. The Union of India, the famed ‘unity in diversity’ of the post-Independent India, is in a way a standing example of the latter. Here, varied cultures, despite a common thread as linking Sri Lanka ‘s, have united politically with ‘constitutional nationalism’ serving both as a vehicle and touchstone.
Against this, the Arab, and later-day Islamic traders settled in nations like Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia, have subsumed their ‘cultural identity’ and ‘political identity’ with those of the locals. The merger of their cultural and political identities is complete, and has been strengthened by the propagation of successive generations through conversions and inter-marriages with the converted people. This is true of the Christian community too, which again arrived in these alien lands only for purposes of trading. So very complete is the subsuming of their cultural and political identities that only their ‘adulterated’ but mostly unaltered ‘religious identity’ remains.
The Supreme Court verdict in the ‘North-East de-merger case’ has naturally generated extreme reactions from either side of the ethnic divide – and on expected lines. Yet, there is a moderate opinion across the country, which mostly overlaps with the constituency that has welcomed the decision of the two ‘Sinhala majors’, namely the ruling SLFP and the Opposition UNP, to work together in addressing the ‘national question’ and working on a ‘national agenda’. This constituency has also been enthused by the decision of the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to pursue the peace process even while their men continue to battle it out. Read the rest of this entry
With the landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ruling SLFP and the Opposition UNP slated for signing today several of the country’s business leaders who are members of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce have whole heartedly welcomed the move. Some described it as a dream come true which augurs well for peace and prosperity in the country. Following are some of their comments.
Premier blue chip John Keells Holdings Chairman Susantha Ratnayake said: ‘We at John Keells unreservedly welcome this initiative by the two main political parties. We applaud the statesmanship shown by the leaders of both parties at this critical moment.”Aitken Spence Managing Director Rajan Britto: “The two main parties of the country working together is a great achievement for the nation and we sincerely hope everyone will help implement the MoU as this could be the last hope for peace and prosperity.”
Hayleys Chairman Rajan Yatawara: “A united front towards solving the problem is the only way forward.”
MAS Holdings Chairman Mahesh Amalean: “We welcome the initiative by the two main parties to work together to resolve national issues. There are several countries in the region which have succeeded due to political stability. We sincerely hope that the entire nation will support this initiative thereby usher peace and development.”
Hemas Holdings CEO Husein Esufally: “The lack of a national consensus has been a major obstacle towards Sri Lanka’s post independence development. We congratulate both parties on this far sighted move and wish them all successes”.
AMW Deputy Chairman and former Ceylon Chamber Chairman Tilak de Zoysa: “I salute the leadership of both parties for their statesmanship. I am confident this will be the dawn of a new political culture and will lead to peace and prosperity for a Sri Lankans.”
Former Ceylon Chamber Chairman Ken Balendra: “From way back as 1998, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has been advocating and lobbying the two main political parties to adopt a bipartisan approach to national issues. I am delighted that at long last this is now in the list of possibilities and I sincerely hope that if an MoU is signed between the main political parties it will not merely be another a piece of paper and that the two parties will genuinely act on it. I will go further to suggest that all elected representatives should close ranks for a specified period to address and resolve the problems that have been holding the country back for far too long. During this specified period, elected representatives who are the most capable and best equipped, irrespective of their political affiliations and seniority, should be in charge of the different areas to work as a team, to deliver the results that the people demand. Ours is a country with great potential which over the decades the majority of politicians whether in government or in the opposition, have just about destroyed in many a way. I hope this will come to an end and that future historians will say that the year 2006 brought in its wake enlightened politicians of all political affiliations who put the nation before themselves for the greater benefit of the present and future generations of Sri Lankans and in the process, changed once and for all, the political culture in our country. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”
Ceylon Chamber Chairman Mahen Dayananda: The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is viewing the MoU with great admiration. National consensus in vital areas has created an air of optimism which has not been evident in this country for a considerable period of time. The Chamber extends its unremitting support to these positive initiatives”
Immediate Past Chairman of Ceylon Chamber Deva Rodrigo: “The decision by the SLFP and the UNP to work together on select national issues is a laudable bipartisan approach and the country must support all initiatives of bipartisan nature.”
HNB Chairman Rienzie Wijetillake: “Commitment from the two leaders is what is critical for the two parties to work towards solving the country’s problems jointly.”
Central Finance Managing Director Eranjith Wijenaike: “An inclusive process as well as compromises are critical to resolve national issues. In that context the MoU is a great encouragement.”
Akbar Brothers Director and Ceylon Tea Traders Association Chairman Tyeab Akbarally: “We salute the major political parties for approaching National Consensus by adopting a new political culture, eschewing confrontational agendas and harmoniously addressing vital national issues.”
Carson Cumberbatch Director Suresh Shah: “It is a great achievement that the two main parties have come together and found common ground to work on key national issues. The private sector as well as the all other stakeholders must support this initiative.”
Abans Chairperson Mrs.Aban Pestonjee: “We are very happy that the Government and the UNP have finally decided to get together in arriving at a lasting solution for peace which indeed is the need of the hour and is most welcome by the peace loving public of Sri Lanka. The decision wilt not only help to put our resources to better use but wilt also be a great stride in taking the country forwards in its economic development. We sincerely hope that this will be the beginning of a great achievement we all should salute.
Eagle Insurance Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi: “Doing what is right for the nation to unleash its potential is the need of the hour. The leaders of today owe it to the future generations of this country The consensus that the two leaders and the major political parties have reached on national issues are critical and significant in this context. There can be many forces within and out side to create imbalance in this unique coming together for a long time in our history. Civil society, business community and media have a very important role in creating the right atmosphere for this process to be eve loved stronger and strengthen the relationship than to destroy it. Mahathma Gandhi said – Almost anything you do is insignificant. But it is very important that you do it.”
Union Assurance Managing Director Marina Tharmaratnam: “I welcome the decision to forge a MoU, which confirms that the two leaders are looking at the national interest. Such an attitude rather than pursuing personal ambitions is required from all.”
At last the United National Party has agreed to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with president Rajapaksa’s government . The motto behind this agreement , I was privately told by the Leader of the Opposition is that his Party wanted to support the peace process.
Responding to President Rajapaksa’s appeal to all the political parties to co-operate with his government to overcome the issues pertaining to national integration , the responses received mainly from the Southern political parties indicate that Sri Lanka is just going to begin its march towards unity, peace and prosperity.
Political “WILL” on the part of major political parties and the minor political parties to reach common ground or consensus had been a real dream since Independence is the fact that emerges from the Parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka. This dream , if viewed from an optimistic perspective , is going to be “ real” once the MoU is signed between the United National Party and the political coalition of People’s Alliance.
United National Party being the most strongest single leader political party with a vote bank exceeding 40 percent of the constituents is a party which ruled this country for more than three decades. At the last Presidential election ,United national Party(UNP) has marginally lost the Presidency of the country due to inadequately explained reasons. Being the strongest political party which commands national as well as international respect for upholding democratic traditions of good governance ,it was never envisaged that such a party would come to terms with the present government to sign the MoU while it stands as the most powerful Opposition in the House of Parliament.
Despite many negative speculations that prevailed during the last couple of months over the possible political co-operation between the UNP and President Rajapaksa’s government , political developments within the country went in favour of the latter. The Working Committee or the Apex body of the United National Party after many deliberations with assents and dissents has taken a crucial decision to support the peace initiatives of the present government. Accordingly it has given a mandate to the Leader of the party –Ranil Wickremesinghe – to sign the historic MoU with President Rajapaksa’s government provided the latter accepts the six conditions laid down by the Working Committee of the United National Party.
The significance of this agreement is that this was the first time in the history of Sri Lankan democratic politics where the two major political parties in the south agreed to co-operate in resolving the chronic problem of national integration. The political “will” that is being exhibited by the UNP speaks nothing but its commitment to national integration through peaceful means. President Rajapaksa’s commitment in the same direction needs to be rightly understood by all the communities in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan diaspora.
The efforts of the Sri Lankan government in safeguarding the security of the country and citizens of all races should not be mistakenly linked with the genuine peace efforts of the Sri Lankan government. Because terrorism is one issue and peace is another issue. Terrorism in any part of the world is handled by the government armed forces . This is very clear from how the United States of America handles terrorism at global scale. America is involved in humanitarian intervention and no country could blame the American government for humanitarian intervention .Likewise the Sri Lankan government cannot be blamed when it makes humanitarian intervention in the North Eastern provinces. It is the bounden duty of the armed forces to fight against terrorism in safeguarding the security interests of all communities .
Leaving the issues of national security with the armed forces, the political leadership of the country should try to find political solutions to the issues of national integration. The political will expressed in the form of MoU between the government and the UNP indicates nothing but the consensus to reach agreement on a critical issue(so called ethnic issue) that impeded the progress of the country for the last three decades or so.In that context , the MoU between the government and the UNP is a landmark in national democratic politics on the one hand and a major sacrifice on the part of the UNP on the other . No any other single political party would have made such a sacrifice in much spoken “ co-operative politics” .What may be implied from the MoU, is that it may be the beginning of co-operative politics and the end of confrontational politics. Confrontations are likely to emerge if the stakeholders are contending to take ministerial portfolios without the approval of the party leadership.
The MoU between the government and the main Opposition is important in another respect. That is in dealing with the LTTE. The latter which emerged as a liberation movement of Tamil speaking peoples of Sri Lanka were able to gain international sympathy for many long years since the Black July of 1982.In recent years although it was branded as a terrorist organization by many countries including the United States, U.K. Canada and India , LTTE remains as a major party to the Sri Lankan Conflict which is centred on the issue of a separate state (Eelam) Many battles have been fought between the armed forces of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, causing much destruction to the life and property of both combatants and the civil population at large. The attention of the international community was drawn to Sri Lanka when political violence began to escalate in the North –Eastern provinces. Friendly countries like the USA, U.K and Japan , Pakistan and India among others made sincere efforts to help the Sri Lankan government to find an amicable solution to the North East conflict. Such efforts , however did not materialize due to the tug of war between the two major political parties who always engaged in the game of power politics.At every election , one stood against the other and attempted to nab power through confrontational politics. With the signing of the MoU between the two major political parties,it may be expected by that the era of confrontational politics should end for the benefit of the country .
Subsequent to the introduction of Norway facilitation as peace brokers following the MoU signed between the Wickremesinghe(as the Prime Minister) Government and the LTTE in 2002, question of national integration remained as the major issue that has to be settled between the government and the combatants .The International community since that time onwards repeatedly insisted that the Southern political parties must co-operate in finding a political solution to the North East conflict.
Signing of the agreed Memorandum by the two major political parties and the consent expressed by the Southern political parties in taking joint action in the peace process is undoubtedly a historic moment in the history of Sri Lankan politics. It is historic because nations of the international community would be able to influence or pressurize the Sri Lankan government in giving direction to the peace efforts. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has once made this point very clear to the Norwegian facilitator and other peace brokers. With the signing of the MoU between the two major political parties, an opportunity will arise for the democratic political parties in Sri Lanka to solve our own problems by our own means with no influence generating from external sources. This would give ample opportunity to isolate the LTTE if they do not bow to public opinion at both national and international level. The role of the international community, particularly of the much criticized role of the Norwegians , is likely to minimize when the Southern political parties agree on issues pertaining to the North East conflict and national integration.
Once this agreement is signed between the Government and the Opposition , the differences that impeded to reach consensus on the North East Conflict may be eliminated. If the parties to the memorandum make any efforts to score political mileage , then the expected outcome would not materialise. For any fruitful co-operation , opinions have been expressed in certain political quarters that the government should offer some ministerial portfolios to certain members of the UNP. This is a matter for the government and the parties to decide. What we advocate is that MoU should not have been a “horse trade deal. “ The Public is aware about the Merchant class of people among parliamentarians who are hoping to get ministerial portfolios. If the opposition or any section of the opposition opted to take cabinet portfolios without the consent of the Apex body , it would be detrimental to the spirit of the MoU. Above all, there is a fear whether there would be dissensions, rivalry and confrontations would arise among the colleagues of the same party if they were not offered portfolios.
The UNP by supporting the government’s peace initiatives is unlikely to incur a loss .Instead it may gain the confidence of the nation. I recall how the Opposition of the U.K. during the time of the Second World War supported the then British Prime Minister Churchill in his war efforts. Although Churchill won the war , he was defeated at the next immediate general election .The crucial factor was the economic constraints. What is done by the Opposition here is not supporting the war efforts but the peace efforts. That is a compulsion on the part of the party . Once this is done and the party concentrates on economic reforms it would be very meaningful for the party in winning the constituents. One day the people in Sri Lanka will feel that the problem of hunger is more important than that of peace. Whether peace is achieved through cooperative politics or not , hunger would be the major issue that would decide the fate of future governments. With this objective in mind the UNP has to extend its maximum co-operation in governmental peace efforts while strengthening its political base.
The issue of getting ministerial portfolios by the members of the UNP is not within the purview of academics and it may be decided by the party leaderships. What is crucial at this moment is that the international community should support the peace efforts of the government by pressurizing the LTTE to come to terms with the Sri Lankan government backed by all major political parties.
The peace talks to be held in Geneva on 28th of this month could harvest best results , if the LTTE agrees to give up its Eelam demand in the first place and express its will to enter into democratic politics in the second place. Then Karuna or Devananda would not be enemies of Prabha. This is the only way out for the LTTE to enter into a WIN-WIN game. All the problems pertaining to the Tamil ethnic minority could be resolved once the Tamil political parties deviate from confrontational and violent politics and contest elections in North Eastern provinces .The International community should extend no sympathy for those “radical elements “ who suck the blood of the people.
In the above context, there is no doubt that the international community will support the government peace efforts in finding a permanent settlement to the ethnic conflict termed terrorism in Sri Lanka. The message imparted by the Memorandum of Understanding between the UNP and the President’s Government speaks that they stand united for peace in Sri Lanka .
Professor of International Politics University of Colombo