Daily Archives: October 25, 2006
Forbes magazine, Asia in its October edition, included John Keells Holdings Limited (JKH) in its latest rankings of the top 200 small and midsize enterprises in the region with revenues under a billion dollars. The top 200 companies in the Best Under a Billion comprise listed entities with sales under US$ 1 billion that have posted solid top- and bottom-line gains and appear headed for more.
JKH is the only Sri Lankan company to be included in the Forbes top 200 this year.
Forbes Asia states that “track records of sustained growth and profitability distinguish these companies, as do savvy, and often founding, management teams with business models increasingly aimed at sales both at home and abroad”.
The operating and financial track record of the John Keells Group along with its aggressive expansion in recent years has been recognised by Forbes Magazine, Asia.
Further, in its analysis of the companies in the top 200, Forbes reveals that, weighted by market cap, these companies have outperformed the FTSE Small Cap Asia Pacific benchmark index during the past one year. In the last financial year, the JKH share had a total shareholder return (TSR) of 42.4 per cent.
From South Asia, the list includes 23 companies from India and 3 companies from Pakistan, in addition to JKH from Sri Lanka.
Should adopt Intl. Convention for Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances
Institute effective investigations into all the disappearances and killings
By Nikhil Mustaffa
We witnessed the initialling of the MoU between the SLFP and the UNP. Considerable emotions have been expressed related to it.How might it be different from Liam Fox agreement? This goes beyond keeping each other informed of significant policy issues; it entails supporting key policy areas in Parliament. The most important of them all being the peace process.
Fundamentally, the UNP was supporting it premised on federalism as being the accepted model in the search for interim and final peace. The first of baby steps to arrive at a possible dialogue for peace has occurred with the LTTE delegation travelling through to Geneva. The facilitators have to be lauded for sticking to their job not withstanding the extraordinary challenges which have been seen in the past few months. Solheim, Baur, Brataskar,have all diligently been working.
There have been missed steps. One such occasion was when Solheim spoke freely in announcing agreement to talk by the GoSL and the LTTE, while his colleague Akashi had spoken too. The comments drew harsh criticism, which Norway could have done without. A knowledgeable insider was heard to say that five to six rounds would be needed before tangible progress would come on line steadily.
The air in the country still remains fraught with many contradictions. The anti war front activities are said to be undertaken with the knowledge of many a powerful worthy in the country. Their efforts in Mannar and Kandy though were essentially sabotaged with organized attacks with tomatoes etc at some of the speakers in Kandy while the Police remained in the know. When a small activity related to a pocket meeting on peace draws such responses, the odds working against peace could be discerned.
The country faces many multiple challenges. The dollar has appreciated against the rupee in the recent past, tourism has begun to feel threatened with travel advisories being thrown in for good measure, Germany reportedly our second largest bilateral donor has frozen new funds to Sri Lanka, with concerns of possible knock on effects.
The UNP coming on line has instilled confidence in the peace process which would be emboldened since the MoU refers to this matter. It also means the SLFP and UNP have to sit for peace talks! They have to work out a minimum common platform for peace.
The Leader of the Opposition was heard to say that the content and direction of the actual details of the process between the GoSL and LTTE were not their concern and they were there to provide the necessary support for anything federal related which the GoSL wanted sent through parliament. Nevertheless,it is a well known fact that G.L.Peiris has a rapport with Balaingham and he would be an asset in facilitating the dialogue between the two parties.
Similarly Milinda brings to the table many networks and relationships some which the LTTE would want not used! The UNP while being supporting would equally want the GoSL to bear responsibility for the silly and sometimes not so smart moves on peace, without having to be a party to such follies. These inputs are possible once the political parties have had their sittings. Those who applaud the union, would like to see a close partnership, for which the dividends have to be attractive enough for the UNP.
War has been the common denominator between the GoSL and the LTTE! These efforts are still very much at play. Can we conceivably see Austin Fernando type committee trying to work back contact with the GoSL military and LTTE commanders? How does one bring back other issues important for a peace process? Does the current SCOPP bring to the table serious options and strategies for peace? There are many an option and past example to emulate.
The CFA has innovative clauses even if the parties harbour allergies for each other to begin to make work aspects which have been followed in the breach. A rejuvenation of the CFA would be paramount. An updated map from last week provides the latest situation in terms of numbers and numbers affected.
Some of the worst abuses on human lives take place as a result of the hardships people face due to the closure of the A9, fighting which displaces people, destruction of their properties, suspicion which encourages arrests, abductions and security measures which make section of our people feel different.
This requires convincing within different policy circles who have embarked on hard nosed policy options in the face deteriorating security conditions. One could visualize commanders on both sides looking with bemusement and cynicism at the two delegations taking wing to Europe.
Quite frankly, the past eleven months have telescoped into conflict strategies and issues which normally span out over a much longer period.
The impact has been rapid and quite destructive.
Quotes from a civil society statement due for release soon states, ’’According to our newspapers, an average of ten people have either disappeared or died a day from April to September this year. From January to date, over one thousand people had either been extra judicially executed or disappeared.
As members of the Sri Lankan human rights community, we are distressed and appalled at the growing numbers of cases of abduction and disappearance throughout the country.
The phenomenon of abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings points to a breakdown of normal law enforcement mechanisms and a culture of impunity. The climate of insecurity and fear thus created has silenced voices of survivors and family members.
While some were abducted for ransom and returned after the sum demanded was paid, in most cases the abducted persons have never been found. The appearance of unidentified, and often unidentifiable, bodies in public locations found simultaneously with the increase in abductions indicate that some of abductees are already dead.
This brings back horrifying memories of the ‘reign of terror’ in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s when our country held the record for the highest number of disappearances in the shortest period. These fears were borne out when two of the five headless bodies found in two separate locations in Avissawella in early May were identified. In May there were reports of 26 bodies being found in various locations including a body of a young woman in Wattala, a town on the road from Colombo to the airport. In June, there were reports of 15 bodies. In July 2006 the figure was 14, in August it was 12. In some cases the bodies were decapitated; in others they were bound and gagged. Some had their faces deliberately mutilated, or burned, to prevent identification. Several were later identified as being people reported as missing to the Police and to the National Human Rights Commission.
Our attention should immediately be drawn to the following needs.
l Joining the international community in adopting the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances
l Immediately instituting effective investigations into all the disappearances and killings and take effective legal steps against those found responsible.
l Taking steps to protect survivors and family members so they may freely access protection mechanisms and participate in investigations and trials.
Building on the optimism and euphoria as captured by Sajith Premadasa on TV requires focussing on achievements over time bound periods of the intentions laid out in the MoU. Within communities deep divisions have appeared.
The MoU has brought about a measure of calm between the two southern parties. Within minority interests there are many fissures. Similar to the MoU, the minority parties have to be brought together to work out a common minimum agenda. In the absence of which the shoe would be on the other foot! The lack of consensus would now be within minority groups.
By Rossana Favero-Karunaratna
The next peace talks represent a challenge on several important issues such as mutual trust, full cohabitation and protection of human rights. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party – United National Party MOU certainly brought a new component that was urgently needed for the next few days.
The MOU signed by the main political parties of the country provides the Government with a good stand for the talks ahead and clears the virtually chaotic scenario of recent days: The President of the country now can give evidence of the support of the vast majority of political parties.
Questions remain: What about civil society?
Civil society has already been weakened by a number of recent events and needs to rely on a serious and mature political approach which must put the interests of the country first. However, negotiations will have to be opened out to the civil society as we must look forward to achieving social justice and a transformation of the concept of citizen: these are the real challenges ahead. The truth is that armed conflicts open wounds and expose social and economic differences which must be confronted as they tend to remain when the conflict is finally over. So far, in terms of the LTTE, we are all "enemies" and much has to be done to get them to renounce violence. There are no specific recipes or "agreements" for this.
Professor Robert Goldman, a professor of Law at the Washington College of Law at American University and co-director of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law refers to the importance of the State apparatus as a whole and coherent body in responding to the demands of the situation: "The great lesson that came out of past experiences is that the other branches of government need to be involved, and that the civilian judiciary needs to be involved in a supervisory role, both with respect to the content and the nature of the measures to ensure that the rule of law is not surrendered. Various individual countries have also learned some lessons. Criticism of U.S. policies on terrorism come from places like Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Western Europe, all regions which have had to deal with severe terrorist threats in the past. They have opted for different ways of dealing with these things". In other words, the judiciary plays a pivotal role in societies affected by armed conflicts and must defend the basic principles of human rights and the rights of all citizens. For that a constant revision of international jurisprudence is needed.
Justice Weeramantry has spoken on several occasions about the need to preserve, Justice transcending generational barriers imposing on every generation duties towards those who are to follow. This we must never forget.
During recent weeks the international media has been reporting a number of attacks, abductions and human rights abuses in the country. Besides informing about the conflict itself, the media have denounced the plight of Sri Lankan maids abroad, foreign trips rackets, the uncertainty of reconstruction work due to the increase of violence, the sufferings of displaced people, etc.
These reports show a disturbing scenario of a country which appears to be unable to build up a common future. The situation of children in the country also denotes lack of essential human rights standards and how vulnerable they are.
How can we expect an agreement such as the one just signed between the two main political parties to assist the country in this particular momentum?
The basic element of putting political interest aside is the major gain and it will certainly have an impact in the international scenario. How? The answer lies specifically in the hands of our foreign missions abroad.
As we can see, all the pieces may seem to be dispersed but they all belong to the same picture. It is time to work together. The MOU must remain for a long period.
The path to a peaceful solution is basically political in the end as it involves a transformation of the State. The President has to be clearly in charge but all political parties must be involved in the process. This can be distorted when infiltrations occur as the whole process would be in danger of a manipulation in order to get information and extend the conflict. However, the essential element of trust must prevail and efficiency, respect of human rights, good governance must be essential components of any pact or agreement that is signed between the political party in power and the opposition side. In this sense, the initiative of the President of the country is quite important in order to set up a cohesive state apparatus. Reforms are needed.
Goldman clearly states that people sometimes react in a superficial manner regarding these issues: "When people feel there is no security, people will support suspension of fundamental liberties, basically believing, ‘This really doesn’t affect me, I’m a good citizen, I am not engaged in any subversive activities.’" Another attitude would be that of lethargy which is already affecting citizens of many countries in the South. A conflict affects all members of a society in different ways but human rights and personal liberties must be protected; civil society must always remain strong and vigilant.
‘It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time’– Winston Churchill
by Lalin Fernando
The talks are on again, this time by the end of the month. It appears that there will be no pre conditions laid down. However certain basic requirements will have to be met to create a conducive environment to begin the talks on a positive note. Both sides have been accused of bad faith in previous negotiations and every attempt must be made to avoid such accusations being repeated. The GoSL will do well to keep the welfare of the minorities uppermost in their minds to avoid their view points being labelled Sinhala and not Sri Lankan. The LTTE will have to come to terms with the realities of the ground situation and the Karuna factor. There must be a credible commitment to peace. This should not be camouflaged as an attempt to buy time to return to hostilities.
The GoSL must not get too cocky as it approaches the talks. It must not talk about victories which were won at tremendous cost of life and gloat over the recent defeats of the LTTE. The LTTE is a many headed Hydra which is fanatical, cunning, brave, determined and dangerous when desperate. The GoSL must reflect on the impact of the 23-year war on the progress of the country. It must remember that the very many Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese are living in desperate conditions in the affected areas. It must not forget that it is first responsible to the citizens for over 65,000 being killed in the ‘war’ on both sides. It must remember that in the recent battles about 200 own troops died to allow the state to approach the talks confidently and the LTTE to request for it. The blood of those who died should not have been sacrificed in vain.
The GoSL should go to the talks with their heads held down if they can think about the cost in human lives and suffering and attempt to prevent such scenarios unfolding again. It must use its armed forces only if there is no alternative to fighting. It must not waste its human resources to ‘teach lessons’ however attractive it may sound for public consumption. It should keep the people informed of the need to do whatever is necessary to bring peace to the nation. That is its writ.
The LTTE should remember how much it has had to sacrifice for its ambitions. How many of its cadres especially children and young women were ordered to their deaths, how many Tamils have died at their hands and how many continue to suffer because of its obduracy. It must reflect whether the Tamils living under its draconian conditions must not be compelled to do so for ever. It must reflect on how, after being revered at the beginning of their struggle by Tamils all over the world, why Karuna, its ablest fighting commander, revolted and is now being seen with the Tamils of the east as a third force. It must know how much they have antagonised the Muslims of Jaffna and the East and why they are feared and despised by almost all the civilian communities affected both by war and also by the tsunami; why the majority of the Tamils prefer to live in the urban areas of the South in happy prosperity; why the Upcountry Tamils have not joined them; whether there is any reciprocity by the Sinhalese who live in the threatened areas.
It must seriously consider why others especially Tamils, should believe they are the sole representatives of the Tamils having brought about so much pain and suffering to any one who lived under their rule. They should approach the talks to seriously re-affirm their belief that they represent the Tamils and not, now after 23 years of bloodshed, only themselves.
They should renounce terrorism, stop using children as fighters and give up the use of suicide bombers and thereby show commitment to peace, children’s rights, democracy and dissenting views. They too should not approach the talks with arrogance as renowned fighters but with shared shame with the GoSL, co and equal partners in this tragic affair.
Pre talk’s preparation should include an immediate and proper ceasefire with no killings of any one by either side. Aerial retaliation in civilian inhabited areas must stop immediately as invariably it affects mostly non combatants. What is gained in saving life is worth it. The A9 road to Jaffna should be re opened as soon as possible for all traffic. Taxes by the LTTE should be minimised if not removed on essential items including all items of food. Extra judicial killings should not be allowed to happen anywhere. Both sides must build up trust if they are to succeed. Mutual hopes and plans to surreptitiously bomb the other or cause death by other means must necessarily be discarded by the leaders.
I suggest that the following be given consideration at the talks:
(1) The GOSL representing all political parties must agree before hand on the need to bring about peace and be united on terms and conditions of the peace settlement. These terms and conditions should remain constant even if there is a change of Government.
(2) The conditions of the peace settlement must be discussed and decided on by the representatives of all political groups so that there is a consensus of opinion for decisions taken. All parties represented in Parliament without exception must be included. This means the JVP and the JHU too.
(3) The LTTE’s views on the position of the Tamils must be given priority.
However the majority of the Tamils live in non LTTE areas and their views too must be considered in any settlement.
(4) The views of other democratic Tamil parties, most of who are opposed to the LTTE like the TULF, EPDP, EPRLF and PLOTE must be taken into consideration. So too the views of the Karuna faction, the Up country Tamils and the TNA.
(5) All other political parties and interest groups must be represented at the ensuing peace talks, especially Muslim interests. Remember the LTTE massacres at Kattankudi and Karativu mosques and recently in Muttur? In the East, their demands cannot be suppressed or truncated by being represented only by the SLMC. Malays and Burghers too need to be represented.
(6) Replacing the SLMM who have shown ineptitude, inadequacy, lack of experience and credibility if not crass partiality should be considered. Volunteers from abroad to replace them will be hard to come by. In which case, we should seriously think of replacing them with a GOSL/LTTE group. This group should consist of experienced recently retired officers/equivalent that can be trusted by both sides.
They will not include politicians so we can have a head start here. Surely we have such people. If we do not have people who are mutually trusted by the GOSL and the LTTE to monitor the on going process after nearly 20 years of war and 3 years of phoney peace under the CFA, when and how can we settle for peace in the future? Northern Ireland or South Africa did not have outsiders to monitor the peace there and they have done very well.
(7)) There should be an agreement to establish a concurrent Peace and Reconciliation Commission along with peace talks. This may put the brakes on extra judicial activities immediately. If we hide the depravities of 23 years of internecine war and phoney peace and depend on enforced amnesia to get over our sins, the guilty will continue with impunity and the target groups will continue to suffer.
Any peace that follows will only be fragile at the best. The perpetrators war crimes and crimes against humanity, Sinhalese Tamils and Muslims, troops, cadres and civilians must confess so that with true repentance we will be able to prevent a recurrence of the barbarity that took place. If those guilty of crimes against humanity do not confess and repent, they must face trial and punishment as soon as possible. The perpetrators of the massacres in Trinco, Muttur, Pottuvil, Kebitigollewa and Welikanda should be identified and given short shrift to begin with. Otherwise these atrocities will continue with serious negative effects on any possibilities for peace.
(8) Whatever long term agreement is made by the two parties it must be subject to a referendum to be effective. It must ask a specific question on the form of a new deal, not simply ‘do you want peace?’ This must be agreed to by all, so that once committed no one can back off from the settlement. Every one must be bound by its verdict. This will take some effort and also cause pain to some.
(9) Before a durable peace can begin, the LTTE must agree to lay down its arms. This could be to a designated and acceptable third force; while the GOSL must reciprocate by reducing its Armed Forces by at least 25% – 30%. This figure will be much higher than the entire strength of the LTTE.
(10) The GOSL must give consideration to handing over the high security zones and other lands belonging to the Tamils to the rightful owners as soon as possible. There was a huge outcry when the water to the farmers was cut at Mavil Aru by the LTTE. We said ‘let battle begin’. Surely lands of the Tamils are just as important and this problem is over 20 years old and festering. I am aware that the Army Commander is not in favour of this and I respect his views especially as in the recent confrontations he has been proved right. Yet this situation must be reviewed soon. An acceptable third force can be inserted to prevent the LTTE from moving into the vacated areas or using them to gain military advantage. If the GOSL does not hand over the lands soon, they will not only continue to lose the goodwill of the affected people but will also alienate them further. The lands have to be handed over at some time and if it is better sooner than later. Troop reductions will then occur. The benefits will be a 25% to 30% smaller force which will also be easier to relocate and cost less to maintain.
(11) The majority of our politicians should stop playing to the Sinhala gallery. We need to develop a Sri Lankan identity if we are to preserve our unity. To do this we must listen to Tamil and Muslim views with much greater empathy and sincerity. Their views must be given as much time on state TV as the majority community gets.
(12) Professionals, business leaders and academics must be encouraged to speak out and their views should be publicised however unpalatable it may be for the politicians. The more they criticise the better. Businessmen must invest in developing the troubled areas.
To ensure peace the state must prove its bona fides to the people of the affected areas and give them the same conditions of life prevalent elsewhere. It must produce results on the ground by developing infrastructure and encouraging business, not only to improve the quality of life but also wean the youth away from taking part and glorifying violence. There should be a rapid re building and industrial, agricultural and fishing development plan for Jaffna.
Our forces must never drop their guard and continue to strive even harder to achieve the highest levels of professional competency. There must also be more representatives of the country’s minorities. They could start by enlisting former insurgents. The forces must remain a meritocracy it is beginning to look like under their present leaders. While accepting the primacy of the elected representatives they should not be beholden to them. Thankfully as yet there have been no military adventurers attempting Thai boxing although encouragement is often given to fringe elements by political and other desperadoes.
We need the international community to help us whatever and how much our isolationists say. Both sides must however realise that the international community is not going to bank roll national development if they do not have a very firm commitment to peace from us. It is up to us to sink or swim although we did throw most of our life belts away long ago.
I did write some years ago that if we don’t get it right soon, there are people who might hijack the process. Well in came Karuna and he isn’t going to disappear. Who will it be next time? Don’t you know and it isn’t only the berserks who said ‘not us again’ third time? So watch out serendipitous lovers of democracy Sri Lanka style. -The Island
Tags: Sri Lanka
By Champika Liyanaarachchi
After an eight months break, the peace interlocutors of the government and the LTTE are slated to meet in Geneva on Saturday, October 28 which also happens to be the 16th anniversary of the eviction of 80,000 northern Muslims by the LTTE.
Given the high degree of hostilities and strategies adopted lately by both parties to paint a gory picture of each other in the eyes of the international community, it is clear that one can expect very little or absolutely nothing constructive from this round of talks.
Though held in the backdrop of a series of claymore mine explosions, the ambiance of February talks was far less hostile than this month’s negotiations, due to take place two weeks after the killings of some 200 military men in Muhamalai and Habarana and days after a suicide attack on the Galle Navy camp.
For the LTTE, it has incurred heavy loses since Geneva 1. These include losing the all important Sampur and several key areas in the Trincomalee district, hundreds of cadres in battles and ambushes in the East and also dozens of boats, weapon shipments and nearly two hundred sea Tiger cadres.
It was the LTTE that displayed a greater interest in talks this time and the LTTE push for negotiations was widely read as a ploy to buy time to regroup and rearm following a series of defeats, at least till Muhamalai.
Despite the doling out of an excuse to dodge talks- in the form of the Supreme Court judgment that ruled the North-East merger as illegal thus shattering the very foundations of the LTTE argument for self-determination – the LTTE confirmed its attendance at Geneva talks, last week.
At the end of his meeting with Jon Hanssen Bauer LTTE political Wing chief S.P. Thamilselvam told media that the Tigers will “respect the request by the international community” by attending Geneva II.
In spite of the ‘devil may care’ type of attacks against the Sri Lankan State, the opinion of the ‘international community’ still matters to the LTTE.
The opinion of international players, matters more for the government, which was riding on the crest of a wave with a series of military successes till it hit the trough, in Muhamalai.
With a growing number of cases of extra-judicial killings, abductions and other forms of rights violations hampering the speed of the flow of foreign aid to the country, the government knows well that its very presence at talks is vital.
The European Union has already indicated its plan to tie up aid to human rights.
Though it has to make mammoth efforts to clear the table that is full of HR violation cases, the resumption of peace talks, the government is aware, will place it in a better position internationally.
Projection of a peace – friendly, rights-friendly image all time, the Rajapaksa administration knows has its own dividends, even when there are delays in putting the pledges made to the international community into practice.
Last Saturday’s showdown between Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the Defence authorities over the country’s rapidly deteriorating human rights record, is a sign that the issue has reached a crisis point.
As the person who takes the flak on behalf of Sri Lanka during his foreign visits, Minister Samaraweera knows well that after a point even a most influential Foreign Affairs Minister cannot deliver for a government with a bad human rights track record.In addition to Minister Samaraweera, Ministers Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Ferial Ashraff, both members of the government delegation for Geneva talks, too had charged that that there was evidence of military backing to some of the recent extra-judicial killings.
Ministers Fernandopulle and Ashraff who left for Geneva know for sure that they will definitely be confronted by the LTTE with evidence there and interestingly it was the government that insisted that human rights be included in the agenda of Geneva II.
Interestingly President Mahinda Rajapaksa too had spoken grudgingly about how things had gone out of control as regards the conduct of certain government security and sleuth outfits, and how he was confronted for these cases whenever he went abroad while he knew nothing about them.
Unfortunately even at Saturday’s meeting it had become quite evident that convincing the Defence higherups about the gravity of the situation, was no easy task.
Chronicling LTTE atrocities, some appear to believe, is all what the government should do to get its own name cleared of various allegations levelled against it.
Attempts had been made to point out that compared to the enormity of the LTTE crimes, what was happening in the South was negligible, quite forgetting that the international community uses different yard sticks to gauge HR records of a democratically elected government and that of a terrorist organization.
A state of lawlessness with a spate of extra-judicial killings of which the President has no knowledge of, can in the long run put the very security of the President himself at jeopardy. The sooner President Rajapaksa realizes this, the better.
While the government peace delegation must be wondering as to how it should counter the charges of HR violations at Geneva talks, the agreement reached between the ruling coalition and the UNP on Monday is likely to boost the confidence of the government negotiators.
For the international community, the United National Party (UNP) personifies the peace dove – the aggressive peace promoter who is in search of peace day and night and the twenty six months rule of the UNP- led government is still considered the best chapter of the peace process here.
A bi-partisan agreement with the UNP for whatever reasons, will add more credibility to the government in its projection as a peace promoter. The strong endorsement of the agreement by the co-chairs speaks for this reality.
Had the President reached an agreement with the JVP instead, it would have been a totally different story altogether.
However there is no dispute of the fact that it was the Sinhala polity that was strengthened by the accord between the largely Sinhala SLFP- led government and not so Sinhala (still generally perceived as Sinhala) UNP.
It should be noted that there wasn’t a single member from an ethnic minority in the 12 member committee (six each from the SLFP and UNP) that engaged in the negotiations in the run up to the pact for bi-partisanship.
Although more comprehensive when compared to the three-paragraph, ill-fated Liam Fox agreement, the three- page MoU signed on Monday is still open ended and its fate is largely dependent on how soon and well the two parties pursue the goals spelt out in the document.
The pact, which was first proposed immediately after the election of President Rajapaksa last November, finally became a reality this time around since both the leaders – President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe strongly felt the need to go for it.
It came at a time when President Mahinda Rajapaksa had expressed concern, about the loyalty of several of his seniors and foresaw how a deal with the JVP would deprive him the leverage he should have to push forward the peace process.
There are also reports of disturbances over the overpowering military power over the Executive Presidency.
As for the UNP leader, he was facing the risk of losing a few more of his MPs including a group of seniors to the ruling coalition and there was also mounting pressure for party reforms that would definitely have undermined his clout in the UNP.
The agreement obviously has given some respite for both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The new-found ‘southern consensus’ is likely to give a more positive outlook to the government delegation when it meets the LTTE interlocutors on October 28. On the same day thousands of Muslims of Northern origin is slated to observe the 16th anniversary of their eviction by the LTTE.
The sixteen years that have passed saw the number of displaced Northern Muslim population rising from 80,000 to 130,000. The majority of these are in temporary shelters in the Puttalam district.
While civil society leaders of this community have organized a few events this year to observe the anniversary of the LTTE ethnic cleansing, the plight of Northern Muslims, continues to be a forgotten subject among Muslim leaders and rights groups and successive governments.
The political rights of the Eastern Muslims and the Sinhalese were once again debated at length following last week’s Supreme Court judgment on the North-East merger. The debate interestingly exposed some of the leading rights activists in Colombo who indicated that they did not mind undermining the political rights of these two communities for the sake of ‘peace’. -Daily Mirror
Tags: Sri Lanka