A make or break November for the government
The brazen LTTE attack on the Sri Lanka Air Force’s Anuradhapura base – known to be the biggest logistics base of the SLAF, meant a full-scale war had started and that the Tigers have both the men and the means not only for a full-scale war but also to attack any target anywhere in the country.
The two-hour land and air attack which began around 3.20 am was heavily costly in terms of material damage more than human casualties. Early estimates of the SLAF aircraft damaged or destroyed put the figure at about 30 million US dollars. The attack came after the government hosted an international conference on counter-terrorism and a three-hour TV interview in which government leaders again claimed that the East had been liberated and that the North would also be liberated soon. Last week’s Tiger attacks in the Yala sanctuary were apparently wild shots to signal the beginning of what may be the most decisive, if not destructive, phase of the war.
On the political front too battle plans were announced for a decisive session in parliament. The forerunner, like the wild shot in Yala, was the motion of no-confidence against tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda. The JVP, which is playing a key role in this political battle, decided at its politburo meeting on Saturday to come out and vote against Mr. Moragoda. Newspapers reported that the party would also vote against the Budget. This became apparent when party frontliner Sunil Handunetti put his name to a public interest petition to the Supreme Court saying the Appropriation Bill was unconstitutional. The Court said on Thursday it had no jurisdiction to go into an essentially financial issue which was a matter for parliament. But the JVP’s involvement in this petition must have set the alarm bells ringing for the government.
If the JVP, the UNP, the TNA and the SLFP (M) vote against Mr. Moragoda, and later against the Budget the outcome would be as uncertain as so many issues in this country.
As for the Moragoda motion, the government was apparently going slow-motion with chief whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle saying priority will not be given and the motion will not be taken up till January next year. On Monday the government parliament group decided to block the Moragoda motion giving some point from the Order Paper but most observers believe it was largely due to fear of defeat. Some political analysts say that if the vote goes well for the government in the Budget, parliament might be prorogued and the Moragoda motion will lapse along with many other Bills. With a cliff-hanger vote likely, the decisive role could be played by some government members of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). Some members, including Wijedasa Rajapakse, are known to be unhappy over the government’s failure to take action on the allegations of widespread bribery and corruption involving top politicians and government officials.
On the economic front, the government boasted that it had been offered thrice as much as it sought a loan from a consortium of international banks. But independent economic analysts point out that the interest rate was more than 8 % and the repayment period had been reduced from ten to five years. Loans from international lending agencies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank generally carry interest rates of less than 2 % with longer repayment periods.
The main opposition UNP claims the international donor agencies have refused to give further aid to what the party now calls the Rajapaksa Junta. The party also alleges that while the present generation is going through its worst crisis especially in terms of the cost of living, the fate of the future generations has also been pawned to international banks. The UNP has vowed it will not honour those loans and will even cancel the licence of the HSBC, one of the main banks involved in this highly charged deal. But whether a future UNP government would be able to do that is another matter.
On the international front, Sri Lanka was severely blasted and indicted by the United Nations for its failure to curb human rights violations. UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour after her recent visit to Sri Lanka is insisting that UN field monitors be sent to check the crisis in Sri Lanka and that an office of the UNHCR is set up in Colombo to monitor that process. The government is flatly refusing to even hold talks on that issue and many analysts believe that Ms. Arbour’s report might prompt the UN Security Council and the European Union to impose strictures or sanctions on Sri Lanka.
Not since Independence has the country faced so much international condemnation and isolation with the hard-line Bush administration also considering military sanctions against Sri Lanka on the human rights issue.
While the crises within crises, the conflict within conflict and the contradictions within contradictions drag Lanka further into a huge mud hole and muddle within muddle, we could conclude this letter with a potentially bitter story on our popular soft drinks.
The story involves a VVIP’s controversial son linked to the recent night-rider episode. Unknowingly perhaps and with the aim of giving jobs to youth, he is reported to have been instrumental in the nutritionally disastrous act of replacing the priceless thambili or king coconut with the king of soft drinks. The move has been launched in the Foreign Employment Bureau head office area where hundreds of youth gather daily and thambili vendors provided them with one of the most nutritious drinks in the world. Now the thambili vendors have been chased away and high profile modern carts vending the soft drinks have come there. If the young man is not aware of the terrible consequences he should not have poked his nose. And perhaps the JHU could educate him on this vital issue which contributes towards growing sickness in the country because we are eating more poison and drinking more poison.