Daily Archives: December 31, 2006

Is LTTE money involved in Tamil Nadu bribes?

By Walter Jayawardhana

The prestigious Indian newspaper Hindustan Times quoting Pro-Vaiko Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) sources said its leader Vaiko told Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh that Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has spent Three Hundred Million Indian Rupees as bribes to take over two of his members of Parliament to break his fledgling political party.

The allegation of bribes once again brought the attention of the world the big role bribes play hidden under fiery slogans shouted out in Tamil Nadu’s race related politics.

The accuser of bribes, Gopalaswamy Vaiko Naidu, who led the South Indian state’s strongly racist politics of his pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) political party  MDMK, himself has been earlier accused of receiving funds from Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers which it pockets from, the Tamil Diaspora as extortion and aid, drug and gun running and various other illegal money earning schemes.

After spending millions , allegedly on Vaiko Gopalaswamy’s vociferous party who are aligned with Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh’s government, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers and their proxy party the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) expected to win back slowly, their former position it enjoyed during the time of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the corridors of Indian power politics and certainly before their disastrous decision to assassinate the scion of the Nehru dynasty, the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.  During Indira’s time they received money, military training and weapons from the Indian central government as well as from Karunanidhi’s rival, the late Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran of Tamil Nadu. They of course fell from grace after they killed Gandhi. 

Vaiko many weeks ago invited them to Chennai, entertained them with Thosai and Masalai Vadai but failed to obtain a simple interview with the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh when they were simply snubbed and sent home empty handed only to be ridiculed back in Sri Lanka.

Tigers knew even buying an ounce of influence in New Delhi is worth millions and with the same boldness they went to Washington DC to bribe State Department officials came to Chennai, with thick stacks of hundred dollar bills hidden in the inner pockets of their three-piece suites, this time more successfully. The Chennai grapevine is full of juicy stories how the pro-LTTE Father Gasper Raj, formerly of propagandist Philippines Catholic Radio Veritas, put Tamil Tiger representatives in front of the influential daughter of Chief Minister Karunanidhi,  the most poetic Kanimozhi and later millions exchanged between the hands of Tamilians of the first world and the third.  This time, the once failed TNA delegation came  first to Chennai and then to New Delhi saw and  conquered. This time the influence of Karunanidhi was so strong, after a fortyfive minutes discussion, the smiling turbaned gentleman walked back to the door with the honorable proxy LTTE parliamentarians to say goodbye. Karunanidhi has simply shown who’s the boss around in Chennai and in New Delhi.  Vaiko who has been shouting pro-LTTE slogans has been suddenly left on the lurch looking like a fool. The wonders mighty dollars could do!

It is not yet clear from where the three hundred millions of Indian Rupees that were allegedly given as bribes to the MDMK dissidents came? Was it DMK money? Or did that money also came from the LTTE expatriates who came from the industrialized West with jackets full of dollar pads? Although, the answers to these questions are worth another three hundred million, Vaiko is unable to spread details of the alleged story any longer.  The Hindustan Times said, "In Chennai, the Tamil Nadu government filed a defamation suit against Vaiko for certain remarks which allegedly caused irreparable damage to the reputation of Karunanidhi, besides mental agony to him."


The Old Year’s Night and the New Year’s Hopes

By Rajan Philips

Tonight is the night for the song that most revelers sing but few actually know the words: the old Scottish folk ballad that Robert Burns discovered and immortalized as Auld Lang Syne (Old Long Ago). Good, or bad, the old year deserves to be drunk and sung away, and one has to be more than human not to entertain hopes, even if they are ‘Dutch hopes’, for the coming year.

2006 has been an eventful year for Sri Lankans, one marked by the deliberate withdrawal from jaw-jaw (talks) and a determined move to war-war. Opinions might differ whether 2006 should be drunk and ‘forgot’, or sung and ‘brought to min’ as the year of victories — of sorts. But only the prurient among us would wish the New Year, 2007, to be a continuation of the same old 2006.

Sri Lanka’s internal conflict is a local conflict in a global setting, and has for company other local conflicts in practically every major corner of the world — in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern and Western Europe. Amartya Sen, India’s Nobel Laureate in Economics, has recently called these conflicts the result of mutual intolerance and lack of trust between groups. Conflicts based on intolerance and distrust do not yield positive results regardless of who wins and who loses.

Conflicts then and now

A hundred years ago, as the world’s calendar moved from 1906 to 1907, the conflicts were mostly in Europe. They were social unrests provoked by poverty and inequality throughout Europe despite that continent’s imperial domination of the rest of the world. There were peaceful as well as violent agitations in Britain for women’s suffrage, the ‘crusade of beggars’ in France, peasant uprisings in Italy and Romania, and language unrests in the Hapsburg Empire. These conflicts were the springboards for much needed social changes that Europe underwent and later spread elsewhere.

Flash forward to our New Year. The conflicts in Sri Lanka, Israel-Palestine, Indonesia-Aceh, Kashmir, Sudan, Northern Ireland and Chechnya are not springboards for progressive change but evidence of inability and failure to change progressively. As the Old Year ends, Sri Lanka seems to be the least poised for a breakthrough in the New Year. In every other situation, save the new outbreak of fighting in the Horn of Africa, there has been some movement and some reason for new hopes.

It is not just the ethnic conflict that has been besetting Sri Lankans this year. The plight of the nearly a million displaced people — displaced by war, by tsunami, or by both, needs no further pleading. The recurrence of floods, landslides, not to mention viral flu’s are taking their tolls as well on the more vulnerable sections of the population.

The conventional wisdom is that in spite of the war, Sri Lanka’s economy is doing well in terms of the usual growth indicators. But the GNP growth could be a false indicator especially when, as a Brazilian leader famously said during the stagflation of the 1970s, "the economy is doing well but not the people." Not long ago, Sri Lanka too boasted of a "Doing Bloody Well" presidency. The rising prices, the recent standoff on the plantations and the mood among the urban workers and middle classes are more reliable indicators of the people’s experience of the economy.

The GNP could be misleading not only because it fails to account for the unaccounted activities in the informal and traditional social sectors but also because it includes formal activities that cause loss of life and property and then their reparation. Economic theorists question the practice of including fire and highway accidents and the repairs that follow as positive contributions to economic production. The same argument could be extended to Sri Lanka’s never ending low intensity war and its deceptively benign effects on the economy.

Year of judgment for America

Globally, 2006 has been a disaster for the Bush-Blair axis that sought to impose the American military muscle in the Middle East. True, the Iraqis have had to suffer the most in proving Bush and Blair wrong, but poetic justice came in the repudiation of the policies of the two leaders by their own people. After the Iraqi experience comes the lesson that the whole invasion could have been avoided, and Saddam Hussein dealt with differently. France, Germany, Canada and the UN Secretary General, not to mention Russia and China, were all against the invasion of Iraq. But President Bush (Junior) was arrogant and ignorant enough to assume that he was privy to the voice of a Higher Father against the advice of his own lesser father (Former President, Bush Senior).

George Bush was also the willing captive of the White House cabal led by Vice-President Dick Cheney and the recently resigned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The cabal rode into White House on the back of George Bush’s dubious 2000 election victory and used al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on America as provocation to push their hegemonic global agenda. But in the 2006 midterm elections to US Congress and Senate, the American voters sent a sharp message to the Bush Administration as to who is in charge. The President has since been forced to change course in Iraq even as the Republicans are on course to lose the presidency in 2008. Meanwhile in 2007, the American media will make the usual soap opera about the prospect of America electing its first woman (Senator Hillary Clinton of New York), or first black (Senator Barack Obama of Illinois) President. Either of them would be a welcome change after eight years of neo-con rule.

Despite the setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, America can move on to business as usual thanks to its 300-million population and its almost absolute economic advantage over others. But it will be virtually impossible for Iraq and Afghanistan to get out of the mess that America and its allies will be leaving behind. Elsewhere, the countries that tried to follow the US mode of operation and launch their own internal wars on terrorism are now left with the prospect of pursuing their own local wars even if America’s global war against terrorism is unofficially over.

The 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington and the world’s revulsion towards them put violent political organizations, such as the IRA and the LTTE, on the defensive. A new post-cold war equilibrium could have been brought about if the US with the UN behind it had concentrated in defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and helping its people rebuild their country. Instead, the Bush Administration’s misadventure in Iraq has given a new justification and impetus to Islmaic militancy everywhere, while other violent organizations, like Hamas and the LTTE, have been emboldened to return to their old ways.

In 2006, the US-led global war on terror became localized and intensified as we saw in Sri Lanka and as has been the brutal experience of Palestinians, Israelis and the people of Lebanon. Unlike the US these countries cannot walk away from the internal mess-ups their wars are creating. The lesson for them is in the admittance of NATO military generals that after five years and the joint efforts of every Western military power, the Taliban is back and might even take over Afghanistan again.

For the countries with internal conflicts, Sri Lanka included, 2007 offers uncertain prospects. But for tonight, if you are in a mood to sing "Should old acquaintance be forgot `D6," spare a thought for your compatriots who are not as fortunate. via … The Sunday Island

World Cup takes priority for Lankans in New Zealand

Rex Clementine reporting from Queenstown

Sri Lanka will not do any major changes during the remaining four One-Day Internationals here in New Zealand as they are trying to make use of the opportunity to get into form ahead of the most prestigious competition in the cricket calendar. Leading up to the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka have just eight more ODIs and the team management is keen to make most of the limited opportunities.

"World Cup obviously is a very serious tournament and we want to use these four games as a lead up to the competition. We’ll be trying out a few things, but not too many things as there’s very little time. The team has enjoyed a good run in ODIs this year and we just want to take that form to the tournament," Jayawardene told ‘Sunday Island’

Sri Lanka will make just one change for today’s second ODI at the Events Centre Stadium in Queenstown with Farveez Maharoof coming in for Dilhara Fernando. The tourists, however, have not completely given up hopes on Fernando, whose five overs in the first ODI in Napier cost 42 runs. Coach Tom Moody was working with Fernando yesterday and apparently has advised the bowler to shorten his run up to come out of his problems.

Fernando will be given couple of more days to adjust to his new run up and will miss the next game in Christchurch too, but is likely to be given a go in the last two games in Auckland and Hamilton.

That’ll be a make or break opportunity for Fernando and if he doesn’t come good, Sri Lanka will look to other bowlers, probably Nuwan Kulasekara or Akalanka Ganegama for the Caribbean tour. Left arm paceman Ruchira Perera has been in the squad for a while but has hardly got any opportunities and he too is likely to get a game or two in the remainder of the series.

"We are confident with the players we have at the moment. We need to make a few adjustments here and there and that should do. We should have an idea about the combination for West Indies well ahead of time. In a tournament such as that, one mistake in a crucial game can be costly. We have experienced that before and when that happens it hurts," Jayawardene added.

It’s hard to believe that Sri Lanka will get a good wicket like the Napier track in the remainder of the series as most wickets here in New Zealand are drop in pitches. Last year when Sri Lanka played here New Zealand beat the tourists in a low scoring game and Jayawardene expected the next four games to be tough ones.

"That’s the way wickets are here in New Zealand. There’s a bit of seam movement always. That’s the challenge for us and there’s no point in worrying over it. We just need to get out there and do our best," Jayawardene added. via … The Sunday Island

Crowe defends himself after Ranatunga attack

Rex Clementine reporting from Queenstown

Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe has said that he has got lot of respect for Sri Lankans and the way the country plays the game after former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga criticized the untimely comments of his old adversary. After Crowe questioned Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling action during the second Test Match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, which the tourists won comfortably, Crowe has attracted criticism from lot of leading figures in the sport.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene spoke out in support of the bowler after the Christchurch Test and soon afterwards Ranatunga joined. In an exclusive interview with ‘The Island’ on the Christmas eve, Ranatunga said that he had lost respect for Crowe. Even former New Zealand captain and ex-chairman of the board John Reid blamed Crowe. Reid said that Crowe was ignorant about the technicalities involved in scrutinizing bowlers.

"I wasn’t being nasty or malicious. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sri Lankans and Sri Lankan cricket. I love the way they play the game," Crowe, under pressure after his comments in the tv, was quoted as saying in New Zealand Herald, the largest selling paper in the country.

"I had lot of respect for Martin as a player and as a gentleman, but I’ve got to say that I’ve lost that respect. Martin sounds more like an Australian now. It’s those Australians who come up with various allegations when they are losing," Ranatunga told ‘The Island’ last week.

Crowe defended himself and added that his intentions were genuine. "I can understand Arjuna wanting to protect Murali and Sri Lanka’s chance of success at the next World Cup, but from an independent viewpoint, I think the issue needs to be discussed," Crowe, a popular figure among Sri Lankan fans said.

Crowe is admired for the stance he took to remain in Sri Lanka after a suicide attack killed country’s naval chief in front of the team hotel in 1992 in Colombo. Four of Crowe’s teammates and the coach of the side returned home, but Crowe agreed that the tour should go on despite the terrorist attack. via …The Sunday Island

The Coming Tidal Waves

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

"The maritime strike capabilities of the LTTE maybe indicative of maritime terrorism in the future" stated the Report the Conference on ëMaritime Security in the Asia Pacific’ organised by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies. The grave threat posed by the Sea Tigers to maritime traffic in the region has been demonstrated, beyond dispute, with their act of piracy against a Jordanian commercial ship. The government should use this incident to draw the attention of the international community to the impossibility and the undesirability of any peace deal with the unchangingly terroristic LTTE. This requires an international propaganda campaign; but it also requires a national effort to come up with a political solution to the ethnic problem. The one without the other would be incomplete and thus ineffective; so long as there is no serious Lankan plan to share power with the Tamils, the international community will continue to see some validity in the existence of the Tigers, despite their obvious obnoxiousness.

The snag is (and this is one of those ironies history abounds with) the only Tamils the government is willing to discuss devolution with are the Tamil Tigers. This is a dialogue of the deaf since the LTTE is every bit as anti-devolution as the JVP or the JHU; democratic devolution would not only make Eelam unnecessary but also endanger the very existence of the Sun God. Minister Tissa Vitharana was wrong when he said that the APC must come up with a political proposal that can satisfy the LTTE. So long as Mr. Pirapaharan is alive the only political proposal that can satisfy the LTTE is de jure Tiger Eelam. The task is to come up with a devolution proposal that can satisfy a majority of the Tamils, the democratic Tamil parties and the international community.

The Majority Report has been demonised and abandoned – just like all previous attempts to resolve the Tamil problem, B-C Pact on. In politics as in economics there are no infallible policies or solutions; only necessary and opportune ones. Even its most fervent supporters do not consider the Majority Report as a panacea for all ills. It is merely a framework for a political solution to the ethnic problem based on democratic devolution. It should not be condemned or accepted in toto. It should be studied and used, before it is too late, before the world intervenes and imposes a Cyprusization on us.

It is mostly our conduct in the last one year which brought back this old spectre; through many acts of omission and commission we indicated our unwillingness to devolve and our indifference to civilian Tamils. The North-East has been de-merged, sans a referendum; Tamil civilians have become the victims of military operations and extra-judicial activities. The abduction of the Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University (most probably in a high security zone in Colombo) is symbolic of the state of lawlessness many Tamils are faced with in democratic Sri Lanka. The obvious signal is that this government does not differentiate much between Tigers and Tamils, either politically or militarily. And this suits the LTTE fine since Mr. Pirapaharan needs the Fourth Eelam War to be a war by a Sinhala state against Tamils. Every time we act against Tamil civilians (wittingly or unwittingly) and every time we justify such actions, we play right into the hands of the Tiger and its separatist project.

The government’s (especially Minister Devananda’s) successful effort to end shortages in Jaffna in time for Christmas demonstrates that many of the problems affecting the Tamil people can be solved, without appeasing the Tigers, if only there is a political will. The problems of the Tamils are distinct from those of the Tigers and can be handled without jeopardising national security or territorial integrity. And in doing so we also deprive the LTTE of important propaganda weapons; the Tigers would have reaped immense political benefits if Jaffna shops were empty and people starving in Christmas time. Now the challenge is to continue with the adequate supply of essential commodities to Jaffna and to ensure that the Tamil refugees from Vaharai have the same facilities as Sinhala refuges from Kantalai. The best places to begin the equal treatment of all Lankan citizens are the refugee camps of the pluralist East.

An Indian Tidal wave?

Possibly the most portentous event of an eventful year was the groundbreaking meeting between the TNA and the Indian Prime Minister. The TNA has made many previous efforts to meet with the Indian PM, unsuccessfully. A couple of months ago a TNA delegation went to India but came back empty handed, after kicking its heels in Delhi for several days. This time the TNA had a 45 minute meeting with the Manmohan Singh. Though the TNA did not get to meet Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Singh would not have met the Lankan parliamentarians without Ms. Gandhi’s consent.

It was a disaster waiting to happen even though the government failed to read the danger signals. The Vallipunam incident (and the regime’s pugnacious defence of it) caused outrage in Tamilnadu, changing the political opinion in that crucial state from neutrality to hostility in a matter of month. Delhi was alarmed by Colombo’s increasing closeness to Islamabad and by the Rajapakse administration’s ditching of two main pillars of the Indo-Lanka Accord `F1 the traditional homelands concept and the North-East merger (none of his predecessors did so, whatever they may have felt about the two provisions, because they were aware of the adverse effects of such a move). We should have foreseen that for India the Tamilnadu factor and the Pakistani factor are far more important (one for internal stability and the other for national security) than the Rajiv factor. We did not and it’s the Tigers who are benefiting from our lack of foresight.

With the Fourth Eelam War on, this is not the time to get into a fight with India. We must not become subservient to India (or any other country) nor must we pick quarrels with her. The urgent task is to ensure that Indians do not help the Tigers again (directly or indirectly, by permitting the Tigers to use Tamilnadu as a rear base once again). In our own interests we need some rapid bridge building with both Delhi and Chennai, before things get out of hand.

Indians have clearly indicated `F1 via the statement by Pranab Mukharjee `F1 their opposition to the Eelam project and their commitment to the unity of Sri Lanka. In fact TNA’s Mr. Sampanthan sounded irked by India’s unconditional support for Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity. India’s main requirements from Sri Lanka can be met without appeasing the Tigers `F1 a political solution to the ethnic problem and a war that is not punitive towards the Tamils. Such measures will help rather than hinder the war against the LTTE. We can thus win back Indian and international support without appeasing the LTTE, by ditching the present Sinhala First worldview and adopting a Sri Lankan worldview in both war and politics.

According to media reports the JHU is planning to visit India to tell the Indian Prime Minister ëour’ side of the story. Given the Sinhala supremacist ideology of the JHU its arguments are likely to reinforce rather than negate the message of the TNA `F1 the Sinhala polity and the Colombo government will not agree to a political solution to the ethnic problem. After all pro-Tiger media give such wide publicity to the actions and the discourse of the likes of the JHU and the JVP precisely because their Sinhala Supremacism vindicates the politico-propaganda themes of the LTTE. The Sri Lankan (as distinct from Sinhala) side of the story can be presented only by the anti-Tiger Tamils. The government should arrange for a delegation comprising of representatives of anti-Tiger Tamil parties, ideally headed by V Anandasangaree, to visit Delhi to make the case against the LTTE and for Sri Lanka, against separatism and for democratic devolution.

Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves to be ëforever free’ at a time when the American Civil War was not going well for the North and there was a serious danger of the Southern states being recognised by England and France as a separate country. "The Emancipation Proclamation precluded the possibility of European intervention because it made the war appear to be a Northern crusade against slavery`D6.it (also) undermined the Confederate home and military fronts with slave unrest, labour depletion and military desertion`D6 Lincoln’s political artistry assured that the proclamation really would be seen as a justified war measure as well as a great humanitarian deed" (Tom Wicker in More What If). We too need a proposal for democratic devolution to occupy the moral high ground and to undermine the Tiger from within. If Sri Lanka is willing to share power with the Tamils, Tamilnadu, Indian and international opinion will change in our favour and many Tamils (including Tiger cadres) would see no point in backing the LTTE to carry on an endless war.

A Socio-economic Tidal Wave?

The JVP is supposed to have declared 2007 a ëYear of Struggle’ against devolution and for trade union rights. In the meantime 50,600 tsunami-affected families are living in shelters and most of them in the North-East. These people, in their poverty and despair, will be ideal fodder for political, ethnic and religious extremisms. For a Tamil or a Muslim languishing in an inadequate shelter the news that a majority of Sinhala tsunami victims in Hambantota have been provided with new houses would seem like discrimination by a majoritarian government against its minority citizens.

In his book President Premadasa and I: Our Story’ Sirisena Cooray recounts how Prime Minister Premadasa turned down his request to make Colombo the focus of the Housing Programme. Ranasinghe Premadasa’s development vision was truly national and his development efforts covered the entire island including the war-torn North-East. One of the main lacunae in the development strategy of the Rajapakse administration is this critical absence of a national vision. His development activities seem guided by the most parochial concerns. His two lead projects are not only exorbitant; they make no sense from a cost-benefit point of view `F1 an international airport in Tangalle and a budget airline named after the President (probably an international first). The latest story is about a plan to build a massive Presidential square around the President’s House by acquiring all property within a four acre radius, a project that is expected to cost 5 billion rupees (plus a luxury bunker for the First Family costing 400 million rupees). Given our dire financial straits, the escalating cost of living, the ongoing war and the drastic drop in tourist arrivals (due to multiplying travel warnings), these projects make sense only from a dynastic point of view. However when the economic crunch comes it will be blamed exclusively on the war and we will be reduced to suing for peace via the Norwegians.

With the JVP threatening to go on the warpath and with the have-nots being compelled to tighten their belts amidst plenty for haves, a change of direction is necessary on the political and socio-economic fronts to avoid disaster. The regime needs to transform its Sinhala supremacist and parochial political and economic programmes to truly pluralist-national and popular ones. Failure to do so will strengthen the extremists in the North and in the South and make 2007 akin to 1987, a year of multiple crises and foreign intervention, a year of avoidable errors and national humiliations – a year in which politico-economic policies of excess forced us to the brink of self-destruction. via … The Sunday Island

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