Monthly Archives: January 2007

8 Dead in claymore mine explosion in Sri Lanka

By Walter Jayawardhana


Suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels  exploded a claymore mine killing eight people in front of the Sri Lanka’s Eastern University January 31 Wednesday.

Defense Ministry said they detonated the mine targeting a bus carrying service personnel going home on leave. But a civilian was also killed in the explosion.

The explosion happened at 11.35 in the morning.  Although the LTTE has been militarily defeated at many places in the Eastern Province. pockets of rebels still exist in the thick jungles.  

Among the dead were three army soldiers, four policemen, and one civilian.

Twelve other people who were injured were rushed to the Batticaloa General Hospital.

Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, the Army spokesman said, "A Claymore (fragmentation mine) attack in front of the Eastern University in Batticaloa has blasted a bus carrying police personnel going on leave,"

The defense sources said terrorists of the LTTE had sprayed gun fire after the incident before fleeing.

The Eastern University was reopened only on January 29 after being closed following the kidnapping of the Vice Chancellor Professor Ravindranath about one month ago.

Tags: ,

Interpol issues open warrant on Sea Tiger boss Soosai

By Walter Jayawardhana


The Interpol in Paris, the international police organization, has issued a world wide arrest warrant for the Sea Tiger commander known as Colonel Soosai. 

The arrest warrant issued on his real name, Thillayampalam Sivanesan has been put out on the backdrop of allegations by Sri Lanka’s Criminal investigations Department of the Police that he led attacks on naval vessels and civilians in June 2006.

Sea Tiger Cadres arrested at Kalpitiya and Pamunugama told the CID detectives that the foiled attempts by the Sea Tigers in June last year were specifically conducted under the instructions issued by the Soosai alias Thillayampalam Sivanesan.

Along with the LTTE’s intelligence Chief Shivashankar Pottuamman, Soosai is the senior most Tamil Tiger leader after Velupillai Prabhakaran. Though he constantly engages his troops against Sri Lankan civilian and military personnel Sri Lanka on October 18 2004 on humanitarian grounds facilitated a trip for him to go to Singapore to receive medical help. It is not exactly known where he took his treatment and for what ailment.

The Sea Tiger cadres arrested on June 17 2006 revealed to the CID that before they were engaged in some futile attacks on civilians they received instructions from Soosai exactly how to do it in some mock operations conducted in Mulathivu, the Sea Tiger headquarters.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department in Sri Lanka Asoka Wijetilleke informed these facts to the courts and the courts issued an open warrant for the arrest of Soosai that was instrumental in generating an international arrest warrant by the Interpol.

According to the arrest warrant, Thillayampalam Sivanesan alias Sera Osca alias Makkal Thilakam born on October 16, 1963 in Velvetithurai, Jaffna is holding Sri Lankan passport No.1365685 issued on October 18, 2004 and the national identity card no 632904037 V.

The Sea Tigers wing was established in 1984 during early years of the LTTE to smuggle personnel and equipment between LTTE bases in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna at a time when the Indian government was funding and arming the LTTE.

Since then under Soosai�s leadership it has become a formidable sea force destroying more than 30 Sri lankan naval vessels. In November 2006 Sea Tigers attacked the Cruise ship named Green Ocean carrying 300 civilians from Trincomalee to Jaffna. Last year Sea Tigers were also engaged in attacking a disabled Jordanian merchant vessel carrying rice from India to South Africa.

A suicide squad is also operating under Soosai, named Black Sea Tigers that  damaged navy vessel Edithara  on July 10 1990 and sank navy’s command ship Abhitha on May 4 1991.

One of their most daring accomplishments was the recapture of Mulativu in 1996. They also contributed very much to the capture of Elephant Pass.

For the last one year Sea Tigers have been greatly engaged in procuring arms from Tamil Nadu transporting across the narrow strait between the two countries. But an expedient Prime minister Man Mohan Singh has turned down repeated Sri Lankan requests to let Sri Lankan Navy engage in joint patrols with the Indian navy to keep the Sea Tigers in check.

Tags: ,

How could we pursue peace when LTTE is not ready to negotiate

By Walter Jayawardhana


The World Bank website quoted Sri Lanka’s chief piece negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva as having told the donors concerned about war that without the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreeing for negotiations the country cannot proceed in peace negotiations.

The website said Sri Lanka’s Chief peace negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva dismissed donor concerns saying the government could not resume talks unless the Tigers agreed to negotiate

The website said Sri Lanka believes that donors should separate aid from the conflict and allow the administration to press ahead with its own economic agenda.

The website was reporting the happenings of the meeting of the representatives of the aid consortium that was held at Galle. Many VIP’s of the Sri Lanka government, including the Sri Lankan President attended the conference.  

The world bank website also quoted its South Asia Vice President in contrast: “… The World Bank’s South Asia Vice President Praful Patel said the country’s future depended on ending the Tamil separatist conflict peacefully. "There is no way to politely skirt this issue,’ Patel said. ‘As a major development partner to Sri Lanka, the World Bank would be failing if we did not place the conflict front and center in our deliberations for it is this that constrains the country’s development and stands in the way of its tremendous potential.’ He warned that this year will be a difficult one for Sri Lanka unless the government addressed the issue of runaway inflation currently at over 19 percent. ‘If inflation continues at the current levels of nearly 20 percent, 2007 will not be a good year for the economy,’ Patel warned….He said the conflict must be resolved through dialogue and not violence….’

The World Bank website also reported warnings sounded against Sri Lanka in Galle: ‘Sri Lanka will lose millions of dollars unless it makes peace with Tamil separatists, diplomats and officials warned as the crucial review of aid entered its second day Tuesday. But the government appeared determined to resist pressure from international donors and lenders to link aid to progress in the island’s faltering peace efforts with Tamil Tiger guerrillas. The EU, a key backer of the Norwegian-led peace efforts… has also been critical of the government’s human rights record in the face of escalating fighting with Tamil rebels. Late last year Germany announced a halt in any new aid to Sri Lanka and asked others to follow suit. … The US … sent Ambassador Robert Blake, but he issued a warning to Sri Lanka against pursuing a military solution to the drawn-out Tamil separatist conflict. …’

But World bank website quoted Investment Promotion Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama as having said the country has clinched 4.5 billion dollars from the donors. The website said, ‘Sri LankaTuesday said it clinched up to $4.5 billion worth of aid pledges from international lenders and donors following a meeting in the southern coastal town of Galle.

Investment Promotions Minister Sarath Amunugama said donors pledged help to build roads, ports, coal power plants and highways during the final day of the two-day aid review meeting. ‘International donors expressed satisfaction at our economic track record and we have got commitments up to $4.5 billion this year,’ he told reporters. He did not specify a timeline and did not give details on the precise amounts promised by individual donors and lending institutions. The comments also came after donors warned Colombo that it could face a cut in assistance unless it made peace with Tamil Tigers. …"

Tags: ,

Capital punishment for five Tamil Tigers

By Walter Jayawardhana


Five cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were sentenced to death in the Persian Gulf oil rich capital of Doha in Qatar for murdering a Tamil political opponent by bludgeoning his head with iron rods.

The person who was murdered is suspected to be a supporter of the Karuna faction who broke away from the LTTE years ago. 

The five Sri Lankan terrorists were sentenced to death, including one in absentia, as they were found guilty of killing the compatriot in Doha last February. Originally from Sri Lanka many of them were migrant workers in Doha.

Four of the accused were nabbed immediately after the murder, while the fifth suspect, considered the mastermind, is believed to have come to Qatar shortly before the murder and left a few days later.

Quoting legal sources a local newspaper said Qatar would ask the Sri Lanka government to extradite him. The case will be automatically directed to the appeal court.

Qatar authorities believe the murder of Sri Lankan Tamil Manokaran, 25, was a case of "political assassination" as he was a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and later probably a member of its break away faction, of Karuna, the local newspaper said.

Manokaran, a native of Eravoor, near Batticaloa in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, succumbed to his wounds seven days after he was attacked at his labor camp on Street 49 in the Industrial Area, the reports said. The breakaway group’s leader Karuna hails from the same area.

The charge-sheet said the main suspect supplied his accomplices with iron bars and face masks to carry out the crime.

The fifth suspect, who lived in the next room, supplied the group with information about the victim’s movements while the third stood guard outside his room.

"The first, second and fourth accused sneaked into Manokaran’s room and repeatedly hit him on his head with an iron rod," the charge sheet said.

A police officer said the suspects failed to kill Manokaran outside his accommodation, so they decided to murder him inside his room.

"On the day of the incident, the unidentified suspect was monitoring the stairs to ensure that no one was around, while another one stood in the corridor. "The others went inside the victim’s room and hit him many times on his head while he was sleeping," the officer told the prosecution.

"Though two of his roommates woke up after the victim started to scream, they were forced to remain silent as the attackers threatened them," the witness said.

"The attackers stopped the assault only after they thought that the victim was dead," he said.

Iron bars, two gloves and two face masks were found in the car of the fourth suspect. The police dog, which sniffed the bars, led the investigating officials to the second suspect.

A Sri Lankan roommate of Manokaran, who was summoned as a witness, said that he saw three men, two of them near the victim�s bed and the third standing near his bed.

"I saw a man hitting the victim on his head with an iron bar. They threatened to kill me if I opened my mouth. They told me that they belonged to the Tamil Tigers and I knew they would not hesitate to kill their detractors," he said

.The witness said that one of attackers shone the beam of a torch in his face to prevent him from seeing them.

Another roommate of the victim corroborated his statement, the police said. The medical report said Manokaran sustained bleeding in the brain and fractures as a result of the attack


Sri Lanka’s 59th independence day celebrations in Los Angeles

By Walter Jayawardhana


A cultural show reflecting the tropical island’s more than 2000 year old culture will be the highlight of the independence celebration the Consulate General of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka will be holding in Los Angeles.

A statement issued to the press said the Indian Ocean island’s 59th independence day celebrations will be held on Sunday 4th of February 2007 at the Japanese American National Museum at 369, East First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 at 9.30 a.m.

Organizers said exotic dances belonging to both Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups and music peculiar to the island’s Moslem community will be featured in the variety entertainment that will be held before a distinguished gathering including the diplomatic corps of the metropolis.  

A choreographer of the ancient school of Kandyan dancing Aruni Boteju who runs a professional Sri Lankan dancing school in Santa Barbara said her students of the school will be dancing to the rhythm of drums and songs  of modern day Sri Lanka but reflecting ancient dancing methods. It will be a mixture of the ancient wisdom with modern talents Boteju further commented.

The production of Melanie Ranasinghe , another choreographer will depict more modern dancing forms of Sri Lanka.

Both choreographers will be presenting the cultural events on behalf of the Sri Lanka America Association.

Jagath Lakpriya, a male choreographer will be presenting more traditional dancing items by his  theatre group called Saptha Bhumi, on behalf of the Sri Lanka Foundation.  The dances will be of the famous Kandyan tradition.  The group associated by Sarathchandra’s daughter Kisagothami Sarathchchandra is the current producers of Maname in North America.   

The Sri Lankan Tamils who are having a rich dancing tradition influenced by "Bharatha Natyam" like kolattam will be also presenting two items at the variety entertainment, Tamil Association spokesman said.   

The  celebration will start by hoisting the national flag and singing the national anthem. Refreshments will be served and souvenirs will be distributed among the guests.


Needed: A strong Opposition

The root cause of most political ills afflicting this country since 1970 has been the absence of a strong Opposition. A weak UNP-led Opposition was no match for the strong United Front government (1970-77) guided by a discarded shibboleth. During that period, the country witnessed the first JVP insurrection and the government extending its term arbitrarily by one year.

The 1977 general election saw the decimation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the emergence of a monolithic UNP regime, which railroaded anyone on its way into submission and ensured that it would be free from resistance in all spheres of its activity. In 1982, the UNP made a mockery of parliamentary democracy by replacing a general election with a referendum, which was rigged to the core to extend its term by six years. The democratic Opposition never recovered and the executive presidency dwarfed all democratic institutions including the judiciary. Houses of Supreme Court judges came to be attacked, as judgments they delivered were not in favour of the ruling party!

The absence of a strong parliamentary Opposition created a political vacuum, which the ultra radical elements with an anarchist agenda moved in to fill. There was a bloodbath with tens of thousands killed in the late 1980s in addition to those who perished in the North and the East strife. Southern terrorism replaced democratic Opposition.

It was only in 1991 that the Opposition was revitalised to some extent—that, too, thanks to a split in the UNP following an abortive impeachment attempt. In 1994, the UNP was relegated to the Opposition by the PA’s victory and until 2001, it was plain sailing for the Kumaratunga government. Although the UNP-led UNF was elected to power in that year after mass crossovers from the PA, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government had to play the role of an Opposition party rather than that of a ruling party vis-à-vis the powerful presidency held by the PA. The tussle between the two institutions ended with the UNF government being sacked and the SLFP-led UPFA being elected in 2004. The country reverted to a weak Opposition and last Sunday’s crossovers have debilitated it further.

Unlike from 1970 to 77, when the Head of state was answerable to Parliament and had to sit therein, today, the Executive Presidency, which is above Parliament, panders to the dictatorial tendencies of a ruler. Remember, President J. R. Jayewardene audaciously declared that the only thing he couldn’t do was to make a man a woman and vice versa! President Premadasa had no qualms about being a dictator and acted like one, until his untimely demise in 1993. President Kumaratunga, who was magnanimity personified at the beginning of her first term, became, as is only too well known, Premadasa reincarnated—sans his managerial skills—towards the latter stages.

Today, we have a smiling President. But, the presidential smiles are rather deceptive. We have seen such saccharin smiles before. President Rajapakse is beaming from ear to ear, as it is plain sailing for him at present with jumbos jumping on to his lap. But, there is no guarantee that the executive presidential powers won’t cause him to go the same way as his predecessors.

Although attempts are being made in some quarters to have us believe that there is a strong Opposition in terms of numbers, the ideological differences and animosity that the parties in the Opposition have towards one another are likely to stand in the way of their co-operation. The UNP, the JVP and the TNA are not likely to make common cause on any issue, let alone taking on the government jointly. The JVP cannot be expected to act as a real Opposition party as it is technically a part the ruling coalition and obviously doesn’t want to resort to an effective anti-government campaign for fear of helping Ranil return to power in the process. The TNA is a single issue party or a pressure group, whose raison d’etre is promoting the LTTE cause. It is blind to the democratic needs of the people. The burden of being an effective counter to the government therefore rests on the UNP.

Another revolt is reported to be in the offing in the grand old party with the Reformists who have chosen to stay back being poised to resume their campaign for intra party democracy. Unless the situation is brought under control in the party and another split prevented, the country will be without a real Opposition force.

It looks as if we were going to revisit the same setbacks that democracy suffered during the past 37 years for want of a strong democratic Opposition.

But, unfortunately, be it in the ruling party or in the Opposition, it is not the interests of the country that matter but those of a few individuals. Source


Tamil Nadu man supplied six metric tons of ball bearings to LTTE agents

By Walter Jayawardhana


The Mumbai Police arrested a Muslim man born in Tamil Nadu but living in Mumbai for helping to procure six metric tons of ball bearing to be used as missiles in claymore mines and other weapons to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for its terrorist activities, police sources said.

The 42 two year old man, Miraj Saheb Ismail, a resident of a Mumbai(formerly Bombay) suburb called Bhagat Singh Nagar, indicated to the police that the the commercial metropolitan area and its state, the Maharashtra is being used increasingly by the Sri lankan terrorist group for procurement of arms.

Additional Commissioner of Police, Bipin Bihari  told Mumbai news men  that the arrested man is originally from Tamil Nadu and living in the city for the last four years.

He said the suspect has facilitated members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to receive six metric tons of ball bearings from Null bazaar in South Central Mumbai.

The area is a major hub in India manufacturing motor spare parts and steel ball bearings are widely produced in this area for that purpose. Ball bearings are also widely used as missiles in improvised explosives like claymore mines and other bombs by the LTTE against civilians and security personnel in Sri Lanka. By exploding two such devices the LTTE was able to kill 65 civilian bus passengers including 15 children, at Kebithigollewa in North Central Province in Sri Lanka the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said in a report.

The arrest came after four days following the arrest of five Sri lankan Tamils who entered Tamil Nadu as refugees and three others in Chennai for trying to smuggle explosive material to Sri Lanka. Police said the five men have come to Tamil Nadu as refugees to smuggle 2000 kilograms of ball bearings to the island after receiving them from Mumbai.

The Mumbai Police suspect that  Ismail had sent at least six metric tons of steel ball bearings to the Tamil Tiger agents in Chennai in three consignments of 2000 kilo grams each to be smuggled to Sri Lanka.  

Before engaging in this illegal activity, the LTTE using its Tamil Nadu political supporters like Vaiko was able to raise a smokescreen alleging that the Sri Lanka government was importing explosives from India.

Additional Police Commissioner of Police Bipin Bihari said the suspect Ismail was a man who sold tea and coffee from his bicycle at night and this alleged crime was done while he was engaged in that job. He said to determine exactly what part he had played in the deal the Mubai Police is discussing the matter with the Q Branch of the Chennai Police who arrested the Sri lankan Tamils in Chennai.

The first suspect to be arrested in Tamil Nadu was Prabahakaran and the Police said he is an ardent supporter of the LTTE. After that, the others connected with the smuggling ring were arrested. Prabhakaran was arrested at a place called Tuticorin.

From November last year there had been constant reports that the LTTE was regularly using Tamil Nadu for procurement of arms since many other European and American connections have been sealed. Between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka the Tamil Nadu Police seized a lathe machine that could make bomb shells on November 29 2006. When a vehicle coming from Andra Pradesh to Madurai, met with an accident at a place called Manamadurai police discovered 30 boxes of gelex boosters widely used to increase the velocity of bomb shrapnel.  On December 5 and 11 separate groups of fishermen discovered live rockets in the sea when they got entagled in their nets.   Later security services who helped to diffuse the rockets said they had the striking capacity of hitting targets more than 10 kilometers away.  On January 24  this year the Tamil Nadu Police arrested the eight people mentioned at the beginning of this story for trying to transport two metric tons of steel ball bearings.  

Meanwhile Indian intelligence sources have also focused their attention to Mahrashtra State since Naxalites there were able to get arms due to the surrendering Maoists in in Nepal and they could re-route their arms supplies to the Indian state and the LTTE could negotiate for a share of it.

Tamil Nadu Opposition leader Jayalalitha Jeyaram has crticised  Karunanidhi’s DMK administration in Tamil Nadu for onceagain allowing Tamil Nadu to become a safe haven for LTTE weapons. But Karunanidhi apparently pressed by the Center said that he would send  a stern warning to those indulging in arms smuggling from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka. The Chief Minister further said such acts would cause a setback in efforts to find an amicable solution to the ethnic issue.

"We will not permit such acts in the state," he said, replying to the points raised by D Sudarsanam, Congress Legislative Party leader, who raised the issue in the state assembly.

In an obvious reference to AIADMK leader Jayalalitha he said some people were trying to portray a picture as if militants had infiltrated the state and to "cause panic and tension" among the people.   A Sri Lankan refugee Siva, who tried to smuggle materials used in making weapons, was arrested by the police. Iron ball bearings, cash and three cellphones were seized following his arrest, he said.

Tags: ,

Attanayaka threatens severe action against Karu and others

By Walter Jayawardhana


Apparently upset over losing forty parliamentarians to the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa over the years the protégé of party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and General Secretary of the United National Party (UNP) Tissa Attanayaka threatened to take disciplinary action against the party’s latest team who joined the government and accepted the ministerial positions.

Attanayaka who has been making desperate political moves to avoid his leader being removed from party leadership despite his fourteen glaring electoral defeats said the team led by party’s deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya who joined the government with a team of party veterans, in the history’s biggest exodus will be dealt with severely using party discipline. He said it was clearly stated in the party constitution that they could not join any outside party or coalition without the approval of the working committee.

He said details of the disciplinary action would be worked out immediately at the next working committee meeting.  

But the party reformists maintain that they never left the party and they have joined the government as members of the United National Party and even help implement the memorandum of understanding  (MOU) signed between the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and their United National Party.

The UNP has failed to remove other parliamentarians like Keheliya Rambukwella before from parliament as they had successfully argued before the Supreme Court against such a move. About half of the UNP dissidents serving in the government joined Mahinda Rajapaksa before this exodus.

Tissa Attanayaka also said that the MOU signed between the two parties will be trashed since accepting UNP dissidents into the government was an abrogation of the 8th condition of the agreement. He was speaking over the Sinhala language program of the BBC, the Sandeshaya. 

Attanayka also attacked Mahinda Rajapaksa for accepting UNP dissidents into the government and said it was ridiculous to think to establish peace by accepting 18 members of Parliament from a party that has promised such support with the help of 60 parliamentarians.

He said it was finally a good sign that these dissidents left the party since no party could go forward with such disloyal people since by accepting ministerial perks they have exhibited what kind of reforms they wanted to have in the party.  They were clamoring purportedly for reforms and what they were interested were ministerial perks, Attanayaka charged.

The General Secretary said because of them the normal activities of the party were very much harmed. He said the rebels who left the party very much obstructed the party organizational activities since they made the party preoccupied with reformist proposals that prevented the normal activities.

The dissidents wanted arbitrary powers in the hands of the party leader removed and install internal party democracy that allowed the power of electing the party leader. But the party leader wanted to keep those powers that kept ultimate powers in his hands.

Meanwhile M. K. Shivajilingam of the LTTE proxy party the Tamil National Alliance speaking over the same radio program asked how could only part of the UNP MP’s fulfill the aims of the MOU when the full body of MP’s could not help it. He said the UNP MP’s have crossed over due to the party internal clashes.


Cabinet Ministers would not get bigger pay packets

By Walter Jayawardhana


The newly sworn in cabinet, non-cabinet and deputy ministers would not receive bigger pay packets because of their ministerial portfolios.   

Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said the newly sworn in Sri Lankan cabinet with crossed over United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) would not take Ministerial salaries but receive only salaries as ordinary parliamentarians.

He was speaking after 19 UNP parliamentarians and 6 SLMC parliamentarians joined the government. The teams were led by UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem.

Yapa said the newly recruited parliamentarians would work to implement the policies of "Mahinda Chintanaya", the manifesto that received a mandate from the electorate during the last Presidential elections.

He said that the minority government now enjoys the strength of 113 parliamentarians in the parliament and with the added strength of  the other parliamentarians who have endorsed the Mahinda Chintanaya, namely the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) the strength is 159 members in the parliament.

He said if the government sought a general election before the life of the parliament was over in search of  a majority, for the election office itself it would have cost two billion rupees, that would have become a burden on the economy of the country.

With the new arrivals of the UNP parliamentarians, the total number of UNP members now in the government is amounting to 40. Some others joined President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government before this mass cross over. All of them decided to leave the UNP mostly because the most serious crisis created in the party: the rebellion against its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who refuses to leave the leadership after 14 electoral defeats of the party. UNP has been governing the country alternatively and it also led the country to independence from Britain 59 years ago.  When the cross over happened, without tackling the problem the party leader is accused of being in Nepal and India.

The new party chairman Rukman Senanayaka in a last minute attempt tried  to avert the crisis by proposing in a secret meeting with President Rajapaksa not to take the dissidents into the government but to take the whole party in to the government and form a national government. But President Rajapaksa reportedly told Rukman that he trusted the UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya rather than the leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

One of the surprise entries to the cabinet was the Southern member of parliament, Mahinda Wijesekera, whose electoral rival is Ports and Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera.  Samaraweera reportedly protested Wijesekera’s entry into the government but the President assured Wijesekera that he would be given a place to work for the country. Wijesekera said he was a man who entered politics through radical left and later was in the Sri Lanka Freedom party before joining the rightwing UNP. "But the President has personally assured me that I would be given a chance to help make the social change that I have been struggling to make all my life under his leadership," Wijesekera said just after taking oaths.

A senior Vice President who crossed over, R. M. Dharmadasa Banda said they would see that the Memorandum of Understanding already signed between the UNP and the SLFP and policies even beyond that that would benefit the country would be implemented.

While UNP seniors were given cabinet positions the younger leaders like Hemakumara Nanayakkara, Naveen Dissanayaka and Neomal Perera were given non-cabinet ministries in the reshuffle.

Karu Jayasuriya, P.Dayaratne, R.M.Dharmadasa banda, M.H. Mohamed, Gamini Lokuge, G. L. Peiris, Bandula Gunawardena, Rajitha Senaratne, Mahinda Wijesekera and Milinda Moragoda were senior leaders of the UNP who were made cabinet ministers. Milinda Moragoda was a very close political ally of the party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and his departure exhibited the size of the crisis the leadership has caused in the party analysts said. But Ranil Wickremesinghe remains stubborn and refuses to leave the leadership. Meanwhile the membership can do little about it since the current party constitution empowers him with arbitrary powers.


The Morning after the crossovers

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The most formidable political mind of the last century, Lenin, once wrote that there are some comrades who think that ‘minus three’ is greater that ‘minus two’. His point was that they are so blithely optimistic they are unable to note the minus sign affixed before the quantity signified by digit. I would suppose the converse is also true. There are some who think that ‘plus three’ is less than ‘plus two’, in that they are so given to prejudice and pessimism, they are unable to discern the positive in the emerging Sri Lankan situation. There are several significant improvements in the overall picture.

* The East has been partially liberated.

* The UNP dissidents have joined the government, bringing in their modern reformist views, management and developmental experience, and contacts with the world outside. If they leave their peacenik "Ranilism" behind (they must not be allowed to smuggle in "Ranilism without Ranil" into the government and weaken the war effort), this new development brings together the largest collection of rational and moderate political elements, and makes this the broadest centrist coalition, in our post-Independence history.

* President Rajapakse is to leave in late February, on a state visit to China, the rising global superpower. The visit must leave no stone unturned. Its purpose must be the forging of a robust and all-round strategic partnership (military, economic, political, diplomatic) with China; one which makes the relationship with China our strongest and most important. At the tail-end of his life, Hon Lakshman Kadirgamar had commenced the reorientation of our external relations, in a direction that shifted priority precisely to China, and away from India with which he had become disappointed. The speech made by Hon Kadirgamar at the BMICH, on the occasion of the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister – an occasion on which he invited the then PM Mahinda Rajapkse as chief guest, much to the consternation of the Bandaranaike clique – contains the outlines of the new course. Hopefully President Rajapakse will build on that move, tapping to the fullest (and that includes party-to- party relations between the CCP and the SLFP), the potentialities of friendship and alliance with the Asian giant. He must follow this up with a parallel visit to Russia.

Pundits’ Post-Mortem

Wars are won and lost not only by what happens at the frontlines but by what happens behind the lines, in the rear of the armies.

The reactions to the victory in Vaharai are revealing of the various facets of the country’s crisis. While recruitment to the military continues and desertions are down to a record low, the pundits, local and foreign, have resorted to their customary sneering cynicism. The Tigers, say the pundits, have merely conceded territory, and retreated in good order to fight another day. Simon Gardner of Reuters, whose reportage is really quite decent, quotes an anonymous diplomat who virtually recommends that the LTTE does something, in order to restore parity!

The pundits are of course wrong. In warfare it is almost always the attacker who suffers more casualties than the defender. If the LTTE were fighting as successful guerrillas, they should have been able to impose a punishing number of casualties on the Sri Lankan military and then disappear, with few casualties of their own. Yet in the drawn out Vaharai campaign, The LTTE lost many times more fighters than did the Sri Lankan side: its casualties were in triple digits while the Sri Lankan did not exceed double digits. The Tigers have lost roughly half their fighters and at least half their total strength in the East. The Tigers were once again unable to do in the East what the Hezbollah did to the Israelis. I underscore "in the East", because they did approximate the Hezbollah performance in Muhamalai on October 11th. And that is the problem: how to fight victoriously in the North.

Eating Hot Rice

Here again myth must not be allowed to paralyse action, while haste must not precipitate premature action. We have fought in the North before, not just on the defensive but the offensive, and won. That is how the islands were liberated from the LTTE during Premadasa’s administration, and Jaffna, during Chandrika’s. Thus we must not be paralysed into inaction. Yet we must not make the same mistake that the US did in both Afghanistan and Iraq, namely leave behind too few troops to handle the "hold and build"phase, following a successful "clear and take" phase. We must not withdraw the army prematurely from the East until the job is done and the gains and made irreversible. Worst of all is the slogan of an immediate march, not even in the North, but of all places, on Kilinochchi! Our hard won military gains, and the almost unprecedentedly high morale of the troops, must not be eroded by throwing them into a meat-grinder. Those who advocate this should relearn the lesson of how to (and how not to) eat hot rice, taught by the old woman to Dutugemunu who was in hiding. Dutugemunu thereafter understood the principle of systematic, planned consolidation-advance-consolidation.

We shall of course have to go North and then finally into the Wanni heartland. The lessons of the past must be learned and predictable advance along a single axis (the disastrous Daluwatte doctrine) must be eschewed. These tactics possibly result from a lack of manpower. Prabhakaran must surely be waiting the time we get caught in the classic manpower crunch: too few troops to capture and hold terrain; overstretch which permits him to concentrate his forces for a devastating breakthrough at an unexpected point in space and time. The way to avoid that would be to generate a surge in recruitment by tapping into the present patriotic mood: the most recent Peace Confidence Index/Social indicators of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) registers a figure of 54% support among the Sinhalese for a policy of ratchetting up the military response right up to all-out war.

At the present stage of our history, there is no such thing as too large a military: we must strive to recruit the maximum number in the minimum time, so as to finish the job. In his recent and extremely good TV interview with Derana, Col. Karuna drew attention to the crucial factor of the Military Participation Ratio (MPR), which was once running in Prabhakaran’s favour but is now working in favour of the Sri Lankan state.

Political Commitment

One of the biggest lacunas in Sri Lanka’s long conflict has been the absence of a clear declaration of policy objectives. That gap has been filled by Def Secy Gotabhaya Rajapakse – the best Defence Secretary we have ever had – who quite rightly asserts that Sri Lanka will strive to take out the LTTE’s military assets wherever they are located, because as long as they have the capacity, the LTTE will seek to terrorise, destabilise and sunder the country. Though the foreign media have tried to demonise him for this statement, he is saying nothing more than that which the prominent democracies themselves say. Sri Lanka is trying to demilitarise the Tigers; decommission their weapons. Since the Tigers do not want to do it the easy way, it has to be done the hard way; and since the international community won’t do it, we have to do it ourselves. It is after all our country the LTTE seeks to divide, our leaders they kill, our buses they explode suicide bombs in. "If not us, who?" This involuntary demilitarisation still permits the Tigers to convert themselves into a political entity.

Given that the historic task faced by the country is to face Prabhakaran’s challenge and defeat it, we have the most committed leadership core that we have had since the conflict began. In the 1980s and ’90s, the Sri Lankan military had a stellar group of officers but not a sufficient critical mass of likeminded political leaders and officials committed to the task. We had individuals such as Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranjan Wijeratne and Anuruddha Ratwatte (the last named spent 21 days under fire during the post-Elephant Pass siege of Jaffna in 2000), but never a core group such as we have now: President Mahinda Rajapakse, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, and Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwelle, supporting the General Sarath Fonseka and the two younger service commanders.

AKs and Autonomy

There is however, a gap or deficit. There does not seem to be an overall integrated plan –meshing the military, political, economic, social, electoral and diplomatic dimensions– to deal with the Tamil/North and East issue. While it is laudably understood that the LTTE’s military assets have to be taken out, it is insufficiently recognised that the LTTE has political assets which also have to be neutralised, and political assets cannot be neutralised by military means, only by political ones. The LTTE’s main political asset is its narrative of Tamil grievance, its sob-story which it is able to sell to Tamils throughout the world, and through them to the international community, beginning with our powerful neighbour who carries more global weight than ever before in modern history.

The battle against the LTTE’s political and ideological assets is a global one, and must be waged by means and in a language that is global. The counter to the political idea of separatism is not historicism but the idea of a united democratic country in which all citizens have equal rights and treatment and ethno-regional identities have adequate political space. In short, the LTTE’s separatist army and navy have to be destroyed by the Sri Lankan military – by weapons wielded in war – while the LTTE’s separatist idea and ideology have to be destroyed by the political weapons of development and devolution. It takes rifles and regional autonomy; Dvoras and devolution, to defeat the Tiger. Just as we applaud successful military campaigns, we must encourage political campaigns against the Tigers. Military offensives must be paralleled or swiftly followed by political offensives. A law on enhanced devolution is the equivalent of a successful military offensive and can cause the Tigers as much damage.

Devolution’s Disastrous Friends

Such a policy, which I am convinced is the only Realist one, is thwarted today by two Southern sources. The JVP, who’s Political Bureau, has just decided to oppose any measures making for devolution, and the peaceniks that link devolution with the Tigers. Both sides conflate devolution with the LTTE. The JVP is convinced – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever– that the struggle against separatism will be weakened by devolution, and the liberals who are convinced – also on the basis of zero evidence– that an adequate measure of devolution such as those proposed by the Majority report and Dr Tissa Vitharana, cannot be rejected by the Tigers.

I was probably one of the first commentators– certainly the first Sinhalese– to welcome, on balance, the Majority Report in print. Now, a group of academics, several of whom are expatriates (plus a garrulous feminist busybody) have issued a statement which is a model of how NOT to defend or advocate devolution. Their statement in support of the Majority report not only does not contain a solitary word condemnatory of either separatism, terrorism or the LTTE (while it does criticise the JVP and JHU by name!), it opines that the LTTE will be unable to ignore or reject a serious devolution proposal.

One wonders whether these characters are referring to the same LTTE which rejected the Chidambaram proposals on Dec 19th 1986, waged war on the Indo-Lanka accord, scorned the Mangala Moonesinghe proposals of 1992, Chandrika’s 1995 and 1997 proposals, and her year 2000 draft bill, resiled from the Oslo agreement to agree federalism within a united sri Lanka and insisted on negotiating with the UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe on the basis of the ISGA which Chris Patten described as unlike any federalism of his acquaintance! If the Tigers were the sort of formation that would or could not reject a generous settlement based upon power sharing, surely they would not have sabotaged Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe’s presidential campaign? If these peaceniks argue that none of these proposals were adequate, then their notion of adequacy goes way beyond anything an elected Sri Lankan government could countenance, and indeed any government any where in the world would countenance on its territory!

Answers and Solutions

The JVP’s threats can be countered quite easily, as can the conspiracies of Ranil and the Chandrika faction, with a general election. While the nomination process can purge the SLFP of Bandaranaike stooges, there isn’t a single issue on which the Sri Lankan, indeed the Sinhala, people cannot be convinced of, if it is advocated by Mahinda Rajapakse and actively supported by Karu Jayasuriya, the two most popular and credible political personalities in the island. The electorate can be so convinced, not because it is gullible. The Sri Lankan electorate is among the most practised and sophisticated in the world. It is that Mahinda Rajapakse and Karu Jayasuriya happen to be the most representative of Sri Lankan public opinion which never strays too far from the Middle Path.



%d bloggers like this: