Daily Archives: February 5, 2007

The 59th National Independence Day of Sri Lanka – Video


President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the 59th Independece day celebrations indicated that he was ready to share power with the Tamils by stating that the government must at the minimum be reasonable and honest enough to agree with two well known moderate Tamil politicians who have adopted the democratic path for the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

[splashcast HBXO3728CC]

Naming the two by name the President said, “We are not ready to give into the blood-thirsty demands of the LTTE. However, at the minimum we should be reasonable and honest enough to agree with Mr. Anandasangaree or the Hon. Douglas Devananda.”

A captain has any number of roles to play

by Trevor Chesterfield

As does every good captain of business, whether corporate or industry, Mahela Jayawardene enjoys facing a challenge.

He has been talking a lot about how the India tour creates the right climate for challenge and that is not too surprising, Yahaluweni. After all, the sport is all about facing up to the bigger job ahead. This particular tour, though, creates the right climate for the team and their captain.

He has long moved on from all the record efforts of last year in England and against South Africa. He has also fronted up to critics and took the blame for the exit from the Champions Trophy. That episode, of course, drew howls of derision from any manner of critics: the big talkers and know-it-alls who have been there before and worn the same tatty t-shirt and sweat band.

Then after the New Zealand tour, the jargon that followed was largely mixed and when the squad for India was selected, there are the grumbles about recalling so-called ageing players. If Australia followed such an idiot guide dictum then they wouldn’t have the match-winning side they have put together for so long. It is the experience of the plus-thirty in the age bracket that make up the experience in the side.

All of which makes anyone who closely follows Mahela and the side wonder whether the critics genuinely sit back and take a close look at what has happened and where the side was a year ago to where it is now. The sad point here is how the record partnership of 624 with Kumar Sangakkara against South Africa is ignored and that between Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama against India is remembered with dewy-eyed fondness.

Yet, the number of spectators who watched the events of that record partnership of 576 runs for the second wicket in 1997/98 was far less than you would find on a crowded number 154 bus between Moratuwa and Bambalapitiya. Perhaps the proximity of Premadasa Stadium is enough to keep even the most ardent fan away from that unfriendly concrete bowl type venue.

It is so hard to understand why some don’t want to move on from a particular era and embrace the new one with its modern image. If Jayasuriya and Jayawardene can move on, it is time others did the same. Each Test in a series is part of a modern chapter of success or failure.

There were more than a 154 busfull of spectators at the SSC when Jayawardene and Sangakkara put their runs on the board; and they gave one chance between them. But that is how records are created and partnerships and legends established.

Going into India is rarely easy and for some unexplained reason the Palk Straits seems to conjure a watery grave for any team’s hopes. Well, in many cases. Reading the adventures of that great Ceylon-born captain and pioneer, C H Gunasekara, carefully typed and meticulously kept of seventy years or more ago suggests how little has changed.

There are those who ask the reason for the current India sojourn of four games, with that in Pune being switched to the more cosmopolitan Kolkata for political rather than safety reasons. With the World Cup not too far off, of course the tour is needed to sharpen players skills. Since the New Zealand series in a seriously damp and chilly shaky isles, the players have tackled the local Premier League to retain some semblance of form.

Watching SSC in action against Moors the other day was a good enough example of why the league needs to trimmed of excess flab. If you study the Australia example, where some players have records that many Sri Lankans would love to have against their name, it explains how tough is the mental as well as the competitive side of the competition.

It is why the challenge facing Sri Lanka in India is so important at this stage of the pre-World Cup build up is crucial to the team’s mental make up. Going into a World Cup with an under-prepared side creates its own endemic issues. There is a lot of experience in the squad and it is a tour that gives such as Russel Arnold and Malinga Bandara a chance to display the talent that can make a difference between a team’s success and failure.

It needs to be remembered that neither Chaminda Vaas nor Muttiah Muralitharan are in this particular touring party. For Bandara it is a good chance to add to his experience and claim a more permanent place in the side.

Jayawardene’s admission that he loves a challenge and the tour presents another chance to learn more about captaincy and other leadership skills is a good sign. It shows how he has grown into the role of management on the field and created his own style, as did Michael Vaughan during the 2005 Ashes. There is a calmness that exudes confidence about Jayawardene’s play that adds to the team’s aura.

Of course there are other ways of looking at this side of the game. Being captain is a whole lot different to that of being a member of the team. But as with the Australians, they also go into a game and think about what their captain needs in terms of help. A captain’s role is part public relations, especially as there is a need for diplomacy when it goes horribly wrong; occasional agricultural consultant (if you take into account pitch preparation and reading a playing surface), a touch of psychiatry as well as being a nursemaid and some accountancy.

It may seem complicated, but that is the reason for a good team management support. It is also being nudged out of the comfort zone that counts as well.

Whether Tom Moody remains with Sri Lanka after the World Cup and does life go on for all of us after April 28 when it ends, is another matter. England looms and it’s a job closer to home these days for the ever-amiable Aussie. He’s battled at times trying to understand the Sri Lanka psyche; but he’s not the only one. There are a lot of fragile egos around, but happily these are outside the team.

If he does go, Sri Lanka Cricket need to first ask the captain and the team who they want as a replacement. John Buchanan, John Wright, Bob Woolmer . . . There are other names as well, but that is a decision for the team to make suggestions.

Last week the point highlighted in these notes was about Law 21.3 and a decision by the chief executives to recommend to the main ICC board to change the law by removing the area of responsibility from the umpire to the match referee. Good friend Brian Murgatroyd, head media honcho of the ICC sent an email that explains how the ICC get around the copyright held by the Marylebone Cricket Club.

It is all legalese, but perfectly legal as well, as the ICC along with all Test and some associate member playing nations: except as varied, the Laws of Cricket shall apply. In other words, the ICC adapt the Laws to suit their situation, in the same way that all member countries do for their own domestic competition and conditions.

It’s all a bit of fancy footwork you might say, but in such circumstances, necessary to keep the game flowing and will no doubt make some countries happy. The one problem, however, is how the law is adapted and used and this comes under the spirit of the law that applies to umpires as well as players and team management.

South Africa have also decided to step in and issue a ‘zero tolerance’ dictum to spectators to curb racist remarks aimed at players. Following the episode at Centurion where Herschelle Gibbs shot off at spectators who began abusing players, notably in this case Paul Harris, Cricket South Africa have gone the Australia and England route where spectators are ejected.

If they are caught and proven guilty, it could also end up in a life ban.

Answering a set of email questions, CSA chief executive, Gailor Majola emphasised the zero tolerance measures for unruly crowd behaviour, including evictions and possible life bans for guilty spectators.

‘We at Cricket South Africa take a dim view of what has taken place where spectators are making uncalled for remarks and wish to ensure that spectators and players enjoy themselves during the limited overs series against Pakistan.

‘As a result, CSA will enforce zero tolerance measures against unruly behaviour, including the eviction of those guilty parties.

‘We will also evict, criminally charge and ban for life from our stadia any spectators that racially abuse the players or their fellow spectators or disrupt the game in any way.’

He added that CSA have increased security at the relevant venues and reaction teams will be on duty to play both prevention and remedial roles.

‘We will not allow unruly behaviour from a small minority to impede on the enjoyment of the majority of spectators,’ he added. ‘These matters will be addressed on a regular basis through the public address system and the big screen to ensure that the public is aware of the need to respect their fellow spectators and the players.’

While this is all part of the ICC policy, have any of the four South Asian Test nations issues a similar zero tolerance clause? After the remarks made against Hashim Amla at Saravanamuttu Stadium last August, it might be worth investigation. via … The Island

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A respectful response to Johan Galtung

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Even when one disagrees with some of its thoughts and musings, it is a pleasure and privilege to encounter a mind as fine as that of Prof Johan Galtung, the legendary peace thinker and activist. Namini Wijedasa has outdone herself in her interview with Galtung in The Island (Feb 2, 2007).

Prof Galtung gets many things right and a few wrong. That which he gets right flies in the face of the clichés of the international community, local peace lobbyists and most commentators.

CFA and Peace Process

He rightly says that there was no “peace process”; no “peace track” from which we deviated or have been derailed; only the CFA – the exclusionary, purely bilateral character of which spelled its doom. The critique of the CFA is hardly original. It has been made recently by the International Crisis Group, but more significantly was made years ago when things were perhaps still rectifiable, by Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and top South African peace negotiators Ebrahim Ebrahim and Roelf Meyer on their visits to Colombo. What is striking though is that:

* Hume’s criticism and warnings, and Hon Kadirgamar’s offer of a representative of President Kumaratunga’s at the peace talks, were arrogantly ignored by the Norwegians, the Wickremesinghe administration and the peace lobby. (I was at a discussion when Hume offered his services backed by the EU boss Javier Solana’s support, which was welcomed only by Tyrol Ferdinands, Gen Gerry de Silva and myself, while the head of the NAWF, who it must be said, advocated the president Kumaratunga’s involvement in the process, opposed Hume’s involvement on the grounds that it “would disturb the architecture of the Norwegian effort”!)

* The international community and the local peace freaks still fail to accept that the Solheim-Wickremesinghe project was flawed in design and that therefore any fresh attempt at peace must of necessity entail a revision and restructuring, not a restoration, of the CFA. Re-negotiating the CFA was the original stance of the Mahinda Rajapakse administration, but was rejected by the LTTE and treated coolly by the Norwegians.

ISGA and PTOMS

Johann Galtung is also right when he discloses the alarm he felt at the proposed PTOMS, which he says was a disguised version of the ISGA which in turn approximated an independent state. He adds that it was understandable that the Supreme Court ruled against it. Galtung’s sagacious remarks give the lie to the allegation that any and all opposition to the ISGA and/or the PTOMS is misplaced and chauvinistic.

To me they are a reminder that Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vocal supporter SB Dissanaike put up posters in Colombo, urging the resumption of talks on the basis of the ISGA. They also raise the issue as to why Chandrika Kumaratunga and negotiators of the day acceded to the PTOMS, which as Prof Galtung says placed the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on par with one another; recognised them as equal. What makes this worse is that this was an LTTE that had been weakened by the devastation the tsunami had wreaked on its Sea Tiger assets!

The point that Prof Galtung makes of the PTOMS and the objections that the Supreme Court made, were raised beforehand by me at the US ambassador’s dinner table with CBK’s chief peace negotiator, in the hearing of visiting US Asst Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, next to whom he had been seated. He dismissed my cautioning and criticisms with no little annoyance.

The continuum or overlap between the PTOMS and the ISGA becomes explicable when one realises that the back channel between the CBK administration and the LTTE comprised the man who drafted the ISGA (Prof M Sornarajah of Singapore) and his wife’s brother (President Kumaratunga’s advisor, on leave from the Rockefeller Foundation). CBK’s advisor then brought former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari to Colombo to explore a role for him in the “conflict transformation process”. Ahtisaari’s views on how to resolve ethnic conflicts, and what Sri Lanka’s fate would have been had the project succeeded, and is now very much in evidence. He picked up where Bernard Kouchner left off:

“UN Special envoy Martti Ahtisaari…handed Serbia a plan that sets its breakaway province firmly on a path to independence. As expected, Mr Ahtisaari gave …a proposal that did not mention the word ‘independence’ or address the loss of Serbia’s sovereignty. But it allows Kosovo the right to access international bodies normally reserved for sovereign states and gives Kosovo the green light to raise its own flag with its own national anthem and other symbols. ..Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who has condemned Mr Ahtisaari for “anti-Serb bias” and rejected his plan in advance, refused to meet him. The province of two million is cherished by Serbia for its cultural and religious heritage as the nation’s medieval homeland.”(‘UN deal has home rule for Kosovo’, Reuters, The Weekend Australian, Feb 3-4, 2007, p.16)

Thanks to the opposition of Lakshman Kadirgamar and whistle-blowing by the para-JVP paper Lanka, the effort by CBK and her advisor failed. It is hardly surprising that Kadirgamar was completely cut out of the PTOMS negotiations by Chandrika. As a result relations between them had sharply deteriorated, in what tragically proved to be Kadirgamar’s last months. The PTOMS determined the manner and mood of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s exit from office. In place of an inevitable transition, gracefully managed, the dominoes started to fall: the Supreme Court, the presidential candidacy etc.

Majority Report

Johan Galtung is right when he welcomes the legislative majority that the Rajapakse administration has now achieved, and is optimistic about the potentials inherent on the Rajapakse formula of “maximum devolution within a unitary state”. He is also correct when he applauds the Majority Report of the Experts’ committee of the APRC. I am struck by the fact that the Minority Report, which is championed by the JVP and JHU, failed to secure the support of any member of the minorities within the committee! But Galtung is wrong when he suggests that the Majority report be merged with elements of the ISGA. The direction to go is the opposite one, in which the Majority report is tempered by some elements of the Minority report, which is what Prof Tissa Vitharana has attempted, though not entirely satisfactorily.

Prabhakaran’s Political Fundamentalism

If the Tigers would have settled for an Indian inspired model, which is what Prof Galtung suggests for us, they would not have gone to war against the Accord and the IPKF. Suresh Premachandran of the TNA accurately said in a recent interview given to The Island’s CA Chandraprema that the 13th amendment endowed the Provincial Councils with more powers than Tamil Nadu insofar as the Indian Central govt could swiftly dismiss the Tamil Nadu govt, but Colombo could not do likewise. This degree of autonomy and empowerment did not give Prabhakaran pause while warring against the IPKF in 1987-90. If some local grievance or tardiness of process was the reason, the Tigers could have commenced hostilities, made their point and returned to the table, but they did not.

If Prabhakaran were willing to accept the kind of solution that the most generous democracy offers its ethnic insurgents, he would not have ordered the murder of so many Tamil federalists, Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam being most prominent. Prof Galtung must surely be aware of the analytical judgements made of the LTTE by distinguished conservative scholar Prof Walter Laqueur, who ( in The New Terrorism) saw a sole parallel in European fascism of the 1930s, and prominent progressive Prof Andrew Sinclair who ( in History of Terror) deems Prabhakaran to be more extreme than Bin Laden.

Equating the Unequal

Prof Galtung, only half humorously, attempts symmetry where there is none: between Sinhala South and LTTE. True, Southern consciousness imposes certain constraints. This is an island with a culture and civilisation distinctive from the adjacent landmass, and intent upon maintaining that distinctive (even unique) identity. It is a small country with only two major communities (making the game essentially bipolar).

It is on the ‘doorstep’ of a huge country which has in its most proximate (Southern) region, almost 50 million co-ethnics of one of those two communities.

With much less obvious reason, many societies, states, political leaderships, other than Sri Lanka’s are averse, even allergic, to constitutionally explicit federalism. These range from Britain to China, from South Africa through Spain to Indonesia and the Philippines. The solution for Sri Lanka then is to fashion and implement a model of authentic, albeit non-federal devolution/autonomy. (One might also recall that rational, radical thinkers such as Marx, Engels and Lenin were totally opposed to federalism, though they, especially Lenin, supported regional autonomy). It is true that the LTTE will not accept non-federal autonomy, but then again, its resiling (while Balasingham was alive) from the Oslo-federal formula shows that it will not accept a democratic federalism either. Devolution must be for the Tamil people and with the non-Tiger Tamil groups which have renounced separatism and are willing to enter an electoral process.

Though it is every bit as determined as the separatists, none of this makes the Sinhala South ideologically fanatical and politically fundamentalist as are the Tigers. There is no tyranny, no worship of leaders or torture and execution of political rivals, critics and dissidents. Sri Lanka, as the International Crisis Group notes, is a highly pluralistic if often dysfunctional democracy. It strains the credulity to see any structural similarity or symmetry with the LTTE!

The Urge to Re-merge

Prof Galtung completely rejects the de-merger or re-demarcation of the East (“the North and part of the East”), and considers only the status quo ante as sustainable. What then of the Eastern Tamils with their distinctive identity which Prof Brian Pfaffenberger predicted would lead to internal (intra-Eelam) rebellion, in an essay in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars almost 20 years ago? What of the Sinhalese and Muslims of the East? Prof Galtung must ponder why so relentless a modernist such as Fredrick Engels argued in his critique of the Erfurt Programme, that if Germany is to be unified as a federation, Prussia must be divided, because, as it stood, it would preponderate far too much within the new arrangement. As WW1 proved, Engels was right about the Junkers. I’m afraid that the international community must recognise that re-merger is as much of a non-starter as the (infinitely more justifiable) “right of return” of the Palestinians.

Soul Representative

“The soul is in the name”, says Johann Galtung, and he is right. He is in grave error though when he asserts that the name in question, Tamil Eelam, could be retained and should be accepted for a federal or autonomous unit by the Sinhalese. The name is indeed in the soul, and that soul is one of separatism. It is a spirit which must be exorcised. Prof Galtung’s analogy and model, Tamil Nadu, is not on all fours. Separatist sentiment there surely was, but in India there was no bitter violent conflict, let alone a war, over Tamil separatism. Such a conflict makes certain terms radioactive. Why, pray, was it not possible for the Southern states to continue to call themselves “the Confederacy” after the American Civil War, while remaining within the US as federal units? Why could the German Democratic Republic (GDR) not have been a province of a reunified Germany? The problem is precisely the soul; the soul of the political project! Unfortunately, this aspect of Prof Galtung’s suggestions for a future settlement of the Sri Lankan ethnic question sounds very much like the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo, separate diplomatic representation, flags, anthems and all!

Most disappointing is a remark of Prof Galtung’s in which he seems to equate the “war winning” mentality of the Sri Lankan state, government or society, with the mindsets of apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel. Firstly, when challenged by a fascistic enemy, better a mentality of winnable war than defeatism and appeasement – or is that a luxury reserved for Europeans and Americans? Secondly, his observation runs up against both history and arithmetic! Apartheid South Africa and Zionst Israel were/are societies and states where minorities oppressed (invaded, occupied, colonised) majorities. They were both settler-colonial states, one in which Blacks were disenfranchised, the other in which Palestinians (in the occupied territories) are disenfranchised. Sri Lankan Tamils do not have to use separate toilets and park benches as in apartheid South Africa – and the American South (remember Alabama?), until the mid 1960s. Just a few weeks ago there was a furore over the appointment of the first Moslem minister ever in the Israeli Cabinet! The Sinhalese are not a minority. They are neither a residue of colonialism nor 20th century migrants to this land. And the Tamils are not disenfranchised except by the Tigers! Ours is a democracy, threatened by a separatist movement which practices terrorism.

It would serve no purpose to contradict Prof Galtung’s scenario of an unwinnable war, failure of the Sri Lankan armed forces campaign, a major and successful LTTE counteroffensive, a return to the negotiating table, and the acceptance of something between the Indian federalism and the ISGA (or a modified, moderate ISGA). I think the scenario is wrong or at least avoidable, and have made suggestions (most recently in the Sunday Observer Feb 4) which would prevent such an outcome, but it cannot be ruled out that he turn out to be correct, at least in part. Only future History will tell. Overall and in conclusion however, Prof Galtung must be thanked for his recommendations of cross cultural, inter-community convergences and more fundamentally, for his unambiguous vote of confidence in the future of Sri Lanka. Though we differ on the road to take to get to that bright future, I share his optimism. via The Isalnd

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To talk or not to talk …

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s tour of Vakarai on Saturday, even before dust had settled on the battlefield, has had a far more devastating impact on the LTTE than the military onslaught that drove away hundreds of battle-hardened Tiger cadres who had ruled that township for over ten years. Although many will doubt the wisdom of a presidential visit to the war torn areas at this particular juncture, it has helped expose the sorry pass that the LTTE has brought itself to through its sheer frenzy of rage and obduracy. A few months after the LTTE launched its final war, having collected billions of rupees and forcibly conscripted thousands of children and adults for that purpose, Prabhakaran is not in a position to make his annual Heroes’ Day speech out in the open, let alone holding a military parade. Even in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, he failed to come out of his hiding at least for a few minutes to reassure the people, whose destiny he claims to control. The lame excuse of his concern for personal security should not be trotted out, as he is full of boasts that the Sri Lankan military is no match for his outfit! If the President could visit the heavily infiltrated East, why can’t Prabhakaran make a speech in the refuge of the heartland of his terror empire, Kilinochchi?

Prabhakran has not only let down his cadres and the economic refugees in affluent countries striving to perpetuate the conflict here so that the question of their being sent back doesn’t arise but also disappointed the local arm chair defence analysts—their motto being Api venuven Koti (Tigers for us!)—who are apparently hoping and praying that the LTTE will bounce back. It was only the other day that a wire service quoted an unnamed diplomat saying that the LTTE had to do something to regain parity! That sheds light on the thinking of some members of the international community urging the government to restart talks.

It is against this background that the President’s offer from Vakarai to the LTTE should be viewed. He asked the LTTE to lay down arms and come for talks. The reaction of the LTTE to his offer was not known until this edition went to press, but it is a foregone conclusion that the outfit will reject the offer lock, stock and barrel.

Anyone who is urging the LTTE to renounce violence and return to the negotiating table of its own volition is barking up the wrong tree. We heard the donors repeating their call for negotiations, the other day in Galle. Why they urged the government to resume the stalled talks is baffling. The onus of restarting negotiations should be on the party that walked away from the talks. The present peace process is dead in all but name as the LTTE walked away from talks on more than one occasion. During the UNF government, which signed the present CFA with the LTTE, the LTTE unilaterally stalled the talks by putting forth its ISGA demand and rejecting the counter proposals. If the UNP’s contention that its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would have won the Presidential Election (2005) but for the LTTE-instigated polls boycott is true, then the LTTE deliberately ruined whatever chances there may have been of the peace talks being revived under his watch by engineering his defeat. Thereafter, it scuttled talks with the Rajapakse administration, having promised war less than two weeks after the presidential election.

Using talks to strengthen itself militarily and torpedoing them thereafter have been part and parcel of the LTTE’s strategy. As the European Parliament pointed out last year, the LTTE has rejected devolution at the District, Provincial, Regional and National levels.

The LTTE has faced ignominious defeats in a series of battles so far and lost the Eastern Province save a few pockets of resistance. Amidst speculation that the government is contemplating a northward push from the Eastern theatre with the LTTE being engaged at several points simultaneously, so as to exert a severe strain on its limited resources, especially manpower, the LTTE and its sympathizers are trying to play the same old game—playing for time through another round of bogus talks, on its terms. Hence, we have its international allies going hell for leather to kick-start the talks.

While negotiations are the way forward, it is imperative that those who call for talks ensure first of all that the LTTE won’t use a future peace effort to further its military interests once again. They must coerce the outfit to make a firm commitment to a negotiated settlement by publicly renouncing its separatist goal. Pressure is the key! They must also spell out what action they will take to make it fall in line, if it tries to scuttle the talks, which is very likely. Above all, talks must not be confined to the government and the LTTE. All stakeholders must have representation in the peace process. Remember, the EU has said in its resolution announcing the ban on the LTTE: … [The EU] recognises that the LTTE does not represent all the Tamil peoples of Sri Lanka and calls on the LTTE to allow for political pluralism and alternate democratic voices in the north and east parts of Sri Lanka which would secure the interests of all peoples and communities… any restoration of the peace process should seek the involvement of a wide range of communities and political organizations in Sri Lanka, including Northern Muslim representatives.

Let that advice be heeded!

-The Island Editorial

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