anyone lost his head first, and then his
face last week, that was JVP frontliner and
trade union leader K. D. Lalkantha. Whatever
the country's present perils may be, last
week's singular legislative focus fell on
the JVP's promised show of strength by
striking work on July 10 and of course the
provincial hustings that are showing a
JVP, fractured and struggling to stand on
its feet needed the event to show that the
Marxists are not yet ready to bite the dust
despite painful defections of its star
category members. And the government needed
to prove that the people were with it and
supported the war effort. There, the battle
lines were drawn.
the parliamentary debates throughout the
week were either full of the pre event fear
or euphoria, depending on the camp the
speakers belonged to and the same
sentiments, post event, with the JVP proper
a little apologetic and the government
riding the crest of a short lived wave.
really was a baptism of fire for Lalkantha
and a true test of his prowess, all the more
accentuated by his boastful pledges to quit
parliament if he fails to stop SLTB buses
from plying on the roads.
July 8 and July 10 set the mood differently.
July 8, dedicated to debate the extension of
emergency turned out to be the JVP's
platform speech making day with the
government whimpering protests.
House temperature rose early when UNP
legislator Ravi Karunanayake raised a
pertinent oral question on the purchase of
31 bullet proof cars for VIPs and
insinuating that one of them was given to a
'para military leader turned chief minister'
that got the government in the raw.
the query was the new Chief Government Whip,
Dinesh Gunewardena. Giving a breakdown, he
said 12 vehicles were imported at US$1.8
million, 15 others at US$3.7 million and
four others at US$13.23 million.
said the vehicles were imported from a range
of countries including the United Kingdom,
India, Germany and the Czech Republic but
when prodded about duty waivers, could not
give figures, as the formalities were not
make and other details cannot be disclosed
due to security reasons," he said, to
which Karunanayake agreed. But what he
needed to know was whether Pillayan was
given a vehicle.
can't say who would use the vehicles,"
but this angered Gunewardena who said until
and unless the member learns to refer to an
elected chief minister properly, he would
say nothing. "I can call you by many
other names. Would that be right?"
demanded Gunewardena. Conceding, a cheeky
Karunanayake then asked, "Then, was the
paramilitary chief minister a
ambiguous Gunewardena said that the
government was duty bound to provide a chief
minister such a vehicle. "Details, type
and date cannot be disclosed," he said.
the emergency debate proper, it was less
about security and more on trade union
action and election violence.
the debate was Prime Minister, Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake who declared some 112
security personnel and 43 civilians were
killed last month.
emotional, he said he disliked having to
read figures of dead and wounded for he was
referring to the brave sons who could have
made a greater contribution to the nation,
if not for the war. "All the more
reason as to why we should see a quick end
to this devouring war," he noted.
the deaths, some 793 security personnel and
63 civilians were injured during the same
period. "Sadly, we have information
that some public officials have provided
information to the enemy and these are
people who are maintained by the tax payer's
money," he observed.
salvos early was UNP front liner Lakshman
Seneviratne. First he scoffed at the many
deadlines to end the war, and quoted with
glee, the Defence Ministry website, the MCNS
statistics, statements by the Army Chief and
all are at variance. First some 5000 LTTE
cadres were to be killed, and now according
to Gen. Fonseka some mushrooming of cadres
has happened. Or else, why would he claim
that there are 4000 more and the war would
not end soon," he sniped.
he engaged the Prime Minister who was
listening intently and asked him whether
deadlines were feasible, and pat came the
reply. "I would like to set a deadline.
But that's impractical," said the
Seneviratne waxed eloquent about the many
glories of Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera who is
the UNP's NCP chief ministerial hope and
said he was not only his personal hero but
also an entire country's hero and his life
had to be safeguarded.
noted that Janaka Perera's life was under
grave threat for the many battles won
against the LTTE and the government must
secure his life.
is our candidate. But he is our hero, the
entire country's hero. Don't forget that the
LTTE got to Gen. Lucky Algama in Ja-Ela,"
MP noted that as a retired senior officer he
was entitled to two security personnel, but
they too have been withdrawn.
is our candidate and he has no security. His
life is under threat from the LTTE and from
political opponents. Several motorbikes have
been seen near his house. We have written to
the IGP and requested for enhanced security.
The UPFA candidate got 30 army escorts and
our candidate, a former army chief of staff,
none," complained the MP.
defend the government stood Dr. Rajitha
Senaratne, but instead of tearing the
Opposition Leader to smithereens, something
he has been doing regularly since his
defection, he chose to strike middle ground.
said Janaka Perera and Gen. Fonseka fought
side by side and what Perera would have to
say about the military success today would
be of interest. "I can't understand why
he would want to be in the UNP especially
when his one time deputy is achieving the
objective he too wished to achieve,"
the Minister said.
next admitted that the government was
embroiled in some 'warfare' with the media
which was quite unnecessary. "It would
be great if we did not have this conflict
with the media. Earlier, they were all on
Rajapakse's platform and we should keep them
there," said he.
self-confessed federalist, he said now he
had to rethink because it appeared that the
LTTE could never be committed to actual
discussions. "So many have tried. Ranil
Wickremesinghe did whatever he did bona
fide. He wanted to win their trust. They
defeated him and cut the arm of the single
voter who supported him. Get us the
international assurance that the LTTE would
not conveniently abandon the discussion
table and I shall go back to my devolution
campaign," he said.
Ratnayake who followed made a string of
references to the Rajapakses, and noted some
catch phrases such as 'Rajapakse police' 'Rajapakshakaranaya'
and 'Rajapakse bheeshanaya.'
said there was a well-organised government
machinery to suppress the dissenting voice.
By using the armed forces for these dirty
jobs, the government has discredited the
forces. The Rajapakse police was kept there
to assault monks, students and journalists,
of appointing useless committees, stop
attacking the media. We don't appreciate The
Leader Publications' brand of journalism but
we all know who was behind the arson attack.
We also know why there are no
investigations," he said.
Government Whip, Dinesh Gunewardena's
opinion was that the emergency debate was
being used to raise more political issues
than security and scoffed at the JVP for its
desire to hold a token strike.
JVP is splintered and is looking for
political mileage. The UNP is desperate and
can't organise a strike, hence latching on
to the JVP, what is worse is that generally,
trade union action is resorted to obtain
workers rights. Instead of labour issues,
the JVP's demands' to call off the strike
are all political. Don't use the poor
workers for your politics," thundered
anyone had the right to demand for a salary
hike and call for strike action that lay
with the valiant soldiers was the candid
opinion of JHU Leader, Ven. Ellawala
monk called the JVP's call to strike 'unfair
and untimely' and said it undermined the
effort to win the war. "If anyone
should be making demands, that should be the
soldier. It is wrong to go on strike when
the country is faced with a war. Don't break
the country instead," said he.
days later, on July 10, the tables were
truly turned with union champion Lalkantha
not turning up inside the chamber until late
afternoon, only to face a barrage of insults
and tongue in cheek questions, hoots and
catcalls of gleeful government members.
was a sense of victory as UPFA members took
broadsides at Lalkantha.
uncustomary broad swipes early morning was
Deputy Finance Minister, Ranjith
Siyambalapitiya. He scoffed that the JVP-UNP
unholy alliance had failed to create any
impact and theirs was a strike that failed.
said it would indeed be sad to miss
Lalkantha from the legislature as he would
surely honour his word and resign his
parliamentary seat. "We will miss him.
In fact our next UPFA member is on his way
to be sworn in," added he, much to the
have struck upon your strike," noted
the member, well aided by Non Cabinet
Minister for Power and Energy, Mahindananda
Aluthgamage gleefully adding, "Illagena
kewa." (You slapped your own faces,
struck your own selves.)
Lalkantha entered the House eventually, the
government legislators gave him a welcome
like no other. "No show, no show, boru
show" they chimed, while thumps, hoots
and catcalls were directed his way. For his
part, the JVP trade union leader weathered
the storm and said, "Shout as much as
you like. Laugh as much as you like. But
this is 70% successful and my target was
reached," he said.
you aiming very low," queried
Aluthgamage innocently, only to earn a
withering look from Lalkantha.
the next time
were more theories than that. Non Cabinet
Minister Jagath Pushpakumara gloated that
the strike failed due to lack of public
support. "Why would people support such
opportunistic trade union action? They don't
believe in the JVP's sinister attempt to
whip up anti incumbency sentiments," he
for Lalkantha, he said he doesn't feel like
a failure, or that his effort had failed.
"We worked against all odds," he
said, and the government began its chorus.
"We did it amidst government
suppression, police intimidation and state
media going all out to make it a flop,"
all the protesting and the statistics he
discussed in the House could not make
Lalkantha smile. Deep down, the JVP that is
capable of crippling the state sector within
hours, this time failed to have the desired
impact. That's something that will make the
pompous JVP union leader eat humble pie for
a little while. At least until the next