Setting the stage for an election
Mahinda Rajapakse, Karunanidhi,
and Velupillai Pirapaharan
Govt. looks at general election before
Basil talks to CWC and UNP defectors
for election alliance
TNA MPs in secret mission to Wanni visit the
Pirapaharan tells TNA MP, govt's war
failure will be exposed to south soon
Tamil Nadu's ceasefire call rejected by
Mahinda in meeting with Manmohan
While Tamil Nadu turned the heat on New
Delhi to push for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka
in the lead up to Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh's meeting with President Mahinda
Rajapakse last week, the government was
looking at its own options to diffuse the
developing crisis including the submission
of a political package and a snap general
election before the economy hits rock
For all the rhetoric on capturing
Kilinochchi and ending the war by December,
the government now knows the ground
realities are otherwise with the going
becoming increasingly difficult and finds
the pressure mounted in India somewhat of a
blessing in disguise to justify seeking
another extension to end the war.
Having created the perception the end was
nigh, come January, when the economic crisis
also starts biting the people, the
government would be hard put to explain why
the Tigers are still standing and it is to
overcome these challenges that the
administration is seriously looking at the
election option to seek a mandate for a new
This agenda could include asking for a
little more time to finish the LTTE thus
concealing the ground realities on the
military and economic fronts and paving the
way for a campaign based on war hysteria.
It is to achieve this specific objective
that President Rajapakse said Thursday after
the meeting with Manmohan Singh that he told
the Indian Premier there will be no let up
on the military offensive and any talks or
ceasefire will be only on the condition the
Tigers lay down their weapons.
This message to a people fed with a regular
diet of an imminent military victory would
be extremely palatable and the best recipe
the President could place before them to
seek a fresh mandate and that is exactly
what he did.
And if the government succeeds on this
score, it has six more years to play around
with before the next general election which
of course would help it ride out the
economic storm impacting the people in the
few months ahead.
To this end, the government could well point
to Indian pressure as justification for the
delay in liberating Kilinochchi and
Mullaitivu and tell the people it needs a
little more time until the dust settles in
New Delhi after their own general election
by April next year at which time the Tamil
Nadu factor may not be all that relevant.
It is in the context of failure to deliver
on the military front as per the deadlines
given by Rajapakse that the economic crisis
becomes significant since the government
knows the longer it waits, the more
disastrous the situation will become as
revealed in a Bloomberg report, hence the
decision to weigh the option of a general
election to ride the crisis and survive
This report filed by Johanna Dee Chua on
Emerging Markets Trading Strategy for
Citigroup Global Markets Asia states Sri
Lanka's foreign exchange reserves have
fallen at an accelerated pace largely due to
foreigners exiting the country's treasury
bill and bond markets and the Central Bank
intervening in the market to keep the rupee
stable by selling about US$ 600 million to
the market in the last few months.
Posing the question, whether Sri Lanka is an
accident waiting to happen, the report,
states the country is the most externally
vulnerable in the region and that the recent
announcement seeking proposals for a US$
300mn syndicated loan looks very difficult
under the current environment.
And with the country set to lose GSP Plus as
well and the cost of living expected to soar
even higher given the number of tax
increases through the 2009 budget, short of
delivering LTTE Supremo Velupillai
Pirapaharan to the people, President
Rajapakse knows he will not be able to keep
a lid on dissent for much longer and thus
sees the developments in India in a positive
light to play the victim and whip up
national hysteria before announcing
elections - hence his statement on talking
tough to Manmohan Singh.
Interestingly, the President was to also
speak with Hasan Ali, a Congress Party
member of the Tamil Nadu state assembly
recently and urged him to keep the pressure
on Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi and
his DMK on LTTE's atrocities with particular
reference to the Rajiv Gandhi murder thereby
keeping the issue on the boil.
The question however is whether the
government can point an accusing finger at
India alone and escape blame if it fails to
deliver on the military front especially
considering the propaganda hype that Senior
Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse had won
New Delhi's support for the war effort
during his recent visit.
Indeed, India did not tell Sri Lanka to stop
the war, going so far in fact in the joint
statement to say terrorism must be combated
with resolve to which ironically the
President responded by stating in an
interview with The Hindu days later there is
no military solution to a political problem
and that a settlement would be reached
within an 'undivided Sri Lanka.'
It is in this overall backdrop, pressure was
mounted again in Tamil Nadu demanding a
ceasefire in Sri Lanka with the Communist
Party of India's State Secretary, D. Pandian
writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on
Monday, November 10 calling on him to act
swiftly to end the war.
This letter of course has to be viewed in
the backdrop of the LTTE announcing through
its Political Wing Leader B. Nadesan the
Tigers were ready for a ceasefire.
It is apparent on reading Pandian's
missive, there is some coordination between
various parties in Tamil Nadu and the LTTE
which Colombo has failed to counter
effectively using other groups who find the
Tigers anathema and this letter set the
stage for events to follow.
Just 24 hours earlier, the President of the
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, K. V.
Thangabalu, handing over an Indian Rs.
500,000 cheque to Karunanidhi to provide aid
for Sri Lankan Tamils also called for a
ceasefire citing the LTTE's readiness to do
"The only solution to the long-pending Sri
Lankan Tamil people's issues can be through
the implementation of the accord signed
between former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
and former President J.R. Jayewardene in
1987. And this will be possible only after
the warring sides cease fighting,"
Thus, while the Congress led government in
the centre was pressuring President
Rajapakse to submit a political package and
combat terrorism with resolve, at Tamil Nadu
level, the Congress Party was joining hands
with the Communist Party and Karunanidhi to
push for a ceasefire.
It is in this light, Pandian's letter to
Prime Minister Singh the following day makes
interesting reading and was as follows:
Communist Party Of
India Tamil Nadu State
D. Pandian M.A., B.L., (Ex. M.P) State
Dr. Manmohan Singh Hon'ble Prime Minister,
Date: Nov. 10, 2008
Respected Prime Minister,
I am writing this letter to draw your
attention to the latest developments in Sri
All the political Parties in Tamil Nadu
demand in one voice to stop the war against
the civilians in
which is causing great concern in Tamil Nadu.
You are aware that the ceasefire arrived at
the initiative of the Norwegian govt.'s
representatives in 2002 had been
unilaterally abrogated by the Sri Lankan
govt. in 2008, Feb. Many countries
disapproved of this unilateral decision and
requested the Sri Lankan govt. to pursue the
path of negotiation to arrive at a political
But the Sri Lankan govt. aggravated the
situation by resorting to aerial bombing and
also all-around attack by artillery. Lakhs
of innocent people had been uprooted from
their habitats and rendered homeless. Many
innocent people were killed.
As their misery rose and their cries of
sorrows also increased, the Tamil Nadu
people of their own accord and instinctively
reacted to the human tragedy and hence
demanded an end to the war.
Any war however bitter it might be, should
end one day as the first and second world
wars have ended. Hence, on behalf of the
State Council of the CPI, I request you to
use your good offices to impress upon the
Sri Lankan President to stop the war and
agree for a ceasefire.
One pertinent question was raised about the
attitude of the LTTE, which is spearheading
the Tamils' movement, regarding such
Hence, our party issued a public statement,
requesting the fighting Tamil leadership in
to spell out their stand, to ceasefire
attempts, in unambiguous terms.
They have responded immediately in a
positive manner. I am enclosing the
statement of the LTTE's Political Advisor B.
Hence, as the assurance for ceasefire has
been obtained from the LTTE, the Sri Lankan
govt. must be persuaded to reciprocate
positively for ending the war.
Delaying and dodging to resolve the ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka, will lead to
fissiparous tendencies to grow in various
parts of India.
As Indians, we feel, that the Sri Lankan
ethnic conflict should he resolved amicably
or else, the negative impact on India will
have long term repercussions.
Hence, our party appeals to you, to treat it
as important and act swiftly to end the war
in Sri Lanka.
With the stage thus set and President
Rajapakse due to meet Prime Minister Singh
on Thursday, November 13, the Tamil Nadu
State Assembly met 24 hours earlier, and
unanimously approved a resolution calling
for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement to
the issue in Sri Lanka.
This move of course placed the President in
a precarious position at his meeting with
the Indian Premier having already committed
to a negotiated settlement within an
'undivided Sri Lanka' in The Hindu
interview, a point Singh was to put to good
use in making his case for a speedy
Be that as it may, at the State Assembly on
Wednesday, with the Leader of the House, K.
Anbhazhagan introducing the resolution,
Chief Minister Karunanidhi moved it on
behalf of the state government and carried
The resolution stated the Sri Lankan Tamil
issue remains unresolved for over four
decades. It further said several political
parties and Tamil organisations have voiced
support for the cause and the only way to
wipe out the suffering of the Tamil people
was by ensuring a ceasefire.
Calling on the Sri Lankan government to
subscribe to a ceasefire and pull back its
troops, the resolution also asked of the
Indian government to take appropriate steps
to ensure a political solution through a
dialogue between the two adversaries.
Interestingly before the resolution was
passed, Karunanidhi said all political
parties should sink their differences and
not indulge in a blame game over the issue
of Sri Lankan Tamils.
"Let us be united at least on this issue as
it concerns the Tamil community as a whole.
I ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA
Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi to take note of
this resolution and ensure that the demand
for a ceasefire does not remain a dream,"
Karunanidhi further said.
Added Karunanidhi in moving the resolution -
"It is the unanimous wish of Tamils living
the world over that a ceasefire be
immediately put in place to ensure that the
hardships of Tamils come to an end in Sri
But President Rajapakse would have none of
it having decided to go for snap polls and
told the Indian Premier he needed a little
more time to proceed with a political
The President who also had a closed door
meeting with Indian's Foreign Minister
Pranab Mukherjee was to say it would be
politically suicidal for him at this point
to concede a ceasefire short of the LTTE
laying down arms since the opposition could
capitalise on it at an upcoming election.
However, the President did assure the
Indians, he will address the political
issues of the minorities no sooner he
weakens the LTTE militarily and receive a
Indeed, even as the President was holding
talks with India, his brother Senior
Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse in the
company of SLFP General Secretary
Maithripala Sirisena, Treasurer Dulles
Alahapperuma and Minister Nimal Siripala De
Silva were meeting with the coalition
parties in the government thrashing out a
possible alliance for the election.
In this respect, the SLFP team met with
both the CWC and the UNP defectors and said
the government intends going for early
elections and asked these parties to contest
in alliance with the SLFP.
Projecting the Western and Central
Provincial Council elections first, Basil
Rajapakse said what the government was
looking for was firming up an alliance
agreement for a general election as well at
the same time, thereby indicating either
election may come first.
Indeed, he was to say, the full impact of
the economic crisis will hit the country by
June and it was prudent to go before the
people well before that time, no doubt using
the war platform to divert attention from
the cost of living, corruption and other
This move towards an early general election
will also give the government the
opportunity of doing so without having the
Constitutional Council or the independent
commissions in place which fact too was
hinted at by Rajapakse.
But what the government has not taken into
account, when making its calculations is the
LTTE factor and the possible damage the
Tigers can inflict in the run up to the
elections which can impact on a campaign run
on a war strategy.
A hint of this possibility came when two TNA
MPs from the Eastern Province, Chandrakantha
Chandra Nehru and S. Jeyanandamoorthy the
previous week crossed over to Tiger
territory and had a series of meetings
including a visit to the forward defence
While both MPs met with LTTE Political Wing
Leader B. Nadesan and toured the FDLs
including Kilinochchi, where they were given
a briefing on the status of the war, which
of course was altogether different to the
one projected by Colombo, Jeyanandamoorthy
alone met with LTTE Supremo Velupillai
On their return to Colombo the MPs were to
brief their TNA colleagues and some
opposition members on the discussions had
and the heavy fighting in store in the
Jeyanandamoorthy was to say the LTTE Leader
was extremely confident and indicated the
government's 'bluff' of military victory
will be exposed to the people in the south
within the next three months and that the
people will then turn on the Rajapakses.
The LTTE he added made it known they will
withdraw from Pooneryn and hold only
strategic points to further their own
military strategy which will be seen in the
The MPs had further said the LTTE indicated
they were prepared to resume negotiations
provided the government placed a genuine
federal package on the table albeit
Rajapakse was unlikely to do so.
Said Jeyanandamoorthy - "Pirapaharan said if
the government wants to continue with the
war, the LTTE will fight to the last man to
prove the futility of a military solution."
Whether they are simply rhetorical and bare
words or a desperate cry for a ceasefire
remain to be seen but for now the battle is
on and the Tigers have been able to resist
capitulating according the deadline given by
Of course from the government's standpoint,
with the stage being set for a general
election there is not a snowball's chance in
hell of any federal solution coming from
Rajapakse and this was amply reflected at
the last APRC sessions.
It was the Muslim Congress representative at
the APRC, Nizam Kariappar who cited
President Rajapakse's interview to The Hindu
on the 'Undivided Sri Lanka' concept and
said the issue can now be resolved without
further ado and the proposals finalised,
only to see SLFP representative Minister
Viswa Warnapala shooting it down.
The President, he said called and informed
him to stick to the Unitary State (See box
for minutes of meeting).
Thus, it looked like the President had
pulled a fast one on India with regard to a
political solution and set the stage for an
election campaign based on a war platform,
but Tamil Nadu was to strike back within 24
hours with Karunanidhi's MPs once again
threatening to resign en masse. With that it
was back to square one.
Tell tale APRC minutes
Mr Nizam Kariapper: Now that we have
decided to proceed without MEP and JHU
and with this President's remark on
Undivided Sri Lanka I thought, we can
get over the biggest hurdle.
The Hon. (Prof.) W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
Mr. Nizam Kariapper: That is the thing.
Once we start discussing then as SLFP
representative it becomes incumbent on
you to go to the party and ask, 'This
opinion has been brought up on the
statement made by His Excellency, that
there is a change of attitude from your
unitary.' Then this becomes easy. That
is what I am insisting. It has given a
big hope among the minorities. Sir.
Mr. Raja Collure: In my opinion, it is
premature to raise a question about the
President's position as reflected in
this interview with The Hindu. The other
point is, we should not engage in any
semantics or whatever on a sensitive
issue like this in the background of an
attempt to have a consensus. This will
impede a consensus, putting one position
against another. It is really not a case
The Hon. (Prof) W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
The same day on which he spoke to you
over the phone, he spoke to me over the
phone and he wanted me to remain
committed to the concept of the unitary.
Mr. Nizam Kariapper: Recently?
The Hon. (Prof) W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
Yes. About a week or two weeks back
The Chairman: That was before this
Mr. Nizam Kariapper: Now, you must
understand whatever the political
differences, our party is not part of
the government. When there is an
opportunity to push through a peaceful
political solution, bona fide I try to
make use of the opportunity not in a
notorious way or in order to upset the
whole thing. You would have seen that
every time that we got blocked, I look
it in a realistic point of view - What I
am trying to say is I even do not know
whether that reflected a change of
attitude from the unitary. I do not know
The Hon. (Prof). W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
No. I do not think so.
Mr. Nizam Kariapper: I do not know. But
what I am saying is, in the same way we
are not insisting, 'Ah, now that he has
said undivided,' he is committed. The
problem is let us come with the
concepts, which we have so far come,
where we have come to a certain
consensus which we can present. We even
went to the extent of not having the
united or unitary for that matter. Then
came an insistence on the part of the
President and his party that they wanted
the unitary and without which he does
not want a proposal. That was the next
biggest stumbling block for us.
All I am now saying is the pronouncement
by the President to an important
newspaper The Hindu where he clearly
said that he stands for four Ds - 'Demilitarisation,'
'Democracy' 'Development' and for the
first time, he clearly spelt out,
'Devolution.' He said the word,
'Devolution.' Having said that, he would
like to have an undivided Sri Lanka. Not
that we are trying to say, 'Ah, he said
that, so , therefore, it is so.' What I
am saying any way we have to discuss
this matter. Can we have this wording,
'Undivided Sri Lanka' as an alternative
for unitary - I am not even saying an
alternative for united, unitary - and if
that point could be brought out
officially in the form of a
clarification by either the chairman or
the party representative, 99 per cent of
our work on this will be cleared in this
The Hon. (Prof) W.A. Wiswa Warnapala: I
am sure, we can seek a clarification.
But, as far as I am concerned, going on
the basis of the discussion which I had
with him over the phone, the same day on
which he spoke to him, he wanted me to
tell the committee that the party
position is that the party is still
committed to the concept of a unitary
state. He did not want me to deviate
from that position and he wanted me to
convey this message to the chairman
which I did the same morning or evening.
Therefore, since this particular
statement has been made to The Hindu on
a subsequent date, I think, both of us
might be able to see him and seek a
clarification and in my own thinking. I
am sure by 'undivided' he meant that it
is a unitary system.
Mr Nizam Kariapper: Very well. That is
fine. That is what we exactly wanted. If
he means 'unitary' is 'undivided' -
Because, these are all political terms
and inasmuch if he can convince his
people which he is capable of - as
substitute for 'unitary,' then that
solves the problem of most of us.
The Hon. (Prof). W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
But, I do not think you would have taken
Mr. Nizam Kariapper: No, that is why, it
is for you to seek clarification.
The Hon. (Prof) W.A. Wiswa Warnapala:
That we can do.