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 13th Amendment ghosts still rule 

Mahinda Rajapakse, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Dayan Jayathilaka, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Sajith Premadasa

The Presidential helicopter was busy from Saturday (18) onwards: The President choppered over to Embilipitiya to have a series of meetings and for lunch with the Chairman of ‘The Firm’ (‘without shares’ as he points out) Chamal. He used the Pelwatte Sugar Company’s auditorium to listen to his son Namal making his maiden speech in front of him.

Namal chose this meeting to endorse his cousin Sashi Rajapakse’s entry into politics — Speaking a tad quickly, Namal told his audience that some time ago when he was speaking to his father about the future that awaited this country, his father had told him that if he was given just five years, he would sort matters out. The audience heard how his father had taken just about three years.

It was no play but all work for the President. He addressed a number of meetings including a telephone network-sponsored distance learning scheme in Moneragala. But he had done his work for the week. It was then that the President took Ambassador Dayan Jayathilaka quite by surprise.

Alerted to his sacking

Rather like the longest serving cabinet minister in Saudi Arabia, at the time, Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani (the architect of the 1973 oil price hike by OPEC) who learned of his dismissal by King Fahd, over the radio whilst playing cards with his pals, Dayan Jayathilaka was alerted to his sacking by a friend who had read it in the Daily Mirror! The fax came some hours later. His crime he himself was not aware of.

However speculation was rife that Dayan’s removal was his tempting of fate by placing into sharp focus the government’s stance on the 13th Amendment. He repeated it like a mantra in his exchanges with a political commentator in an English daily.

This perhaps annoyed the President who had stated that he knows what solution to give  “after the elections.” Or the President had another ace up his sleeve and did not want Dayan’s postulations to be seen as the view of the government given his position within. 

Government viewpoint

Dayan was articulating the government viewpoint or the fact that the 13th Amendment was part of our constitution. Dayan Jayathilaka may have been part of the court and he may have been lulled into a false sense of security in that his private writings published for public consumption were apparently ignored by the upper echelons of power. And there lay his fault.

Jayathilaka obviously was not privy to the fact that his articles were not so much as causing rumblings but giving those opposed to him an opportunity to complain. To simplify matters,  Dayan Jayathilaka appears to have breached Rule 1 of the 48 Laws Of Power: Never Outshine the Master. The ostentatious display of one’s superiority can inspire fear and insecurity in others — leading to tales of not helping with the established formalities at Swiss Airports.

Dayan Jayathilaka’s removal, recall — whichever terminology is used — will be felt by the Republic for some time to come. With Generals Fonseka and Chandrasiri et al and the Navy Commander Karannagoda too out of their initial positions it is only the Rajapakses who will carry the torch of victory when election time comes around. 

Rely on the judiciary

By contrast the Presidential Advisor and friend of 40 years and political ally, Vasudeva Nanayakkara has not so much as articulated but sought to rely on the judiciary to enforce action against some who are known to be close to the President. The President on the other hand has lent tacit support to those very people, like P.B. Jayasundera for example. P.B. has been ‘invited’ back to the fold and has launched a Supreme Court action to pave the way for this.

 Meanwhile Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse helped open the A9 roadway to Jaffna last week. An important move it was greeted with a huge sigh of relief by both Jaffna residents and Colombo’s commercialdom.

The President was in Mahiyangana last week. He opened the new State House and in the early hours went on a walkabout through the town. He went to the Nagadeepa Viharaya where he had previously vowed to return only when there was electricity there. His vow fulfilled he made a return.

On his walkabout he also chatted with the shopkeepers who had been given 70 shops there through the efforts of a party stalwart. At the main sports ground where the Presidential helicopter awaited, the President saw that a large crowd had gathered and made an impomptu speech and interacted with the crowd before leaving for the short hop to Moneragala and the Pelwatte auditorium.

Cordial relations

On Friday, the President visited the Upper Kotmale project in the company of Tikiri Kobbekaduwa. He followed this up by returning to State House Kandy, where he hosted a  gathering in the presence of Nanda Mathew, Dilan Perera, Nimal Siripala de Silva and Rajitha Senaratne.

The President said that he had always maintained cordial relations with all and that this had stood him in good stead. He used these relationships he said to maintain a consensus amongst all those he worked with. At this gathering many opposition members pledged their support to the President and his party.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe meanwhile was a busy man. He chaired a meet at Cambridge Terrace which discussed various issues connected to the Grand Alliance now in the making. Those present included Mangala Samaraweera, Karu Jayasuriya, Rauf Hakeem, Kabir Hashim, S.B. Dissanayake and Ravi Karunanayake.

At the outset Samaraweera was critical of the way the UNP was going about the Alliance.  Especially the running down of the Alliance partners and questioning the political viability of the Alliance. They got down to business after Samaraweera had his say. Earlier Tiran Alles and Mangala Samaraweera had been to the 4th Floor of the CID to make statements.

Tried and tested methods

The government had once again gone back to tried and tested methods of using the CID for political purposes. Recall, Tiran Alles was questioned on the same issue and was cleared by court. But this time an additional line of a conspiracy to assassinate a VIP was used. They were both sent on their way after statements were recorded.

The IMF loan it was announced was now forthcoming — not just US$ 1.9 billion but a tad more at US$ 2.5 billion. This turn of events saw Ranil Wickremesinghe questioning the conditions to which the government had agreed to in accepting this loan. The UNP’s position was that the government should have gone to the conventional outlets for borrowing and not to commercial sources at high rates on earlier occasions as well.

The working committee of the UNP met to thrash out the conditions in forming a grand alliance. It was also agreed to do away with the Executive Presidency or modify its powers. At the Working Committee Sajith Premadasa stated that the people were happy with the presidency at this point but preferred a system whereby the office would be answerable to parliament and used this very argument to oppose this move to be used in the election campaign. It was said he, best left alone as it made no sense — political or otherwise.

Achilles heel

The 13th Amendment proved to be the Achilles heel in so far as Dayan Jayathilaka was concerned. It also caused even more thought provoking ideas for the UNP. They wanted to know what the government’s stand on the 13th Amendment was. Their support of the 13th Amendment was very much a comforting notion for the Tamil people of this country.

With a President who enjoys the support of the majority community, there was though a modicum of comfort for the Tamils through the full implementation of this piece of legislation. With elections called in Jaffna and with the presidential elections looming as well as parliamentary election sometime in April 2010, there was some solace to be had for the Tamil people in the implementation of the 13th Amendment perhaps with some changes to be the so-called “13th Plus.”

 But with the President holding the “political solution” close to his chest the Tamils would be voting blind, and sections of the majority too would be only hazarding a guess. It was in this backdrop that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a speech in the Lok Sabha stated that most of his talks with President Rajapakse at the NAM meeting centred on how the Sri Lankan government would treat the Tamils and the displaced and that India’s relations with Sri Lanka in the future would largely depend on it.

Unitary state concept

Clearly it is best if the UNP did not change its stance on devolution especially focusing the Tamil vote base. Therefore, with little mileage emanating from the backing of the unitary state concept, Wickremesinghe must do well to remember the reason why he is not the Chief Occupant at President’s House now.

The talk of nepotism and the rise of the Family Firm has been uppermost amongst some UNP strongmen. They charge that the SLFP has no democracy but sustains the dynastic nature of politics in this country, with the Rajapakses unwilling and unyielding to any but themselves. Nepotism at large and undemocratic is the charge.

It is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Where, the government asks, is the democracy within the UNP that the UNP is fond of preaching. Do they not practise what they preach? A strong complement of UNP faithful including the likes of Lakshman Seneviratne and Sajith Premadasa question this aspect.

They would like to see far more transparency, far more internal democratic methodology to put to rest the notion that Ranil Wickremesinghe is leader of the UNP for his lifetime. The leader of the United National Party cannot be changed easily. The best chance is if the leader were to voluntarily go. And that they point out makes the UNP no different from the SLFP’s family politics — from SWRD to Sirimavo to Anura to Chandrika and now with the Rajapakse family — co-incidentally or not, the co-founders of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.








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