Indian Govt. Asks MR To Deliver
- India Re-iterates Stance On SL Issues
- Govt. Looking For Deviations Through PC Polls
Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon’s 24 hour visit to the country last Friday was one of the most brief and effective visits to be undertaken by an Indian official in recent times.
During meetings between Menon and members of the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, the Indian government has firmly re-iterated its stance on Sri Lanka – it is that the Sri Lankan government needs to deliver on a political solution to the ethnic issue without any further delay.
“While this is a Sri Lankan issue and something that Sri Lanka has to do, we will continue to remain engaged with all concerned and offer any support required in this regard,” Menon said at the conclusion of his visit.
The current stalemate in the country’s reconciliation process has become a concern to the Indians, who are also keen to see the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
Menon arrived in the country late Thursday night and left the country by Friday evening. According to the Indian media, he had arrived in a special aircraft accompanied by Joint Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
Menon’s visit comes soon after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s meeting with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit.
The Indian official’s visit to Sri Lanka was a significant one since it was the first visit of a member of the Indian government after the adoption of the resolution on Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
Menon arrived in the country to discuss issues related to the Rajapaksa government’s reluctance or delay in fulfilling assurances given to the Indian government over the years.
Menon’s previous visits to Sri Lanka as India’s Foreign Secretary had been during and after the war with the LTTE where it was emphasized the need for the Sri Lankan government to engage in a genuine reconciliation programme.
During his brief visit, Menon met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa along with External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and TNA Leader R. Sampanthan.
Among the topics that were discussed with the President included the resettlement of the remaining IDPs, the reconciliation process and the progress of Indian funded development projects implemented in the Northern and Eastern provinces, especially the Indian funded Sampur power plant in Trincomalee.
Soon after his meeting with the President, Menon met with Basil at 10 a.m. on Friday at the latter’s Ministry. Basil Rajapaksa has always played a key role in Sri Lanka’s relations with India. Whenever the government needed the support of the Indians, it was Basil who had to make a visit to New Delhi. He managed to keep the Indian government silent during the final phase of the war with the LTTE.
However, his growing links with India became a problem to the government that wanted to build closer ties with China.
During the meeting with Basil, Menon had inquired about the current political climate in the country and the progress made with regard to reconciliation after the 19th UNHRC sessions.
The Indian official had also discussed Indian funded projects with Basil, who is heading most of the projects, including the Sampur power project.
After meeting Basil, Menon had left for a meeting with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that was scheduled at noon, which was followed by a lunch that was hosted by several government members including Basil Rajapaksa.
During the meeting with Gotabhaya, Menon had discussed another key issue faced by the Indian government – the fishermen’s issue.
“We also discussed the fishermen’s issue. It was noted that the practical arrangements of October 2008 should be adhered to until an alternative mechanism was agreed upon. We agreed that fishermen’s associations on both sides, which had met in the past and reached some understandings, needed to meet again to work on developing this further. This could then serve as the basis for finding a solution to this humanitarian issue,” Menon said.
He has also discussed maritime cooperation and other security related issues with Gotabhaya.
The Indians however would continue to put pressure on the Rajapaksa administration to find a political settlement to the ethnic issue.
It would be wise for the government to understand that it would be a difficult task to continue to fool the Indians with flippant responses since they are well aware of Sri Lanka’s antics.
During his meeting with Sampanthan, Menon was also briefed on the concerns of the Tamil community in the country.
The TNA Leader had taken up the land issues and the militarization in the North and East.
Menon had also expressed concern saying the Indian government would continue to engage the Sri Lankan government on these issues.
Sampanthan had also explained that there was no reason for the government to delay the holding of provincial council elections in the North after holding a Presidential and general election in 2010 after the end of the war.
Menon had been briefed on the failed talks between the government and the TNA and the plight of the proposed parliamentary select committee (PSC) on finding a political solution.
Menon had assured Sampanthan that the Indian government was committed to help find apolitical solution and would continue to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has informed the UNHRC’s 20th sessions in Geneva that the country is opposed to outside intervention in any country to address human rights concerns without the consent of the respective country.
The Sri Lankan Mission in Geneva has reportedly told the Council during the ongoing 20th session that any action on a specific country should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue.
Speaking during the debate on the human rights situation in Belarus, the Sri Lankan delegation has said that Sri Lanka feels that action contemplated with regards to Belarus must have the country’s consent.
The Sri Lankan delegation has also said that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism is the appropriate forum to address the human rights situation of all countries in a constructive and equal spirit of engagement.
Sri Lanka has also urged the Council not to permit debates and resolutions on country specific situations by virtue of selective processes that run counter to its founding principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.
The Sri Lankan delegation to the 20th session of the Human Rights Council comprises Manisha Gunasekera, Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Shavindra Fernando, Deputy Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Department, Sashikala Premawardane, Director/UN of the Ministry of External Affairs and Nishan Muthukrishna, Human Rights Coordinator of the Ministry of Plantation Industries. The 20th session of the Council is to conclude on July 6th.
Amidst international engagements, the government has once again resorted to its well-planned deviation tactic – provincial council elections.
The government last time held provincial council elections on a staggered basis as a strategy to muster support for the war that was being fought against the LTTE at the time.
The 2008 provincial council elections were held for three reasons. One was for the government to use the victory at the elections as a mandate to wage war against the LTTE. The second was to further weaken the UNP by defeating the party by getting it to battle against the state machinery in play during election time. The final reason was to teach a lesson to the JVP.
However, this time around, the government has resorted to provincial council elections as a tactic to create a distraction from key issues faced by the government.
The government however had to debate the holding of elections at the current time due to the many crises faced by the country.
The government’s list of failures outweighs the successes.
The cost of living crisis and the issues faced by the farming community in the country are key issues during election time.
Although the government could somehow overcome the failures amongst the international community, it could not ignore facing the local issues.
After lengthy discussions on the matter between the President and senior government member it was decided that delaying the holding of provincial council elections could only make matters worse for the government.
The logic was that delaying elections would mean the government would have more answers to give for people’s issues. On Tuesday, the chief ministers of the three provinces that were dissolved and several government ministers met the President at Temple Trees to discuss the holding of elections.
Chief Minister of the North Central Province Berty Premalal Dissanayake has by that time pointed to the issues faced by the paddy farmers in the province due to the prevailing drought in the area.
Realizing that the issue could in fact hamper the government’s election campaign in the North Central Province, it was decided immediately for the President to meet with a few farmers, ministers and government officials the following day to discuss the matter.
It was announced on Wednesday that the President has directed authorities to provide relief to the farmers affected by the drought.
The Chief Ministers of the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provinces were asked to sign the relevant letters permitting the dissolution of the Council.
Battle For CM
It was also decided to appoint Basil Rajapaksa in-charge of the government’s election campaign in the three provinces.
Basil has proposed that a minister be appointed in-charge of each district of the three provinces.
The ministers would be responsible for the government’s campaign in each district and they would report directly to Basil.
The government however is now embroiled in a conflict over the selection of Chief Ministerial candidates to the three provinces.
The President has directed that the chief ministerial candidate posts for the three provinces be kept vacant until the conclusion of the election.
The reason to keep the post vacant is in order to prevent any clashes during the elections campaign and most of all to make way for a change in the chief ministerial post if required after the election. Nevertheless, the government was in a spot last Friday when UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premajayantha was quoted in an English daily saying that the former Chief Ministers of the three provinces would be re-appointed to the posts if elected.
Premajayantha’s comment angered the senior members of the government campaign.
The Minister was later asked as to why he had made such a statement to the media.
The three former chief ministers Berty Premalal Dissanayake, Mahipala Herath and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan have expressed confidence in retaining the posts.
Dissanayake and Herath have held the position for several terms and the President is looking at changing the two chief ministers.
Chandrakanthan on the other hand has held the post only for one term, but is faced with a split in his party, the TMVP.
Be that as it may, the government’s decision to keep the post of chief minister open in the three provinces has now created battle for the top slot in the provinces.
UNP To Go Solo
While the government is getting all set for the elections, the main opposition UNP is also trying to put its best foot forward at the provincial council elections. The UNP is looking at putting a united front to the fore at the elections by trying to get the support of some disgruntled members in the government.
The party’s Working Committee is to meet on Thursdays to agree on key decisions like the appointment of nominations committee.
The party has already commenced the basic work in planning for the elections, although the operational mechanism is yet to be decided.
The UNP leadership last month appointed three committees to prepare reports on the three provinces the government at the time was planning on holding elections.
Joseph Michael Perera and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam were appointed to study the North Central Province, Ravi Karunanayake and John Ameratunge for the Eastern Province and Lakshman Kiriella and Ruwan Wijewardena to the Sabaragamuwa Province.
These three committees have already handed reports to the party leadership and the Working Committee on the 5th would make its decisions based on the findings of these reports.
The UNP leadership has said that while the party would contest separately at elections, it would work along with the joint opposition in protesting against the government.
However, the UNP is firm that it would not join forces with former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.
SF No Show
Meanwhile Sarath Fonseka is scheduled to hold his first public rally today since being released from jail.
UNP Kalutara District parliamentarian Palitha Thevarapperuma has organized the rally in Matugama.
Thevarapperuma along with UNP Puttalam District parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara was questioned by the UNP hierarchy about their affiliations to Fonseka’s political activities. The duo was reminded by the UNP leadership that the party was no longer working in alliance with Fonseka.
Following this issue, Thevarapperuma had requested permission from the UNP to organize the rally for Fonseka saying it was initially planned before he was arrested in February 2010.
According to Thevarapperuma, the rally was for Fonseka to thank the people of Kalutara for their support at the Presidential election.
He had also vowed that there was no intention for him to join Fonseka since he wished to continue in the party.
The UNP has finally permitted Thevarapperuma to organize the rally for Fonseka.
Fonseka has so far been unable to muster the support of key opposition political parties following his release and his future path in local politics is still in limbo.
The fact the Fonseka had to wait over a month to address people in a public rally and that too organized by a UNP parliamentarian is testimony to the fact that he is yet to build a solid base in the country.
That Fonseka’s vote base consisted mostly of UNP and JVP voters is now evident.
The decision by the UNP and the JVP to contest separately at the forthcoming provincial council elections has isolated the DNA in the political arena.
The DNA headed by Fonseka that contested the last general election is now officially defunct.
It is learnt that Fonseka has at least for now decided not to contest the three provincial council elections in September since he does not have a registered political party or candidates to field in the nomination lists.