16th December 2001, Volume 8, Issue 22















Fight over manapes in Batticaloa

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By J. S. Tissainayagam in Batticaloa

The media did not highlight it sufficiently. The commissioner of elections mentioned it only in passing. None but the residents and the candidates of Batticaloa know how they were denied a free poll by the outrageous conduct of the Sri Lanka Army, STF and police.

"I was walking with two friends to the polling booth when the policemen told us we could not go. They did not grab our polling cards or anything, but just told us we could not proceed to the polling station. So we turned and came back," said K. Saminathan, a resident of Kirankulam, south of Batticaloa.

Saminathan said the police were patrolling on foot and guarding the centres, generally making their presence felt by stopping voters from going to the polling booths. And the residents who shy away from the military and the police at the best of times, either went later, or did not go at all.

"Peaceful voting was not allowed in the Paddiruppu electorate," said P. Selvarasa, a defeated candidate of the TNA, who is a senior member of the TULF, "In fact I was ordered to remove my vehicle and be gone from a polling station in Padiruppu by the police. I was visiting a polling booth, to which I am entitled as a candidate."

While the rights of Saminathan and his friends as voters, and Selvarasa as a candidate, were violated with impunity, what occurred at the entry points from the 'uncleared' areas to the cluster polling booths in the 'cleared' areas was denial of the sovereignty of the people. Sovereignty of the people entitles them to determine their political future, which in a democracy is exercised through the franchise, but that right was not afforded to almost 45,000 people in Batticaloa on election day.

There were entry points from the LTTE-controlled areas at Chenkaladi, Vavunathivu, Kiran, Vakarai, Padiruppu bridge and Ambalanthurai ferry-point. What is significant is that Padiruppu and Ambalanthurai were kept open from morning and closed only around 2 p.m. The other points, which had to be kept open from 6.00 a.m. on election day, were shut completely. Not a single voter from the LTTE-controlled areas was to come through those entry-points that day.

Hearing that barriers at Padiruppu bridge had been lowered by afternoon, Selvarasa and the other candidates called the Government Agent S. Shanmugam.

Shanmugam contacted the brigade office in Batticloa where an officer (he was not sure who) told him that he had received orders from the 23 Division headquarters at Minneriya that all entry points had to be closed. "He told me this was because intelligence reports had been received that the LTTE was planning to infiltrate the area and disrupt polling," Shanmugam said.

After he was faxed a copy of the order, Shanmugam intimated Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake of the matter.

What is important to note is that the officer at the brigade headquarters, Batticaloa, acknowledged that he was acting on behalf of a higher authority. Therefore the order given to disenfranchise the Tamils living in Paduvankarai, by blocking the entry-points into the 'cleared' areas, was deliberately done.

What is more, the excuse about intelligence reports on the LTTE infiltration into the 'cleared' areas rings patently false. If that was true, the Tigers could have come via Padiruppu and Ambalanthurai to disrupt polling, which did not occur.

Chaos reigned at the checkpoint at Padiruppu bridge with the volume of people surging over it resembling the waters of the lagoon when swollen by the monsoon rain. Realising that crowd control was becoming difficult, the STF began assaulting the public and firing in the air to prevent them from coming across. But the people, undaunted, regrouped and started across the bridge again.

Unable to cope with the surge, the STF charged a grenade towards the Paduwankarai coast from Kaluwanchikudy. It was only this act, which is a naked violation of election law that finally prevented people from coming to vote.

Hearing of the closure of the Padiruppu bridge, Gnanmuttu Krishnapillai (Vellimalai), of the ACTC and a TNA candidate organising the Padiruppu electoral division, went to the assistant returning officer, who is the divisional secretary of the area, to lodge a complaint. He was accosted by the STF, who tore his shirt, assaulted him, and allegedly threatened him with death.

Vellimalai's supporters managed to hide the candidate from the wrath of the STF. It was only a journalist who was known to Vellimalai who finally rescued the hapless man. The journalist, after informing the appropriate authorities, put Vellimalai in a vehicle and undertook to escort him to safety.

At Mandoor in Kalkudah, a more sinister and frightening form of intimidation was practised. A masked 'spotter' (muhammoodi) was brought in, ostensibly to 'spot' LTTEers and those sympathetic to them. This form of counter-insurgency by the Sri Lankan state has been in existence for over a decade and known to terrify the population who is paraded before this masked and hooded ogre. If the faceless one nodded his head it meant the individual brought before him was to be detained, otherwise he went free.

On election day a masked 'spotter' was introduced at Mandoor where cluster polling booths for areas such as Sinnawattai, Kakkachiwattai, Palayadiwattai, Vellaveli and Vivekanandapuram had been established, while the voters of Mandoor, which is in the 'cleared' area, were to vote there too. Panicking at having to submit to the 'spotter,' the public, especially the youngsters, refused to go to the booths. A few boys who were detained by the 'spotter' that day were released later. With the job of blocking voters accomplished, which was the actual objective of the exercise, there was no need to detain them further.

But while all the TNA candidates are united in condemning the government for this outrage, there are other events that transpired on election day has led to fissures developing between the TNA candidates themselves.

There is however a basic point that has to be clarified before proceeding any further. When the TNA was conceived, the idea behind its formation was that candidates do not contest each other for preferences, but allow the voter to pick his/her choice unaided by canvassing. This principle however fell by the wayside and TNA candidates in all districts campaigned for preferences. They argue that it is unrealistic to expect them not to canvass for preferences when they fund their campaigns.

The major focus of controversy in Batticaloa is Counting Centre No. 1 in the Kalkudah electoral division. What initially puzzled many candidates was the delay in the results from votes counted at the centre being released. Though there number of votes counted was only 6000, the results were released on Thursday at around 5.30 p.m., whereas centres where 10,000 - 14,000 votes were counted, had completed their job much earlier.

Candidates said they watched election officers going in and out of that centre, which added to the mystery and suspicion. At this point, the candidates made a verbal complaint to the returning officer (R. O), who is the government agent, Shanmugam. He with the additional G. A and other officers visited the centre to check for himself.

The G. A and the officers who went with him checked the summary sheets where the sub-totals are recorded. The officers discovered mistakes. These mistakes were basically in addition. The G. A rectified them and declared it to be a clerical error. "The sub-totals, which go to make the grand total had been added wrong. It was a clerical error that I rectified," said Shanmugam, who accepts that errors had been made.

"I do not understand how this could be a clerical error, when at least three responsible officers authorise the count," counters Selvarasa.

But the exercise only checked the additions. It did not compare the tallies with the ballot papers. This was not possible because the ballot papers were sealed. They will be authorised to be opened only if a petition challenging the election is filed.

After this error was detected, the summary sheets from the other counting centres were also checked but no mistakes were discovered. Despite this, there is widespread belief the elections have been rigged not at the polling booths, but by government officers at the counting centres.

"We requested the G. A. to order a recount, but it was not allowed. He told us to file a case if we wanted to reopen the matter," said Selvarasa.

Selvarasa feels the alleged malpractice has affected his rank. He was placed fourth, but the difference between him and the third candidate, Joseph Pararajasingham (who was elected MP), are a mere 173 votes.

Selvarasa also spoke of 750 votes cast in his favour being spoilt. These voters had marked the ballot for the rising sun, which is the party's symbol, but, without marking his preference (number six) in the cage allocated for preferences, had marked the cage of the Independent Candidate No. 6, thereby automatically invalidating the vote. If these 750 votes had been cast correctly Selvarasa is convinced he would have been elected MP.

Be that as it may, Selvarasa had also not placed his counting agents in the controversial Centre No. 1. Each candidate was allowed only 12 agents and there were 20 centres in the electoral district of Batticaloa. He had to choose the centres he wished to place agents, and the omission of detailing one in Centre No. 1, was costly to Selvarasa.

Only the agents of candidates A. Sathyanathan, S. Kumaraguru and Joseph Pararajasingham were present at Centre No. 1. The counting was topsy-turvy and suspect. Gajendran, counting agent of Kumaraguru, alleged he saw counting officers destroy ballot papers with impunity and said he was debarred from going certain sections of the hall where the ballots were being counted. It is believed that Gajendran will give an affidavit to this effect if an election petition is filed.

Parajasingham however is not protesting. "I think the counting officers did a perfect job. I do not believe counting officers would be deliberately partial to any candidate," he said.

He said that the adjustment of the clerical error in Counting Centre No 1 had cost him 1,500 votes. Whereas his preferences were computed 3068 from that centre, the recount showed it was only 1,501, which he accepted as a genuine error.

Despite this the recount brought about a significant change in rank. Before the recount, the standing was: T. Thangavadivel, Pararajasingham, Selvarasa and Vellimalai. The recount however shuffled the rank which stands as: Thangavadivel, Vellimalai and Parajasingham.

"The recount rendered me in third place, yet I am not contesting the result," said Parajasingham.

Shanmugam said the reordering of the rank had ruffled a few feathers. He said though he had not announced the earlier result officially, the polling agents of the respective candidates had let the word out of the original standings. When the rank was amended it was not to the liking of certain candidates.

Selvarasa believes the margin of 173 votes between him and Parajasingham entitles him to justly feel he might become MP if there is a recount of preferences.

"I do not want to file a case, because I feel it will break the unity of the TNA. But my supporters insist," said Selvarasa, but a gleam of anger in his eye is unmistakable.

His team said that this was not the first time such fraud had taken place using government officers, which had to be stopped if the system is to continue. They feel that only if errant and partial government officers are punished that fraud of this nature will cease.

There was no official complaint by the candidates to the election observers, either local or those from the European Commission, on the matter of the preferences. Selvarasa said the observers had not been present at the counting centres, and generally seemed disinclined to draw them in. Parajasingham however complained the election monitors about what happened at Padiruppu bridge.

Shanmugam has reported the matter of the 'clerical error' over preferences to the Commissioner of Elections as part of the official procedure. "Depending on what the Commissioner says, appropriate action will be taken on the officers involved," Shanmugam said.

Selvarasa said he, with A. Selvendran (TULF) and Nithiyandan Indrakumar (Prasanna) (TELO) - all three defeated candidates - want to move the Supreme Court requesting a recount of the ballots and a re-poll. "When we complained to the G A he told us to file action," said Selvarasa. Shanmugam confirmed this.

But Pararjasingham remains sceptical. "If the candidates had grievances they should have settled it then and there by depositing Rs. 50,000. Reopening the matter will be a long drawn process," he said.

The more important matter of depriving Tamils in the LTTE-controlled areas from voting seems to have lapsed however. The TNA, which would have been the principal beneficiary had the polling taken place, is not interested in pursuing it. And the Commissioner of Elections expressed scepticism when he said the military officers could only allow 300 persons through each point even if a re-poll is ordered, making the exercise unwieldy and impractical. So there the matter rests for now, awaiting new developments.

Tigers ransack armoury

The LTTE bade adieu to Chandrika Kumaratunga, who quit her post as minister of defence on Tuesday, with an attack on the Sri Lanka Telecom office, the police station and the assistant superintendent of police (ASP) office in Valaichenai, north of Batticaloa.

The Telecom office is in the centre of a high security zone. Not only is there the heavily-fortified police station and ASP office within 300 meters, but the Kumburumoolai army camp and the Jetty camp are within one kilometre on either side of the Telecom sub-exchange.

Though the media said the principal target was the Telecom office, it does not appear so. It was the armoury in the police station that was ransacked. Though some of the telecommunication equipment was damaged, the system was back to normal by 4 p.m. the next day.

The attack was in remembrance of Lieutenant Colonel Jeevan, the deputy leader of the military wing of the LTTE in Batticaloa and Amparai area, who was killed recently in Meeyankulam by the security forces.

The attack was mounted at 11.30 p.m. The raiding party could have come from a number of routes including the lagoon. The strength of station and ASP's office is believed to be around 100 personnel including WPCs.

The Tigers held the Telecom sub-exchange and the two police offices till around 2:30 p.m. There were six policemen killed and 11 injured, including three WPCs. The others bolted towards Ottamavadi, which accounts for the minimal number of casualties. One is believed killed from the LTTE.

Roadblocks were set up to prevent the army of 232 brigade in Valaichenai from advancing from the Kumburumoolai and Jetty camps.

The night was filled with the sound of muted explosions and dogs barking, compelling residents to remain in the fastness of their homes. Gradually the sounds ceased, indicating the attackers had withdrawn.

When the army was able to clear the road block it was morning. The policemen and women who retreated returned after sun-up after firing into the air near the Ottamavadi junction, probably to see whether the intruders had actually gone.

What is significant is that the civilian casualty figure is zero. This was despite the district hospital and the CTB office and civilian residencies nearby.

* * * * * * *

Shops gutted in Valaichenai

Post election violence flared up in Valaichenai, a township north of Batticaloa on Monday night. Three shops belonging to supporters of Mohamed Abdul Cader, MP, (SLMC - Batticaloa district) were set on fire by thugs and looted. The building too belongs to Abdul Cader. The shops, one selling groceries and the other a communication centre, were gutted.

The search for culprits is on. With the perennial antagonism between the Tamils and Muslims in Valaichenai and Ottamavadi, accusing fingers were pointed at the LTTE. The Tamil residents feel however the LTTE does not need groceries or communication equipment. Nor has it any grievances to settle with the shop-owner

Though nobody is certain, it is believed that M. L. A. M. Hisbullah's goons were at the bottom of the act of arson. Hisbullah, candidate of the PA at this election was originally a stalwart of the SLMC. He was elected MP after a long and bitter contest involving him, Abdul Cader and Ali Zaheer Moulana (UNP), all three who depend primarily on a Muslim vote-bank.

Pretty Woman

By Frederica Jansz

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's anger against members of the independent media manifested itself last Sunday, when she banned journalists from The Sunday Leader, Ravaya and TNL Television from entering President's House and covering the swearing-in ceremony of the new Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Kumaratunga has never been blessed with forethought. Many of her ludicrous and inane statements have been uttered by her with nary a thought of the consequences. Her shortsighted policies only proved just that. Having lost all rationale and ignoring saner counsel, a mere seven years after having swept through to an unprecedented victory securing a 62% majority in 1994, Kumaratunga failed miserably on December 5, 2001 to ensure her party stayed in power.

It seems that as Head of State, Kumaratunga is still unaware of how to play her cards right. If only she has the foresight to see that this is her moment to change public opinion in her favour. Isolated as president, forced to work with a cabinet consisting entirely of members from a rival party, Kumaratunga if she has the foresight to act like a stateswoman will have the sympathy of many and in particular the women of this country who certainly do not envy her present position.

Yet, Kumaratunga's petty minded ways, her lack of perception and above all else her complete lack of understanding of the ground situation, propels her each time to make a wrong judgement and act in a manner that is lowly - disgracing the high office she holds in this land.

Barring certain members of the press last Sunday from covering the swearing-in ceremony of the new premier only served to ridicule Kumaratunga's status as President of this country. Her action only further espouses the defiant stand these journalists have taken against some of her more corrupt and fraudulent political and national decisions.

Whether Kumaratunga is of the belief that these journalists are pro Ranil and pro UNP was not the issue last Sunday. Last week, it was a mere formality - an occasion - that every accredited journalist in this country had the right to attend and report on.

All Kumaratunga's righteous proclamations that after the People's Alliance were voted into power in 1994, she has personally ensured a democratic and free press falls by the wayside. Her action last Sunday only proved that this is just one more lie uttered by a woman who is so distanced from the sad reality of the situation in Sri Lanka, that she refused to read the writing on the wall and counter the fall of her government this December.

It is no small wonder that nobody (except the sycophants who surround her) believed her - when she declared that she told her former cabinet Minister S. B. Dissanayake that he would be sent to the gallows if he carried out a plan to murder two editors from two independent newspapers.

Given the fact that Kumaratunga did nothing to prevent the murder of Rohana Kumara, Editor of the Satana newspaper, the killing of the Jaffna based Tamil journalist Nimalarajan or the two attacks on the editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge and his wife Raine, and the attack on Iqbal Athas and his wife and child, is proof that Kumaratunga has abused her power as executive president of this country to sanction murder and intimidation of journalists independent of the state media.

Not only did Kumaratunga fail to prevent these diabolical incidents, she has also not lifted a single one of her presidential fingers or used the vast powers at her disposal to bring the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes to book. Iqbal Athas' case has dragged on for so long that the entire drama itself is now a mere blur and a farcical attempt at bringing about justice. There has been no attempt made on her part or by her government to investigate the murders of Rohana Kumara and Nimalarajan or the attacks on Lasantha and Raine Wickrematunge.

The bottom line is this. So far, the political leaders of Sri Lanka have failed miserably to respect the freedom of the press and recognise independent journalists as being those who will not kow-tow to politicians - be they the head of state or otherwise. This is why Sri Lanka still lacks television programmes or acclaimed talk shows like Hard Talk and CNN's Q&A where world leaders and politicians are treated on an equal par and not allowed to get away by uttering false and ridiculous statements.

Local newspaper journalists too are known to be soft when interviewing politicians - many afraid of dire consequences if the politicos are pushed to a limit. For her part, Chandrika Kumaratunga has never been able to rise to the challenge and permit herself to be interviewed by a local journalist independent of the state owned media.

So blithely does Kumaratunga utter her lies, that she cannot trust herself to be honest with members of the independent media who will counter her wild and baseless statements with hard facts and documentary evidence.

After all, if as Kumaratunga has repeatedly claimed on state television that reporters attached to The Sunday Leader and the Ravaya newspaper are those indulging in gutter journalism, why pray, has she not brought legal action against the revealing expos‚s these newspapers have carried ad nauseam over the last six years writing in detail some of the more corrupt 'deals' initiated by Kumaratunga and her government.

If, as she says, journalists at these two newspapers write articles that are fabricated - surely legal action would then ensure the ultimate closure of these two papers. The fact of the matter is that Kumaratunga cannot sue these newspapers. Our investigative reports are backed with documentary evidence that can stand the test of time in any court of law and Kumaratunga is not blind to this fact.

So instead, like a spoilt child denied toys of her choice - Kumaratunga chooses to throw a public tantrum. Abusing her presidential immunity to cast wild and untrue aspersions against these journalists, she believes she has scored over these men and women when she closed the doors of her presidential abode to journalists who continue to tower over her theatrics as she flounces into a corner and sulks.

Kumaratunga, unlike these journalists - has no documentary evidence against any of them that will prove they are members of a gutter press who have indulged in an unfair smear campaign against her and her government. Instead, her actions, further strengthen the independent caliber of these local journalists who remain unimpressed with a presidential tantrum.

Kumaratunga not only barred certain members of the press from being present at the swearing-in ceremony of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe - her petty and small minded ways also stopped the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and other independent television stations from televising the event 'live' from the presidential abode.

Kumaratunga is a bad loser and she lacks the grace and high principled ethics of the former Head of State D. B. Wijetunge who retreated as a statesman should in the first flush of Kumaratunga's impressive entry into politics in 1994 and 1995.

Neither Wijetunge nor the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resorted to being vindictive toward Kumaratunga, her new government or any member of the press, even those who worked openly to help bring Kumaratunga into power in 1994.

Kumaratunga only brings shame to the women of this country when she continues to behave in a manner that is nothing short of - disgraceful.

Globalisation and women's work

The global employment market has split into different segments in the past few decades. In view of the precarious situation of many employment relationships, one can no longer speak of the employment market. The first employment market with (relatively) secure employment relationships in terms of wages is followed by a second employment market with payment below the wage scale. This is followed by a third with jobs that are subsidised by the state, and a fourth with work requirements for welfare recipients and the long-term unemployed. In respect to women's work, this process of splitting up still needs to be expanded upon.

There is a fifth employment market with illegal work in which one predominantly finds migrant workers. Available positions are found in the sixth employment market; on a world wide basis, the market of voluntary work possibilities in the areas of social services and health care is apparently without pay, and the seventh employment market is available through the marriage market.

According to the desires of modern policy makers, all employment markets are supposed to have a considerable distance from one another and from state assistance which is becoming more and more restricted on a world wide basis. Access to the first employment market is becoming ever more problematic - without a quota system - for women. However, independent job security is to be found almost exclusively there. The precarious situation - primarily for women - is again intensified by three trends: the international division of labour, new management concepts, the further advancement of mechanisation.

Trimming down

With the help of lean production and lean administration, companies, offices and organisations are attempting to reduce the core workers as much as possible and in the process to minimise costs in order to shift individual employment to 'contract work' in the informal sector or to cheap wage countries.

Trimming is the ideal of every organisation. Discussions about sensible products and labour organisations that are fair to human beings give way to the apparently single goal of companies which is 'to save.' If lean production was originally supposed to mean keeping the equipment, administration and staff of a company as small as possible so that workers would become motivated and push the company ahead in a creative, innovative and effective way; it seems to have resulted in the fact that many employees and workers are exhausted and fulfill their duties with difficulty. Men are preferred as core workers.

Women work on the fringe in precarious working conditions with limited employment, in part time jobs without security. In general in so called 'bad jobs' in the informal sector or as the recently 'self-employed.' Especially, unskilled and semi-skilled women disappear sooner than men from the production of goods, while men break into women's domains in the service industry. But also for some workers not everything is so rosy: growing alienation from work through more and more high-tech, an increase in the intensity of work, mobbing, getting burned out, mounting stress, slight pressure, and subtle intimidation. Often enough we get a taste of very tough competition and the global loss of solidarity.

The effects of globalization on women's work

Transnational groups of affiliated companies claim to have created approximately 120 million new jobs for women directly through domestic companies or indirectly through subcontractors because of export strategies. In this sense, women were the winners of globalisation. If one looks at the quality of the jobs, one can say that they were at best the quantitative winners.

Cheap female employment is regarded as the 'diving board in the world market.' Orientation towards exports means in the south as well as in the east orientation towards women. This is true for lighter manufacturing, the service industry sector and also for agriculture, forestry and fishing. 80% of agricultural and other subsistent work that serves self sufficiency directly is being carried out by women in Africa, while men are preferred as workers in export and market related areas. Also in Asia and Latin America, the involvement of women's work in the direct production of food is high.

It is not only a question of low wages, or the 'nimble fingers' or the lack of trade union organisation. It is everything together and even more, which makes women's labour so popular. It is also the fact that one can reckon with discontinued employment for most women due to time off for giving birth, taking care of and raising small children, and caring for parents, in-laws, and other persons. This flexibility corresponds with the needs of businesses and the desire to stabilise the division of labour in the nuclear family.

The worldwide conceptualisation of women as temporary or part time housewives, as 'additional earners,' or as 'co-earners' justifies the reduction of educational spending at the cost of women. It justifies their low wages, their uncertain working conditions, and the continued refusal of men to look after the house and the children in their place. Furthermore, women who are regarded as additional earners can be laid off with much less problem because of the poor work situation or production relocation. Men are after all the 'bread winners' and carry the economic responsibility of the family.

The immense disadvantage for women, which arises through the label 'additional earners,' begins before pregnancy, extends far beyond this, and affects women who were never mothers and never wanted to be.

In conjunction with the fourth World Women's Conference, the ambivalence of including women in the low esteemed wage sector was heatedly discussed. On the one hand, the quantitative gain of employment cannot be ignored and it brings along with it a certain economic independence for women. On the other hand, it also has a price. The world wide liberalisation of trade takes place at the expense of financial sources that were originally opened up by women. Handmade goods and products by domestic industries are no longer competitive in respect to cheap imports.

The culture of local trades and craftsmanship has become lost. Products that are exported on a large scale become hard to find, and are more expensive on local markets because the production costs for domestic manufacturers have increased enormously. On the other hand, even the so called 'developing countries' are being flooded with cheap products from abroad. This means that the subsidised planning and development measurers to increase income through the help of developmental aid and the marketing of domestic products is being strongly hindered.

Nevertheless, the working conditions and the earnings in the export industry are better for the most part than the occupational alternatives that women face as maids, in the informal sector, as self employed workers, as family workers, or as prostitutes. Developmental experts report that women often seize new social areas beyond the nuclear family and beyond patriarchal control; and that they form new kinds of solidarity and a new work culture among themselves.

Admittedly, paid employment under capitalistic patriarchal conditions is not automatically a vehicle for more rights or for more economic independence either in the countries in the south or anywhere else. Moreover, the difference between male and female wages have increased in most export oriented countries. Even across Europe, women earn approximately 30% less than men on the average where they receive their pay and income. They even earn less when they have the same working hours and job positions and are employed in the same sector.

In addition, this tendency always starts to emerge when labour-intensive industries become rationalised and mechanised, and men take over areas previously held by women. Segmentation according to gender is increasing globally. Men operate the machines and women sew on the sewing machines. Men do the programming work and women process the data. Women's jobs are also the first to be eliminated because of automation. This will also be the case with the enormous wave of modernisation that is coming to the service industry area.

Female developmental experts fear that the quantitative progress for women in the entire employment spectrum will become lost in the transition to capital intensive production. The conclusions that were drawn for industrial nations on the occasion of the World Women's Conference were that there is certainly no occasion for optimism.

Women remain the 'sediment of the economy.' Even if they have good grades in school and educational degrees, or if they have even gained qualifications in some other way, they remain on the lowest level for the most part. Male society is resistant, and there are 'glass ceilings' to keep women in certain positions and to keep them away from the influence and high standings of these positions.

Gender politics in the future cannot be carried out alone on the basis of the quantitative participation of women. It means sensible, socially useful work that provides personal security and not just any kind of paid work. It is not enough that women demand half of the moldy cake, or even half of the window seats on the Titanic.

Globalisation is not an ideology that developed in the heads of economists or sociologists, and it is also no natural disaster. It has been created by people, and people have been called upon to set 'limits to globalisation,' if it contributes to a worsening of working and living conditions. Working and living conditions always mean paid and unpaid work. The limits of globalisation also mean limits to exploiting women.

- Ms. is indebted to Dr. Gisela Notz's article Gender In Trade Union Work - The Globalisation or Feminisation of Work.

Up-Country Tamils: Unrealised potential

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

"The hills are alive with the Sound of Music ...."

- Oscar Hammerstein

Sri Lanka's 12th parliamentary elections have produced a mixed bag of results among the Tamils of Indian descent also known as Up-Country, Highland or Plantation Tamils. Five persons were directly elected from three districts while another five were nominated to parliament through the national lists of three different parties. The overall tally of ten MPs therefore was one more than the combined total of nine reached after last year's election.

The community has also got a cabinet minister, project minister and deputy minister under Ranil Wickremesinghe as compared to a solitary ministry in the previous regime. While this may provide partial satisfaction there is no denying that representation levels gained leave much to be desired the 'other' Tamils require at least 16 seats in proportion to their population. What the results have demonstrated is that despite the minor progress achieved, the people and their leaders have miles to go before the unrealised potential of the community can be tapped fully.

Up-Country politics

Writing in The Sunday Leader of November 4, 2001 this writer noted as follows. "There have been in recent times two significant developments, positive and negative, in the realm of Up-Country Tamil politics. The positive aspect has been the push towards greater political unity among the Tamils of Indian descent. The negative feature has been the phenomenon of unprincipled change of political camps motivated by power hunger.

"What is of interest however is that the fate of these two trends are very likely to be decided effectively at the forthcoming elections. Given the pro-UNP wave in the highlands and Colombo and the positive response in the community towards the CWC-UCPF alliance a preponderance of votes are likely to be for the UNP led front."

Expressing anxiety about divisive trends and the danger of representation levels being reduced due to vote fragmentation the article noted thus:

"The important question however is whether Up-Country Tamil representation would at least be on the same level it was last year or in 1994. This situation may be partially resolved if the people vote in a principled manner. The positive aspect of consolidation should be encouraged and the negative feature of fragmentation be discouraged. The hands that pluck two leaves and a bud should use their votes wisely and well." The Tamil voters have responded to these challenges well and through an impressive show of unity voted 'wisely and well' to a reasonable extent.


The heartland of the plantation Tamils is the Nuwara Eliya district in general and the Maskeliya - Nuwara Eliya electoral division in particular. Five Tamils were directly elected from the district last year. They were Arumugam Thondaman, Muttu Sivalingam and P. Jegatheeswaran from the Ceylon Worker's Congress who contested on the People's Alliance ticket. In addition, S. Sathasivam of the CWC breakaway faction and leader of the Up-Country People's Front, Periyasamy Chandrasekeran were elected on the UNP symbol. V. Puthirasigamany a UNP stalwart from the area failed narrowly to get elected.

This year's poll saw a realignment of forces in the district. The CWC crossed over and contested on the UNP ticket along with the UCPF. This resulted in the CWC breakaway faction known as Ceylon Worker's Democratic Front switching allegiance to the PA. The UNP's Puthirasigamany also crossed over to the PA in a shocking surprise. K. Kanagaraj a national list MP of the UCPF also changed sides. While Arumugam Thondaman was compelled to let go of his Estate Infrastructure portfolio because of his crossover, the ministry's resources became available to the opposing side because Sathasivan was appointed consultant and wielded immense power in the ministry. Under this equation the intra-Tamil contest in Nuwara Eliya was regarded as a Titanic clash.

This was not to be and the credit for this goes to the ordinary voter. They voted overwhelmingly for the UNP. Maskeliya - Nuwara Eliya electorate (79% Tamil) saw 130,633 voting for the UNP and only 28,734 for the PA. Likewise Kotmale (47% Tamil) had 29,549 voting for the UNP and 14, 421 for the PA. With Navin Dissanayake's overall popularity among Sinhala voters and the 'clout' wielded by S. B. Dissanayake in Hanguranketa, the UNP polled 215,157 as opposed to 77,733 for the PA in the district. The preference votes also proved that the bulk of Tamil voters opted for the UNP.

Arumugam Thondaman (121,542). P. Chandrasekeran (121,421) and Muttu Sivalingam (107,338) were the first three on the UNP list while the two winning candidates from the PA were Sinhala and not Tamil persons. This proved that the bulk of Tamil votes were cast for the aanai (elephant) this time. Although Nuwara Eliya district elected three Tamils with massive mandates the overall number of Tamil MPs returned from the district was comparatively low.

Vote fragmentation

In 2000 there were three elected on the PA and two on the UNP tickets. In 1994 there were three from the CWC on the UNP ticket and one from the Up-Country People's Front.

The Badulla district has 65,610 Tamil voters mainly concentrated in the electoral divisions of Badulla, Bandarawela, Hali Ela, Haputale and Passara. Along with around 30,000 plus Muslim votes in the district the minority communities are entitled to at least two seats from the district. In practice it has not been that simple.

T. V. Sennan of the CWC contesting on the UNP ticket in 1989 found himself representing Badulla in parliament after Lakshman Seneviratne was disqualified after the Premadasa impeachment affair. In 1994, Sennan was directly elected from CWC on the UNP ticket. 2000 saw no Tamil being elected chiefly because of vote fragmentation.

This year's hustings saw trepidations rising over Tamil representation mainly because of fragmentation. T. V. Sennan who broke away from the CWC was leading an independent list. The CWC's chief candidate was former Provincial Council Minister M. Sathithanandam contesting on the UNP ticket with that party's long standing veteran V. Velayutham. Incidentally, Velayutham though a UNP'er was strongly backed by the CWC also. The PA also fielded Kumarakurubaran. The final results showed that once again the people had voted unitedly and taught a lesson to their disunited leaders.

V. Velayutam known for his community service and personal integrity was elected as the fifth MP on the UNP list with 40,752 preferences. Satchithanandam with 39,749 votes missed being elected by just 1,003. The PA's Kumarakurubaran got only 5,072 votes.

'King' de-throned

In an unexpected development Sennan the former 'uncrowned King of Badulla Tamils' was delivered a telling blow. His independent list got only 5065 votes of which Sennan got only an unbelievably low 138 preferences. The same man got 38,049 preferences last year when contesting on the UNP ticket. If the votes of the independents and PA had gone the other way two Tamils may have been elected as the UNP needed another 5,000 more for another MP to win. Mathar Saibu the Muslim Congress candidate on the UNP list polled 28,348 preferences.

In Colombo, former state minister and Colombo district parliamentarian M. S. Sellasamy now back in CWC folds contested along with another former MP R. Yogarajan on the CWC ticket. The former CWC General Secretary who dissented with the elder Thondaman and went on to form the Ceylon Worker's National Congress has now reconciled with the younger Thondaman. Sellasamy and Yogarajan were both national list MPs in the previous parliament but appointed by the UNP and PA respectively.

Arumugam Thondaman's insistence that no other Tamils should be accommodated on the UNP list saw Mano Ganeshan of the Democratic Worker's Congress initially toying with the idea of contesting in the list floated by the Tamil National Alliance. Ganeshan contested on the UNP ticket in 2000 and failed to win by a margin of only about 600 votes. This issue was resolved cleverly by Karu Jayasuriya who apparently included Mano Ganeshan at the last moment in the UNP list. Although vexed Thondaman had little choice at that late moment.

It was feared that the inclusion of three powerful candidates on the UNP ticket while garnering more Tamil votes for the UNP could not ensure Tamil representation because of the high amount of preferences needed in Colombo. The Sri Lankan Tamil parties like the Tamil Alliance led by K. Pathmanathan and EPDP led by K. Vikneswaran contesting Colombo was also seen as preventing more Tamil votes from getting into the UNP kitty thereby reducing chances of Tamil MPs getting elected.

The PA experimenting with the idea of fielding Lakshman Kadirgamar as the Tamil candidate in Colombo revised its stance after realising perhaps that it would be a tremendous political disaster. The Tamil candidate on the PA list in Colombo was former DDC Councillor, Noble Vethanayagam a businessman and artiste.

It appears now that Karu Jayasuriya's move in getting Mano Ganeshan on the UNP list at the last minute was a shrewd manoeuvre. It was Mano, son of former DWC union leader and Tamil film star V. P. Ganeshan who proved to be the most popular Tamil on the UNP list. He polled 54,942 preferences and came ninth on the list of twelve MPs elected from the UNP in Colombo. Both Sellasamy and Yogarajan failed to be elected.

Ganeshan's victory though laudable is not adequate as far as the Tamils in the district are concerned. They are entitled to at least two. Most Tamils voted for the UNP but not necessarily for Tamil candidates. It is also obvious that greater unity between Tamils of Sri Lankan and Indian origin are necessary for more Tamil representation in Colombo.

Not proportionate

Up-Country Tamil votes were cast in a big way for the UNP in the south and the Tamil Alliance in the Wanni and Eastern province. The community may have obtained only five seats through direct elections but helped the UNP win handsomely in several districts. Apart from Nuwara Eliya and Badulla the electoral verdicts of Kandy, Matale and Ratnapura bear ample testimony to this effect. Mathiyoogarajah in Kandy and Ramachandran in Ratnapura fared reasonably but not well enough to gain representation. Yet, the community has not been rewarded proportionately as far as representation is concerned.

In 1994, the Up-Country Tamils had two national list MPs both from the CWC on the UNP list. Last year, the community had four national list MPs from four different political groupings. Marimuttu was appointed from the CWC on the PA list. Later he resigned to take up a diplomatic assignment and was replaced by R. Yogarajan. Three others were appointed by Ranil Wickremesinghe from the UNP list. One was M. S. Sellasamy then heading the CWNC. The next was former minister P. P. Devarajan representing the CWUF. The third was K. Kanagaraj of the UCPF. Thus, there were four national list MPs supplementing five elected MPs last year.

This year saw five MPs from the national list in addition to the elected five. R. Yogarajan though defeated in Colombo was appointed on behalf of the CWC on the UNP list. Former Provincial Council Minister from the Central Province P. Radhakrishnan was also appointed as a CWC nominee on the UNP list. The PA had defectors. S. Sathasivam and defeated candidate V. Puthirasigamani appointed as national list MPs.

The fifth national list MP came from an unexpected source. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna appointed Ramalingam Chandrash- ekhar its Tamil spokesperson as one of its three national list MPs. Chandrashekhar is a 'dark horse' as far as politics is concerned and is yet to prove his mettle.

The third force

The representation gained through direct elections and national list nominations from the premier national parties have ensured the community of nine seats as in the case of last year. The extra seat this year came from the rising third force. The UNP has failed to compensate the Up-Country Tamils on the same level that the Muslim community was given representation on the national list.

Unlike the Sri Lankan Tamils who chartered a different political course, the Tamils of Indian descent voted resoundingly for the UNP and both ensured and enhanced its victory in several districts and are therefore entitled to more representation.

There was also an expectation within the community that at least two ministerial and two deputy ministerial portfolios would be given to the CWC - UCPF in a UNP led government. Wickremesinghe has given the posts of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure to Arumugam Thondaman, Estate Infrastructure to P. Chandrasekheran and Agriculture and livestock to Muttu Sivalingam. These are of cabinet minister, project minister and deputy minister ranks respectively. While this allocation is an improvement on the past it may not satisfy the community particularly the Up-Country People's Front.

It was Chandrasekheran of the UCPF who crossed over from the PA to UNP ranks before the CWC. The UCPF did so in 1999, before the presidential elections. Thondaman did so only in October this year. Also Chandrasekharan is senior to Arumugam and was a deputy minister in 1994 itself. As such the UCPF deprived of a national list nomination may rightfully demand at least full cabinet status for its leader. Perhaps these shortcomings may be addressed when Wickremesinghe reprganises his government in the next month or so.


The question of representation and participation in government for the Up-Country Tamils has also to take into account another factor. There is a growing consciousness among Plantation Tamils that their political hierarchy is not fully representative. More than 75 % of the plantation Tamils are from the backward and socially inferior castes but the bulk of political and trade union leadership is from socio-culturally superior castes.

The effective leadership of the community is monopolised basically by two caste formations of the three 'Mukkulathor' caste groups and the six major 'Vellala' sub-divisions. There is also resentment among the Up-Country intelligentsia and educated youth that they are not represented commensurately in the political leadership. It is suspected that the trade union oriented leaderships try to keep out these 'educated' elements deliberately. The position of Up-Country women in politics is also inadequate.

Although a semblance of unity was achieved through the CWC - UCPF tie-up in this election, the community at large is naturally not very satisfied. The popular feeling before elections was that the community should unite under one banner and contest alone without alignment with any Sinhala dominated party. The appeal by the academic elite of the community also emphasised independent unity. Unfortunately, all inclusive unity was not reached.

Greater unity

Unity which moves in one direction were paralleled by defections in other directions. The community was once again divided in two broad camps led by the UNP and PA. Other parties and independent groups are also in the picture. The Up-Country people wanted the goal of monolithic unity. That has been unattainable because of divisive tendencies among leaders. The people however have voted decisively in favour of greater unity.

It is now left to the leaders to build on this foundation and achieve greater unity. The political strength gained has to be utilised to gain greater benefits for the people.

New strategies have to be devised to ensure maximised political representation. The full potential of the community has to be realised and tapped. The plantation Tamils are the wretched of the Up-Country earth. Upliftment is possible only through education, employment, economic opportunities etc. made possible through greater empowerment via political representation.

Presidents, Priests and Perfidy

By Erskine

The years 1994 to 2001 were the only ones of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's 23-year parliamentary career that were spent in opposition. Those 24 years have seen the evolution of a very different Sri Lanka to the one in whose leadership he so hesitatingly participated in J. R. Jayewardene's first administration of 1977-1982.

Those were the glory days. With Sirimavo Bandaranaike's near-communist dictatorship swept aside through a landslide election victory, and the economy liberalised (though nowhere near as much as it is now) by the youthful and energetic Ronnie de Mel, the country developed as never before. The government led an enchanted existence, with no real opposition and absolutely no warning of the trials that would befall it through festering Tamil dissent and an impatient and frustrated Sinhala youth.

Older and wiser

Today, thanks to the experiences of the past, and especially the lessons learnt for the first time in opposition these past seven years, Wickremesinghe is an older and wiser man. If his manner of governance owes anything to the rather dictatorial styles of J. R. Jayewardene or Ranasinghe Premadasa, he is careful not to show it. Although he may not readily admit it, it would seem that Wickremesinghe's unwitting mentor has been Chandrika Kumarat- unga, as much as anyone else.

During the past seven years, Kumaratunga has established for herself a reputation for being a bitter, acrimonious, confrontational, arrogant and quarrelsome leader. Always ready with some sour or cynical remark to describe both friend and foe, the president has not been above even making disparaging remarks to bewildered visitors about the caste of various officials in her staff. Her speeches are often embellished with words of malice and hate, and for the entirety of her seven years in office, she has chosen to look back into the wrongs she perceives the UNP visited on her, rather than forward to what she could do for her country. All the while, it seems, Ranil Wickremesinghe watched, listened and learned.

Wickremesinghe has crafted his style to be the complete antithesis of Kumaratunga. Listening more than he talks, he has adopted as his credo the maxim advocated but rarely practised by Ranasinghe Premadasa, of governing through consultation, consensus and compromise. With the UNF-SLMC coalition bagging a working majority in parliament, and with the People's Alliance reduced to a mere 77 seats, Wickremesinghe's first act after being swor- in as prime minister last Sunday was to offer an olive branch to Kumaratunga and invite her party to join him in a national government. Up to the time of going to press, despite considerable pressure from within the PA hierarchy to respond favourably to this unprecedented offer, Kumaratunga has put it on the backburner. So much for her enthusiasm to join Wickremesinghe to craft a negotiated solution to the ethnic problem.

Given Kumaratunga's empty rhetoric about abolishing the executive presidency these past seven years, now, in the most unexpected manner, her dream has come true. She is executive president only in name, having been reduced to a mere figurehead, with no role to play in the running of government. The country has an executive (not a figurehead) prime minister in effect holding no portfolios whatever, answerable to parliament. In one fell swoop, with no amendment whatever to the constitution, the executive presidency has in effect been abolished.

But has it? The only potential fly in the ointment is Kumaratunga. Will she graciously bow to the will of the people, recognise their stinging indictment of her and her party, and abide quietly in the spacious surroundings of President's House? Or will she do all she can to sabotage Wickreme- singhe's administration through word and deed? Given her character, few objective observers have any doubt that she will choose the latter course. Kumaratunga has learned nothing from her defeat. To her, the PA's loss is a consequence of the foolishness of the Sri Lankan people who, offered a Bandaranaike of noble blood on the one hand and a mere Wickremesinghe on the other, thoughtlessly chose the latter.

Spite and malice

Addressing the nation after Wickremesinghe's swearing-in last Sunday, she had no words of congratulation for the prime minister and his party. She had no words of remorse to offer the electorate. She had only words of spite and malice for the UNP, which she claimed, was on a killing spree against her supporters. For his part, rather than engage in political point-scoring, Wickremesinghe spoke personally to the police and armed forces chiefs and ordered them to take stern action against law breakers, whatever their party affiliations. What is more, despite considerable pressure from the UNF hierarchy, he declined to order the police to arrest specific PA MPs who have become notorious for violence, including Anuruddha Ratwatte and D. M. Dassanayake. This, Wickremesinghe maintained, was a matter for the police.

Friendly banter

Wickremesinghe has also seen to it that due respect has been shown to the president by his MPs. When she walked in to the swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday, the UNP ministers-in-waiting spontaneously rose to their feet; they could just as well have snubbed her and remained seated. In the reception that followed, Wickremesinghe engaged the president in friendly banter and saw to it that the media were not allowed to question her. What is more, he himself declined to speak to the media, which may well have asked questions embarrassing to Kumaratunga. But these courtesies were lost on Kumaratunga and her staff, who saw to it that the formal photograph of the new cabinet was deprived of all dignity by the president's officials standing idly around, chatting with one another. What is more, Kumaratunga disallowed a live broadcast of the proceedings (just as she had done previously for Wickremesinghe's swearing-in). Stark contrast this to the courtesy afforded her by President D. B. Wijetunga in 1994, who himself ordered a live telecast of the swearing-in of Kumaratunga and her cabinet.

It seems then that it is yet to dawn on Kumaratunga that she is trying the new government's patience. There is an impeachment motion drafted and ready, cataloguing Kumaratunga's misdeeds since she ascended to the presidency. The impeachment of the president and the chief justice could be achieved almost routinely in the first session of the new parliament.

Major challenge

What is more, given the demand for crossovers from among the PA's ranks, the two-thirds majority needed to remove her from office is unlikely to pose any problem whatever. For the present, the UNF is willing to have Kumaratunga continue in office, so long as she conducts herself in a statesman-like way. This is a major challenge for her, given her acerbic manner, arrogance and pigheadedness. However, if she does yield to her baser nature, she must know that she will face not only the wrath of the government, but a disgraceful exit from office.

Clearly, Wickremesinghe's conciliatory style is lost on the president. But it would be a mistake for her to confuse this for weakness on his part. After decades of strife and infighting, the need of the hour is for all leaders, whether political, religious or social, to unite to lead this country forward. Anyone attempting to overturn that ideal should be dealt with swiftly and severely.

For his part, Wickremesinghe was clearly embarrassed when, after his swearing-in as prime minister last Sunday, he visited the Gangarama Temple at Hunupitiya to receive the Sangha's blessings. The prime minister also happens to be the temple's principal devotee, his family having a long history of association with this place of worship. The chief incumbent, the Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara, is still referred to by many as 'Podi Hamuduruwo' by virtue of having become so well known for his social service activities from the time he was just a junior priest at this temple.

Welcoming the newly appointed Prime Minister, the Ven. Galaboda- who represents a religion, the bedrock of which is non-hatred and maithree towards even one's enemies-made a speech that embarrassed not just Wickremesinghe but also shocked the nation. Repeatedly addressing Wickremesinghe has 'hamu mahattaya' (an expression of servility more at home in Kumaratunga's Horagolla Walawwa than at a temple), the Ven. Galaboda embarked on a shameless tirade against Kuma- ratunga and the PA Government. Converting the event into a pantomime, he went on to accept donations from several business people anxious to identify once more with the UNP, not least a handful who were among the more despised during the Premadasa era.

In his subsequent speech, Wickremesinghe made no reference whatever to the chief priest's address, as potent a snub as he could deliver given that Sri Lankan custom precludes him from chastising a clergyman.

Many of the senior rankers of the UNF present on the occasion could be seen holding their heads in shame and bewilderment as the priest savaged President Kumaratunga by name. One was overheard asking another, "How is it that he is full of gas now, after we won? Where was he all this time, when we were fighting it out with the PA?" The sentiment is all the more poignant given that in the run-up to the election, several eminent clerics including the Asgiriya and Malwatta Mahanayakes and the Archbishop of Colombo came out publicly against the violence sponsored by the PA Government. The Ven. Galaboda was conspicuously silent then. Just hours after the victory, there he was slandering Kumaratunga and her government, completely unaware that what Wickremesinghe wanted most was to put the past behind him and guide the country into a new future.

No partisan politics

Clearly, there are lessons to be learned both by Kumaratunga on the one hand, and the likes of the Ven. Galaboda on the other. Wickre- mesinghe intends to avoid partisan politics as best he can and provide a good government for all the people of Sri Lanka, not just UNP supporters. Anyone not playing along with that ideal should be shown the door right quickly, regardless of how high and mighty they are. The people of Sri Lanka are sick and tired of cheap, divisive politics. This nation has slipped too far into the abyss to fall yet again prey to the bigoted and partisan schemes of wily leaders, whatever their field of leadership. The task before the government is to get on with the furtherance of peace, prosperity and social welfare. Nothing and no one should be allowed to stand in the way of this. Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Ven. Galaboda please note.

President may have overlooked
my name - Mowlana

By Wilson Gnanadass

While former ministers continue to languish in their official residences in Colombo even after they were routed after the December 5, general election, one member who left the official house and took shelter at his daughter's house immediately after the election results were announced was none other than former Labour and Media Minister Alavi Mowlana. A Bandaranaike loyalist.

He returned his vehicles and other belongings of the state and proceeded to his daughter's house, as he does not own a house.

The ex-minister started packing his things last Thursday evening, once all the results were announced.

Currently he resides at his daughter's house at Dehiwela. He returned his Pajero that was given to him and a Volvo, that was once used by former information minister A.J.Ranasinghe.

The Sunday Leader learns other ministers have asked that they be allowed to stay a little longer in their official residences.

Though it is a sad end for Alavi Mowlana with shabby treatment meted out to him by the Peoples' Alliance (PA) leadership, Mowlana says he has no regrets at all.

Mowlana who commenced his political life with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) way back in 1952, when the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike formed the party, was not even considered fit to be nominated into the national list of the PA this time by the founder's daughter President Kumaratunga.

Mowlana was summoned by PA General Secretary D.M.Jayaratne and President's Secretary Kusumsiri Balapetabendi, last Friday December 7, and was told to take up the position of the governor Western Province which Mowlana declined saying he is a trade unionist and he would like to be with the people.

One finds it difficult to understand as to how Mowlana could have been overlooked since he is also a senior member of the executive committee of the PA.

Mowlana has been imprisoned several times, beaten by the police and further been persecuted during his tenure as a member of the SLFP. Mowlana says he had to undergo such agony because he was a supporter of the SLFP. He lost two brothers in law, who functioned as his private secretaries in 1990 and 1991. He also lost his wife subsequently. He says he could not even give proper attention to his wife prior to her death because of his party work.

Relaxing at his daughter's residence, Mowlana says he has no regrets and adds he has no anger towards President Kumaratunga either, who he feels may have overlooked his name as she was preoccupied with her election work.

How Foreign Ministry down-played
Ranil's visit to India

by Amantha Perera

The first overseas trip Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be undertaking would be to India starting next week.

In fact, Wickremesinghe held one of his first discussions since winning the election with outgoing Indian High Commissioner Gopal Gandhi. Wickremesinghe is taking wing to India to consult his Indian couterparts on recommencing the peace process. The importance Wickremesinghe has attached to the Indian factor, only goes to reinforce India's importance in finding any sort of solution to the burning ethnic conflict.

Wickremesinghe has indicated to partymen as well as the diplomatic community that he was thinking of restarting the Norwegian facilitated peace process, which has been defunct since the departure of Erik Solhiem from the negotiating core-group.

Wickremesinghe took wing to India six months ago as well in his capacity as opposition leader. When the trip was arranged, the opposition leader's office wrote to G. Wijesiri, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting the assistance of the Sri Lankan missions in New Delhi and Madras for the official trip.

The letter was promptly forwarded to the missions and a senior assistant secretary of administrations at the ministry followed the government criteria under which the opposition leader is elevated to cabinet rank.

However, within 24 hrs of the first dispatch, Wijesiri sent a second fax under confidential cover. Referring to the fax sent a day before, Wijesiri re-instructed the two missions, "please be advised that you are only expected to extend customary facilities and courtesies particularly on arrival and departure during the visit of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition".

In effect, what Wijesiri said was to look after Wickremesinghe at check-in and check-out and stop at that. During the trip Wickremesinghe met with the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee along with a host of other powerful personalities. And Wijesiri instructed the two missions not to assist in the trip and arranging the meetings.

Wickremesinghe however was able to meet with the Indians but the appointments were set through his own network. The foreign ministry, then under Lakshman Kadirgamar, was only acting petty and on a political level, not as the foreign ministry of Sri Lanka but as the foreign ministry of the PA government.

Ironically, the same secretary who was limiting Wickremesinghe's access, and another Kadirgamar favourite Nawarathnaraja were last week cosying up to the new UNF administration under Wickremesinghe in the hope that he could continue holding the substantial position.




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