the Indian factor into the peace process
government last week decided to put in motion a political agenda early
next year together with an aggressive campaign on federalism as a
solution for the ethnic problem, the People’s Alliance was exploring
all possible avenues to topple the government in parliament.
People’s Alliance well realises it will be hard put to defeat the
government in parliament as long as the peace process is on track since
the minority parties want the peace talks to succeed and have committed
themselves to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe but President
Chandrika Kumaratunga also knows it will be an altogether different ball
game if the ceasefire breaks and the country is plunged into a war
far as President Kumaratunga is concerned, she has to pull a rabbit out
of her hat to topple the government and have the executive presidency
abolished before her final term expires in 2005 but knows fully well,
not only is she running out of tricks to achieve this objective but also
the only option available to Kumaratunga is to scuttle the peace process
and despite assurances to the contrary given to the international
community, every avenue is being explored for the purpose of achieving
her political objectives.
is for the same calculated reason that the President directed Advisor
Lakshman Kadirgamar to issue a statement strongly critical of the role
played by Norway, USA and the UK in the peace process whilst drawing
attention to Indian concerns, thereby adding a new international
dimension to the process.
move was followed by despatching a three member delegation to India
comprising Anura Bandaranaike, Sarath Amunugama and Mangala Samaraweera,
where once again the brief was to project the LTTE as establishing a de
facto separate state and the dangers it posed not just for Sri
Lanka’s unity but also India’s.
buttress this argument, the PA drew attention to the LTTE’s
establishment of courts and police stations in Tiger controlled areas,
which received a media build up prior to the delegation’s visit to
some of the severest critics of India’s involvement in the ethnic
conflict which led to the signing of the Indo-Lanka agreement in 1987
were now looking to the same country to assert its authority in a bid to
play her against the West, hoping it will eventually complicate the
situation sufficiently to lead to a break-up of the entire peace
the same time, the government too, fully alive to the geopolitical
realities, whilst putting together an international coalition to push
the peace process, kept India informed of every development through
Economic Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda.
was done not only through regular briefings given to External Affairs
Minister Yashwant Sinha, but also Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
through his Personal Assistant Mishra.
the Indian factor is not cut and dry as some seniors in government
believed and not as simple as Minister Moragoda himself put it, that
“India’s support can almost be taken for granted.”
fact it is no secret that India’s spy agency, the Research and
Analysis Wing (RAW) has spread its tentacles all over Sri Lanka
including the political parties, and the RAW agenda is not necessarily
that of India’s central government or the External Affairs Ministry
has led to a perception that RAW has had a hand in not only attempts at
whipping up public sentiments against the peace process but also the
troubles within the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, fears none other than
Rauf Hakeem has expressed privately. The Indians on the other hand
believe it is the Pakistani spy agency that is active in the east.
be the dynamics of this situation, it is of course the LTTE which stands
to benefit if the peace process breaks due to southern politicking since
that would give them the much needed leverage with the international
community to take the moral high ground as they did in the 1980s.
the LTTE would then be in a position to say, despite their public
commitment to settle for internal self determination and not
confederation but federalism, the Sinhalese south was unrelenting,
thereby giving that much more credibility for their separate state call.
the other hand, if the government was seen to be bending over backwards
to accommodate the LTTE despite all obstacles and the Tigers were to
break the truce and resume the war, not only would they once again be
reduced with greater intensity to international pariah status but also
face the full wrath of the war against terrorism.
is in this overall context the Indian factor played by the PA can have
dangerous consequences for the entire country. It is akin to nudging
into action a drowsy giant, all for the sake of petty rivalries in the
this respect, the visit of India’s Foreign Secretary, K. Sibal to Sri
Lanka last week attracts significance, since he used the opportunity to
bring to the notice of the government Indian concerns with regard to the
ongoing process, particularly the role of the international community.
considers Sri Lanka its own little backyard and while not keen to play
an overt role in the ongoing process, is not ecstatic over the
increasing influence wielded by the West or Japan for that matter.
is of course a school of thought in government that Sibal does not
reflect mainstream Indian foreign policy and therefore not to be taken
seriously but nevertheless coming from the External Affairs Secretary,
his viewpoint would necessarily have to be given some credence.
probably is why Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris took pains
to explain why cohabitation with President Kumaratunga is impossible, a
case Sibal pushed for with earnest during his visit.
very Sunday, December 8, that Sibal arrived, he had a luncheon meeting
with Moragoda where the issue of cohabitation surfaced and later in the
night at a dinner hosted by India’s High Commissioner, Nirupama Sen,
Sibal was to once again raise the issue. Present at the dinner from the
government were Ministers Karu Jayasuriya, G.L. Peiris, Milinda Moragoda,
Rohitha Bogollagama and Foreign Secretary Nihal Rodrigo.
contention of Sibal was there should be cohabitation to prevent the LTTE
from playing one against the other and gaining some advantage that can
be harmful not just for Sri Lanka but also India.
Peiris however said in practical terms cohabitation was not viable since
Kumaratunga was out to wreck the process for her own political survival.
through all the developments since the UNF assumed office, Minister
Peiris said the government would be undermining its own process if it
worked on the premise of Kumaratunga’s support forthcoming for the
during his two day visit, Sibal also met Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe, President Kumaratunga with whom Advisors Lakshman
Kadirgamar and Anura Bandaranaike were also associated, SLMC Leader Rauf
Hakeem and EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda.
is also not without significance that while Sibal met the EPDP, he did
not meet any of the TNA members of parliament, who are backing the LTTE
on the peace process.
the course of his meetings, Sibal also raised the issue of radio
equipment given to the LTTE through the Norwegian embassy in Colombo.
What concerned Sibal in this respect was the possibility of the Tigers
beaming to South India through the use of this equipment..
this issue the government explained that the equipment was brought in
legitimately and had only a 20 kilometre radius and should not be an
issue for worry by India. (See Page 8 for details)
also did not fail to express concerns regarding the US involvement in
Sri Lanka, not to mention Japan and Pakistan, all of which issues were
dealt with tactfully by Moragoda who told India, any concerns they have
on the role of these countries should be raised directly with them to
ensure there were no misunderstandings. Sibal further said any
settlement reached with the LTTE should not have a fallout effect on
came as a revelation with regard to the Indian Foreign Secretary’s
concerns over the increasing role of Japan in the peace process related
was the considered view of Sibal that Japan was assisting Pakistan, the
implication being that by extension, if Japan is playing a role in Sri
Lanka, it would increase Pakistan’s influence in Sri Lanka as well.
is this factor that from Sri Lanka’s point of view gives rise to
serious concern since it could well be that both India and Pakistan are
using the eastern situation to satisfy their own geopolitical interests
with the people of Sri Lanka from varying fields mere tools in the game
of cloak and dagger politics.
this thinking of Sibal, President Kumaratunga in her meeting with the
Indian Foreign Secretary upped the stakes stating the LTTE is using the
ceasefire agreement to set up a de facto state with serious
consequences for the entire country.
who did not fail to advert to the possible fallout effect of such a
situation from the Indian perspective, also said she did not know what
form of federalism the government was planning to concede to the LTTE
and stressed the need to have one of her representatives at the talks.
again, in a bid to fuel Indian concerns, Kumaratunga’s point of view
was that a federal system in Sri Lanka should not go beyond the scope of
the Indian model.
is after the meeting with Kumaratunga that Sibal met Prime Minister
Wickremesinghe, which appointment scheduled for 12 p.m. had to be
postponed for 2:30 p.m. due to Kumaratunga’s meeting having not
unexpectedly run late.
that as it may, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also explained to
the Indian Foreign Secretary cohabitation was not a one way street and
that while he kept the President briefed of the ongoing process, he was
not in a position to standby idly and allow the process to slip.
Prime Minister by this time was fully convinced the President will not
support the process but instead would do her utmost to sabotage it and
did not hide the fact even from his ministers.
was all the more evident after the President dodged meeting Minister
Moragoda to get the regular briefing after every round of talks, instead
asking Kadirgamar to do the honours.
only was Kadirgamar asked to meet with Moragoda but also Norwegian
Ambassador Jon Westborg, with the President indicating to them through
her advisor, she was too busy at this point of time to meet with them.
One of the reasons cited for her busy schedule was the impending arrival
of her children from England.
the President was not too busy to proceed to Attanagalla on Sunday,
December 8, where Prime Minister Wickremesinghe came under a stinging
attack, making any talk of cohabitation — be it from the Indians or
the Americans — a joke.
the Prime Minister of wielding a gun and threatening her with death
unless she toed his line, the President said she swears to God
Wickremesinghe resorted to such tactics, not once but thrice.
below verbatim in Sinhala is what Kumaratunga said and which for the
record is on video tape:
will be recalled, the President earlier accused the Prime Minister,
while Education Minister in the 1980s of soliciting a bribe from her to
admit son Vimukthi to Royal College.
hardly 72 hours lapsed after this statement received television coverage
that Kumaratunga denied accusing the Prime Minister of threatening her
with death. Addressing another meeting in Anuradhapura on Thursday,
Kumaratunga said she only accused the Prime Minister of intimidating her
but never mentioned a death threat.
this plethora of lies and behind the scene manoeuvres of the President,
together with the more public agitation by the JVP against the peace
process, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe himself proposed at the
pre-cabinet meeting the need for the government to set in motion its own
fact several ministers including, G.L. Peiris, S.B. Dissanayake, K.N.
Choksy, Ravi Karunanayake, Rajitha Senaratne, W.J.M. Lokubandara amongst
others have for some time been agitating for the government to run a
political campaign but were resisted by the Prime Minister stating it
would jeopardise even a remote possibility of cohabitation.
on Wednesday, December 11, at the pre-cabinet meeting, the Prime
Minister said the government must move forward with a political agenda
from January and also launch an aggressive campaign to educate the
people on the concept of federalism.
the Prime Minister explained the outcome of the peace talks and the
donor meeting in Oslo stating substantial progress has been made on the
road to peace but cautioned there was still a long way to go.
he assessed the performance of the government in its first year and said
the public must be educated on the achievements made despite the state
of the country at the time of assuming office.
have achieved much more than any other government has done in its first
year. Some people said the worst government to be inherited was from
President Premadasa. What we inherited is far worse,” he said.
the Prime Minister said it is now time for the government to get into
its political agenda and towards that end told all ministers he will
arrange a one day retreat for all of them to have a brain storming
session in January, after which the plan evolved could be put in motion.
listened to the Prime Minister, Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake drew
his attention to the President’s murder threat allegation and stressed
the importance of countering it.
the Prime Minister: “Let us not dignify her allegation by replying it.
She has made a fool of herself through those remarks.”
agreeing with Wickremesinghe, Minister Karunanayake said there was the
danger of the President acting irrationally given her state of mind to
which the Prime Minister replied stating the decision to proceed with
the government’s political agenda was to meet that very situation.
in a bid to assert his authority, the Prime Minister two weeks back
directed Defence Minister Tilak Marapone to issue a gazette notification
in terms of the Army Act extending the service of all majors general
until they reach the age of 55.
decision followed moves by President Kumaratunga to force the retirement
of Major General Lohan Gunawardene, whom the government earlier
requested the President to appoint as army commander.
with the extension of Major General Gunawardene due to expire on
December 2, the President prevaricated on the issue forcing the Prime
Minister to checkmate her, thereby winning the battle and asserting his
authority over Kumaratunga in an issue concerning the military.
followed up this move last week by writing to the President on
Wednesday, December 11, on the appointment of Sarathchandra Rajakaruna
as minister of disaster management.
the President a face saving formula, the Prime Minister wrote to
Kumaratunga calling for Rajakaruna’s appointment as minister of
indigenous medicine and disaster relief.
this appointment, the Prime Minister has indicated all eight recommended
could take oaths together.
with the government now to proceed with its political agenda, former PA
stalwarts, Ministers, G.L. Peiris and S.B. Dissanayake will also
formally join the UNP in January, a month after the party sessions, in
the same time, the President is also continuously wooing UNP members,
not to mention those from the SLMC, hoping she can make up the numbers
in parliament to recapture power.
the biggest deterrent for Kumaratunga to proceed with this agenda is the
disunity in her own camp exacerbated with the entry of Anura
Bandaranaike into the party.
is now evident to Mahinda Rajapakse loyalists that the President is
grooming her brother to be the party presidential candidate at the
expense of Mahinda Rajapakse and the clearest sign of it came with her
appointing him as president of the SLFP district organisation in the
Gampaha District. She also made it a point to say everyone who held the
post ended up leading the country.
move, coupled with the removal of Jeyaraj Fernandopulle as district
secretary, were not lost on the Rajapakse loyalists who now realise they
will be completely marginalised politically if Kumaratunga reigns
from their point of view, their political interests would be served if
Kumaratunga’s hand is not strengthened and this has led to a situation
where the PA cannot count on all of its 77 members in parliament to vote
on a make or break issue.
the parliamentary status quo will remain for some time but the question
is how effective the government campaign is going to be to promote
federalism and the effectiveness of the counter campaign of the PA and
way, turbulent, if not interesting times are ahead in the months to come
as the government also sets in motion its political agenda.
the Reds breathed fire
Handunnetti Our Lobby Correspondent
order, abusive exchanges and strangers in the House dominated
proceedings last week as parliament ended an exhaustive budget debate.
The government took up three finance bills on Wednesday overlooking the
tradition of ending the annual sittings at the end of the appropriation
bill debate, and it was the Board of Investment Bill that sought to
create five economic zones which earned opposition ire and plunged the
House into turmoil and suspensions on Wednesday.
sitting day began with JVP's Vijitha Herath raising a point of order
that the bill had been presented in violation of procedure. Theatrics
began early when Minister G. L. Peiris' attempts to move the bill was
aborted as Herath urged his point leading to heated exchanges, shouts
and thumps culminating in two suspensions making angry opposition
legislators to converge to the isle for an angry sit down and slogan
In the recent
past, it has become evident that there is no love lost between the JVP
group and Chief Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe as they often showed a
tendency to lock horns, and naturally, the burly minister sprang to his
feet to declare that this was "typical JVP nonsense" to which
an equally indignant Jeyaraj Fernandopulle shot back saying that the
bill certainly had violated procedure. An angry JVP chorus supported
him. With Leader of the House W. J. M. Lokubandara also aiding
Samarasinghe in defending the constitutionality in the exercise that
galvanised the entire opposition into action, Prof. Peiris' next attempt
to move the bill turned the House volcanic and a suspension was issued
that lasted nearly two hours.
It seemed that
the members were in the mood to give one last round of exercise to their
vocal chords before they returned to their electorates for a well earned
break, and the resumption, despite recurring dramatics continued without
hassle until beleaguered SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem spoke.
apparently returned to the House after disagreeing at the cabinet
meeting on the proposed five regional commissions that effectively made
the north-east one zone, and this was fodder to the opposition who
prodded and demanded to know whether Hakeem was not undermining Muslim
interests by agreeing to the proposal. But Hakeem like A.L.M. Athaulla
has his own preoccupations and digressed to state that he was not
betraying his community but upholding collective responsibility by
toeing the government line.
" I would
never have taken the party I love to courts, but the dissidents gave me
no choice," he said, prompting cheeky Mahindananda Aluthgamage to
ask whether the SLMC came under the BOI, followed by Anura Priyadarshana
Yapa who urged that Hakeem should refrain from bringing personal
vendettas and internal crises to the House.
" I bring
nothing here, except to explain that Minister Athaulla has brought his
vendetta here last week and even dragged the judiciary into that,"
explained Hakeem, promising the instituting of legal action against arch
rival Athaulla for contempt of court.
history of the ethnic conflict, Hakeem noted that the LTTE at one point
refused to recognise the rights of northeast Muslims, but circumstances
have compelled them to accept the area as a Muslim homeland too -
"One should ask Prabhakaran why it was not identified as a
Sinhalese homeland too," he quipped, adding that the SLMC never
In his usual
diplomatic delivery, the Minister said that the SLMC never sought
emancipation for Muslims by denying rights of Tamils, but advocated
rights of all communities. At this point, MEP's Dinesh Gunawardena
wished to know whether he subscribed to the traditional homeland theory,
which Hakeem diplomatically sidestepped by saying that people should not
be prisoners of terminology.
As the day drew
to a close, the debate was overshadowed by the simmering opposition
anger and artillery was fired anew when amendments were moved. JVP's
Vijitha Herath moved that the north and east districts be treated as
separate economic zones, which was flatly turned down by Minister
G.L.Peiris amidst vociferous shouting. "There are no geographical,
economic and population indicators to prove that the two regions should
be economically merged," said Herath, to which the Minister curtly
responded that the regional commissions were not political institutions
but instruments of economic development, overturning the amendment
amidst high pitched opposition shouting.
uproarious shouting, TULF's V. Anandasangaree stood up to stake the
TNA's claim that the north-east stood effectively merged by the
Indo-Lanka Accord. "We understand the vicious intention of the
opposition," he said, urging that the two provinces be kept merged
resulting in more shouting.
Despite all the
rhetoric and disagreements at the cabinet, Minister Hakeem and SLMC
dissidents fell in line with the government and voted meekly, their
misgivings of the prudence of this action notwithstanding.
As much as the
legislators demonstrating their penchant for breathing fire in the
House, sometimes they could create flat debates out of hot topics such
as the Defence Ministry votes. Generally, defence debates provide
legislators an opportunity to express nationalistic fervour, proving the
extended hours with a three-hour adjournment debate on the 'eastern
crisis situation' a drudgery. The lack of such sentiment and
appreciation of the valiant soldiers was pointed by an obviously
disappointed Rohitha Abeygunawardene, who thought that the nation has
turned ungrateful despite the sacrifices made by the armed forces for
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
strange days indeed," said Abeygunawardene in sheer disgust, but
strangely, the men full of nationalist ardour were missing that day.
repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was TNA's Gajendrakumar
Ponnambalam. Quoting reputed jurist of the International Commission of
Jurists, Paul Sieghart, Ponnambalam Jr. said that the PTA was "an
ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country," urging
that this ugly blot be quickly done away with. As there was no
definition of terrorism in the PTA, despite its high relevance to the
rule of law, prosecuting officers often determined who was to be tried
under the Penal Code or the PTA which was, in effect, usurped
parliamentary powers, he claimed.
broadsides at Defence Minister Tilak Marapone was JVP's Wimal Weerawansa
who waxed eloquent on how the Minister had become the man who betrayed
the security of a nation.
the votes on an act of betrayal because the Minister maintained stoic
silence while his government played 'pandu' with national
security," bit out Weerawansa.
In a harsh
delivery that was the only bright spot in an otherwise yawn of a debate,
he spat out that the government and the LTTE, in their euphoric
declarations of reaching consensus on federalism, have never disclosed
the unit of devolution.
has declared that he preferred the Quebec model of federalism - of
course he would, because that recognises the right to secede,"
thundered Weerawansa. Mercifully, Quebec did not have an insufferable
guerrilla unit that demanded a separate state, hence Quebec being held
by the central government, he declared adding that the government was
misleading the country as they have agreed to confederalism under the
guise of federalism, he snarled.
Weerawasna declared that the LTTE was well on its way to establishing a
de facto separate state, the 'Eelam Mandapam' or the nineth Chola
Province, it was Athaulla who spoke next, and as expected indulged in
enough Hakeem bashing.
overstepping boundaries, the Highways Minister heaped insults on Hakeem
and vilified the judiciary despite warnings from Parliamentary Affairs
Minister that a leadership battle was now spilling over to the judiciary
opposition got all warmed up alleging that foreigners were present in
the official gallery, and a cornered Minister Marapone was made to
disclose the names of the two men - Col. Philip Wilkinson and Dr. Chris
Smith, yet the shouting never abated.
Bandaranaike urged that foreigners could not occupy the officials' box,
and it was disclosed much later, the government had a hurried job of
removing the two gentlemen from the box attracting the least amount of
Minister Marapone glossed over most issues and said that violations of
the MoU were largely due to a few miscreants within the LTTE, and not
the rank and file of the LTTE. "Let's not attribute all these acts
to the LTTE hierarchy," said the Minister, earning the wrath of the
And as Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe opined during the closure of sessions,
hope certainly sprang eternal in the human heart, so, much is expected
next year with more hopes being pinned on strengthening the
parliamentary system that ensures transparency and accountability, and
legislation to serve a nation that deserves much more from their
legislators than to pay lip service and to hurl abuse.
the Order Book
Jayasundara Wijekoon has not returned four out of six vehicles released
to him during the previous regime. This transpired in parliament last
week in response to a query raised by PA legislator Jagath Pushpakumara
on the vehicles issued to MPs who were appointed or attached to the
Power and Energy Ministry as supervising members.
Jayasundara Wijekoon, Kirthi Mawellage, Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra
and M. K. D. S. Gunawardane have served as supervising legislators,
while others excluding Wijekoon have not used vehicles belonging to the
returned two vehicles, 32-2761 and 52-0094, belonging to the Ceylon
Electricity Board (CEB) when parliament was dissolved in 2001. The CEB
has released five vehicles to him where as the Ceylon Petroleum
Corporation (CPC) has released a single vehicle.
One vehicle, it
transpired was not in the MPs possession while another was is in the
custody of the Wellawaya police station for an investigation. And the
plight of the other vehicles remained undisclosed though suitable action
was pledged after further inquiries.
fumes after mauling at the vote
Rajapakse was not a very happy man last Wednesday when the opposition
was routed at the vote on the BOI Amendment Bill. The score was 112 for
and 61 against. "These guys don't understand how to get about
this," Rajapakse said soon after the vote.
suspended twice in the morning when the opposition went up in arms that
the manner the bill was being taken up violated the constitution.
At the party
leaders' meeting that ensued, JVP group leader Wimal Weerawansa and MEP
Leader Dinesh Gunawardena walked out in a huff when the government
refused to postpone the debate. Rajapakse was left to do the compromise
job. Some of the opposition members thereafter wanted to boycott
parliament and party leaders' meetings. "Then the government will
have a free go," was the Opposition Leader's view.
associates that it was the government that held the upper hand on
deciding parliamentary business and the opposition had to move
But, with some
PA members going overboard to please the JVP, Rajapakse does not get the
full co-operation and on most occasions is leading a divided flock even
within the PA.
To make matters
worse for the Opposition Leader, President Chandrika Kumaratunga still
likes to control the PA lot in parliament. So much so that at times not
only has she decided the speakers' list but also the time allocations.
She has also
been calling group meetings and various other meetings, leaving the
opposition benches depleted during debates.
blasts Mangala's paper
Former PA MP
Dallas Alahapperuma was in parliament last week. He was attending a
meeting of former parliamentarians. During a chit chat Alahapperuma
openly aired his displeasure at the PA newspaper Lakmina. He was not
pleased that the paper edited by Siripathi Sooriyarachchi, a close
associate of Mangala Samaraweera seemed to be taking wild swipes at the
Opposition Leader while meekly keeping quiet on other issues.
Later in the
day even the Opposition Leader was complaining that while everybody else
had a newspaper to plug their respective lines, Mahinda Rajapakse's
troubles hardly make it to print.
nuptials saves Hakeem's neck
Hakeem has but one person to thank for not being sacked by President
Chandrika Kumaratunga. The unlikely figure is newly married man Dilan
Perera. Kumaratunga was toying with the idea of sacking Hakeem when she
bumped into former ministers cum lawyers Nimal Siripala de Silva and
Susil Premjayantha at Perera's nuptial ceremony at the Hilton. Both were
equivocal in their assessment that Hakeem should not be sacked.
later retreated to President's House and listened to the two lawyers
argue that the PA had to sit in the opposition because Hakeem was swept
up by waves of sympathetic Muslim votes soon after he was sacked last
year. "Don't do it, it will create sympathy for him among all
Muslims all over again," was the advice, plus Kumaratunga would run
into difficulties appointing a new minister without the UNF's consent.
finally heeded the advice despite heavy lobbying by the likes of
Siripathi Sooriyarachchi who wanted Hakeem sacked forthwith.
booze for MPs
Minister, T. Maheswaran last week took the job of Santa Claus. He left
each MP a gift pack courtesy of his Ministry and the Palmyrah Board soon
after the committee stage debate on his Ministry was concluded. The
package came in a nice bag and included bottles of palmyrah arrack for
the enjoyment of the members. Some members were happy to take multiples
of the brew home.
like Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie de Mel and Ravi Karunanayake politely declined
the gift. The JVP gifted their lot to the parliamentary staff.
had supplied the staff with a separate consignment of the brew.
goodies was also a plaque of Sai Baba, that most members did not take
home. And it was rather odd
that the Hindu Affairs Minister was distributing Sai Baba plaques in
and adjournment motions
added to the burden of an already exhaustively long budget debate by
repeatedly moving for adjournment debates.
True to form, the opposition has sought and received a three-hour
debate on Monday on what they called the 'eastern crisis situation'
following the signing of the truce.
itself seemed somewhat out of sequence with the ground situation in the
east having somewhat improved since the truce, barring the occasional
bursts of violence and the unrest in Delft. Whether the opposition was
suffering from a bout of amnesia or not, six signatories collectively
moved for an adjournment debate on the eastern crisis. The signatories
were Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, JVP Group Leader Wimal
Weerawansa, MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, Ven. Baddegama Samitha, NUA
Leader Ferial Ashraff and Raja Collure.
Leader went missing soon after he read a prepared text, and the debate
dragged on colourlessly for three hours with nothing salient being said
by both sides of the House. As the debate drew to a close, it was the
solitary Wimal Weerawansa who remained in the chamber, occasionally
questioning the Minister, while other signatories were conspicuous by
have been complaining last week to the Opposition Leader that the JVP
has effectively overtaken them in the parliament game, and no wonder, if
this is the sad example they set with high absenteeism and absolute lack
of interest in the affairs of the House.
on calls, under the tables
K.B. Ratnayake have attempted to quell the use of mobile phones within
the parliamentary well to no avail. These little high tech darlings that
come in all sizes and shapes are such firm favourites with the young
legislators that often many are seen hiding their heads under the tables
and whispering over their dainty machines, a practice more prevalent
amongst the governing types.
mobile phone of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakshe rang loud as he
stood up to make a special statement in the House, and attention was
immediately diverted to the ringing telephone than to what was being
said. Then it was Tertiary Education Minister Kabir Hashim who was
speaking during the votes on the Finance Ministry, with his mobile
ringing repeatedly. And perhaps the worst example came from Youth
Affairs and Sports Minister Johnston Fernando who was often seen
literally under the table, whispering incessantly over the phone.
undoubtedly need to remain contactable, despite the standing orders and
the rules of conduct that debar the use of mobile phones inside the
parliamentary well. But not if they ring in shrill tones while parliament sessions are on and interrupting speeches,
including one's own.
return to the House
The week saw
new bridegroom, beaming Dilan Perera returning to the House after he
tied the knot last week, and many were the hugs, kisses and handshakes
that came his way. At the launch of the new web page on human rights
last Monday, Perera attracted much attention as he bore the signs of a
man in love.
At the launch,
Parliamentary Affairs Minister A. H. M. Azwer greeted a smiling Perera
warmly as he fondly referred to the 'new manamalaya' who has turned a
new leaf, a fact he thought that all ladies present should take note of.
bridegroom quickly shot back that some things never change, and some
ladies certainly knew his record!
Speaker is coming"
exhaustive days of the committee stage debate on the appropriation bill,
the services of members on the Speaker's Panel is much needed to handle
the long hours of debate. With Speaker Joseph Michael Perera indisposed
for a brief period, others had to hold the fort for many hours along
with the Deputy Chairman of Committees, Siri Andrahennadi.
The only fair
member in the Speaker's Panel is the former Wayamba Provincial Council
Member, Larine Perera. Often, the good lady used to announce the arrival
of the Speaker in a way that left many wondering whether the members of
this panel were given sufficient training on standing orders,
conventions and specially - the effective use of parliamentary language.
debate, and through the year, she continuously announced the arrival of
the Speaker in a bland: " The Speaker is coming." Well, we
certainly hope he did.
The last two
weeks in parliament had its volatile moments, intense debating and
aggressive disagreements with members locking horns so often,
exasperating the Chair.
With the scenes
becoming more regular, JVP's Sunil Handunnetti was displeased about the
goings on. The House often resembled an arena for cock fighting, and he
told scribes that it seemed that correspondents too had their share of
fun as legislators bared their ugly souls and inferior vocabulary during
the long debate. All that was missing was a few of them taking bets on
the fighting cocks, he quipped.
Weerawansa the artist
We all know
that Wimal Weerawansa good
with words. But he is also good in drawing. During the budget debate,
Weerawansa took time out to put his artistic skills to use and draw
various postures of Parlaimentry Affairs Minister A. H. M. Azwer. (See
the signed cartoons to the Minister across the aisle and the Minister was so taken up that he has now decided to
hang Weerawansa's masterpieces in his office.
Some of the
comments though are not that complementary. In one cartoon, Azwer is
referred to as "parlimentuwe anaya." But the Minister has
taken the comments and the caricatures in good sprit.
And no doubt
Wimal favourite Mangala Samaraweera would be hoping Wimal will next
practise his line drawing using him as a model.
leaf out of Dorothy Parker's book
When I read a
transcript of your speech two weeks ago, where you swore on the gods and
told the Paradisians that Ranil had threatened you with a gun, I gulped
thought that Ranil would come galloping to your rooms, whip out a gun
cleverly concealed in his bosom, and threaten you into doing his bidding
- politically speaking, leaves me speechless.
It would be not
too much to say that a sticky moisture began to bedew my brow as if I
had entered the hot room of some Turkish bath.
another incident of a similar nature involving Dorothy Parker and
another bounder manifesting characteristics you now attribute to the
dear old Prime Minister. If my memory serves me correctly on that
occasion Ms. Parker looked lazily through half shut eyelids and inquired
if indeed the weapon was a gun in the bounder's pocket or merely an
expression of his pleasure in meeting her. Next time Ranil bounds in to
your chambers wielding a gun of any sort, do take a leaf out of Parker's
Your ability to
tell a good yarn I have long since acknowledged with humility. Ditto
your prowess in getting the gods involved in your little schemes. The
gods must scurry around in their togas in abject fear whenever you open
your mouth to swear in their names dear. Wondering no doubt, how they
would turn the tall stories you tell, while unjustly invoking their
names, into anything resembling a fact.
princess blackmailed by Rumpelstiltskin to turn straw into gold will not
be more challenged than the gods you invoke in their attempt to make
your stories ring true.
confronted by an irate Leda on her finding out that he had laid an egg
with Nemesis, would have not felt such fear as these gods of yours would
feel when ever you make speech.
accuse Ranil of soliciting a bribe of some paltry sum when he was
education minister in order to have your son put into his old school?
Tut. Tut. This
pimple running the country seems like a chappie according to you, who
could have not done better at bribery and corruption if he had been
purposely sent to crime school in his formative years. Maybe you like
the bad boy image dear that you keep fantasising about his wicked ways.
The thing I
want to know is, was this gun he threatened you with, a rifle, a hand
gun, a water pistol or a double barrel shot gun. And how darling did he
get past your alert security guys?
And if as you
swear by the gods and say, Ranil held a gun to your head and told you to
run the country in the manner he wishes or else., Thelma says good on
him. Thelma has long admitted your good taste in saris and hairstylists.
But if I have said it once I have said it twice, you cannot run a
country. You simply do not know how. Leave it alone is my advice. If you
can't, then follow the leader in every sense.
But you do not
stop there. According to you, Ranil first threatened to bung your
supporters and security personnel into prison and/or fell them in their
prime. Get in to line or its death or prison, he supposedly said, in
In the days of
Oscar Wilde, errant young chappies from aristocratic homes who didn't
uphold the best traditions of the English manor were threatened with
banishment to hell or Australia. May be all Ranil meant when he said
prison was merely down under.
I agree this
country could not progress for 30 years dear as you have so succinctly
observed. But it amused me to learn that you have made your rule during
1994 and 2000 a model of development. You seem to have commented in
passing that Ranil in one year has undone all the good you did for six
years. Back to square one is what you wanted to express I think.
darling. The war for peace I know was a flashpoint in your career. The
war raged, and peace was quite still. The Elephant Pass and Killinochchi
debacles where thousands of soldiers were wiped out were huge military
successes. Since we are all brothers in arms it does not matter for
held at your convenience on independence day while the people of the
country were kept under house arrest is another example of progress, and
who can forget the five hour road blocks and traffic jams as roads were
cleared for your daily drive about town.
None of these
manifestations of development and progress have we encountered this past
year or so the Paradisians tell me.
But from that
to more interesting subjects like the dashing young Mangy who was seen
clicking away with an instamatic, while PA women numbering about 200 at
a modest estimate, poised prettily at the Kali Amma kovil coconuts at
the ready. The coconuts were duly dashed while evil incantations and
age-old curses were recited to bring death and famine to those
responsible for the cuts in Samurdhi funding. While the dashing Mangy
clicked the women dashing coconuts, the president of the World Bank and
the chairman of IMF paced up and down in their offices biting their
The PA curses
at Kali Amma kovil had reached their flapping ears. Will we survive
these deadly curses was the unsaid question knocking about in their
Minister of Samurdhi SBD was getting redder than a beetroot. The X' mas
spirit of dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh had been
taken to unfair local heights he must have felt.
have sent him a copy of a photograph of the haphazardly choreographed
coconut dashing ceremony. The PA women seemed in an ugly mood. A group
of Israelite mothers at a Jewish luncheon could not have been madder if
the Rabbi suddenly got up and praised the name of Herod.
I eagerly await
the next segment of your fairytale, 'Ranil And I.'