insight into the real JVP
imminent infiltration of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)
into political parties, trade unions and student bodies in the recent
past has triggered off alarm bells within the government camp, which has
laid its hand on an intelligence report on the former militant group,
with emphasis falling on five members who are former militants.
Minister John Amaratunga placed the report, filed by top intelligence
experts in the country, before cabinet
last week, an action precipitated by the announced formation of an
alliance between the main opposition -
the SLFP and the JVP.
that entered mainstream politics in June 1994 is led by its leader in
exile, Somawansa Amarasinghe whose recent most visit to the island was
upon a request by the People's Alliance to campaign for his party in
Amarasinghe remains the only surviving politburo member of the original
JVP outfit led by late Rohana Wijeweera, four out of seven current
politburo members were members of the JVP's infamous Military Wing
during the turbulent period of 1987/1989 according to the report.
former militants include party General Secretary Tilwin Silva, C.D.
Wijesinghe (Educational Secretary),
G. Kularatne (Organisational Secretary) and Wimal Weerawansa (
Spokesman, Propaganda Secretary and Parliamentary Group Leader).
report based on intelligence reports traces the rise of the JVP since
its entry into mainstream politics and how each of its committees
is the report.
position of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which held the country to ransom by bringing the
civil administration to a virtual standstill, suffered severe setbacks
towards the latter part of 1989 with the capture of its hierarchy.
However, towards late 1990 the JVP was once again revived by its middle
2. The first
phase of the revival process was carried out on the following lines.
its unidentified cadres to infiltrate political parties, allied trade
unions and student organisations in the universities. They were adviced
to win over the confidence of the infiltrated organisations by way of
lending support towards domestic concerns and agitations and thereby
procure controlling positions on such organisations.
its unidentified cadres possessing the required academic and physical
infiltrate the armed forces and the police. Those who have joined are
not the hardcore types, but belong to the peripheral category.
of cadres arrested by the security forces and subsequently released
of its political and military cadres who went into hiding to evade
A. K. Somawansa
Amarasinghe, the only surviving member of the politburo of the Rohana
Wijeweera era is now
heading the party. He is in self exile in France, having left the shores
of Sri Lanka in February 1990 in a clandestine manner through Thoduwawe
Beach in Negombo. The present office bearers of the JVP who are from the
politburo appear at (Annex A). It is noteworthy to mention here
that out of the seven politburo members who are presently leading
the party, four had been members of the JVP military wing during the
1987/1989 turbulent period. They are M. Tilwin Silva (General
Secretary), C.D. Wijesinghe (Educational Secretary), JVP), G. Kularatne,
(Organisational Secretary) and Wimal Weerawansa (Propaganda Secretary).
into political mainstream
4.1 Since its
return to the democratic process towards June 1994, the JVP has been
engaged in a relentless reorganisation
process , endeavouring to
erase its violent past and thereby to convince the masses that
it is the only surviving left force in the country which could
address the grievances of the underprivileged society.
01.06.1994, the JVP formed an election alliance with the Sri Lanka
Progressive Front (SLPF) of Ariya Bulegoda which was termed the National
Salvation Front (NSF). Attempts made by the two leaders of the NSF to
get it registered as a recognised political party were not entertained
by the commissioner of elections as the date of the general election had
already been declared. Hence the JVP was compelled to field its
candidates at the general election of August 1994, under the SLPF
ticket. This alliance was assessed as a marriage of convenience as it
was too soon for the JVP to go before the masses, with the lingering
memories of its violent past.
4.3 The JVP/SLPF
coalition polled a total of 90,078 votes, where only Janith Priyantha
Vidyatilake Vipulagune of the JVP succeeded
in winning a seat in the Hambantota District. He eventually had to step
down as instructed by the coalition leaders, in order to facilitate the
appointment of Nihal Galappaththi as its representative in parliament.
However the JVP/SLPF alliance ran into a conflicting situation towards
August 1996, which culminated in the expulsion of Nihal Galappaththi
from the SLPF on an unanimous resolution adopted at its
held in Matara on November 30, 1996.
4.4 Despite the
expulsion of its candidate Nihal Galappaththi from the SLPF, the JVP
decided to establish electoral committees and contest future elections
under its own symbol - the bell.
4.5. After the
breakaway from the alliance, the JVP
opted to contest the local government elections
held in March 1997, and polled a total of 258,545 votes. They
were successful in winning 101 seats in various local bodies including
Colombo, Kotte and Dehiwela - Mt. Lavinia Municipal Councils.
Subsequently they contested the provincial council election in 1999 and
secured 25 seats in the provincial councils, having polled 417,168
votes. Again in the same year the JVP contested the presidential
election where they polled 341,961 votes. In less than a period of one
year at the general election held on
October 10, 2000,
they polled 518,477 votes, registering
an increase of 176,813 votes. They secured 10 seats in parliament
including two bonus seats. After
one year, the JVP contested the general election held on December 5,
2001 and polled 815,353 votes and secured 16 seats in parliament
including three bonus seats. When comparing the results of the general
election held on December 10, 2000,
there is an increase of 296,876 votes by the JVP at the general election
held on December 5, 2001.
It is significant to note that out of the 16 JVP members of parliament,
five members have served in the military wing of the JVP during the
1987/1989 tribunal period. They are Wimal Weerawansa (Propaganda
Secretary), C.D. Wijesinghe (Educational Secretary), Ramalingam
Chandrasekaran (National List MP),
K.D. Lal Kantha (Central Committee Member) and Anura Kumara Dissanayake
4.6. The JVP
contested the last local government election and secured 214 seats from
247 local bodies and polled 479,411 votes.
4.7. It is
significant to note that the JVP for the first time, secured power in a
local government body i.e. Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha by obtaining
11,584 votes and winning six seats.
comparing the results of the elections contested by the JVP since 1994,
it is clearly visible that they are gathering momentum and gradually
becoming the third political force in the country.
organisations of the JVP
February 1996, the JVP has revived its following front
Socialist Workers Congress (SWC) is
the main trade union machinery of the JVP which functions under the
command of the central committee of the JVP. K.D. Lal Kantha who is the
national organiser SWC (List of office bearers is in Annex B)
constitutionally by virtue of his position, is a member of the central
committee. He is also a JVP member of parliament. SWC which was
inaugurated on 27.02.1997 to exploit the unrest prevailing amongst the
working class has gradually infiltrated into various work places in the
government and private sector. Since then developments have taken place
and this review would serve as a prognosis to keep
a tab on the direction in which the pro-JVP trade unions are
5.2 2 During
the period leading to the last general election held on 05.12.2001 the
SWC made maximum use of the trade union members at the election
campaign. Out of the eight trade
union leaders who contested the elections, only, two
were successful in securing seats in the 16th parliament. They
are Nandana Gunathilake (President, All Ceylon Trade Union Federation of
the JVP) and K.D. Lal Kantha (National Organiser Socialist Workers
Congress of the JVP) elected to Kalutara and Anuradhapura Districts
respectively. Incidentally Nandana Gunatilake was elected at the 2000
general election to the 15th parliament.
5.2.3. The pro-JVP
trade unions under the SWC played a prominent role in the general
election. Electioneering was done by these trade unions on a wide scale
that included poster campaigns, house to house canvassing and organising
of public rallies. Above all, they were able to finance the JVP
substantially through the funds collected from the members' monthly
subscriptions. They (trade unionists) were the towers of strength behind
the success. It is significant to note that such enthusiasm was not
observed among the members of the other trade unions
affiliated to political parties in the
election and this is why the SWC has been able to grow from
strength to strength over the other trade unions.
reviewing the results of the general election in 2001, although the JVP
trade union activists who contested the election were not able to make
an impact as candidates at electoral level, it has certainly paved the
way to get MPs to the national list because of its 50,000 strong
membership. With the voting of close relatives families etc., the JVP
would have at least received a minium of about 100,000 or more votes. It
is this block vote that enabled it to secure seats in the national list.
of trade unions
6.1 In the year
2001 there were 29 trade unions which consisted of 27 in the public
sector and two in the private sector. The SWC was able to expand upto 37
trade unions in 2002 with the addition of
seven in the public sector and one in the private sector.
6.2. With the
expansion of branches, the overall membership in the public sector has
been enhanced from 18,031 in 2001 to 26,000 in 2002 with an increase of
7,969 members. A significant rise of membership is observed in the
branches of All Ceylon Railway General Employees Union and All Ceylon
Teachers Services Union.
6.3. The Inter
Company Employees Union (ICEU) is the main hub of the trade union
branches in the private sector. It coordinates all matters pertaining to
trade union activities. The 158 companies affiliated to ICEU in 2000
have been extended to 222 companies with 69 more companies joining the
fold in 2002. Unlike in the public sector, 222 ICEU affiliated companies
in the private sector have been successful in getting the employees to
join their fold. The membership which stood at approximately 20,000 in
2000 has now been increased to about 34,000.
Recruitment drive of the trade union
7.1. The SWC
has sent across instructions to the branch trade union leaders of the
public and private sectors to recruit members. Each member has been
asked to enroll at least five individuals to join the pro-JVP trade
unions in their places of work. On this concept, the ICEU is planning to
expand its branches to 300 companies by the end of 2003 to accomplish
the target. As far as the public sector is concerned,
such recruitments are not predictable.
8.1. Funds are
collected to the trade unions by selling newspapers, publications
(relating to TU matters) till campaigns, donations, etc., but the major
share of funds flow through the members' monthly subscription fee of Rs.
10. With a total membership of 52,000 the estimated collection per month
is about Rs. 520,000 and yearly collection amounts to Rs. 6,240,000.
There is a proposal by the SWC to increase the monthly subscription by
Rs. 20 and if this happens the yearly collection would be as much as Rs.
9. Role of
trade unions in JVP politics
9.1. The JVP
political machinery is dependant on and fueled by their trade unions who
are providing funds, enhancing membership, raising political and common
issues of public interest and propagating party ideologies. The entire
political operation of the JVP is dependant on their trade union network
whose members are the real work horses.
Inter University Student Federation (IUSF)
10.1. With the
re-opening of the universities in January 1990, several politically
neutral students unions with common aspirations took control of the main
student councils including the faculty councils. However a few months
later, the Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) was once again
revived by the JVP student activists, who trickled back into the
universities, taking refuge under the amnesty offered by the government
at that time.
these pro-JVP students maintained a low profile, they gradually banded
themselves together and discreetly formed an inter university co
ordinating committee towards June 1991. From then on they were seen
systematically getting the freshers, who were inclined towards the JVP,
to infiltrate the neutral students unions and by canvassing for them
from behind the scenes at student council elections, saw to it that they
secured controlling positions in
such bodies. At present the IUSF has established its control in the
students councils in the following universities. The convenor of the
IUSF is Ravindra Mudalige, an undergraduate of the Ruhuna University.
* University of
Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya, University of Sri Jayewardenepura,
University of Ruhuna, University of Colombo (only the Science Faculty).
Socialist Students Union (SSU) is the official student organisation of
the JVP. After 1976 the SSU has been able to capture power in the
student councils in most of the universities. The branch organisations
of the SSU function in almost all universities. Chamara Koswatte, an
undergraduate of the Kelaniya University is the present convenor.
10.4. The pro-JVP
students have not contested the student council elections under the name
of SSU, since its revival in 1996. The pro-JVP faction has contested
under different names in different faculties in the respective
universities. At present the pro-JVP student factions have been able to
capture power in the student councils of Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Ruhuna,
Sri Jayewardenepura, Moratuwa (NDT) and Sabaragamuwa Universities.
Community welfare work
welfare work appears to be the main strategy of the JVP to capture the
hearts and minds of the masses. They spot out grievances of the people
of an area and arrange remedial measures with the participation of the
people of the area sometimes on a shramadana basis and sometimes with
funds drawn from their local councilor's funds. However small the
project is, they give wide publicity in order to reap maximum results.
Accordingly the district and area organisers of the JVP are under
instructions to conduct surveys in their respective areas from time to
time, and submit such details to the party, with regard to grievances of
the masses. There is a "Community Welfare Committee" in the
party, represented by three politburo members and this committee reviews
each and every such proposal made available to them by the district and
area organisers. Thereafter, they decide as to which project should be
given priority, mainly considering the propaganda advantages to the
In this manner,
the JVP has donated buildings and books
to school libraries, drinking water projects for schools,
constructed buildings for child and maternity clinics, community centres,
children's parks, public wells and renovated roads, culverts, waterways,
etc. Though the JVP claims that all funds of local councilors' are
utilised solely for community welfare work, the truth is that a little
money is released for such work which are done mostly by organising
shramadana campaigns, and all the rest ends up in organisational
activities of the party.
stance of the JVP with regard to the national crisis
12.1. The JVP
is presently engaged in a protest campaign against the ongoing peace
negotiations initiated by the UNF government and the LTTE, towards
reaching a solution to the national crisis. According to the JVP's
present stance on this issue, the national crises could only be
solved on the basis of equality i.e. by granting equal rights to the
Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities, but they carefully avoid
mentioning whether it is within a unitary state or federal system of
12.2. On April
20, 2002 at a discussion
attended by Dinesh Gunawardena, MP (MEP), Anura Priyadarshana Yapa MP (SLFP)
and the JVP MPs at the JVP headquarters in Pagoda, they had formed a
organisation called "The National Movement for Dignified Peace and
Against the Partition of the Country," and had decided to organise
a series of protest demonstrations and rallies in a number of provincial
towns throughout the country to protest against the peace negotiations.
The first meeting of this series was held on April 23, 2002 with a
protest demonstration at Litpon
Circus, Colombo, followed
by a protest rally held at Hyde Park. About 10,000 JVP, SLFP, MEP and
National Unity Alliance (NUA) members and supporters participated in
this event. Kalawelgala
Chadraloka (Secretary, pro-JVP Jathika Bhikku Peramuna), Ramalingam
Chandrasekeran, Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Piyasena
Dissanayake (Secretary, National Joint Committee) and Anura Bandaranaike
addressed the rally. Thereafter they held several protest demonstrations
and rallies in a number of provincial towns throughout the country
including the protest rally held on May 10, 2002 at the Bogambara
Ground, Kandy; on June 17,
2002 opposite Kotuwegoda Public Market Matara; on July 9, 2002 at Ananda
Samarakoon open air theatre Nugegoda; and July 20, 2002 opposite the
clock tower in Ampara.
The JVP sees
Norway as an imperialist force, and that its involvment in the Sri
Lankan problem, is to appease U.S.A.
They view that
Norway has a dubious history as a mediator, and cite its involvement in
the Israel - Palestine peace talks, where they allege that Norway was
instrumental in giving the advantageous positions to the Israelis. JVP
further opines that Norway is here not to bring peace but to help the
Western imperialists to widen their weapons market to South Asia and
that Norway is also eyeing at grabbing our fisheries industry.
13. JVP in
common political programme with SLFP
September 21, 1988, the JVP entered into an agreement with the then
Leader of the Opposition Sirimavo Dias Bandaranaike and formed the
United Front (UF). The other constituent parties of the UF were the Sri
Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), United Lanka
People's Party (ULPP), Liberal Party (LP), Muslim Congress (MC),
Democratic Workers Congress (DWC) and Tamil Congress (TC). However the
JVP demanded that the election be contested under a common symbol and
not under the symbol 'hand' of the SLFP or the 'bell' of the JVP. As the
SLFP was in disagreement with this demand the United Front became
September 5, 2001, the JVP entered into an agreement with the PA by
signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The general thinking of the
people of all walks of life was that,
the conditions contained in the MoU were
difficult to be implemented fully.
13.3. In the
recent past too the JVP has had several discussions with the SLFP to
form an alliance between the two parties. The final discussion regarding
this is scheduled to be held in mid March 2003.
the JVP is attempting to rally the SLFP against the UNF government to
sabotage the peace process and privatisation, it appears that they do
not wish to see the SLFP taking advantage of this situation.
They only want to use the SLFP as a shield, in the event the
government makes a move to suppress the party.
Organiser - K.D. Lal Kantha (MP), National Committee
Amarasinghe - Secretary - Intercompanies Employees Union of the
Rohana Fernando - Secretary, Ceylon Postal Services Union
Dissanayake - Treasurer, Colombo District Branch Union of All
Ceylon Health Services Union
Koralearachchi - President, All Ceylon Health Services Union
Bhoominadan - Secretary, All Ceylon General Plantation Workers'
Mallikarachchi - President, All Ceylon General Local Government
Abeysekera - Full time member, Socialist Workers' Congress
Elibichchi - Secretary, Ceylon Teachers' Union
Jayakody - Member, All Ceylon General Plantation Workers' Union
10. A. A.
Siripala - Member, Ceylon Electricity Employees' Union
Dissanayake - Full time member, Socialist Workers' Congress
Manawadu - Secretary, All Ceylon General Railway Employees' Union
Ratnayake - Member, Socialist Workers' Congress
Kithulegoda - JVP Member of Parliament
Chandrasiri - Secretary, All Ceylon General Ports Employees' Union
Ratnayake - Member, Socialist Workers' Congress.
of the JVP
Amarasinghe Kankanamge Somawansa Amarasinghe (Current Leader and
Tilwin Silva (General Secretary)
Weerasingilige Wimal Weerawansa (Propaganda Secretary and JVP MP
for Colombo District)
Don Nandana Gunatileke, (Financial Secretary JVP and JVP MP for
Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Anura Kumara Dissanayake (JVP MP
Don Chandrasena (Educational Secretary and JVP MP Galle District.)
Kularatne (Organisation Secretary)
- a wielder of influence
staggering peace process, which shook to its very foundation as a result
of recent confrontations between the government and the LTTE, is once
more back on track following the arrival of Anton Balasingham in Wanni.
Balasingham's influence has been in placing the peace process back on an
even keel no-one, at least at this end, will probably ever know. The
fact remains however that Balasingham wields great influence over the
LTTE, both at the negotiating table and with the cadres in Wanni. His
authority with Velupillai Prabhakaran, other than being a translator for
the Tiger Supremo when he meets with foreign delegates and Sri Lanka's
southern based public, is obviously more than that of a mere messenger
or interpreter. He is their idealogue. We are often told that the LTTE
and Velupillai Prabhakaran are one and the same.
In this context it is then patently clear that Balasingham is in
the hot seat in ensuring or even deciding if the LTTE should maintain
its credibility in the peace process or don its jacket of martyrdom and
pursue with a bloody struggle for Tamil Eelam.
In a move that
had the government and international observers heave a sigh of relief,
the LTTE last Wednesday finally released from custody Lance Corporal
Nimal Kumara from the army and Reserve Police Constable Philip
Anandasekara. At another historic meeting in Kilinochchi on Wednesday,
March 5, Velupillai Prabhakaran consented to the release when he met
with outgoing Head, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Trond Furuhovde
and his successor Major General Tryggve Tellefssen. The meeting lasted
for three hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The process was
doubtless facilitated by Balasingham whose part in the present peace
process is emerging to be more and more of a frontline player and
decision maker for the LTTE.
over the two government security forces personnel began when the LTTE
took Nimal Kumara into custody on December 24, 2002. The Tigers charged
that Kumara had - while carrying his weapon - trespassed into their area
at Manal Aaru. He was later tried by the Tamil Eelam courts in
Kilinochchi where the judge ordered that he be remanded indefinitely.
Anandasekara was arrested by the LTTE on February 20, 2003. The Tigers
maintained that Anandasekara had violated the ceasefire agreement by
entering an LTTE checkpoint at Muhamalai while wearing his uniform. He
too was produced in the Kilinochchi courts and remanded. The two arrests
caused a storm of protest from the government. The government claimed
that the LTTE was behaving in a manner that was unjust and seriously
compromised the peace process.
references to the two arrests in Berlin at the last round of talks drew
a blank. Both Milinda Moragoda and Defence Secretary Austin Fernando
attempted to convince Balasingham that the LTTE was acting in a manner
that jeopardised the Tigers' credibility and commitment to the peace
process. The arguments and counter debate in Berlin - on the surface at
least - drew no positive response from Balasingham. He in fact at one
stage abruptly halted the discussions citing his weak health as an
excuse, and that he had to break for lunch.
LTTE's Eastern Military Leader, Karuna attempted to negotiate a prisoner
swap. His demand was shot down at the first instance when he made the
suggestion in Berlin, and was later condemned by the SLMM. Karuna
proposed that the government release six Tiger cadres who had been
arrested in the east for carrying claymore mines and other ammunition
within government territory.
Karuna had told
government negotiators that if the state would release these six cadres,
the LTTE would release the one soldier and policeman in their custody.
Austin Fernando was later heard to describe this suggestion as
"ludicrous and absurd."
that erupted as a result of this incident ended the last round of talks
in an atmosphere of dissent and even anger. It appears however that
Balasingham has managed to stifle smouldering emotions and 'iron out' a
knotty problem as the two men were released unconditionally.
The SLMM later
said the LTTE had reacted positively to a proposal that both sides would
resort to a release mechanism to prevent prolonged detainment of
government security forces or LTTE cadres.
meanwhile has raised concerns about the build-up of the military during
a time of negotiations. The government for its part has also objected to
the LTTE transporting weapons during the peace talks.
and discord has been stemmed or even 'nipped in the bud' in some
instances as the by-word in this entire process - federalism - a
solution which the LTTE and the government are cautiously toying with as
they approach a compromise solution. That a final model will be unique
to Sri Lanka there is little doubt. In the meantime however the
practicalities and logistics of such a process is arduous, prompting the
SLMM to note that a wide range of people from both sides, who are better
qualified must now be included in talks at the negotiating table in
order to ensure a working mechanism.
solution has been hailed as commendable by the international community.
In a statement issued at the conclusion of a two-day official visit to
Sri Lanka, Indian Foreign Secretary, Kanwar Sibal said "India
supports a peaceful, negotiated settlement that meets the just
aspirations of all elements of Sri Lankan society besides ensuring that
the principles of democracy, pluralism and human rights are
Secretary, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), R. Sampanthan has been
quoted repeatedly saying the war-weary Sinhala public want a peaceful
settlement and would accept a federal form of autonomy granted to the
Tamils. Sri Lanka's former southern rebels, the Sinhala nationalist JVP,
suffering from a dose of amnesia, disagree and have rejected the
government's move to share power with the northern Tamil rebels. They
are joined in their dissent by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress.
A federal model
when suggested was doubtless done with the idea of dispelling the fears
of the Sinhalese that Sri Lanka will be divided. Whether the final
compromise will tilt towards a Tamil Eelam state is still uncertain as
the LTTE prevaricates and titillates the Tamil masses on this issue.
certainly not the first time federalism has been mooted as a corner
stone to bridging the ethnic differences in Sri Lanka.
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Chelvanayagam and later Chandrika
Kumaratunga, all proposed a federal solution.
model has been cited as being the most conducive to Sri Lanka, while the
German, Canadian and Swiss models are all being studiously evaluated for
constitution would fundamentally alter the extent of political leverage
between the different ethnic communities in the island. It will mean
that the LTTE would give up its call for a separate state and is willing
to share a system of devolved power with the central government,
including the Muslim political parties. The present constitutional
framework would of course undergo a drastic change.
There are two
sides and a flip side to this coin. One being that LTTE Chief Velupillai
Prabhakaran in his Hero's Day message in November last year told his
cadres, "the thirst of the Tiger is the nation of Tamil Eelam."
The flip side of this coin is of course that any federal solution would
need the support of the opposition. The joint opposition last Thursday
were threatening to put the government out of office, if it failed to
halt the peace process which the opposition reiterates it sees as
Bandaranaike told a press conference last week that the opposition would
force the government out of office if it did not stop the peace process,
which he maintained is farcical and has seriously compromised the
integrity of Sri Lanka. He based his accusations on the many ceasefire
violations committed by the LTTE and the Tigers' continuance in
conscripting child soldiers.
The adoption of
a federal constitution would require a two-thirds majority in parliament
and at present this support appears to be a catch 22 situation. On one
hand the entire country is crying for a peaceful resolution while on the
other, it cannot be a peace at any cost or merely one that would satisfy
the military and the LTTE.
Jaffna and the east in fact have been heard to complain that they are
caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. At the butt end of the
LTTE's excessive system of extortion and child conscription, these
people are neither here nor there. Their trust and confidence in the
military is also shaky.
This is where
Anton Balasingham figures. His consistent utterances that a reversion to
war would be impossible under the current status of the peace process
has helped lend the LTTE a degree of credibility and commitment at the
It is clear
that Balasingham is more than just a messenger for Prabhakaran. His
positive influence over the LTTE chief has been displayed on more than
one occasion, since the talks began last year. Balasingham has even gone
so far as to say that he and Prabhakaran speak with one voice - one
Balasingham has this time around effectively managed to dispel a lot of
the rancour and bitterness at the negotiating table is commendable. On
previous occasions both the LTTE and the government found it hard to
approach negotiations with maturity and an open mind, willing to listen
to each other - caught as they are in a whirlpool of blood and guts,
following decades of violence and mistrust.
has a superior say over the LTTE" - Austin Fernando
Secretary, Austin Fernando, reiterated that the government does
not yet know if the two security forces personnel in LTTE custody
were released as a direct result of Anton Balasingham's
intervention or because of Trond Furuhovde's hard-line with
information is that Trond Furuhovde having adopted a very
hard-line approach on this matter resulted in Prabhakaran
responding," Fernando said.
that the peace process was certainly shaken over these last few
weeks as repeated confrontations with the LTTE shook the morale
and commitment of even government negotiators. The intervention of
the SLMM over the Thiriyaya incident however, Fernando asserted
"definitely upgraded the process and helped create a better
environment of understanding."
Secretary is of the view that Anton Balasingham wields "very
high influence over the LTTE...I don't know to what extent this
extends to Prabhakaran but as they say, the LTTE and Velupillai
Prabhakaran are one and the same," Fernando said, adding it
is obvious both at the negotiation table and at ground level in
Sri Lanka, that Anton Balasingham "has a superior say over
rights fracas threatens fraternal links
Jaffna's dormant fishing community hopes for relief to come from the
ongoing peace moves, across the straits, Tamil Nadu fishermen worry that
once the conflict is resolved, their counterparts in Northern Sri Lanka
will zealously guard the catch."
Nirupama Subramanian in Frontline of July 20-August 2, 2002
pillayum aanaalum vaayum vayirum veru" (Even if mother and child,
the mouths and stomachs are different) is a Tamil proverb illustrating
the hard facts of life about existential concerns superseding even the
close bonds of mother and child. Those fisherfolk from Tamil Nadu
poaching in the waters of the Gulf of Mannar would have realised the
value of this proverbial wisdom in the early hours of the morning of
March 3rd, when a flotilla of Sri Lankan Tamil fishing boats encircled
and captured them.
The fracas over
fishing rights demonstrated clearly that despite the common bond of
ethnicity binding both sides, the economics of livelihood was a crucial
factor capable of threatening such fraternal links when the necessity
Tamil Nadu fishermen in 415 mechanised boats and trawlers had set off
for deep sea fishing together on Monday. At least 75 of the boats were
fishing in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka between the islands of
Mannar and Neduntheevu in the Mannar Valaikuda (gulf). The fishermen
were fully aware that they were violating the law but continued the
fishing expedition. Shoals and shoals of "parai" or paraw fish
are abundantly available during the months of January-March in these
Rameswaram fisherfolk interviewed by Indian journalists a flotilla of
Sri Lankan Tamil fishing boats had approached them. It was about 3.30
am. There were about 30 to 40 boats. There were about seven to eight men
in each of the fibre glass boats equipped with outboard motors. The
Rameswaram men knew that there was going to be an altercation as they
were clearly in the wrong. There had been skirmishes before and the Sri
Lankans had expressed their objections to this poaching in many
different ways before. But what the Indians did not expect was the
mid-sea manouevres that ensued.
encircled one trawler very quickly and in a swift move boarded it. They
were armed with clubs, swords, knives, rods and crudely manufactured
molotov cocktails. Some men say they saw men in the boats having rifles
but others are not so sure. In any event no firearms were taken on board
by the 'invaders.' The Indian fishermen were assaulted with rods and
clubs. Those attempting to resist were slashed and hacked with swords
and knives. The trawler was commandeered and steered swiftly in a
precise manouevre to divide the Indian fishing craft convoy into two
Sri Lankans began 'herding' together the Indian boats and trawlers in
one segment. A few vessels were firebombed. Even though the Indian
fishermen outnumbered the Sri Lankans they were no match for the well
armed and coordinated activity of the latter. Besides the Indians knew
they had illegally encroached. Also the use of firebombs and swords had
unnerved them. There was also the fear that the Tigers were involved and
that heavy duty weapons could be deployed. With the rest of the Indian
vessels fleeing from the scene the Mannar fishermen took the
remaining 27 trawlers and boats along with 76 men to the shore at
however a second incident. Some other Indian boats mainly from Rameswaram were involved in prawn fishing in the waters
off Kachchaitheevu. While Indian fishermen are entitled to use the islet
for purposes like drying their nets, they are specifically debarred from
fishing in those waters in the Sri Lankan maritime sector.
Kachchaitheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. Around 25 Sri Lankan
boats launched a swift manouevre like the earlier one. At least three
trawlers were boarded and seized. Firebombs were used along with swords
and clubs. A further 42 Indians were captured. This incident took place
at about 6 am.
most of them from Ramanathapuram and Kanniyakumari Districts in Tamil
Nadu were taken to Pesalai and then handed over to the police along with
the fishing craft. There were 118 men in all, along with 23 boats and
nine trawlers. Seventeen Indian and four Sri Lankan fishermen had to
obtain medical treatment for injuries sustained. Five Indians were
described as "abductions" in sections of the Indian media,
naturally aroused the ire of Tamil Nadu fishermen particularly those of
Rameswaram - the hometown of most of the captured persons. The fishermen
refused to go out to sea for the whole week. They planned a hartal to
block transport on all roads, but deferred it on a request made by the
District Collector Vijaya Kumar. A shutdown of shops was scheduled for
began inflaming the passions of the people in the Tamil Nadu coastal
sector many of whom were fisherfolk. The fact that Sri Lankan Tamil
fishermen had rounded up and captured their brethren at sea was a major
irritant. While most fisherfolk knew that they were legally in the
wrong, the knowledge that fellow fisherfolk had been assaulted by the
Mannar fishermen was a
rankling factor. These aggrieved feelings in turn led to mounting
tensions against the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees supposedly enjoying Tamil
Nadu hospitality. The Mandapam refugee camp in Rameswaram was given
State Minister for Fisheries, Radhakrishnan acted fast and was in touch
with Indian diplomats in Colombo as well as officials in New Delhi.
Former Chief Minister and DMK Leader Muttuvel Karunanidhi issued a
stinging statement against the
powers that be. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram wrote a
very strong letter to the Indian Prime Minister urging strong action to
protect the interests of the affected fishermen. Several politicians
began fishing in the troubled waters. Notable among them was the PMK's
Dr. Ramdoss who demanded that Kachchaitheevu be handed over to India
of the Indian High Commission in Colombo also 'burnt the midnight oil'
over the matter. Representations at the highest level were made. Efforts
at resolving the issue were expedited. So when the matter came up in
courts and the Mannar Magistrate, M. P. Mohideen was preparing to remand
the Indian fishermen, the Sri Lanka police made an application to the
contrary. DIG H. Premaratne presented himself in court and pointed out
in the application that the incident was creating turmoil in Tamil Nadu
and that the safety of refugees in Tamil Nadu camps was at stake. The
Magistrate then remanded 21 boat skippers and trawler owners and
released the others. He ordered the seized fishing craft to be handed
over to naval custody. With the released men returning home, heated
passions began cooling down gradually.
suffering Tamil Nadu fishermen - mainly from the districts of
Kanniyakumari, Ramanathapuram, Puthukkottai, Nagapatinam and
Thananjavoor had been articulately ineffectual in voicing their
grievances earlier because of deep divisions. The "kuppan"
sub-divisions along with political differences had fragmented a unified
voice. The fishermen unions themselves were on the lines of political
parties. The DMK and AIADMK affiliated unions were led by Bose and
Arulanandam respectively. Now this incident was threatening to galvanise
the entire community into united action.
Contending political forces in the state were sure to capitalise on it.
Tamil Nadu fisherfolk had suffered immensely in the past two decades at
the hands of the Sri Lanka Navy and at times even the air force, New
Delhi had virtually ignored it. The various regimes at Chennai had
effectively "crisis-managed" the problems as and when they
occurred very often with payment of paltry compensation. At least 80
Tamil Nadu fishermen have been killed and double that number injured.
Hundreds of boats have been
seized and even destroyed. Fishermen's catches, nets etc.
confiscated at sea.
incidents were denied, justified or glossed over on account of the
security situation. It was said that the Lankan navy had mistakenly
suspected them of being LTTE men. It was also felt that many Tamil Nadu
fisherfolk were helping the Tigers by smuggling fuel and other supplies.
Besides Indian officialdom was callously indifferent to the fishermen's
plight. It was felt that they had no business to be in Sri Lankan
waters. It was only a few years ago that an 'inexperienced' Sri Lankan
naval officer blurted out to the media that Indian officials had
casually remarked that trespassing Indian fishermen should be
hopelessly divided fishing community lacking the strength and skill to
lobby their cause effectively few politicians in Tamil Nadu were
prepared to espouse it. Thus the Indian central government was able to
get away without exerting any real pressure on Colombo to ensure the
safety of Tamil Nadu fishermen. The 'LTTE
factor' that continues to 'reduce' India's role here was greatly
instrumental in this too. For instance in 1998 the Tamil Nadu fishermen
charged the Sri Lanka Air Force of strafing fishing boats and
killing a few men. Some agitation arose and New Delhi was
constrained to voice concerns. Nevertheless in a patently insincere
response India was "satisfied" at then Foreign Minister
Kadirgamar's glib explanation that the SLAF log book had no record.
backdrop the present incident too could have been tided over, but for
three reasons. Firstly, it was no longer a time of conflict in Sri Lanka
where fisherfolk getting "caught in the crossfire" could be
conveniently dismissed as "collateral damage." Secondly, the
clash was a 'people to people' one with the Sri Lankans having arms. The
hand of the LTTE was suspected. Thirdly, the issue was threatening to
unify Tamil Nadu towards a
single demand that Kachchaitheevu be handed over to India. If this
demand gathered force the state of relations between India and Sri Lanka
- under some strain because of the direction in which the peace process
is travelling - could be affected. So it was imperative that the problem
be resolved and tensions doused.
circles have been quick to implicate the LTTE in this affair the main
official representing the Pesalai fisherfolk, Stanislaus, has denied
Tiger involvement. Stanislaus in turn has been branded as a Tiger agent
by the EPDP but then affixing labels 'pro-LTTE' or 'anti-LTTE' has
become meaningless nowadays. The testimonies of released fishermen in
Tamil Nadu also rule out any direct Tiger involvement in the attack.
They say weapons like clubs, swords and petrol bombs were used but no
firearms. Incidently almost all Tamil Nadu fishermen do not deny that
they were in the wrong in encroaching but are outspokenly indignant
about their fellow Tamils attacking and assaulting them. There is a
feeling of betrayal here.
however some grounds to believe that the Tigers had planned the
militaristic aspects of the manouevre. The entire operation was well
coordinated and executed with military precision. The element of terror
was used to some degree to stifle resistance. It is possible that some
Tigers in 'civvies' could have been part of the flotilla and could have
been directing operations. This however can only be a conjecture in the
absence of concrete evidence.
If the LTTE was
indeed behind the exercise it could be then due to three reasons. One,
the LTTE has to protect the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamil fisherfolk
most of whom have been severely affected in the past, but continue to be
an on going support base. Two, the perpetual presence of Indian fishing
craft in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Straits is a source of irritation
to the Tigers for other reasons. By this token demonstration the Tigers
may hope to dissuade Indian fishing activity in these waters in the
future. Three, the LTTE that perceives itself as the de-facto ruling
entity of the north-east may like to assert its hegemony in its
"territorial" waters. It may be calculating that for any
satisfactory resolution of such problems the LTTE's role and authority
has to be recognised and accepted.
In that context
the LTTE yearning for some Indian acknowledgment of its dominant status
may be hoping that incidents of this type could compel New Delhi to take
note of it explicitly. The LTTE request for safe passage through India
for Anton Balasingham was ignored by New Delhi; the Oslo Summit was
treated on a low scale by India. India also pointedly avoided a meeting
in Kilinochchi about the repatriation of refugees from India. Thus,
while the LTTE strives hard to make New Delhi take even indirect notice
of it, India continues its course of supreme disdain often at the cost
of injuring Tamil sentiments.
The LTTE could
be therefore wishing that India would interact with them directly on
this matter at least. It is clear that the fishing rights problem cannot
be resolved bilaterally between India and Sri Lanka. There has to be a tri-lateral effort. The Tigers like some petulant
child hoping to attract attention through puerile mischief could be
hoping that India would take note at least to minimise an irritation.
It may be
recalled that a similar incident devoid of violence occurred in
September, 2002. Twenty five Indian trawlers and 111 fishermen poaching
off the waters of Talaimannar were rounded up by local fishermen. They
were released after a high
level meeting in which Mannar Bishop Rev. Joseph Rayappu and a senior
Indian diplomat from Colombo participated. The local fishermen then
demanded a written guarantee that there won't be trespassing again.
Incidently there was a "request" then that the Indian High
Commissioner should visit the Wanni and discuss matters.
An issue of
While it may or
may not be true of the LTTE being involved in the
incident indirectly, there is no denying that Indian Tamil
feelings are hurt by the assault. Given the ties of ethnicity and the
fact that a large number of Mannar fisherfolk are refugees
still in Tamil Nadu, this act is perceived as unacceptable. On
the other hand the Sri Lankan fishermen also feel strongly about this
issue. It is to some extent an issue of survival.
The Sri Lankan
Tamil fisherfolk have been severely affected ever since 1984, when
former National Security Minister, Lalith Athulathmudali declared a
maritime security zone and prohibited deep sea fishing. This situation
has continued with brief breathing spaces. The fishing community has
been reduced to abject poverty and displacement. It is only now after
the ceasefire that it is trying to resurrect itself. The past years has
seen Indian fishermen plying their trade without problems in waters that
are not rightfully theirs. Now with Lankan fishermen venturing out there
are competitive clashes. The Indians with more trawlers and modern nets
and gear are at a clear advantage over their Sri Lankan counterparts who
are struggling to revive their industry.
Subramanian observed in the Frontline of July 20- August 2, 2002 sums up
the current situation - "While Jaffna's dormant fishing community
hopes for relief to come from the ongoing peace moves, across the
straits, Tamil Nadu fishermen worry that once the conflict is resolved,
their counterparts in northern Sri Lanka will zealously guard the
catch." So frictitious incidents of this nature cannot be ruled out
until the question of fishing rights are satisfactorily resolved. This
requires great understanding and tolerance. This ultimately is something
that the fishing fraternity on both sides should address and resolve.
officials can provide frameworks but no meaningful solution can be
achieved until and unless the people themselves are willing to adjust in
a spirit of 'give and take.' The sea which both sides regard as "kadal
amma" (mother sea) has ample resources for everybody's just need,
but not necessarily unjust greed.
the Sri Lankan education system will not teach you
a historic decision to give anybody and everybody some form of basic
education. Great idea. Great initiative. However, after a few decades of
the system it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it has
proved to be a colossal failure. Just think about real value-addition to
the country, per educated head! Almost nothing.
Its not just
the concept of 'free education' that needs to be rethought, its the very
core of our educational structure. Are we gearing our future generations
to be a bunch of parrots who can do nothing more than memorise
incredibly large paragraphs? Are we stifling and paralysing the natural
tendency of the young mind to wonder why? These questions beg for
answers, and regime after regime have had none. Reform is a strong word,
used easily by politicians young and old. Everybody wants to reform
things, including the education system. In my opinion, there's not much
'reform' needed. The system already in place is a great foundation.
There's just one thing missing: Making students think, which is the
critical, fundamental principal on which education is based on.
The chances of
you knowing what I'm talking about are likely if you are one of those
people who, like myself, came through the local education system.
Learning your verbal, numerical and analytical skills are a crucial part
of being educated. However, our present education system just does not
encourage students to ask why, how or what. Instead, students are made
to accept whatever they are told no matter how many questions they may
have. This unfortunately is the norm, rather than the exception. Over
time this environment gradually destroys the very premise on
which human intelligence and innovation is based on; the power to think.
Take a walk
along a street anywhere in the country. All around you are Sri Lankans
who have passed their O/L and A/L examinations and even university
graduates. So on paper, the system works! Lots of people with an
education..certainly does wonders for the literacy rate. But is this the
benchmark by which we can gauge how intelligent we are as a nation?
There's been recent talk of turning Sri Lanka into an "intelligent
island," like Singapore maybe. Again, good idea. But ask yourself
this: How is this achievable? How are we going to achieve this status
without revamping the entire educational system in the country? Or is it
just as simple as giving students across the nation access to computers?
I only wish it were as simple as that.
Teach with a
A teacher who
sparks a thought in a student's mind is the only successful teacher. I
strongly believe that teachers need to be guides and mentors rather than
'lecturers.' Students of all ages should be encouraged to think. Lets
take for example the method used in most developed nations. Although the
average Sri Lankan student would be far superior to their counter-parts
in developed nations in terms of verbal and numerical skills during
secondary education, they are taught from an early age to think about
what they have learnt as opposed to memorising. Most teachers in the US
for example often end their lectures by saying, "think about what
I've spoken today."
Also, topics of
interest and debate are discussed in the classroom, allowing students to
come out with their own assumptions and thoughts. We have all had
experiences with teachers who we really enjoyed listening to and
learning from. This is because these people found a method of connecting
with the class. As a result students would respond positively to
whatever was taught. Of course students need to open out their minds as
well. As a student, you need to expand your horizons from an early age.
Always keep options open.
In this day and
age, great test results alone will get you almost nowhere. Don't get me
wrong; good exam results are, at the end of the day, what any future
employer would look for. The dedication and aptitude shown in your O/L
and A/L results are a fair measure of your intelligence. But there are
other qualities that need to be developed at an early age in order to be
competitive. Remember you have 24-hours to spend each day. That's a long
time. Take out eight hours for studying, six hours for sleeping and
you're still left with 10 full hours to spend productively. Manage your
time and plan out your day and get involved in activities that will help
you deal with the challenges of the future. Start a business, work
part-time, do anything that will give you the edge when you are at an
interview along with 50 others.
The human mind
has an amazing capacity to multi-task. Soon you will find that you are
far ahead of your peers in many aspects. Strive to be independent and
fend for yourself. It doesn't take a genius. The greatest minds are the
mediocre minds! Don't just think about it; put thought to action. Ask
yourself: What will your potential employer expect? What will the job
market be like in a few years? Will I have what it takes to catch the
attention of the big companies or am I going to be satisfied with
whatever comes my way?
culture; unforgiving and relentless
On one hand,
helping Sri Lanka produce talented young people who will fit in to the
workforce is also the responsibility of companies. If progressive Sri
Lankan companies look to employ capable young people into their cadre,
they need to train young people right from the most impressionable stage
in their lives. Companies should certainly invest some of their
resources, giving school kids the opportunity to use their holidays to
work in their companies. This would give these children invaluable
experience in a real working environment and help dispel social stigmas
against working while at school.
doubt that once you enter the corporate world, you need every ounce of
experience you can garner. This experience will not only give you that
edge over competition, but also help you mature faster at the workplace.
Corporate culture is something even the toughest struggle with. For some
strange reason, working while at school or university is discouraged
here in Sri Lanka. It has a lot to do with the fact that the education
curriculum is totally exam oriented. The ideal situation should be
exactly the opposite. The ideal time to try out your wings is while at
school or university. You are bound to fall hard, but who cares? You
always stand up a wiser person.
your comments and views. I will include the more interesting
opinions in my future columns. E-mail them to: email@example.com.
air at Environment Ministry
and Natural Resources Ministry is creating a kerfuffle over the
implementation of air emission standards regulations.
Supreme Court order two and half years ago ordering the Environment
Ministry to gazette air pollution standards, the court order which came
into effect on January 1 was ignored. Instead, the Environment Ministry
has illegally changed to a later date the implementation of this process
until July 1, 2003.
failed to get their act together, three months after the due date of
implementation, the Environment Ministry is now trying once more to
postpone the effective date of the air emission standards.
That is not
all. Two and a half years after the Supreme Court order, the Environment
Ministry has only got so far as to purchase four units for testing of
vehicle emissions and considers this sufficient to begin a programme,
which is blatantly ad hoc - to test 1.5 million vehicles on a yearly
Environment, Economic and Global Affairs, Environment Ministry, Dr.
B.N.S. Batagoda said that the other test units would have to be financed
and established by the private sector.
Asked why the
implementation date has been changed in contravention of a Supreme Court
order, Dr. Batagoda asserted that since it is the Environment Ministry
that gave the court the date of January 1, they are entitled to change
it if not ready to effect the process.
It is obvious
that Dr. Batagoda's plan or lack of one is full of holes. He even said
the emissions regulations cannot be fully implemented as a result of an
impending war in Iraq.
to explain what exactly he meant by this, he said the implementation
programme is not focussed on vehicle emissions only but includes a
process of evaluating fuel quality and maintaining a check and balance
on vehicle importation.
certainly maybe confusion over fuel, there can hardly be any contest
over vehicle importation as most vehicles imported are of superior
quality than those already in use on our roads.
The need of the
hour obviously is to clear Sri Lanka of the smog that emanates from
thousands of vehicles plying local highways, polluting not just the
environment but also causing a health hazard to the public.
logic appears to have escaped the attention of both Minister Rukman
Senanayake and officials in his Ministry like Dr. Batagoda, whose
drafting of the legislation in question holds little practical aspects.
the National Environmental Act, the government is mandated to have in
place certain air pollution standards, which have to be gazetted. Over
the years successive governments have failed to do this.
Environmental Foundation Limited finally petitioned the Supreme Court
and in June 2000 forced the government through a court order to gazette
the necessary regulations. The court order stated that the
implementation of the air emission standards regulations must take
effect by January 1, 2003.
The delay was
to enable the Environment Ministry to get organised in order to carry
out the required tests. What this involved was that the government would
enforce through the Motor Traffic Act a regulation which would insist on
a smoke emission certification for every vehicle before annually
renewing vehicle revenue licenses.
In Sri Lanka
there are approximately 1.5 million vehicles including motorbikes. In
order to test every single vehicle all over the island, a programme of
this nature would have to be able to accommodate testing a minimum of
100,000 vehicles every month. This would require about 200 testing
centers to be established across the island.
mooted that motor garage owners could be convinced to purchase the
testing equipment, which costs between Rs. 3 to 8 million depending on
the level of sophistication of the product.
meanwhile, including the Environment Ministry, did nothing to begin
establishing even some kind of a working machinery to ensure the Supreme
Court order would be obeyed by January this year.
It was only
last week that Minister Rukman Senanayake even held a crisis management
meeting to hurriedly discuss and ascertain modalities towards
implementing this process.
Trying to pass
the buck elsewhere, the Environment Ministry requested the Transport
Ministry to implement the programme.
Ministry initially refused saying they did not draft the gazette
notification and threw the ball back into the court of the Environment
Ministry, asserting since the latter had drafted the regulations it was
their duty to implement the programme.
This was later
sorted out and the Transport Ministry has now agreed to implement the
programme, possessing little or no knowledge of the magnitude of a
project such as this.
relevant to such a process to date have not even been considered by the
Environment Ministry. This is why last Thursday, March 6, Minister
Senanayake summoned a crisis meeting with Ministry officials to find out
what really is being done. (See box for comments)
signed the legislation for the air emission standards regulations and is
only too aware of the wide ramifications of establishing and
implementing this project.
On the other
hand, the Transport Ministry, having never been involved in even
drafting the required legislation does not have a clue how to even begin
All this, after
the Supreme Court gave the Environment Ministry a time frame of two and
a half years to prepare the implementation of this regulation, of which
in addition another three months have passed since the deadline. The
Environment Ministry is still fiddling with possible scenarios.
Leader also found that government officials are in the blue as to how to
identify the testing equipment or even assess its output. It is
impossible to expect some 200 garages around the country to pocket out a
minimum of Rs. 3 million and purchase the equipment, which is why the
private sector is to be lobbied now.
scenarios like for example how the Ministry would contest in court the
difference in results is yet another issue not addressed. For instance,
a vehicle which had been tested at a garage and issued a certificate can
contest the test result of a police mobile unit which claims the
training for staff and cost to vehicle owners for the test as well as
quality assurance to prevent vehicle owners from bribing the garages or
testing centers to obtain the necessary pass are all necessary
In addition it
would be necessary to standardise the testing equipment and maintain
regular checks in its performance.
Environment Ministry, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda said the vehicle emission
limits cannot be enforced as testing equipment for this is not yet
available with garages approved by the commissioner of motor traffic on
an island-wide basis.
He added that
the commissioner of motor traffic and the Central Environmental
Authority (CEA) have not yet finalised specifications for the testing
equipment that garages or specialised centers should have.
gazette requires that all new vehicles imported from January 1 conform
to Euro Two specifications. This, Pethiyagoda asserts, is also
impossible as the CPC's fuel standards do not meet Euro Two
specifications. This could in turn lead to problems on the warranty
applicable to such vehicles given that they will use substandard fuel.
of the view that rather than attempting to test all 1.5 million vehicles
in the country in one go, the project could perhaps be divided into
phases. For example public transport for the first phase of year one,
and other vehicles in year two etc.
line, however, is that due to a deep rooted lethargy that ails most
public servants, such programmes are rarely if ever implemented to
operate smoothly. Instead, the public is inconvenienced to great
lengths, all due to the bungling bureaucracy and apathy of idiotic
due to fuel quality - Minister
Senanayake said this entire process will be implemented by the
Transport Ministry. He said the project would get off the ground
after he consults both the Transport Minister and the Power and
stated that four major private companies have been identified to
each establish 80 testing centers around the country that will
carry out the emission tests.
He said the
four testing units already purchased by the Environmental Ministry
would be used only for study purposes.
asserted that due to confusion created over the quality of fuel,
this project did not get off the ground.
due to pressure
Environmental Foundation Limited, Ravi Algama in a letter to
Minister Rukman Senanayake on February 19, charges that there
appears to be some pressure from within the Environment Ministry
to postpone the date in implementing the air emission standards
out that any further delay in implementation would further lower
the air quality of the urban environment and increase incidents of
respiratory problems among the public.
He asserts that
the air emission standards regulations were prepared in order to
save Sri Lankans from the damaging effect of air pollution and to
prevent Sri Lanka and her natural beauty from disappearing under a
poisonous cocktail of smog and other dangerous emissions.
Ministry in postponing this process further, Algama reiterates,
has only served to negate the entire exercise of promulgating and
drafting necessary legislation for these standards to be enforced
Emirates fly high under UNF
There is speculation that the Emirates
management at SriLankan Airlines may be looking to extend their
management agreement with SriLankan (UL) for a further period of seven
The board of directors of SriLankan Airlines has been informed by its
Chief Executive Officer, Peter Hill, that Emirates will not be in a
position to sell its shareholding at SriLankan Airlines if a fresh lease
agreement is signed to finance another four A340-300 aircraft for UL.
In a note to the board of directors on January 31 this year, Hill has
stated that Lombard Aviation Capital (LAC) is seeking to impose
financial covenants on Emirates, since the Middle Eastern airline is
serving as guarantor to the lease agreement of four A340s.
Hill explains that this means LAC would restrict Emirates’ ability to
sell its existing shareholding in SriLankan Airlines for the duration of
the lease, which would end in the year 2015.
This is why it would be necessary then, for this government to
extend the present management agreement with Emirates if this lease is
signed with LAC.
The note to the SriLankan directors by Hill asserts that the new lease
for another four A340s, would increase a full seven years beyond the
expiry date of the Emirates management agreement with SriLankan
Airlines. The present 10 year management agreement between Emirates and
SriLankan Airlines expires in the year 2008.
The UNP in opposition vowed to abrogate the agreement and reported the
privatisation deal to the Bribery Commission with former Attorney
General and now Defence Minister Tilak Marapone drafting the complaint.
Marapone as Aviation Minister is now heading the government delegation
negotiating fresh terms with Emirates.
Meanwhile, four A330-200 Air buses are to be removed from the UL fleet
and sub leased for the additional four A340-300 planes.
The phasing out of the A330-200 planes is being done despite Emirates
having insisted in 1998 that the former AirLanka lease these A330s for
enhanced operational capacity. The foreign management is now using this
same argument to sub-lease the four A330-200 aircraft claiming the move
would significantly reduce direct operating costs.
For the loss of the four A330s, Peter Hill together with Managing
Director Tim Clark has negotiated with LAC to lease four A340-300
aircraft, which he claims will be at substantially lower lease rentals
than the four A330-200 on lease at present.
He calculates that the annual net reduction in direct operating costs as
a result would be as much as US$ 10.5 million. The four additional
A340-300 aircraft leased from LAC would need to be reconfigured to UL
specifications which according to Hill, would cost around US$ 1.5
The leasing terms would be for a period of 12 years at a rental cost of
US$ 450,000 per month. A security deposit of US$ 1 million per aircraft
has to be paid in cash.
Emirates is now demanding that SriLankan Airlines pay Emirates an
interest bearing deposit of US$ 25 million for the term of this lease
since Emirates will provide a guarantee for up to 18 months lease rental
payment amounting to approximately US$ 32.4 million.
Why SriLankan Airlines should cough out US$ 25 million to Emirates and
allow the latter to also sign as guarantors to the lease agreement has
not been explained to the government yet by its nominees on the board of
directors. Both Peter Hill and SriLankan Chairman, Daya Pelpola were
overseas and unavailable for comment at the time this article went to
Senior Partner, Varners Lanka Law Office and Director, SriLankan
Airlines, Mahinda Haradasa said he is not in a position to comment on
this transaction as he is unaware of the details.
Haradasa’s lack of awareness is despite the fact that Hill’s memo to
the board is dated January 31, 2003 where he states that following
successful negotiations with LAC, a letter of intent would be tabled for
approval and ratification by the board at its meeting on February 24,
Chairman, Union Commodities (Pvt) Ltd., and also a board director,
SriLankan Airlines, Chanaka de Silva refused to answer his telephone
when told The Sunday Leader wished to speak with him on a matter
concerning SriLankan Airlines.
Managing Director, Commercial Bank of Ceylon Ltd., and also Board
Director, SriLankan Airlines, Amitha Lal Gooneratne said he is not in a
position to comment individually on this transaction without first
consulting Daya Pelpola. Gooneratne said, “I don’t know what to
say,” when asked if the board at SriLankan had approved and ratified
this lease agreement with LAC.
The local representatives for the government on the SriLankan Airlines
board comprises of these three gentlemen and Chairman Daya Pelpola.
The UNF were vociferous critics of the management agreement between
Emirates and SriLankan Airlines while in the opposition and have
consistently used this as a platform to sling mud at the former
People’s Alliance government while also accusing the Emirates
management of corruption and fraud.
All negotiations with LAC to secure this deal is being done on behalf of
SriLankan Airlines by the foreign management namely, its Managing
Director Tim Clark and other Investor Directors namely, Gary Chapman,
Dermot Mannion, Peter Hill and Captain Dick Hutton. Chief Financial
Officer, S. A. Chandrasekera and Senior Manageress Legal Affairs,
Priyani Abeysekara will join the negotiators as and when required by the
very much in the news again. The recent fracas concerning Tamil Nadu
fishermen being attacked by their counterparts in Sri Lanka has brought
the issue to the forefront again. It has become a common feature in
recent times for any furore over fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen
to end in the inevitable reiteration of the demand for Kachchatheevu
ownership to be vested with India again.
Colombo correspondent, The Hindu, V. Jayanth writing on March 5
about the Mannar gulf fishing rights incident
in the Chennai based Indian daily makes this comment —
“Though the Indian High Commission in Colombo is working overtime to
sort out the problem, officials here are convinced that the only
solution is to prevent Indian fishermen from straying into Sri Lankan
waters. Unless this is done, they are afraid the fishermen will want to
reopen the whole issue of giving up Kachchatheevu to Sri Lanka, which was done
in the larger ‘good-neighbourly interests.’ Hence the urgency of
finding an immediate solution to this tussle.”
of an island
north-east of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and south-west of Sri
Lanka’s Neduntheevu or Delft island, Kachchatheevu is no more
than 1.6 km in length and slightly over 300 metres wide at its broadest
point. It was formerly under the suzerainty of the Sethupathy kings of
Ramnad. After the princely states were incorporated into independent
India, the uninhabited island with a dilapidated church dedicated to St.
Anthony, the patron saint of seafarers,
became part of the former Madras now Tamil Nadu state.
new emperors of India cared little for an insignificant island or islet
like Kachchatheevu. “The island is 18 miles east of Pamban. Where
Pamban is I do not know,” former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said
in the Rajya Sabha in 1960. His daughter Indira Gandhi gifted the island
in the interests of geopolitical
advantage to her island neighbour in 1974. A “sheer rock with no
strategic significance,” was how she described it.
however was an issue that never went away as far as the fishing
community of Tamil Nadu was concerned. The barren islet was of great
importance to the long neglected fisherfolk of the state. The fact that
the central government “handed over” the island to its small
neighbour without consulting the state of Tamil Nadu remains a sore
factor. In a sense, the
disp- ensing of Kachchatheevu was very much akin to New Delhi’s
handling of the statelessness issue in 1964. The destiny of the up
country Tamils was carved up arithmetically by New Delhi and Colombo
without heeding the aspirations and rights of the affected people
themselves. Even the consistently pro-Indian Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman
described that act as a betrayal by Mother India.
to the gravity of the Sirima - Shastri pact, the issue of Kachchatheevu
is certainly of lesser importance. Nevertheless, the fisherfolk of
several coastal districts in Tamil Nadu regard it as of paramount
importance. Although assurances were given and the agreement itself
provided some guarantees, the Tamil Nadu fisherfolk found themselves
adversely affected in practice. The escalation of the ethnic conflict in
Sri Lanka accelerated this process. The declaration of maritime security
zones and prohibition of fishing in Sri Lankan territorial waters,
affected the Indian fishermen too. Although they were entitled to dry
their nets in Kachchatheevu the Sri Lanka Navy restricted this right in
bilateral agreements on maritime zones and related issues agreed upon by
the two countries on June 26, 1974 and March 23, 1976 seem to have
treated the question of the fishermen’s security and their fishing
rights as tradable commodities, which can be given or taken away in
order to satisfy geopolitical or security considerations.
Lanka and India share a maritime border extending to more than 400 km in
the Palk Bay region, in which the island of Kachchatheevu is located and
which lies between the coastal regions of Nagapattinam, Than-javur,
Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram Districts and Sri Lanka. The Tamil Nadu
fishermen’s travails have their genesis in the maritime agreements of
1974 and 1976. The 1974 agreement demarcated the maritime boundary
between the two countries in the Palk Strait and ceded Kachchatheevu to
Sri Lanka. The 1976 agreement demarcated the boundary in the gulf of
Mannar and the Bay of Bengal and barred each country’s fishermen from
fishing in the other’s waters.
1974 agreement handed over Kachchatheevu formally to Sri Lanka. The
island is situated in the Palk Strait at a distance of between 12.8 km
and 16 km from the nearest points of Sri Lanka and India respectively.
Article 5 of the agreement, which safeguards the rights of Indian
fishermen and pilgrims (who visit the isle to take part in the St.
Anthony’s festival there), states: “Subject to the foregoing, Indian
fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy
access to visit Kachchatheevu as hitherto, and will not be required by
Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes.”
Article 6 states: “The
vessels of India and Sri Lanka will enjoy in each other’s waters such
rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein.”
about Kachchatheevu in his book Landscapes And Lives, the Indian
author Mukul Sharma noted “This agreement or any of its provisions was
neither discussed with the state governments, fisherpeople organisations
or political parties, nor debated in parliament before it was enforced.
There were other dominant considerations for the then heads of state.”
He goes on to observe, “The aftermath of the 1971 insurrection by the
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP),
witnessed a change of mood with regard to the credibility of the
Sirimavo Bandaranaike government in Sri Lanka. The country went through
a severe economic and political crisis.” The Kachchatheevu settlement
contributed to a large extent in lifting the morale of the
maritime boundary settlement also helped curb the anti-India hysteria in
Sri Lanka. In fact, the agreement strengthened the relations between the
governments of Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Sri Lanka
extended its support to India on some vital issues. While several
India’s nuclear explosion in May 1974, Sri Lanka accepted India’s
stance on putting its newly acquired nuclear capability to peaceful use.
Besides, when Pakistan tried to use the 15-member ad hoc United Nations
Committee as a forum to attack India over the nuclear explosion, Sri
Lanka in its capacity as the chairperson of that committee prevented the
use of the forum for that purpose. Thus, the agreement was a political
decision, with no thought or consideration to the fishermen.
1976 agreement is entitled “Agreement Between India And Sri Lanka On
The Maritime Boundary Between The Two Countries In The Gulf Of Mannar
And The Bay Of Bengal And Related Matters.” There was an exchange of
letters on the same day as it was signed between India’s Foreign
Secretary and Sri Lanka’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary.
These letters also constituted an agreement. Significantly, this
agreement was signed when India was under emergency rule, when no
discussion or dissent was permitted.
I of the exchange of letters states: “With the establishment of
the exclusive economic zones by the two countries, India and Sri
Lanka will exercise sovereign rights over the living and non-living
resources of their
respective zones. The fishing vessels and fishermen of India shall not
engage in fishing in the historic waters, the territorial sea and the
exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka, nor shall the fishing vessels and
fishermen of Sri Lanka engage in fishing in the historic waters, the
territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of India, without the
express permission of Sri Lanka or India, as the case may be.”
is the different interpretations of this portion of the exchange of
letters and of Article 5 in the 1974 agreement that have led to the
controversy over whether or not Indian fishermen have the right to fish
in and around Kachchatheevu. The Sri Lankan government argues that the
relevant portion of the exchange of letters supersedes Articles 5 and 6
of the 1974 agreement. It also claims that Article 5 allowed Indian
fishermen only to dry their nets in Kachchatheevu and not to fish in and
around the island. Since
then, India and Sri Lanka have held several meetings to solve the
fire fighting exercise
Director, Centre for South and South-East
Asian Studies, Madras University, Prof. V. Suryanarayan, who has studied
Kachchatheevu and the problems of Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay
region, has been quoted: “It is always a fire-fighting exercise by
both the governments, without removing the causes of fire. In fact, who
cares in New Delhi and Colombo about the shooting and killing of some
hundred poor fishermen?”
Sharma also throws some light on the compulsions and motivations of the
Rameswaram fishermen in continuing to fish in the troubled waters off
Kachchatheevu. This is what Sharma says: “What forces fishermen from
Tamil Nadu to the Sri Lankan waters beyond Kachchatheevu, up to the
Delft island off the Jaffna coast, even at the risk of being killed?
What compels the assistant director of fisheries for the Rameswaram
region to say: ‘If fishermen do not cross the border today, tomorrow
there will be no fishing in the region?’ One answer is that the ocean
currents and sedimentation on the Sri Lankan side of the Palk
Strait have made it a rich field of Tiger prawns, which fetch a
high price. Another lies in the massive growth of fishing activity and
income-sharing in the region. According to information from the
Fisheries Department, the number of trawling boats operating from
Rameswaram is about 1,000. In the traditional sector, there are about
1,500 craft. Ramanathapuram ranks first in the total marine fish landing
of Tamil Nadu; it accounted for 23.57 per cent during the 1993-96
period. The growth rate of marine fish landings in the district is much
higher than that of the state as a whole.
a good harvest
system that is in vogue in Rameswaram also puts pressure on the
fisherpeople to seek fishing grounds much closer to the Sri Lankan
coast, where the availability of shrimp is high. Unlike other places in
the state, where the net income is shared between the boat owner and the
crew in the ratio 60:40, in Rameswaram the boat owners pay daily wages.
There are special wages for overnight trips, and incentives based on the
catch in bottom-trawling. For every 1 kg of shrimp, the driver gets Rs.
20, the second hand Rs. 15 and the deck hands Rs. 10 each. As a result,
the crew want to catch
more, even in dangerous waters.”
present crisis between the Tamil fisherpeople of Sri Lanka and Tamil
Nadu was not unanticipated. Nirupama Subramanian in an article on
Kachchatheevu published in the Frontline of July 20 - August 2 ,
2002 was perceptive enough to discern and predict what was
looming. Relevant paragraphs from that article are as follow:
bonhomie could not mask the resentment and envy with which the
Sri Lankan Tamils, most of them fishermen themselves, regard Indian fishermen. Jaffna fishermen cannot use mechanised boats, they
cannot go out to sea beyond a kilometre, and the fishing hours are
restricted. They must cast their nets close to the shore and be
satisfied with the small catch. Bound
by the security restrictions, which are still not completely removed
despite the ceasefire, the fishermen of Jaffna and its islets have been
unable to realise the potential of the Palk Straits, the only source of
their livelihood, to its fullest.
all these years they have watched as their counterparts from across the
Straits make incursions into Sri Lankan waters with impunity and get
away with it most of the time. Notwithstanding the security
restrictions, the Indians come not only to Kachchatheevu where their
fishing rights are not clearly written in to the Maritime Boundary
Agreement, but also poach in waters around the Jaffna islets, their trawlers dragging
and destroying the nets of the local fishermen. It is for this reason
that Jaffna fishermen, who would otherwise hold no brief for the Sri
Lanka Navy, be of the view that its actions against Indian poachers are
fully justified. ‘The Sri Lanka
Navy must protect our waters from Indian fishermen. Already we live and
work under so many restrictions. The Indians have only been adding to
our problems,’ said S. Vimalanandan, a fisherman from Delft.
the Indian fishermen have their own tale of woe. The handful who came to
Kachchatheevu were candid enough to admit that they had depleted their
own resources and that their livelihood depended now on the catch in the
Sri Lankan waters. Not surprisingly, they argued for a pragmatic
division of the spoils.
Gandhi thought she was trading good neighbourly relations when she
signed the agreement. No one saw then that less than 10 years later, not
only would the ties between the two countries run aground over a far bigger issue, but that the tensions created by the gifting of
an island would continue to affect the people of the Palk Straits on
both sides of the maritime boundary.”