Tokyo with love
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s carefully crafted
international safety net brought in rich dividends in Tokyo last
week, the real challenge of bringing the LTTE back to the
negotiating table to cash in on the success still lay ahead for
in pledging an unprecedented aid package of US$ 4.5 billion with a
sizeable component being by way of grants, the international community
did make it clear, progress in the peace process was essential for the
monies to start flowing in.
government of course has the challenge of identifying projects for the
utilisation of the funds pledged, an area in which respective
governments have in the past been sadly wanting but there is the added
caveat this time round in making progress on the peace front.
very fact the international community, which turned up in large numbers,
pledged to Sri Lanka as much as they did for the reconstruction of
Afghanistan was the clearest signal, trust and confidence was at a
premium as far as Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s government went,
adding that much more of a burden on Wickremesinghe’s shoulders to
that Wickremesinghe has to bite the bullet and push through his reform
agenda and proceed to deliver on the interim administration for the
north east notwithstanding objections by the opposition or else it is
gonna be back to square one and he knows it.
the LTTE too was sent a clear message by the donor community not to take
their support for granted and to return to the talks at their earliest.
is in this context significant to note the “objectives of the
conference,” set out in the Tokyo Declaration wherein it was stated,
“the objectives of the conference are to provide the international
community with an opportunity to demonstrate its strong and unified
commitment to the reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka and to
encourage the parties to redouble their efforts to make further progress
in the peace process.”
Tokyo Declaration issued by the donor community at the end of the
conference went on to say, “While only one party to the peace process
is present at the conference, the international community takes the
opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to support the establishment
by the parties of the necessary administrative structure for the
effective reconstruction and development of the north and east.”
further said, “A partnership between the government of Sri Lanka and
the LTTE will be necessary to rebuild the areas effectively. Adequate
safeguards to secure the interests of all other communities should be
included in the framework.”
the international community too has come out strongly in support of an
interim administrative structure in a clear message, not only to the
LTTE on its call but also to the south that if Sri Lanka wants their
support some hard decisions must be made. Therein also lies a message to
the President and the PA that if it is to get any support from the
international community, they too would have to play ball.
significant is their message that the north east should be built in
partnership with the LTTE, thereby not only giving recognition to the
LTTE as representatives of the Tamils but also signalling to the south
it is a fact of life they have to accept.
arriving at this declaration of course, there were hectic backroom
negotiations with the United States wanting a tough line taken vis a
vis the LTTE, while the Norwegians wanted a softer approach to
enable the speedy return of the Tigers to the table.
the same time, Port Development Minister and Muslim Congress Leader,
Rauf Hakeem was equally adamant the Muslim factor was always taken into
account and safeguards provided in calling for the interim
to the donor conference getting underway, the international community
made every effort to give President Chandrika Kumaratunga too a role in
Tokyo by inviting her to make a statement via satellite, an offer she
offer was made by Japan’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Ambassador
Yasushi Akashi and the rejection was communicated through her
International Affairs Advisor, Lakshman Kadirgamar. The intention of the
international community was not only to show a national consensus to the
world for Sri Lanka’s benefit but give Kumaratunga also a share of the
success for the anticipated outcome. She, however, had other ideas.
is more, prior to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s departure to the
Tokyo donor conference, a formal request was made by him to meet and
brief the President on the issue, but once again Kumaratunga was
unavailable to meet with her Prime Minister.
Kumaratunga publicly distanced herself from the Tokyo donor conference
possibly believing, given the absence of the LTTE as well, it would be a
failure with which she did not want to be associated.
if the conference turned out to be a failure, it would have given the
President a platform to launch a further offensive against the
government, blaming it for mishandling the peace process as well as its
own economic reform agenda.
the President kicked the ball into her own goal and missed a golden
opportunity of stealing the thunder from Wickremesinghe.
she had to do was send a message seeking the cooperation of the
international community to rebuild Sri Lanka and adding that she has
instructed her Prime Minister to set out the government’s agenda for
would then have merely looked like he was representing the President and
the political advantage of the UNF would have been neutralised.
Kumaratunga decided to play the spoilt child and made a hash of the
fact, while ducking meeting with the Prime Minister and declining to
make a statement at the conference, the President gave an interview to
ABC Television of Australia which was to be telecast on the eve of the
conference, Sunday, June 8.
in that interview, Kumaratunga launched an attack on the Prime Minister,
accusing his party of murdering both her father and husband while
mocking at Wickremesinghe’s capability in negotiating a peace deal
also used the opportunity to say she is totally in the dark about what
the Prime Minister plans to give the LTTE by way of an interim council,
thus distancing herself from that too but at the same time stating she
was proposing much more than an interim council. It was a case of
confusion worst confounded.
vote of confidence
rest of course is history because 24 hours later, the international
community not only passed a resounding vote of confidence on Prime
Minister Wickremesinghe despite President Kumaratunga’s subtle
attempts at undermining the conference but also endorsed the move to set
up an interim administrative structure for the reconstruction and
development of the north east.
for his part, playing the role of statesman to a fault, no sooner the
donor conference concluded, on Tuesday, June 10, informed President
Kumaratunga in writing from Tokyo itself, the outcome and the monies
the conference itself, in his speech, Wickremesinghe paid a tribute to
the President for her role in supporting the peace process. The
contrasting styles were not lost on the international community.
hardly 24 hours after the Tokyo Declaration was released, the LTTE
issued a statement rejecting what it termed as a “provisional
administrative structure” offer made by the Prime Minister, once again
upping the stakes.
in doing so, the LTTE itself had misunderstood Prime Minister
Wickremesinghe’s statement to the conference as an offer made to the
LTTE for a “provisional administrative structure.”
the Prime Minister in fact did through his statement was declare his
intent of making provision for an interim or provisional administrative
structure, the details of which are yet to be worked out through a
process of dialogue in an effort to revive the peace process as opposed
to a definitive proposal.
“not that far apart”
fact, during the course of his speech, the Prime Minister did say,
“Regrettably, so far, we have not managed to reconcile our proposals
with the thinking of the LTTE.” But the Prime Minister went on to say,
“The differences between us over an administrative structure are not
that far apart.”
LTTE, however, has justifiably rejected what it sees as an offer for a
provisional administrative structure since the Prime Minister had sought
and obtained a mandate from the people for an interim council for the
north east and what the LTTE now expects of Wickremesinghe is to deliver
on the pledge.
the same time, the LTTE rejection should also be seen in the backdrop of
the international pressure mounted on it before and during the
conference, which could lead to the perception among its cadres, the
LTTE leadership was forced to yield, similar to the situation which
arose in 1987 with the Indo Lanka Agreement, if they jumped the
its initial response, harsh though it may seem, was viewed from that
context and the international community took the view the LTTE should be
continuously engaged to ensure its return to the table.
fact, the Prime Minister has in principle decided to proceed with an
interim administrative structure for the north east as proposed in his
manifesto but has taken the view it can only be done through a dialogue
without an endless exchange of letters where every nuance could be
misunderstood or misinterpreted.
that is exactly what happened with his statement to the donor conference
original draft of the Premier’s speech outlined the Oslo Declaration
dealing with a federal solution and simply said, “It is now important
that we develop a roadmap with milestones to get there. In this context
we would clearly need to set up an interim administrative structure to
manage the transition.”
was on the night of Sunday, June 8, that the draft underwent a change at
the request of SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem, who said it was important to
make provision for the Muslim interests as well.
Prime Minister, who met with his delegation Sunday night said he has
received a mandate from the people on the question of the interim
administration and intends to proceed but was cautioned by Hakeem on
sending a wrong signal to the Muslims in the process.
LTTE must not run away with the impression they are getting rewarded for
their absence,” Hakeem said.
the Prime Minister’s speech was redrafted to state, “...we would
need to set up an innovative provisional administrative structure. It
will be responsible for the reconstruction and development of the north
east and the administrative aspects of the transitional process.”
objectives to be achieved by the structure was then set out and a
further paragraph added stating, “In order to move forward, it is of
vital importance that a Muslim delegation should participate in the
peace talks to articulate the concerns of the Muslims.”
to this development taking place, the draft Tokyo Declaration was worked
on by the co-chairs of the conference, Norway, Sri Lanka, USA, EU and
Japan where once again tough decisions had to be made, after which it
went before the donor nations.
in particular was adamant the LTTE should not be pushed to the wall and
Ambassador Hans Brattskar was in regular contact over the telephone with
Chief Facilitator Vidar Helgessen, making amendments to the draft
particularly with regard to the issue of de-escalation and
demilitarisation, on which issue the US was taking a tough line.
much so, US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage later went on
record stating, “The international community cannot be blackmailed by
a group who refuses to take part in the peace process...”
tough was a woman ambassador from Europe during the drafting of the
declaration with regard to the issue of human rights where the first
draft referred to an “incremental” promotion of human rights. The
ambassador argued the issue of human rights cannot be compromised and
finally the words “effective promotion and protection of the human
rights of all people,” came to be included in the final draft.
bottom line is, the international community has now effectively thrown
its hat into the ring of the Sri Lanka conflict, urging both parties to
parley with both carrots and sticks on offer. They made it clear, Sri
Lanka must be a showcase for conflict resolution.
it will finally be the government that has to bell the cat and it is
only Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who can build on the massive
success of the conference and bring the LTTE back to the table.
now has the money to deliver reconstruction, development and economic
revival of Sri Lanka. What he now needs is to bring the LTTE back to the
table and for that, courage is called for.
to give effect to his electoral pledge for an interim administration for
the north east. And he has the international community to back him up as
well in taking that courageous decision.
is then that the LTTE too will be left with no option but to return to
the table. Playing with words will not do in that context.
all, since the government has already committed itself to a federal
system, why not give the LTTE a significant role in the interim to
revive the peace process and build on the Tokyo outcome will be what
Wickremesinghe has to now come to terms with.
a case of now or never.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to find a way of
accommodating some interim administration for the Tamils but you
intend to block it. Why?
cannot comment on what the LTTE is asking nor what the Prime
Minister is trying to give because I am totally in the dark about
it. But as far as our policy is concerned, it has been crystal
clear for the past two decades my own and my party’s on this
issue since it started. What we say is that the Tamil people must
be given equal opportunities here.
are not for a separate state in this little country but we are for
devolution, extensive devolution of political power. The proposal
for that I have put to the country nine years ago, well, eight
years ago, in 1995. I have presented it to parliament in 2000, so
our position is very clear on that.
are proposing much more than an interim council, we are proposing
that permanent devolution of power to the regions, including to
the Tamil and Muslim people.
The Tigers doubt your commitment to peace given that you are
seeking an alliance with the extremist JVP, which is against any
devolution of power.
All political movements and all individuals in human history have
had the possibility of changing their view with the times. Some
opportunistically, some maybe honestly. I will not go into that.
The JVP has clearly stated, we have not yet gone into any
alliance. We are talking about one. The JVP has, we have brought
them to the position where they have agreed clearly they are not
for a military solution to the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka, that
they are fully, that they will commit themselves fully to
negotiated political settlement so that issue is resolved.
I don’t know how they can doubt my commitment, if they can, if
they don’t have doubts about Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s
commitment, because when I took over as President from Mr. Ranil
Wickremesinghe, his policy was, war, war, war.
Is politics getting in the way of peace here? Is there just too
much rivalry between the Prime Minister and yourself to allow
peace a chance?
don’t think so. If Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe had the perspicacity
and the nobility to forget normal political conflicts that exist
in parliamentary politics in any country like yours or mine and
invite, if he had invited my party and the democratic opposition
in parliament to actively participate in this peace process as I
did in mine, he wouldn’t have had any problems but he tried to
do an exclusive thing where he excluded everybody including a
large amount of his own cabinet and this is the main problem. To
find a solution to that.
So the obstacle to peace is your exclusion from the peace process?
main problem is that he is trying to do an exclusive thing. Er er...
where, er... probably... which has resulted in a fairly highly
unprofessional, unplanned, kind of spontaneous er... er... effort
at peace, while on the other hand you have the LTTE which is one
of the world’s best organised, most ruthless and efficient
terrorist organisation, negotiating on the other side of the
table, so this... even if the people, you know, even if the people
who are trying to do it, trying to lead it. I don’t mind anybody
leading it or getting the credit for it... That is not what
matters in the national interest as far as I am concerned but it
has to be handled properly.
know you can do the right thing, something that is 100% the right
thing in the wrong way and arrive at the wrong place. This is what
worries me and what concerns me most.
Does the Prime Minister lack caution because he hasn’t been
touched by violence in the way you have?
I am the only one who has experienced violence at the hands of the
LTTE. The other members of my family, my father and my husband
were killed by Mr.
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party.
if I can have Ranil Wickremesinghe as my Prime Minister, sitting
with him at the same cabinet, I don’t see why I should not
forgive Mr. Prabhakaran, which I have already done in the national
Does the Prime Minister have what it takes to negotiate in the
best interests of the country?
you know, I am a
student of politics. Er.. and... and I have done political science
for my degree. I tend to study my political opponents as much as
any political associate and while having the gentleman as my Prime
Minister, I wouldn’t like to answer that question because,
(laugh).... well... We’ll leave it at that (laugh).
Bank ended up as fourth runner-up in last week’s Tokyo donor
conference, well behind the ADB, EU and Japan.
to donor sources, there was a conscious decision to downplay
assistance to Sri Lanka by Vice President, World Bank, Meiko
Nishimizu who has made it widely known that she is a close friend
of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
the ADB delegation at Tokyo, which was led by its President, Tadao
Chino, the World Bank delegation was led by its Country Director,
Harold himself is identified as a friend of Sri Lanka, The
Sunday Leader learns that he was advised by the North East
Project Director, World Bank, Naren Duraiswamy that the LTTE may
be offended if, given their boycott, the World Bank was
represented by its top level management.
view had been readily endorsed by Nishimizu, who has built a
reputation for playing politics in Sri Lanka. The bank’s
dabbling in local politics in a partisan manner was a subject of
much discussion among the Sri Lanka delegation to Tokyo, with some
ministers urging that the government lodge a formal protest with
President, World Bank, James Wolfensohn.
a space of a few days, Sri Lanka was compared to a carnivorous beast by
two financial research houses. HNB Stockbrokers last week released a
report titled The Lion Emerges, just a few days before
international researcher JP Morgan referred to Sri Lanka as “a new
tiger in the making.”
after the Tokyo meeting concluded, business news-wire Bloomberg joined
the fun, echoing JP Morgan’s ‘emerging tiger’ simile.
aside the irony in the tiger comparison, the reports coming out either
side of the Japan aid meeting emphasised one point, the country has at
least gained pole position to launch it self to financial heights. Once
again Sri Lanka was a beacon as the financial ‘Promised Land’ of
South Asia — a potential that has gone unfulfilled for the last
quarter century. The road, however, will be full of potholes and bumpy,
the same reports reiterated.
economy could chalk up annual growth rates of around 7% later in the
decade, ranking it among the fastest growing economies,” JP Morgan
project the aggregate economy to grow by 4.8% in 2003 and a higher
growth of 5.4% for 2004,” HNB followed suit last week.
much the economic prospects of the country are tied to the peace process
and stability stemming from it is quite clear by tracking the stock
market. HNB said that the market went up between September and October
2002 in the lead up to the peace talks. Then it took a dip when the
Supreme Court rejected the 19th Amendment. It dived again, slightly,
with war in the Gulf and recovered as soon as the US and allies took
control of Iraq.
LTTE’s pull-out from the peace talks only caused a minor stutter and
the market reached a seven year high the week prior to the aid group
also predicted that the most probable scenario would be one of peace but
uncertainty. “Sustainable economic growth is likely but at a slower
pace,” the report predicted and gave the scenario a 45% probability
chance. The climate would prevail for at least a minimum of two years,
meaning that the cloak and dagger games between the executive presidency
and the legislature would not go away any time soon.
aid that was pledged in Japan would allow the government to fast track
the reform process. Both HNB and JP Morgan highlighted reforms and the
connected importance of implementation. Reforms have been identified in
the public sector, banking, labour markets and monetary policy. A fair
bulk of the ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ policy framework deals with
of the biggest challenges would be to change the public sector, the
largest per capita in Asia. “In our view one of the biggest challenges
to the reform programme lies in transforming the public sector into a
productive entity,” HNB said. The public sector is the largest
non-performing sector in Sri Lanka, but changing it would be akin to
courting political hara kiri.
of these reforms can be in conflict with political agendas. The
independence, accountability and transparency of the reform enforcing
authority have to be maintained in order to withstand external
pressures, which may be destructive to the successful implementation of
the reforms,” HNB noted.
donor meeting performed beyond expectations. “The package emerging
from the Tokyo conference should be seen as a huge vote of
confidence,” Bloomberg quoted David Fernandez, Head of Asian Sovereign
Debt Research at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in Singapore. “It should
send a strong signal to investors Sri Lanka could be a new Asian tiger
in the making.”
sentiment, however, does not mean that all the fighting is over for the
government. It may have gained breathing space, but President Chandrika
Kumaratunga is most certain to bide her time and make another hack at
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government when she feels the moment opportune
the big aid has come under criticism from the likes of UNPer turned
staunch Kumaratunga backer Sarath Amunugama and the ultra-nationalist
Sihala Urumaya. The latter last week said that only 2% of the funds were
grants and the rest were loans.
that the Rs. 1,400 million of the funds were to be allocated to 14
projects carried out by the LTTE, the Sihala Urumaya said that the
Tigers had no responsibility when it came to repayment and that it was
up to the government of the day to make the repayments.
HNB and JP Morgan have factored the Kumaratunga issue as well as the
LTTE issue. Ironically it is the President’s actions that could rock
the boat on the short run rather the Tigers’. The Colombo Stock Market
did not react adversely to Tamilselvan’s latest statement.
the contrary, the day after LTTE headquarters in Kilinochchi released
the letter, the market gained. The All Share Price Index (ASPI) gained
13 points while the Milanka gained 41 points on Thursday. The consensus
is that the Tigers would not go back to arms any time soon.
believes that the opposition is not moving to oust the government
because of the satisfaction among the general public despite the rising
cost of living. “The government needs to address the cost of living
issue sooner rather than later, as it is a threat to its survival and
consequently the political stability of the country.”
reasons behind the rise in cost of living is instability both globally
as well as internally, plus reforms coming into effect before economic
consolidation. Foreign investments have not been forthcoming in a manner
that would have allowed the government to breathe a bit easily.
Foreigners look for much more stability than that which is prevailing.
larger problem, however, remains the LTTE and its hardening stand. The
government is all too keen to get the Tigers back to the negotiating
table as donor money is tied to progress at the peace talks. There have
been unofficial meetings between the LTTE and the government despite the
week a top official from the Tiger Political Wing, S. Puleedevan was in
town. Though government sources declined to confirm if the official had
had any meetings with government officials, the indication was that some
sort of talking took place. Still there was no indication if the present
impasse would be breached any time soon.
on the LTTE, there have been indications that the LTTE was once again
considering mobilising public protests in the north east. Late last year
such protests in places like Point Pedro and Trincomalee created severe
headaches for the army.
week there was a hartal in the east. LTTE’s Jaffna Political Leader
Illamparandi convened a meeting two weeks back and discussed the issue
of protesting against the High Security Zones (HSZ) and the present
impasse at the negotiations.
LTTE has in the past secured the help of orgnisations like the
International Student Organisation of Tamil Eelam and the Students Union
at the Jaffna University to organise protests.
units have also alerted authorities on the possibility of trained LTTE
cadres infiltrating areas in the immediate proximity of camps to carry
is also fear that the LTTE is developing its military capacity. During
the much publicised arrests of three Tamil by Thai police, weapons used
by SWAT teams were discovered. Pistols and ammunition of the Glock,
Heckler and Koch type along with hi-tech laser targeting devices
recovered have given rise to the possibility whether the LTTE was
developing SWAT teams.
the government is likely to get a short respite. The JVP-SLFP tie-up
despite the public fanfare is unlikely to take form any time soon. It
will now be relegated back to the drawing board. The controversy on the
secretary post of the new alliance was mainly due to pre-emptive action
by prospective candidates.
JVP had not demanded the post as such, but had indicated that if the
chairmanship of the new alliance was to go to the SLFP, then the natural
course of events would be to give the JVP the secretary post. A hopeful
among President Kumaratunga’s inner circle had leaked the JVP demand
to the press, which made headlines.
those eyeing the post is
Nimal Siripala de Silva who has played a big role in the negotiations up
also made sure that the Development Lotteries Board (DLB) issue also
stayed in the firing line. Following Wickremesinghe’s and DLB Chairman
J.K. Fernando’s letters to her, Kumaratunga got her Acting Secretary
W.J.S. Karunaratne to write to Fernando on June 6.
curt letter requested Fernando to submit details on development
activities and other projects undertaken during 2002 and 2003 with
details on expenditure. “I shall thank you to extend your urgent
attention to this matter,” was how the six line letter ended.
change in tone was quite apparent. During earlier communications the
President’s office had taken pains to show that despite Fernando and
company rejecting Kumaratunga’s authority over DLB, the President had
been at least civil in her letters. “She addresses him as ‘dear
sir,’ it is very polite,” an officer close to the President remarked
during the last letter exchange. Not so this time around.
also called for a meeting of vice chancellors. This came in the backdrop
of agitation by unions backed by the JVP to remove the VC at the Sri
the President’s actions indicate is that, despite
the setbacks suffered by the opposition during the past few days, she
will keep the sparks flying hoping that one day one would catch fire.
the meantime, supporters of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse were
also a nervous lot last week. They are waiting with bated breath for the
outcome of the SLFP convention scheduled for June 22. The fear is that
Rajapakse will be side-stepped and Anura Bandaranaike appointed as
deputy leader of the SLFP.
has already been excluded from several committees looking into party
reorganisation. There has been a lot of debate on the murder of
Rajapakse supporter, Kakanamage Ranjith alias Chandi Malli. But records
at police headquarters indicate that Ranjith himself was no saint.
against him range from intimidation of police officers on election duty
— the case bearing number BR17/2000 at the Walasmulla Courts was due
for hearing on June 6 — to murder.
such homicide charge refers to the murder of Kalyanadasa Gunaratne, the
then opposition leader of the Beliatta Town Council. The murder took
place near the Beliatta market on August 13, 1997 around 8:30 in the
morning. The case is pending at the Tangalle Magistrate’s Court and a
revolver that was recovered from Ranjith was sent to the government
analyst for verification.
recovered a T56 weapon with 30 ammunition pieces, a pistol with 12
bullets, a revolver with seven bullets and a riffle with five bullets
without licenses from Ranjith in February this year.
in all, the government has been able to achieve one of its prime targets
this year, success at the aid meeting. That, however, will fade into
irrelevance if the peace process gets bogged down. Even if the LTTE
returns to the negotiating table, for lasting peace to dawn, acute
changes need to take place in the national psyche.
do not expect a negotiation process without obstacles since the two
parties have been in conflict for over 19 years. It is our belief that
changing the attitudes of Sri Lankan citizens to gradually accept the
fact that the LTTE is no longer an enemy would be difficult to
achieve,” HNB said.
change in attitude and acceptance to achieve a peaceful solution require
the support of the opposition parties and the masses.”
steep task, given that some among the so-called independent press has
been and continue to refer to the LTTE as “the enemy.” Independence
my foot. Change of attitude? Dream on.
near President’s House
was more drama in the High Security Zone around President’s
House last week. On Monday, the Presidential Security Division (PSD)
took into custody a Tamil youth on suspicion of taking photographs
of the President’s official residence.
after that, an ASP from the PSD contacted State Counsel Dapula
Livera and wanted to hold the suspect under the Prevention of
Terrorism of Act (PTA). Livera
referred the matter to Solicitor General C.R. de Silva, a tough
prosecutor with a reputation for impartiality. The PSD informed
the Attorney General’s Department that the suspect had confessed
that he was a member of the LTTE. De Silva’s advice, however,
was to produce the suspect under normal law. He also requested the
PSD to forward developed photographs. However, till Friday, no
copies of the prints had been forwarded.
arrest did not end in Colombo. De Silva made an attempt to get in
touch with Attorney General K.C.
Kamalasabayson who was in Tokyo attending the donor meeting. De
Silva was successful in reaching his former Royal College buddy,
Treasury Secretary Charitha Ratwatte, who got
the AG to ring de Silva. The AG too agreed with de Silva
that the case should proceed under normal law.
be or not to be - a decisive birthday for the TULF Leader
15 is a crucial day for Veerasingham Anandasangaree. Today, the Leader
of the Tamil United Liberation Font (TULF) turns 70 years. Politically
too, the day has significant implications. June 15 is the deadline set
by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the veteran
politician to step down from the leadership of the premier Tamil
the differences between him and the LTTE on the increase, the latest
issue that has emerged concerning Anandasangaree is not the threat to
his leadership, but his physical safety.
beleaguered TULF Leader, it is learned has sought extra security from
the police and the army along with living quarters in the high security
area in Colombo, inferring that his life is at stake since the LTTE
issued an ultimatum on his leadership.
has been extremely critical of the LTTE in the recent past, condemning
its anti-democratic approach especially in attempting to wipe out other
shades of political opinion from the northeast.
is learnt that Sangaree has been placed on the hit list, while an
unconfirmed police source said that information has emerged that the
TULF Leader’s security situation was precarious.
is reliably learnt that the TULF Leader has been told to curtail his
travel until additional security is provided. Meanwhile, TULF sources
said that while their leader was undoubtedly running a security risk due
to his outspoken manner, other members of the TULF central committee
were also not safe. “What makes us secure? Of course he is under
severe threat having dared to call a spade a spade. The LTTE is out to
annihilate our members as they have always done and continue to do under
cover,” the sources claimed.
for Sangaree, a man who has given decades of his life and sacrificed
much in pursuance of the Tamil political ideals, the Sword of
Damocles’ that hangs above his head today appears like a tragic
birthday gift from the Tigers.
the island’s premier Tamil political party, the one that first called
for a separate state 50 years ago to ensure ‘socio-political
freedom’ of the Tamil people, appears to be cracking under LTTE
volcanic political situation has reached such a magnitude that the
political fate of Anandasangaree is to be decided this week when the
TULF politbureau meets. That is after the defiant leader demanded his
party membership to move a no faith on him to effect his removal. “Who
are they to ask me to step down?” questions Anandasangaree who appears
bitterly disappointed with some of his colleagues who have apparently
failed to stand up to the LTTE in his defence.
is in this backdrop that General Secretary, TULF, R. Sampanthan added a
further twist to the tale by suddenly taking wing to India last week.
Sampanthan who had often toed a more pro-LTTE line rushed to India for
‘personal reasons’ while the deadline approached.
is believed that his sudden departure was precipitated by his failure to
deliver on his promise made to LTTE’s Political Wing Leader S. P.
Tamilselvan that Anandasangaree would be replaced by June 15.
old guard Sampanthan and Anandasangaree go a long way back. They
represent the TULF’s old guard that represented the legislature in
1977-1983. But now, the ‘consequences’ of not making the necessary
changes in the TULF set-up are to be visited upon the leaders. An old
friend, Sampanthan would have to pursue a decision to remove his senior
colleague and friend. That being the reality of Sri Lanka’s Tamil
placed sources claimed that just before his departure last week,
Sampanthan and three other TULF members requested Anandasangaree to
voluntarily step down to contain the simmering dispute with the LTTE.
But the senior politician had stoically stood his ground and requested
the politbureau be convened. Sangaree, according to TULF senior sources
had promised to step down if a resolution is passed seeking his removal
but not at the behest of an organisation that is yet to shed its brutal
am past the age where fear could lead to decisions. I have lived true to
my convictions. There is a stipulated procedure for my removal. That
could be followed, and if it is so decided, I would hang my boots, but
not otherwise and not in fear of reprisals,” says an adamant
is learned that Sampanthan who is currently in India has instructed some
of the TULF members to continue a dialogue with the party leader and
explain to him why it is politically opportune for them to seek a
leadership replacement at this juncture.
has been said that those who support the LTTE move feel that they could
bargain better for sufficient representation at local bodies etc; if the
TNA pleases the militants at present.
the position of the Sangaree loyalists is that such compromises were not
necessary to secure representation. “The TULF is still the foremost
Tamil political party in the north. People respect the party. We can win
elections if the government ensures that the ground situation is
conducive to conduct a free poll,” senior TULF sources said.
they believe that pushing the likes of Anandasangaree to retire from
active politics would not do the party’s image any good at grassroots
such, there is simmering dislike within certain sections of the TULF
against R. Sampanthan. But a source added that there could be much more
to the fleeing of Sampanthan than what meets the eye. “Sangaree’s
life is at stake, he has sought government security and has come clear
on threats to his life. While nothing has been publicised, Sampanthan
also could be under threat having failed to meet the LTTE deadline,”
claimed the source.
politics Not long ago was Anandasangaree, the hero and sole guiding
light, the man who withstood repeated LTTE attacks aimed at the TULF.
During years of victimisation, the TULF’s many colourful political
personalities along with lesser-known members fell victim to the
scars of grief were silently borne, perhaps in pursuit of a better ideal
of achieving a political dream for the Tamil people with the LTTE’s
assistance. It is this factor that led to the formation of the Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) prior to the 2001 general elections of which the
TULF was the main constituent party.
TULF, whether the Tigers would care to admit or not, also filled a great
void within the LTTE set-up which lacked a mature political wing
enriched by democratic tradition. The wing led by Tamilselvan is often
regarded as a mere extension of the military wing, only different by
the initiation of the peace process, it is learned that Anandasangaree
has cast doubts over the manner in which an interim administration
headed by the Liberation Tigers would govern. This seemed to have drawn
the LTTE’s ire as the remarks, according to sources have been often
repeated among close circles. Anandasangaree and his ilk do know, and it
is tragic and ironic both, that his life cannot be safe among those who
advocate ‘liberation for the Tamil people,’ a cause he himself has
pursued with vigour through non-violent means.
is common knowledge that the Tigers cannot bear the sight of any
politician who would not toe their line. The TULF has done it for long
enough, with a few expectations. This is why the EPDP is always at the
receiving end,” said EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda who feels that if
and when the LTTE gains control over the north east, not just the TULF,
the rest of the Tamil political parties there would also have to shift
to Colombo, Chennai or elsewhere.
me, this peace process has made most of us insecure. All of us require
peace and a peace initiative. But the insecurity of other Tamil
political parties has grown while the Tigers have gone from strength to
strength,” says Devananda.
is well known that the LTTE liaised with some pro-LTTE elements within
the TULF to get Thurairajasingham appointed in place of TULF President
and veteran politician M. Sivasithamparam following his demise. The
Tigers have clearly begun spreading their tentacles within the TNA by
increasing the number of members who favoured their brand of strong-arm
this backdrop, the LTTE held three meetings with the TNA to resolve
matters. Anandasangaree was conspicuous by his absence. Though out of
Sri Lanka on two occasions, the third meeting scheduled for May 13 took
place after Anandasangaree’s return, and he indicated his desire to
to remove Anandasangaree
confirm that an angry Tamilselvan had demanded the immediate removal of
the TULF Leader by June 1, while TULF General Secretary R. Sampanthan
pleaded for time till June 15. The request was shot down and the Tiger
order was reiterated.
a May 22 meeting in Kilinochchi, the LTTE eventually demanded the
immediate removal of ‘overly critical’ Anandasangaree. The June 15
deadline was finally settled for after Sampanthan promised the LTTE to
settle the issue with less political bloodshed within the TULF ranks.
has, according to reliable sources made it clear to Sampanthan that
hereafter the LTTE would sever its links with the TNA, a position that
made Sangaree happy as he opined that the TULF could leave the TNA but
support it on an issue by issue basis including the peace process.
coming week, as events prove is decisive for Veerasingham Anandasangaree.
The TULF central committee, comprising 46 members would meet soon to
decide the fate of their own leader. While a cloud shadows the entire
episode, it is apparent that the TULF too stands divided.
is more significant is not the individual fate of a leader but the
manner in which the fate of the likes of Anandasangaree are decided. It
will definitely send a signal to the rest of the world whether the Tamil
political parties are ready to cave in or, fight as political
organisations - for each other, for their rights and for democratic
LTTE’s haste in seeking Sangaree’s removal too is well understood by
the large majority of Tamils. If and when an interim administration is
set up with the LTTE in the driving seat, Sangaree is most likely to
press for proper representation for the TULF in it.
has a legitimate claim to that, having pursued an interim set-up since
1987 which was promised under the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. And such a
move by the TULF would seriously undermine the LTTE’s demand for
dominance over the area by keeping it well within its throes.
implications of Sangaree’s call to break-away from the LTTE-subservient
TNA and go solo is well understood by the LTTE-that the premier
political party is ready to face hustings and demand fair representation
in an interim set up at the right time. It is the TULF’s signal that
they are willing to relaunch themselves politically under a new
an independently acting TULF is going to be attractive in the eyes of
the northerner who had suffered silently at the LTTE’s hands and kept
faith with parties like the TULF who have suffered alongside. And the
2001 election results prove that if given the opportunity, the northern
voter would like to see parties like the TULF playing a significant role
in regional politics.
however is still possible, and remains a key strategy of the Tigers.
Political activists of other groups who have gone missing or to meet
their maker when gunned down by ‘unidentified’ gunmen prove this.
The Tamil parties that have parliament presentation have long since
handed over their weapons to the government and are facing severe
security threats with violence still continuing in the northeast. Arms
remain only in the hands of the LTTE which is still evading the
decision on Anandas-
leadership will be an acid test for the TULF too. It will demonstrate
whether they could simply remove their leader who had been with them
through a journey of 45 years at the behest of the LTTE or have the
courage to stand by him. If removed, soon the LTTE is likely to gun for
his parliament seat and ‘plant’ a pro-LTTE member, and the trend is
most likely to be continued every time a TNA member falls out of grace.
had defended his stance through years of changing political landscape,
not through brutal means but as a democrat. The TULF’s and the TNA’s
failure to defend him will not only be a terrible indictment, but an
indicator of the true state of Tamil politics here - that they are
nothing more than mere pawns in the hands of the LTTE, unable to defend
a man of Sangaree’s calibre or political stance.
would also be the ultimate political betrayal and one that lacks
gratitude for Anandasangaree’s decades of leadership provided to the
community, without totting a gun.
notches seventy today
Anandasan-garee, senior Jaffna District Parliamentarian and President,
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), reaches the magical age of 70
today (15). Although his supporters and party members had earlier
planned to conduct elaborate celebrations this
day in Jaffna, those moves were put on hold because of the
current controversy surrounding the veteran Tamil leader. With the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) demanding Sangaree’s removal
from the TULF presidency and the latter’s bold decision to defy that,
the time naturally was not opportune for lavish grandeur.
teacher turned lawyer cum politico will observe this day of significance
on a low key, it is learnt.
avowed reasons and underlying causes behind the LTTE’s animosity
towards Anandasangaree have been stated in these columns on earlier
occasions. One refrains therefore from writing on contemporary
happenings and focus on the man who was elected unanimously as president
by the TULF central working committee on June 23, last year.
Anandasangaree known generally as Sangaree had been earlier functioning
as the senior vice-president of the party since 1993. He has also acted
as president in the absence
of former party President Murugesu Sivasithamparam when away in India
due to illness.
in Point Pedro in June 1933, Anandasangaree grew up in Atchuvely as his
father was a school principal at Sri Somaskanda College in neighbouring
Puthur. Sangaree himself studied at Sri Somaskanda, Christina College
Atchuvely, Hartley College, Point Pedro and also Zahira College,
Colombo. Before taking up law Sangaree was a pedagogue teaching at Hindu
College Jaffna, Poonakari MMV, Kotalawala GTM school, Ratmalana and
Christ King College Ja-Ela. He passed out as a lawyer in 1967 and was
practicing until 1983 when the TULF leaders refused to take oaths under
the 6th Amendment to the Constitution. He has not worn the black coat
many political leaders on both sides of the ethnic divide, Sangaree too
began his politics as an ardent Trotskyite. He was an active member of
the Lanka Sama Samaaja Party (LSSP) youth league from 1955 to 1965. His
first experience in running for electoral office was in 1959 when he
contested the Colombo Municipal Council on the LSSP ticket. His opponent
was none other than the uncrowned king of Colombo municipal politics,
V.A. Sugathadasa who was also the mayor then. It was a baptism of fire
in Colombo for the 25 year old Jaffna youth.
1960 March elections saw the LSSP under Dr. N.M. Perera make a
determined bid for political power through electoral politics.
The party contested 101
seats in all parts of the island and ‘NM’ himself was projected as
the future prime minister of the country. NM asked Sangaree to contest
the newly carved rural constituency of Kilinochchi as a LSSP candidate.
Anandasangaree having no links to Kilinochchi was naturally reluctant.
encouraged him to plunge in saying that even if the “unknown”
Sangaree lost then he would win the seat in 10 years time. NM’s words
in 1960 were prophetic and in 1970 Anandasangaree was elected for the
first time to parliament from Kilinochchi. Only he was no longer a
Trotskyite having embraced Tamil nationalism as a Tamil Congress
candidate. The LSSP however fared poorly winning only 10 seats.
contested the March 1960, July 1960 and March 1965 elections in
Kilinochchi under the key symbol of the LSSP. He got 1114, 2011 and 1804
votes respectively, He lost both times in 1960 to S. Sivasundaram and in
1965 to K. P. Ratnam who were of the Federal Party (FP). In 1966 the
LSSP now aligned with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party adopted the communal
“Dudleyge badey masala
vadai” line and opposed the Reasonable Use of Tamil as an Official
Language Act in 1966. Sangaree like many Tamil LSSPers quit the party.
joined the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) led by G. G. Ponnambalam
Senior in May 1966.
Earlier, he contested and won the Kilinochchi town ward in the Karaichi
Village Council. He became its chairman from 1965 to 1968. In 1968 it
was elevated to Town Council (TC) status. Sangaree contested, won and
became the first Kilinochchi TC chairman. He functioned in that capacity
till the end of 1969.
1970 saw Sangaree become Youth Front president of the Tamil Congress. In
May 1970 he won Kilinochchi on the cycle symbol of the ACTC and defeated
Alalasundaram of the FP by 657 votes. The ACTC got 9049 to
the FP’s 8392. The Tamil Congress had three MPs in 1970. They
were Arulampalam of Nallur, Thiyagarajah of Vaddukkoddai and
and Thiyagarajah opted to join the United Front government. A
‘deputy-ministership carrot’ was dangled before Anandasangaree.
Sangaree despite his left leanings and respect for NM refused to cross
over and remained in the ranks of the Tamil nationalists. His stature
increased greatly because of this.
’70s saw the main Tamil parties sink their differences and forging
unity. The Tamil United Front (TUF) was formed in May 1972. This became
the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in May 1976. In 1977, the TULF
swept the elections riding the crest of a Tamil Eelam wave. Sangaree
contested Kilinochchi again and polled 15607 votes obtaining a majority
sprawling electorate of Kilinochchi was primarily agrarian and
relatively undeveloped. It was part of the Jaffna administrative
district. Thus, a Tamil farmer from the rural backwoods of Kilinochchi
had to travel a very long distance (up to 65 miles) to attend to matters
at the Jaffna Kachcheri. So Sangaree began advocating the re-demarcation
of Kilinochchi as a separate administrative district. This incurred the
wrath of fellow TULF MPs from Jaffna and Sangaree became quite
unpopular. In 1983 in the aftermath of the July violence the UNP
government utilised the absence of TULF MPs in parliament and created
the Kilinochchi District.
1983 violence saw the TULF out in the political wilderness, Sangaree
like many other TULF figures relocated to Madras but kept shuttling
between India and Sri Lanka. In 1989, the TULF re-entered the political
mainstream. Sangaree contested the Jaffna electoral district in 1989 and
the Wanni District in 1994 on behalf of the TULF and lost both.
2000 Anandasangaree was the chief candidate on the TULF ticket again in
Jaffna. The TULF got three seats and Sangaree got the highest amount of
preferences. In 2001 the TULF contested as part of the TNA under the
party symbol of the rising sun. Again Sangaree topped the list gaining
over 36, 000 preferences.
has served in several capacities for the TULF being its propaganda
secretary from 1976 to 1983 and a politbureau member from 1983 to 1993.
He has attended several international conferences as a parliamentarian
in Britain, Zambia, Austria, Norway, Chile and Switzerland. In recent
times he has been part of a parliamentary delegation studying various
political systems in different countries.
was Sangaree’s fortunate experience to move closely with several
political giants during
the parliamentary span of 1970-1983. Dudley Senanayake, J. R.
Jayewardene, R. Premadasa, E.L. Senanayake, W. Dahanayake, A.C.S. Hameed,
M.D.H. Jayewardena, Sirima Bandaranaike, Badiuddhin Mahmood, Felix R.
Dias Bandaranaike, Maithripala Senanayake, T.B. Ilangaratne, N.M. Perera,
Colvin R. de Silva, Bernard Soysa, Leslie Gunewardene, Vivienne
Gunewardene, S.A. Wickremasinghe, Pieter Keuneman, S.J.V. Chelvanayagam,
S. Thondaman, A. Amirthalingam, M. Sivasithamparam, V.N. Navaratnam, V.
Dharmalingam are but some of the illustrious personalities from whose
interaction Sangaree gained.
was elected senior vice president of the TULF in 1993 and proved to be a
tower of strength to the party when it was at the receiving end of
systematic violence by the Tigers. He was instrumental in revving
flagging fortunes of the TULF in Jaffna by taking over the Jaffna
Municipal Council election campaign in 1998.
when two TULF Jaffna Mayors Sarojini Yogeswaran and Pon Sivapalan along
with a Mayoral aspirant, Mathimugarajah
were successively assassinated by the LTTE, Anandasangaree took up
permanent residence in Jaffna and rallied the demoralised TULF. He also
spearheaded its parliamentary election campaign in Jaffna during 2000
lost a brother, Rajasangaree, to EPRLF assassins in 1988. Rajasangaree,
the head of the Chavakachcheri Citizens Committee had been critical of
IPKF excesses and EPRLF atrocities. Similiarly Anandasangaree lost a
nephew, Yogasangari in an attack by the Tigers in 1990. Yogasangari, an
EPRLF parliamentarian from Jaffna was in Chennai when a LTTE hit-squad
gunned him down there.
EPRLF leader Padmanabha was
also killed in the incident.
also received wide media coverage in Tamil Nadu when he accompanied and
assisted his former leader and top notch internatiol lawyer G.G.
Ponnambalam (Senior) at the Sarkaria Commission sittings. The Commission
had been appointed to inquire into corruption allegations of the
erstwhile DMK regime. Ponnambalam led the team of lawyers representing
former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Muttuvel Karunanidhi of the Dravida
Munnetra Kazghagham. Anandasangaree played a prominent role in this
is not a person ambitious for political office within the party. The
posts he held and the current presidency were thrust upon him in
troubled times. It is to the credit of his courage and perseverance that
the TULF remains a viable entity. Both the Tamil community as well as
his party need people of his experience at this critical juncture. It is
a sad indictment of our times that his leadership and - possibly his
life face terrible risk due to extraneous factors.
hovers in the background as he enters his seventieth year, today.
Wishing him many happy returns of the day as is customary will be
poignantly meaningful in the current context. Wishing him well has many
connotations at this point of time. This writer has, in a professional
and personal capacity known the veteran leader for more than 20 years.
It is with a silent prayer that this column wishes Veerasingham
Anandasangaree “Needoodi Vaalga” (long life) and “Nandre Velha”
(win well ) on this memorable day of his life.