battle hots up
the clash between the JVP and President Chandrika Kumaratunga
intensified last week following allegations and counter
allegations of financial impropriety and corruption,
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was preparing the
groundwork to declare his candidature for the 2005
presidential election at the UNP's December session.
crisis within the UPFA has been simmering for sometime now
with regular reports reaching the President from SLFP
organisers much to her consternation that the JVP was making
inroads into the party's electoral base.
make matters worse, JVP members were also openly critical of
the government on the handling of the economy, going so far as
to promote strikes and on several occasions even threatening
to topple the government unless their policies were adhered
Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera, K. D. Lalkantha, Wimal
Weerawans and Chandrika Kumaratunga
the same time, the JVP also tied President Kumaratunga's hands
with regard to resuming negotiations with the LTTE based on
the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals and
unbelting the US$ 4.5 billion aid pledged in Tokyo, making it
that much more difficult for her to deliver on the pledges
made in the Rata Perata election manifesto.
on the one hand the JVP stymied Kumaratunga with regard to
generating employment and development whilst on the other, led
protest campaigns due to her failure in delivering on the
net result was the growing unpopularity of the SLFP whilst the
JVP continued to cater to the masses' disenchantment with
vociferous protests and tapping into the SLFP base due to
their growing disillusionment.
is the culmination of these factors aggravated by the
exclusive control the JVP wielded over the 10,000 small tank
rehabilitation project which eventually got the President
activated resulting in the floodgates being opened for charges
and counter charges.
even the JVP, which knows only too well the President
desperately needs their support to abolish the executive
presidency, did not anticipate Kumaratunga's counter-strike
would come in the form of a cabinet note casting aspersions of
financial mismanagement with regard to the tank project.
as the JVP might to get the cabinet note withdrawn, the
President stuck to her guns with matters taking a turn for the
worse after The Sunday Leader and its sister paper Irudina
exclusively published the note with details of the battle
which ensued over it in cabinet last week.
at this development, Agriculture Minister Anura Kumara
Dissanayake on Sunday, October 10 sent a message to both Media
Minister Mangala Samaraweera as well as the Presidential
Secretariat that unless a statement denying the publications
was issued by the President, the Presidential Secretariat or a
responsible minister, the JVP would hit back.
problem for the JVP was that having projected an image of a
party committed to fighting corruption in government it was
now having the searchlight focused inwards by none other than
the President much to the embarrassment of the party hierarchy
especially given the rumblings within from the more hardline
elements such as Minister K.D. Lalkantha who frowned upon the
at provincial council level last week, JVP members were
heckled by the opposition with charges of making money from
the tank project ("tanki welin gehevva neda").
made the Weerawansa-Somawansa-Dissanayake group particularly
vulnerable and the JVP decided, the party must insist the
President withdraw the cabinet paper or face a counter-attack
with serious repercussions to the alliance.
was particularly embarrassed following the disclosure, being
inundated with calls from fellow MPs and grassroots
organisations with queries why the Minister could not get the
President to withdraw the cabinet paper as indicated to them
prior to the meeting.
with this embarrassment and the opinion taking root in the
party the Minister had succumbed to the President to keep his
portfolio, Dissanayake met with JVP Leader, Somawansa
Amarasinghe, General Secretary Tilvin Silva and Weerawansa to
map out a face saving strategy not just for himself but also
consensus at this meeting was the importance of the party's
grassroots network not finding out the humiliation suffered by
the JVP at the hands of the President and it was in this
context a decision was taken to immediately contact Minister
Mangala Samaraweera calling for damage control measures.
told the Minister he received orders from the party to
counterattack the SLFP though he had no intention of clashing
with the government provided the humiliation caused to his
party due to the adverse publicity following the President's
cabinet paper is rectified.
is in this context he called for a denial by the President,
Samaraweera or the Presidential Secretariat on the reports of
the previous week's cabinet proceedings, lest he be forced to
added effect, Minister Dissanayake also telephoned the
Presidential Secretariat and informed two senior officials,
unless there was a denial straightaway, the counter-attack
would be launched.
threat by the Agriculture Minister went unheeded by the
President and SLFP ministers, only to see a devastating attack
the very day in Matale by Anura Dissanayake.
President rather than denying the charges levelled against the
JVP Minister in her cabinet note chose instead to say at a
ceremony in Veyangoda on Sunday, October 10, there was no
problem between the SLFP and the JVP as sought to be made out
by sections of the private media, a statement which fell far
short of Dissanayake's expectations.
in typical JVP fashion, Dissanayake gave lie to Kumaratunga's
statement at a ceremony in Matale saying "loku nonala"
are spinning false allegations of corruption against the
"dahask wew" programme to cover up corrupt acts by
her own party men.
Dissanayake was also quoted as saying thus - "The new
programme for the construction of 1,000 wewas was undertaken
with the hope of rebuilding the country's economy which is
facing a crisis. The objective of most politicians in the
country is to make money. The JVP formed the alliance with the
aim of genuinely working for the country and its people but
today we have to face a political struggle. We are not
prepared to shoulder the sins of others but ready to stay on
and work. The JVP will continue its political activities even
if it pulls out of the alliance."
shortage of rice has been created by the nona's henchmen in
Polonnaruwa. One of the two millers who purchases paddy and
produces rice is Minister Maithripala Sirisena's brother and
the other is Deputy Minister of Marketing Development (Siripala
Gamlath). Six businessmen from Maradagahamulla and 10 from
Pettah carry out the rice business in the country. They
purchase paddy at Rs. 15 a kilogramme and sell rice at Rs. 45.
No one is concerned about this racket," Dissanayake was
also quoted as saying.
having got the message out the JVP turned the heat by sending
word to the Presidential Secretariat, three cabinet notes will
be forwarded by the JVP ministers calling into question
alleged corrupt deals concluded by SLFP ministers.
news of Dissanayake's speech spread like wildfire and he made
it known, more such statements would follow at meetings
scheduled in Bingiriya and Ratnapura unless the President
withdrew the cabinet paper wherein a specific allegation was
made on financial irregularities with regard to the 1,000
tanks rehabilitation project.
to diffuse the tense situation by this time was Weerawansa,
who not only urged Dissanayake to stop attacking the President
but also lobbied other members to do so despite opposition by
Rural Industries Minister, uncomfortable to be in alliance
with the SLFP in opposing Weerawansa's views said, "Anura
is right. The President is trying to humiliate us. We can't
fall for this trap."
given Weerawansa's pleading, Dissanayake began to relent with
assurances forthcoming from Mangala Samaraweera as well a
compromise would be worked out before the next cabinet
these backroom manoeuvres to diffuse the crisis, the members
of the SLFP and JVP were restless with the unholy alliance and
the deep resentment felt particularly by the SLFPers was also
evident last week when the President convened a meeting of
party organisers at President's House.
thrust of the meeting was how the government's development
activities should be given publicity at electorate level in
addition to party reorganisation and it is this forum the
members used to air their frustrations in the presence of both
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and SLFP General Secretary,
Minister Maithripala Sirisena.
was Kegalle District Organiser, former MP and Deputy Chairman
of Committees, Lalith Dassanayake who opened the floodgates,
stating reorganisation was an uphill task given JVP
infiltration of the government and the party.
he - "If you think I am lying, come to my electorate and
stay for one or two weeks and see for yourself. Even police
officers do not take us seriously anymore. It is the JVP that
gives orders to the police and their orders are carried
Prime Minister Rajapakse "What does the police do when
our people issue instructions?"
came the reply - "They don't follow them. The police
think the government is the JVP."
to the complaints by Dassanayake and other organisers,
Minister Sirisena requested them to repeat it when the
President arrives for the meeting and repeat they did.
one organiser - "We like you Mr. Secretary. You have also
come from a village and become the general secretary of the
SLFP. But last week JVP's Anura Dissanayake even attacked you
saying you were corrupt. You are a threat to them. They are
trying to make sure you are ousted from this position. Please
Sirisena was not unduly perturbed, informing the organisers he
knew exactly how to deal with the JVP and would take up the
issue with them at the right time.
when the President arrived, the members recounted their woes
but were told to have no fears since she would ensure the
future of the SLFP.
the government into your hands and run it. I am appointing
three leaders to look after the organisational activities
because I can't be there always," the President added,
proceeding to name Premier Rajapakse and Ministers Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake and Anura Bandaranaike for the job.
these developments were taking place in the SLFP, the JVP
politburo met last week to discuss problems within the UPFA
government, where a majority of the members opined the issues
should be taken at the executive committee meeting of the
alliance scheduled for Friday, October 15.
that out of the way, the question of the President's cabinet
paper on the tank project and the party's response thereto
came up for discussion with Minister Lalkantha maintaining it
was of paramount importance to ensure his party's dignity was
Lalkantha - "The President is trying to make us trip up
by means of intimidation. We cannot allow that. No matter what
anyone might say, whenever I get the opportunity to attack, I
will do it. If our ministers are corrupt, then there should be
inquiries made into such allegations in addition to all
ministers including the President. We should also submit
cabinet papers on how there is no transparency in their
an aggressive stance was not to the liking of Weerawansa who
argued the time was not right for a confrontation and urged
for more patience only to see Lalkantha lose his cool.
Lalkantha - "Here, Wimal, we have been patient and
foolish long enough. You are the one who created this
situation. Just because you dance to the tune of Mangala and
Anura, we can't betray our party. I am not willing to betray
the party and its principles by keeping my mouth shut. You do
whatever you want, I will do whatever I can do alone."
stopping at that, Lalkantha also proposed drawing up a list of
corrupt practices involving ministers and deputy ministers of
the SLFP for submission to cabinet and with the politburo
agreeing to it, appointed a drafting committee for the
of course chose not to take the battle to Lalkantha at that
point, possibly realising it would be a losing battle given
the influence the firebrand Minister wielded with the Trade
Union Movement and by extension the party.
with the battle lines clearly drawn, on Wednesday, October 13,
a complaint was also received at the Permanent Commission
Investigating Allegations of Bribery and Corruption on the
charges levelled by Minister Dissanayake in Matale against the
President and SLFP ministers together with a copy of the
undenied Daily Mirror report dated Monday, October 11.
24 hours later, a counter complaint came to be lodged with the
Bribery Commission citing the President's cabinet note on the
1,000 tanks project, which had annexed a copy of The Sunday
Leader issue of October 10.
that complaint, attention had been drawn to the President's
reference to the violation of financial guidelines stipulated
by cabinet, noting Kumaratunga would not have incorporated
such an allegation in a note to cabinet without clear evidence
to that effect.
is in the midst of these developments cabinet came to meet on
Wednesday, October 13, where the focus was damage control lest
it leads to a spectacle of charges and countercharges on
corruption between the SLFP and JVP.
idea was for Minister Dissanayake to make a statement in
cabinet explaining the workings of the tank project upon which
a supportive statement was to be made by Minister Samaraweera
giving the President an opportunity of withdrawing her cabinet
paper being satisfied with the explanation given.
it did not go according to plan. It was the President who
controlled proceedings reprimanding Samurdhi Minister,
Pavithra Wanniarachchi for submitting a cabinet paper, seeking
more funds for Samurdhi recipients.
there was no need for such increased allowances at a time the
country was facing economic hardship, the President said the
ministers should not submit cabinet papers for the sake of
said so, the President went on to explain the need to follow
tender guidelines and detailed the procedure involved which
saw JVP Minister, Anura Dissanayake sniggering.
about to let Dissanayake get away with his conduct, the
President looked him in the eye and said she understands he
too has a problem concerning tender guidelines.
the President's broadside, Dissanayake possibly thought the
climate was not conducive to raising the issue with the
President and simply responded stating he will not take up
that matter at cabinet but his party would do so at the UPFA
executive committee meeting scheduled for Friday, October 15.
of course left President Kumaratunga's cabinet paper on the
tank rehabilitation project very much alive and kicking
despite attempts by Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Anura
Dissanayake at the post-cabinet press briefing on Thursday to
gloss over the issue, claiming the weekend newspapers had
misreported the case.
Samaraweera did not explain was the statement in the
President's cabinet paper on violation of financial guidelines
set by the cabinet in the implementation of the tank project
or Minister Dissanayake's allegations made in Matale that the
President had accused the JVP of corruption to hide the
corruption of her own "henchmen."
the meantime, the UNP, upbeat at the internal rift within the
UPFA, was planning to launch its 2005 presidential election
campaign in December with the announcement of Opposition
Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's candidature at the party
who returned on Thursday, October 14, from a successful visit
to India has already set to work, drawing his plans for the
campaign as well as a programme of work in addition to how he
intends reforming the executive presidency, making the office
also made headway in India with Indian Premier, Manmohan Singh
agreeing peace talks with the LTTE should start immediately
whilst Congress Party Leader, Sonia Gandhi showed her
appreciation for continuing to maintain a dialogue with her
from the time of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi's murder.
significance of the statement was not lost in the backdrop of
Minister Anura Bandaranaike's failure during his recent visit
to meet with Sonia Gandhi given the aloofness of the
Bandaranaikes to the Gandhis since the death of Indira and
showing more decisiveness than in the past Wickremesinghe came
out in support of India's Sethsamudram project at a time the
government was expressing concern with the Foreign Ministry
even calling for a report from the Indian High Commission in
in Colombo, Wickremesinghe got back to the task of working out
his parliamentary numbers, informing his confidantes, some
decisive steps would have to be taken before April 2005 to
ensure Kumaratunga does not dissolve parliament again and go
for fresh general elections.
had said given the government's handling of the peace process
and the economy, the UNP would be at a distinct advantage in
the event of a general election but the country could ill
is this message of Wickremesinghe that is finding resonance
with many members of the government as well and if the
President persists with her strategy for a snap poll, she may
well be in for a surprise or two.
the more immediate problem for the UPFA would be to decide on
a candidate for the presidency once the UNP's announcement is
made and given the troubles with the JVP today, that is not
going to be a pleasing prospect.
Sarath Bandara, Chandana Piyasiri and The wives and
children of the two home guards who were abducted by the
Thursday, October 7, telephones of several Colombo-based
journalists started jingling off the hook. The news from
the other side of the line was a bombshell. The military
was saying that two top Tiger commanders, Sea Tiger
Leader Soosai and Trincomalee Military Head Suwarnam had
reneged against Velupillai Pirapaharan.
Tiger Leader, Soosai
rebellion was a result of the corruption charges against
former Eastern Military Head, Ramesh. Ramesh is under
investigation for misappropriating funds to the tune of Rs. 10
to 15 million. He is in the Wanni currently. And according to
the leaks, the two senior commanders had expressed their
disapproval of the treatment meted out to Ramesh.
Soosai story did not hit the headlines till Saturday (9). The
LTTE reacted with media coordinator Daya Master being quoted
on the Tamilnet website as saying there was no basis to the
story and that Soosai would be attending the following day's
LTTE Women's Day celebrations in Kilinochchi.
smoke without fire
Soosai did not appear and the LTTE has remained mum on the
issue leading to more speculation that there can be no smoke
the story were true, it would mean the Karuna rebellion would
have been joined by other senior leaders all the way up to
Mullaithivu where Soosai runs the Sea Tiger base.
mid-last week even army sources themselves were having second
thoughts about the story. On Friday, LTTE theoretician, Anton
Balasingham released a statement saying the southern media was
spinning stories. He said Soosai had had to seek rest
following a reoccurrence of a gunshot wound suffered during
fighting the IPKF.
on Monday, October 11, the villagers of Nagasthanne, 11 miles
from Welikanda were woken up by explosions around 2:50 a.m.
Earlier in the night a group of eight men had walked in from
the surrounding jungles into an abandoned house to escape the
rain. The men were Karuna supporters who had been moving about
in the jungles for the past two months, according to sources
at the Welikanda Police.
the group was one named Newton, who was in effect a mole. He
was responsible for the grenade attack that was the cause for
the explosions. After throwing the grenade he reportedly fled
to LTTE controlled areas. Two among the remaining seven were
dead on admission to the Polonnaruwa Hospital. They were
identified as Jude and Rajenderan.
others injured were identified as Maradan, Nee, Sada, Rasdeel,
Murthi and Wije. They were transferred to Colombo for further
village itself lies in a government controlled area but is
quite close to the line of control. Cadres loyal to Karuna
have been reported to be moving in the areas north of
Welikanda and east of Aralaganwilla, further south. The LTTE
inducted troops from the north into these areas in an attempt
to stop the attacks.
Thursday two civilians were wounded due to gunfire near
Valachchenai. One of the wounded was a former member of the
LTTE who left the organisation and was running a tavern. The
LTTE said it suspected Karuna supporters of being behind the
Nagasthanne attack is yet another example of the effectiveness
of Tiger moles who have infiltrated the Karuna network.
Sivanesadurai alias Reggie was killed during an ambush at
Anivilmadu near Karadiyanaru on the night of September 22 with
the use of a mole the military has identified as Pushpan. He
had given away the location of the team that Reggie was
leading near Karadiyanaru.
the morning of July 15, LTTE cadre Mahendran Pulidaran shot
Kanapathipillai Mahendran alias Sacthi Master inside the
Batticaloa jail. Pulidran too had infiltrated Sacthi Master's
inner circle inside the prison. He used to give his ultimate
victim head massages inside the prison and according to
sources with intimate details of the murder, had used a weapon
in the possession of Sacthi Master and one of his accomplices
inside the jail.
July 26, seven Karuna supporters were massacred at a safehouse
in Kottawa. Soon after the attack, there were reports that
said the cook who had been with the gang was a LTTE cadre who
had mixed sleeping tablets with the dinner. Unconfirmed
reports from the east said that he had fled to LTTE held areas
in the east after the killings.
Yogarasa alias PLOTE Mohan was assassinated on July 31 in
Bambalapitiya using an impostor who was lobbying for a liquor
launches political party
the east was dominated by a killing once again last week,
Karuna upped the ante by launching his much awaited political
party, at least nominally. The website appeared on Tuesday
night for the party; Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (Tamileelam
Liberation People's Tigers). Karuna also released a damming
statement against his former leader Pirapaharan with the
launching of the party.
people are retreating from the eelam struggle by this
fratricidal war. This was the chief reason for the ruining of
the Tamil eelam struggle. Even today he refuses to accept this
truth and Pirapaharan continues with his killing spree,"
he said in the statement that accused Pirapaharan of
everything from murdering lovers to nepotism.
said that if not for Pirapaharan's obsession with leadership,
eelam could have been achieved 15 years ago.
requesting those Tamils who reside in the Tamil eelam, as well
as those Tamil diasporas living in foreign countries not to
become scapegoat to the fallacious and malicious propaganda
let loose by Pirapaharan, at the same time I appeal to give us
all your help and support to make our liberation struggle
victorious," he ended the statement.
party secretary was identified as G.R. Ganaraja. Military
sources in Batticaloa said that he was linked with the
ill-fated EDLF. However, there was no independent
address on 'NGO drive'
address of the party was just given as Lake Road, Batticaloa.
Lake Road is alternatively referred to as the 'NGO Drive.' It
is along this road that most of the offices of the
international agencies like UNICEF and UNHCR are located. Even
the SLMM office is located along Lake Drive.
that is not very good, is it?" was how an official from
one of the organisations reacted when informed of the address
given by Karuna on the new party website.
Karuna and his party would not feel totally alien along Lake
Drive. Some of the paramilitaries that operate out of
Batticaloa too call the road home.
chances however of registering the party any time soon are not
very good, according to Assistant Elections Commissioner, K.
Senanayake. Since nominations for the north east provincial
council have been called, no new party would be registered
till the election is concluded.
new party was nevertheless welcomed in some quarters. "We
welcome anybody who enters the democratic process,"
Cabinet Spokesperson, Mangala Samaraweera said last week. He
stopped short of committing the government further on the
government's attention however would have been ferverntly on
the east all the way down to Batticaloa from Trincomalee.
October 13, the North East Sinhala Association that has been
agitating for the release of two home guards held by the
Tigers organised a hartal in Trincomalee bringing the entire
town to a standstill, even disrupting buses coming from
Colombo. The protestors blocked roads and attempted to prevent
transport vehicles from the Prima Flour Mill and the IOC
terminal both located at China Bay about 10 km from the
Trincomalee town from proceeding.
lorries and bowzers however were able to continue with the
journey when police and army intervened to disperse the
protestors and provide security cover. Protestors had earlier
blocked the China Bay junction through which the transport
vehicles have to pass through with logs.
the transporters get through the junction they can avoid the
town and take the Kantale road. Army and police removed the
logs that had been placed across the road before providing
LTTE had said the two home guards would be released in
exchange for 10 LTTE cadres held in the Batticaloa remand
prison on charges of possession of dangerous firearms.
LTTErs in custody were E.P. Rajendran, Rajeeva Kumar, G.
Dayanandan, S. Suthakaran, T. Muralitharan, V. Chandrakuma N.
Pulithamalar, N. Manjula, V. Shyamala and S. Thirimanju.
government had flatly refused to agree to any sort of swap.
"We can not interfere with the judiciary of the
country," Samaraweera said on Thursday morning during the
cabinet press briefing. Ironically, while he was making the
assertion, moves were already under way to release the 10
cadres on bail.
SLMM and LTTE high-rankers in Batticaloa including Media
Coordinator, S. Manoj had gathered at the Batticaloa jail
where bail applications on behalf of the 10 LTTE cadres were
presented on Thursday. The bail procedure however went on for
a while but ultimately, bail was granted for all 10 with the
Attorney General not objecting, following representations made
by the government not to do so.
was asked to post personal bail of Rs. 50,000 and two
sureties.. The next hearing is scheduled for December 13. The
10 along with the other LTTErs were escorted by the SLMM and
the security forces up to Black Bridge on the
LTTErs, including three females were arrested on July 7 and 14
this year, and charged with the possession of lethal weapons.
The LTTE had however maintained there were no weapons with the
cadres other than ammunition.
public avowals by government ranks that they will not bow to
LTTE pressure tactics, by all appearances the release of the
10 is bound to open up charges that it was indeed a swap.
the 10 were released there wouldn't be any problem now. The
LTTE would have to release the two," Samaraweera said.
closely involved in the procedure said last week they were not
quite sure why the bail applications were not processed
earlier. They attributed the delay to bureaucracy but even if
that were true, the timing would still allow accusations to
sources in Kilinochchi reacted to the release on Thursday
night saying that the two home guards would now be released.
The two options being considered by the LTTE were either to
hand over the two - D. Sarath Bandara and Chandana Piyasiri -
directly to the SLMM or to produce them in the LTTE court. If
the LTTE adopts the latter course of action, it would most
certainly be tit for tat.
two home guards were abducted by the LTTE on August 10 in the
Gonabendivewa area in Trincomalee along with two T 56 weapons
and a magazine.
were apprehended by the LTTE in the deep jungles off
Gomarankadawla near the Akalpathuva Tank. Though the two and
their families have steadfastly maintained they were caught
while fishing, others including security forces have said they
might have been hunting game when the LTTErs came across them.
said during Thursday's briefing that the government had made
efforts to bring international pressure on the LTTE to release
the two guards. The Tigers have been feeling the pressure
during the current trip undertaken by a high-powered political
team touring Europe.
team led by Political Wing Head, S.P. Tamilselvan has been
meeting with officials. Before the trip Tamilselvan said they
were looking at the possibility of implementing the ISGA. The
delegation is expected in the Norwegian capital Oslo later
Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey who was in Sri Lanka
last week said the LTTE delegation had indicated during talks
that the ISGA proposals were not set in stone.
(ISGA) is not not negotiable, that's what they said," she
told the media. However, she warned that the lack of
confidence between the two parties was hampering any progress.
had the impression that the ceasefire is in danger," she
days later Samaraweera said the government had done everything
possible to recommence the talks and that it was baffled as to
why the LTTE is not coming back to the table.
(government's) counter proposals are ready and waiting,"
he said. Samaraweera said the proposals would first be handed
over to the LTTE before being made public.
his announcement was met with cries of no in the Wanni. The
Elanathan, published in LTTE controlled Wanni said on Friday
quoting LTTE sources the LTTE saw no reason to consider the
newspaper said the proposals were most likely based on the
August 2000 proposal forwarded by the then PA administration.
Samaraweera however did not confirm or deny whether the new
set would reflect the former.
from inside the government said the UPFA was planning to
forward the new proposals probably by the end of the month or
early next month to the LTTE through the Norwegians.
said the counter proposals were still being worked on and the
government would forward them seeking the LTTE's reactions,
adding "the hope is to get the negotiations started on
talks on talks."