needs a code of conduct: journalists or the moguls?
Weerakoon has joined The Sunday Leader as consultant editor.
Weerakoon is a former editor of The Island and The Island
(Sunday Edition) having joined the newspapers at their
inception in 1981. He has been a foreign.....
obsession over a word
humbles Wimal before US Presidents
but not broken
catch 22 situation with NGOs
veto on donor funded housing
and the city
needs a code of conduct: journalists or the moguls?
Weerakoon has joined The Sunday Leader as consultant editor.
Weerakoon is a former editor of The Island and The Island (Sunday
Edition) having joined the newspapers at their inception in 1981. He
has been a foreign affairs and political commentator for the two
journals. He functioned as a foreign correspondent and commentator
for many foreign journals. Weerakoon commenced his journalistic
career at Lake House in 1966 at the Ceylon Observer and later worked
on the Daily News where he was appointed the News Editor. He left
Lake House in 1981 and was at Upali Newspapers till the end of
January this year.
Lankan journalists have exhibited a rare penchant for tying
themselves up in a code of conduct unlike those in most other
professions. Some professions do have codes of conduct such as the
Hippocratic Oath for doctors which no medical practitioner in Sri
Lanka takes on entering the profession. Nor do members of other
learned professions swear by codes of conduct on entry to their
professionals are bound by the laws of the state such as specific
legal enactments relating to their professions and are called upon
to answer for misdemeanors in accordance with the law of the land.
in Sri Lanka can be hardly called a profession and is not recognised
as a profession by the Organisation of Professional Associations for
the simple reason that there are no educational requirements to
become a journalist. There are neither schools of journalism of
repute nor a professional body governing the conduct of the members.
Journalists are of the same class as politicians - any one who wants
to declare himself a journalist could do so. Needless to say there
are those with academic and professional qualifications practicing
whatever reasons, in the late 1970s, journalists after banding
themselves into a Working Journalists Association set upon
themselves to formulate a code of conduct. A group of journalists,
some eminent, others not, took upon themselves to draw up a code of
conduct. This endeavour was not known to the majority of
journalists. Members of the profession - most of whom exist on a
hand to mouth existence - were not much concerned when this code was
columnist did question the need for such a code at that time in his
column and how these codifiers came to be selected. But the others
The code was adopted by parliament under the infamous Press
Council Law and gazetted. The UNP under J.R. Jayewardene which
raised hue and cry about this Press Council Law did nothing about it
and the code remained in the statute books till the Editors Guild,
after it came into being, decided to formulate a new code of conduct
for journalists for reasons not known to most journalists.
it is reported that a panel of eminent persons has been selected to
serve on a Codes Committee that will advise the guild on its Code of
Professional Practice. All this is news to some editors who are not
active members of the Editors Guild. We will not comment on the
panel of eminent persons or the code itself except to say that we
acknowledge that there are some eminent persons such as Justice
Christie Weeramanthri on the panel but also some others whose rise
to eminence appear to be due to political connections.
question to be asked is: could a code of conduct help improve
standards of journalism in this country and if the present standards
are below the expected requirements, can journalists be held
responsible? Is the present deplorable state of the media due to
misdemeanors of journalists or due to some other reason? Can this
Code of Conduct by
raise the standards of journalism in Sri Lanka?
Editors Guild knows very well that journalists by themselves are
pawns in a grand power game played by politicians and media moguls,
both in the state and private sectors. Journalists can be hired and
fired at will as was evident in the recent sacking - call it
retirement - of
three journalists from a powerful state media organisation,
overnight for no given reasons. One of the reasons was supposedly
that they had passed the statutory age of retirement but in one case
the journalist was below 50 years! The man behind this is said to be
the Messiah of the New Journalist Culture!
the media distorts, circumvents or invents, journalists are not
responsible - they simply cannot do it by themselves. Major
distortions - the big picture - is produced and directed by the
media moguls. There are some managements who leave editors and
journalists to themselves, in issues that do not threaten their
interests. But if
their interests are involved or they begin to dislike journalists
who become too independent for them, then there is no hesitation to
show them the door. In such circumstances of what use are codes of
conduct for journalists? They only become shackles clamped down on
the wrists of writers. Is it a code of conduct for journalists or a
code of conduct for media moguls - both in the state and private
sectors - that is called for?
politicians in power - may be for intellectual stature - speak
volubly about a new media culture. The existing culture is no doubt
rotten and deteriorating fast. For example, the high and mighty
appear on TV and utter barefaced lies and their statements are
splashed across the front pages only to be denied the next day by
the very same persons who uttered them. The media moguls,
particularly in the state media unabashedly publish the denials the
very next day, contradicting their own publications. This is a kind
of new journalism unknown beyond our shores. It is certainly a new
most employees, particularly those in the private sector who are not
entitled to pensions, cannot afford to retire at the statutory age
of 55 years or even at 60. Inflation has reduced their savings of a
few lakhs of rupees that could last only for a few years of
subsistence living after retirement. Even though politicians have
been mouthing about pension rights for journalists down the years
especially when elections are round the corner, it is forgotten till
the next election comes along. Thus some journalists are compelled
to resort to unethical practices
to keep their families going.
primary requirement to maintain high standards of any profession is
to ensure that their members receive a decent wage. But can this be
said of the journalists' profession whose salaries are based on the
scales of the Wages Board? Journalists are expected to move in
circles of the high and mighty - among the crme de la crme - on
salaries based on the scales of manual workers. I remember one of my
gurus, the late Clarence Fernando, when told of poor standards of
journalism saying: "You can't expect London Times standards on
press baron who understood that good quality journalism goes along
with decent salaries was the late Upali Wijewardene. When he founded
The Island and the Divaina he doubled the salaries that
journalists who joined him had earned in their previous
employment. It had a catalytic reaction, with other media
institutions that were paying very measly salaries trying to level
up with Upali Newspapers if they were to keep their journalists.
that trend has been reversed. Cost cutting is the accepted principle
and journalists are fleeing the profession by the drove. The
backbone of many newspapers today are A/L school leavers awaiting
results of entrance to universities. The hard work, sub-editing, is
done by fossils from the colonial era - school masters, post masters
station masters and the like.
best products from Sri Lankan universities and Sri Lankans returning
from abroad are attracted by the high salaries offered by private
sector companies and banks, whereas the maximum a media organisation
could offer an initiate is not more than Rs. 15,000. They could
employ five A/L students for this amount!
more important is the understanding and tolerance of journalists by
the management. All managements will prefer loyal, obedient
journalists who would bow to their orders. Such employees would make
good secretaries and clerks, but whether they will make good
journalists is doubtful.
timers hark back to the golden days of journalism of the late Esmond
Wickremesinghe, who ran the best of newspapers this country had,
with journalists such as Jayantha Padhmanabha, Reggie Siriwardene,
Denzil Peiris and Mervyn de Silva. They were difficult customers to
deal with, but were journalists beyond compare and certainly did not
need codes of conduct.
practiced journalism for long years, I believe in only one code of
conduct. I try hard to observe one precept of the panchaseela - I
shall not lie.
obsession over a word
members at a hard hitting press briefing on Thursday (24) -
bickering over a word and Dilan Perera
a rural bank opening in Nittambuwa exactly a fortnight ago,
President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared that a quarrelsome
constituent party in her rainbow coalition was often threatening to
abandon the ship. She also attributed the dispute to a "single
word" contained in the peace proposals the said party opposed
and told them to carry out the threat to quit for real.
could not have said it any better - the quarrelsome party that tried
to wrest an apology out of the President by twisting her arm over
the remark, got ensnared in a word once more and aired the same
threat of abandonment last week.
time, the cause of trouble was a statement issued by the Department
of Information on the occasion of the third anniversary of the
ceasefire agreement in which reference was made to the creation of
an interim authority for the northeast to address urgent
the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), walking their talk has
been a huge problem since they formed a coalition with the SLFP last
year. The surfeit of pledges given on political platforms and the
reiterated commitment to leftist ideals are today far beyond their
made a series of political compromises initially to stay on
including turning a build eye to the ambitious privatisation scheme,
the JVP has begun to feel the pinch, now that Kumaratunga is
cracking her whip. To start off, she excluded the JVP from the
post-tsunami relief operations leaving the reds to handle their own
the scathing attack on the government of which the JVP is a key
constituent party came after much deliberation. For weeks, the
dissension within has been simmering.
JVP tried to extract an apology from the President for the initial
attack made in Nittambuwa through the Deputy Minister's Forum which
works closely with the JVP.
President, Dilan Perera outrightly rejected the request made by
Ports and Civil Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera to issue an
apologetic statement and compromise the President and the JVP was
left to seethe and wait.
weeks, several JVP politburo members as well as the majority of the
parliamentary group have been agitating to break free from the UPFA.
JVP sources confirm that the softening in attitude evident in their
Spokesman Wimal Weerawansa has caused much dissension with some of
the seniors openly challenging Weerawansa to follow the JVP line if
he could. In the recent past, Weerawansa often appeared as an
apologist for both the UPFA coalition as well as President
Kumaratunga. At least two senior JVP members have told Weerawansa
before he undertook to make the parliamentary statement to leave the
post of group leader if he could not speak against the other
all this, the trappings have been great and the JVP continues to
bombshell in their estimation was the statement issued on behalf of
Chief, Government Peace Secretariat, Jayantha Dhanapala on
Wednesday, February 23 which promoted the setting up of an interim
that they were not consulted before announcing what they saw as a
fresh stance with regard to the resumption of peace talks, the JVP
politburo held a marathon session till 2 a.m. It was decided that a
hard stance had to be adopted by the Marxists in the face of
repeated insults and being ignored when taking significant political
Thursday, a fire breathing Wimal Weerawansa made a special statement
in which he accused the government of unilaterally announcing fresh
stances with regard to the peace process. He challenged the validity
of such a statement when none of the constituent parties had been
consulted on the matter. "A coalition should collectively
decide and the will of a single party cannot prevail over
others," he stated.
JVP's premise, as stated by Weerawansa, is that this was not the
common position adopted by both parties when forming the alliance.
is a significant government statement and is not a political speech.
It is also a dilution of the original stance to win the acceptance
of the LTTE," he alleged in parliament.
to the JVP, the statement should have preceded discussions with the
cabinet and the entire parliamentary group. The statement was also
being denounced by the red camp as one that has been engineered by
the donor community and interested foreign groups who have descended
on Sri Lanka to covertly assist the Liberation Tigers in the guise
of post-tsunami relief work.
this time around, the JVP is unable to count any friends within the
blue camp. Minister Mangala Samaraweera who was earlier keen to
extract an apology on behalf of the President too refused to get
involved in the political tug o' war, and the Deputy Ministers'
Forum that consists of members who toiled to create a blue-red
alliance also disassociated itself quickly.
to President, Deputy Ministers' Forum, Dilan Perera, the JVP has got
the wrong end of the stick and made a huge political blunder through
their emotional announcement in the house.
that there is a great need to attend to the urgent humanitarian
needs of the people in the north and east following the tsunami
devastation, Perera asserts that an interim authority is an absolute
has been proposed in the statement is an interim authority to attend
to those needs. The government writ does not extend to those areas
in practical terms and hence it is a must to have some mechanism to
ensure that relief reaches the people," says Perera.
Deputy Minister of Ports and Civil Aviation categorically denies
that the reference is to the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA).
JVP has read only two words in the entire statement and added two
words from their own account and equated the IA to the ISGA. This
claim should be completely ignored," says Perera who feels that
the JVP has overreacted to the statement.
government, he adds feels that the peace process should be treated
as a high priority. Perera says that the forum comprises members who
have been committed to a negotiated peace for a long time and have
advocated the same for years.
is our duty to strengthen the hands of the President when she is
ready to talk peace and ensure relief reaches the north east,"
he feels that much is expected of this country and its leadership
today with the tremendous goodwill experienced following a
horrendous natural disaster. "All of it cannot be thrown away
simply because a constituent party is picking holes in statements
and getting it all wrong," adds Dilan Perera.
of the advocators of extensive power sharing, Perera says that the
reality is that without an interim arrangement, the government
lacked a mechanism to ensure that the aid flowed into the LTTE
controlled areas. "It is necessary and this is exactly what a
government should be doing given the magnitude of the suffering of a
twice-devastated people," he adds.
statement is perfect and government should be doing this," he
pertinently, Perera adds that President Kuamratunga's mandate for
peace remains unfettered by the creation of a government headed by
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse last year.
question of not consulting does not arise. President Kumaratunga has
always attempted to consult all parties including opposition parties
despite not being required to do so. Hers has been a mandate solely
given to her, and for the pursuance of peace. It is independent of
the coalition the SLFP has with the JVP. The conditions laid by the
JVP when coming into an alliance with the SLFP therefore does not
affect her," he notes.
admitting that the JVP should necessarily be given a role to play in
the government headed by Premier Rajapakse, Dilan Perera adds that a
presidential mandate directly derived from the people could not be
ridiculed or undermined.
twin duties are to pursue peace and to ensure that the northeastern
populace is treated equally in this hour of need. She has an
independent mandate and cannot be bickering over words," adds
the JVP backtracking once more at a media briefing on the same day,
declaring themselves the de facto government and proclaiming their
unstinted co-operation for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic
conflict, the second saga of fighting over a few words draws to a
close. That is until the next one starts.
humbles Wimal before US Presidents
most significant event in the political landscape last week was of
course the arrival of former US Presidents George Bush and Bill
Clinton, who were special envoys of incumbent President George W.
Bush. Clinton and Bush Senior were to bring first hand reports of
tsunami devastation back to the White House.
their tour of the tsunami ravaged south, Clinton and Bush were to be
hosted to a banquet at President's House later that evening. The
banquet set the stage for several political incidents of interest,
since many parliamentarians from different political parties had
also been invited to attend. The banquet which was scheduled to be
held at 7 p.m. was postponed by half an hour because the President
had another commitment and could not in this instance at least keep
her guests waiting unduly.
7.15 p.m. many of the guests had already arrived. They were escorted
into a special room set up at President's House for those waiting to
meet the President.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar and Industries Minister Anura Bandaranaike remained in
the waiting room, while Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama and
several other invitees made their way to the banquet hall upstairs.
exactly 7.25 p.m. the American Presidential duo arrived and they too
were escorted into the waiting room, followed by Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickemesinghe. Doing the job of coordinator of the two
Presidents' visit to the island, Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera
had the task of escorting them in. After being introduced to
Wickremesinghe and Rajapakse by Minister Kadirgamar, Bush Senior
looked at his watch and remarked - "We came at the right
time." Acknowledging this as truth, Premier Rajapakse said -
"yes, the President said she would be here on time."
however, tardiness proved too hard a habit for President Chandrika
Kumaratunga to break, even to greet two distinguished former US
presidents and she turned up a full 25 minutes late. Patiently
awaiting the US president's arrival, Bush and Clinton discussed
matters related to the tsunami and local politics, and even ventured
into topics of global economics with the Premier and the Opposition
Leader. Given that persons like President Bush Senior and President
Clinton rarely have the time for long chit-chats, the President's
delay proved a golden opportunity for Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe.
The group in the waiting room that day got so chummy that the two
former American Presidents actually insisted on taking a group
the discussions, Bush Senior asked Wickremesinghe about former
President J.R. Jayewardene. Speaking to the Premier, Clinton asked
him about the tsunami devastation and reconstruction in Hambantota.
And so the 25 minutes till the President finally arrived whiled
they appeared to be enjoying their discussions with Sri Lankan
political figures, the Bush-Clinton duo constantly kept looking at
their wrist watches. Trying to save face, Premier Rajapakse said at
one point, "the President must be on her way." No doubt,
Wickremesinghe and Kadirgamar also faced similar discomfort.
though she was late, President Chandrika Kumaratunga walked into the
waiting room to greet the two former American Presidents beaming.
Inviting Minister Kadirgamar to join her, President Kumaratunga
escorted Bush and Clinton out into a separate room for bilateral
talks. Premier Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe
proceeded to the banquet hall. However, the talks did not last long
and soon, the President and her special guests entered the banquet
the time Kumaratunga arrived with Clinton, Bush and Kadirgamar, the
banquet hall was full of guests. Among them were JVP Propaganda
Secretary, Wimal Weerawansa. His presence caused quite a stir, given
the JVP's position on America and furthermore the fact that not a
single JVP member had attended any of the banquets held in honour of
the foreign dignitaries who have visited the island following the
JVP has been opposed to the USA even before the invasion of Iraq in
2003. Many of their Marxist battle cries are related in some way to
American philosophies and ways of life taking root in eastern
societies. Obviously then, Weerawansa's presence at this banquet to
honour two former American heads of state, came as a surprise.
was not the only thing that made Weerawansa stand out. Ignoring the
dress code clearly printed on the invitation that insisted on formal
attire -either Western or national - Weerawansa had turned up in a
pinkish red long sleeved shirt and black pants. Everyone's eyes were
also on Weerawansa to see his reaction when the President introduced
him as so-and-so to Clinton and Bush Senior. But it was President
Kumaratunga who held the audience captive during the introduction.
him out to the two American dignitaries, Kumaratunga said "this
is the JVP parliamentary group leader." Not stopping there, the
President went on to elaborate that it was Weerawansa and his
political party that was blocking the resumption of peace talks.
Shaking hands with Weerawansa, and trying to drive home a point,
"we hope you will extend your support to the President in the
future regarding peace talks," President Clinton said. Not to
be outdone, Bush senior too asked Weerawansa what exactly the JVP's
problem was with restarting the stalled negotiations. Being
confronted with the double whammy- in English to boot, a flustered
Weerawansa said "no..no." - and tried to dismiss the
issue. During the whole exchange, Weerawansa had the attention of
all those present.
the banquet table, Premier Rajapakse and Opposition Leader
Wickremesinghe flanked President Bush, while Kumaratunga and her
brother, Anura Bandaranaike sat on either side of President Clinton.
Weerawansa stole the show there too, stunning the guests with his
apparent ease at a table laden with fine wine and gourmet food that
in his 'comrade' days would have been tantamount to supping with the
multi-course meal was served in stages and each course featured on a
menu card placed in front of every plate. The first course was
Tangalle Lobster with white wine, followed by cold chicken soup. Tea
and passion sorbet followed to cleanse the palate before the main
course was served in little clay containers garnished with crushed
given the high profile event, even the lobster was to be eaten with
cutlery. But anyone who has ever attempted to eat shell fish with a
fork knows exactly how difficult this task is. Weerawansa, having
made a valiant attempt to attack his lobster with the cutlery
available, finally gave up and laid the dish aside.
main course consisted of a Basmathi rice preparation, Negombo
prawns, Jaffna dhal and chicken curry, accompanied by several other
dishes. There was anoda mousse for dessert and chocolates and coffee
to round the meal off.
those present at the banquet were keen to get the autographs of the
two former US presidents on their dining cards to prove that they
had indeed supped with the VVIPs. After what seemed like a long
internal debate, Weerawansa also meekly sent his card for signing.
Since Wickremesinghe was nearest the American guests, it was upto
him to hand over each of the dining cards for signing. And so it was
that Weerawansa's card too ended up in Wickremesinghe's hand and he
gave it over to President Clinton to sign and returned it to
Weerawansa. Many of those present said this 'intervention' by
Wickremesinghe appeared to be a strange twist of fate for the JVP
American Presidents could not linger for long after the meal since
President Clinton who is under treatment following a bypass
operation, had to take his medicine before 10.30 p.m. After Clinton
had pointed at his watch and told President Kumaratunga this, she
wound the party up as soon as possible and the American Presidents
said their goodbyes and returned to the Colombo Hilton where they
demands Mahinda's nomination
the crisis with its main alliance partner the JVP, the SLFP has
commenced its restructuring plans. One important aspect of this plan
is to be the strengthening of provincial and urban councils and in
order to discuss this SLFP provincial council representatives were
summoned to President's House last week. Since almost 500 people
were billed to attend the meeting, it was set up in the garden of
President's House. The meeting was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.
but of course as is usual, President Chandrika Kumaratunga finally
turned up at 6 p.m.
the meeting were Premier Mahinda Rajapakse, SLFP General Secretary
Maithripala Sirisena and Senior SLFP Member of Parliament, D.M.
Jayaratne. After explaining the reasons behind the meeting, Sirisena
invited the representatives to take the floor and air their views.
First to grab the microphone was Western Province Chief Minister
Reginald Cooray. As is usual, Cooray proceeded to preach to the
gathering for half an hour about what the provincial representatives
should be doing for the party. However, hardly anyone appeared to be
paying any attention for the elderly politician. In fact, the
representatives were looking a little restless.
the floor soon after Cooray was a Gampaha District representative.
He launched into a scathing attack that shocked all those present.
"Ranil has already been named the UNP presidential candidate.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has already started his battle for the
presidency. Our supporters keep asking who the SLFP candidate is
going to be. We have no answers to give them. We have to start the
battle even now. So we have to name a presidential candidate right
now," he said. His cries roused the already restless crowd.
They began to insist on naming a presidential candidate then and
another representative got up and said "Our Prime Minister has
sent us a letter saying that we will be given a roadway under the
highways project. We must praise him for this, he is the only
minister who still remembers us. Record all this if you want. Only
the Prime Minister still remembers us."
is no argument about the matter of the presidential candidate. It
has to be Mahinda Rajapakse. It should be revealed that this is the
party's official choice," another representative said.
and Sirisena try as they might, could not control the chaos that was
breaking out at the meeting by this time. Finally, the Premier had
no choice but to get up and make a statement.
you for your support at this point. I know that all of you love the
party very much. But I will make one request of you. Please don't
get worked up about this now. That will mean that we will lose what
ground we have now also. Let's be patient for a little while,"
Rajapakse told the provincial representatives.
applause rang out after the Prime Minister's statement. An Akuressa
representative rose to say a few words but just then, President
Kumaratunga walked into the meeting. Acting as if she had not heard
anything, Kumaratunga simply took her place and apologised to her
partymen for her tardiness. She then proceeded to give them a
lecture on the restructuring process.
she gave the representatives an opportunity to voice their opinions,
by this time, the batteries on the microphone placed in the middle
of the assembly had died. Some thought this had been done on
purpose. But in fact, Kumaratunga did give the provincial
representatives a chance to make themselves heard. The pradeshiya
sabha and urban council representatives said that they were facing
huge problems because they did not have vehicles. They appealed to
the President to get them duty free motocycles to use on the field.
representatives also told the President that the Rs. 3000 they were
being paid as salary was insufficient. President Kumaratunga
promised to look into their grievances and even though a salary hike
could not be granted overnight, she would see that it was done in
- Wimal coup to oust Maithripala
the problem of a presidential candidate for the SLFP reared its head
last week, another smaller political coup also came to light. For
some time now, opposition has been brewing towards SLFP General
Secretary Maithripala Sirisena in both the JVP ranks and also a
group within the SLFP. One reason for his unpopularity was his
proximity to the President and the other his efforts to save the
SLFP from being dragged down by the JVP. Chief UPFA buddies and
sworn allies, Minister Mangala Samaraweera and JVP Propaganda
Secretary Wimal Weerawansa have been of the opinion for some time
now that Sirisena was unsuitable for the position of general
secretary of the SLFP. They have criticised the Mahaweli Minister on
a very personal level on several occasions as well. Several of their
strategies to oust Sirisena from his position within the SLFP came
to light sometime last week.
astrological weekly run by a Samaraweera-faithful - Priyantha
Rathnayake ran a headline last week saying "SLFP to be given
oxygen with new secretary." Rathnayake also functions in the
capacity of working director of National Savings Bank under the UPFA
government. Although Irahanda claims to be an astrological
newspaper, it has long since become public knowledge that
predictions are made according to the whims and fancies of President
Kumaratunga or Minister Mangala Samaraweera, when they wish to send
out a particular message to the masses. So naturally, when the paper
carried this headline, many people thought that it was simply
reflecting the plan of President Kumaratunga or Samaraweera,
especially since the SLFP convention was due to take place on March
10. Many people even argued that the President had summoned the
convention in a hurry in order to remove Sirisena and appoint
another senior member in his place.
when a deputy minister queried the President on the matter last
week, he got a strange response. "Many people think that you
are going to remove Sirisena Madam. Is it true that it was in
Irahanda as well?" the junior minister asked innocently.
is Priyantha Rathnayake's paper isn't it? When we won the election
that fellow came and asked me to appoint him chairman of NSB. I told
him then that I can't let him be chairman and then close down the
bank. If he wanted, I offered him the working director post. Now he
is going around criticising me apparently. Now he works according to
the way Mangala and Wimal want. I was planning to tell Maithripala
not to take any notice," the President responded.
few days later, the same news item appeared on a Sri Lankan news
webpage. The website is run by a cartoonist who contributes to a
Sinhala daily and is called Lanka Truth. It is a well-known fact
that this cartoonist runs his website exactly the way the JVP asks
him to. Even his cartoons are modelled on the JVP's specifications.
So when the news item appeared on Lanka Truth, it became clear whose
conspiracy it was to get Sirisena removed.
got wind of the information while he was outstation engaged in
restructuring work for the SLFP. He asked his officers to gather all
the necessary details about the news item and plans to meet the
President with the information after she returns to Colombo.
was a hive of activity in the UNP too last week, with the Political
Affairs Committee, Working Committee and the Parliamentary Group all
meeting and mapping out strategy to take the battle to the
government and the Chief Justice.
the Political Affairs Committee, having discussed organisational
matters, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe referred to the
infighting in the government and the frustration experienced by
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse at being constantly sidelined and
humiliated by the President.
made his comments after the timing of the presidential election was
discussed and the possible candidate of the SLFP.
UNP Chairman, Malik Samarawickrema said that ordinarily, Prime
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse should be the candidate, but that he
doubted it because the Bandaranaikes would not allow a leader who
was not one of their own to take over the SLFP.
that is clear. When George Bush senior and Bill Clinton visited, the
incident that took place was more than enough indication of
that," Wickremesinghe responded before going on to explain the
events that took place on the night of the banquet. Wickremesinghe
said that he had been asked to come for the banquet at 7.30 p.m.
because discussions between the two former American Presidents and
President Kumaratunga were to take place at 7 p.m. When he was
entering President's House, Wickremesinghe said that he had seen a
traffic block and stopped to ask the security personnel why there
was congestion. They had responded that Bush and Clinton were only
just going in. The two Americans were taken to a waiting room, as
was Wickremesinghe and Premier Rajapakse, Ministers Mangala
Samaraweera, Lakshman Kadirgamar and Anura Bandaranaike were also
in the face
cordial discussions, Kadirgamar said that Bush and Clinton would be
taken up to a special meeting room for talks with the President and
told Mahinda to go up to the banquet hall. Mahinda's face changed at
this statement, it was a slight because after all he is the
country's Prime Minister. Finally Kadirgamar and Samaraweera went up
with the two American presidents for the meeting," said
the meeting of the Political Affairs Committee where Rohitha
Bogollagama's case also came to be discussed, Wickremesinghe lashed
out at party members saying - "It is our own people who are
criticising the handling of the Bogollagama case. In the country
there is an opinion that the Supreme Court verdict in the case was
politically motivated. But our members think differently and go
around making comments about how we didn't conduct the inquiry
UNP Leader pointed out that it was very clearly stated in the
party's constitution that if a member takes up a position in a rival
party, he automatically relinquishes membership from the UNP.
the UNP's Parliamentary Group met later, the main topic of
discussion was the setting up of provincial appellate courts.
According to the draft law, the judges to these courts were to be
appointed by the Chief Justice. But the UNP was of the view that
while they approved of the provincial appeal courts, they did not
think it was suitable for the chief justice to make appointments to
these courts and it should instead be a power given to the president
of the court of appeal. The Parliamentary Group decided that they
should make the issue a platform to bring charges against the Chief
to speak at this juncture was MP Gamini Lokuge. "This was our
greatest failing," said he, "failing to impeach the Chief
Justice. This is what lead to the collapse of our government as
Wickremesinghe responded, explaining -"Gamini, I know what
happened. It was not that we did not want to bring the impeachment
motion against the CJ. But we had no majority. At the time, the SLMC
had said they would not support us to impeach the CJ. When we move
something like this in parliament, we must make sure that we can see
it through. Otherwise, we would only be strengthening the hand of
speaking at the meeting was MP T. Maheswaran who said that since the
Bogollagama verdict, there was an intensified effort on the part of
the government to win over opposition MPs. "Look at Wijedasa
Rajapakse. He has been given the sole task of winning over UNPers.
He spends his time in parliament doing only that. He is always to be
found in the opposition lobby," he said.
I have also heard these reports," replied Wickremesinghe
smoothly. "But whenever I come to the lobby, there is a group
of MPs around Wijedasa Rajapakse, talking to him like they were his
long lost friends. You yourself Maheswaran, have been spotted in the
group. If we are going to accuse others, we must ourselves first be
clean. If our MPs don't respond positively to Rajapakse, he can't do
anything," he pointed out.
continued - "The Bogollagama verdict for instance - everyone is
blaming me. But these are people who know nothing about the party
constitution. Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and I have always worked
for the good of the party. But we are being called 'spineless' now
for not taking action against you Maheswaran, for voting against the
party in parliament recently."
on to explain, the UNP Leader said that on a previous occasion, when
emergency regulations were being debated, Maheswaran had come up to
him and informed him that there was a threat on his life and he had
to vote against the emergency.
the most recent occasion, without informing either myself or the
deputy leader, you voted against when there was a specific party
decision to abstain. There must be discipline among the MPs first of
all," Wickremesinghe chastised.
with Wickremesinghe was Galle District MP Hemakumara Nanayakkara.
"Maheswaran's actions brought shame to us all. He worked
against the UNP. One day in parliament he made a statement that
Pirapaharan was his leader. This kind of sentiment will harm the
party," Nanayakkara pointed out.
assented. "Yes, if you are a member of the UNP, you have to
adhere to party rules. Otherwise you can leave."
up a separate issue was Ravi Karunanayake. "I saw
Balapatabendi's appointment as High Commissioner to Australia. He is
an official with so many charges against him and there is an opinion
in the country that he is a big rogue. How did the High Posts
Committee ratify this appointment? Why did our members in the
committee allow this to go through? We must check on this,"
Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya spoke up. "I was there that day.
The other members were not present because it was not mentioned on
the agenda that Balapatabendi was to be brought before the committee
that day. But on the government side, Mangala Samaraweera and
everyone else had turned up. When Balapatabendi turned up, I opposed
his presence since it was not on the agenda, but they easily
approved it with their majority," the Deputy Leader said.
Jayasuriya added that the appointment was not completely ratified as
yet since the minutes had to come up for approval at the next
meeting. We should tell the Speaker to hold an inquiry and to have
Balapatabendi resummoned before the committee," said Jayasuriya.
the Working Committee meeting that followed, the Bogollagama case
and the action to be taken was discussed at length. At the beginning
of the meeting, Wickremesinghe said that K.N. Choksy would explain
the details of the verdict, after which members would be allowed to
voice their ideas.
read out the verdict and explained citing historical UNP cases
including those relating to Gamini Dissanayake and Sarath Amunugama
and how the UNP constitution was amended over time to deal with
cross overs. He added that the Supreme Court judgement was a
travesty of justice.
after Choksy was Ampara District MP P. Dayaratne who said "Bogollagama
claims to still be a member of the UNP. So let's invite him for our
next meeting and see if he follows the party regulations after
agreed and said that once they consulted with the team of party
lawyers they could ascertain the feasibility of holding another
inquiry and summoning Bogollagama.
anniversary of CFA
but not broken
Pirapaharan, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Milinda
Moragoda and Norwegian Ambassador, Jon Westborg
Dharisha Bastians And Easwaran Rutnam
was ironic that as the country last week breathed a collective sigh
of relief at the no-war situation for three years running, the
gunning down of a Sri Lanka Army soldier by a female LTTE cadre in
Kilaly caused new rifts between government forces and Tiger rebels
and proved again the tenacious nature of the ceasefire agreement
(CFA) currently in force.
soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in the Kilaly shoot
out on Wednesday, exactly three years after the MoU was signed
between the government and the LTTE.
Lanka Army top brass, who would otherwise have been hounded into
making comments on the third anniversary of the truce, on Thursday
(24) remained trapped in high-level meetings to determine what
course of action should be taken on the shooting.
LTTE for its part accepted responsibility for the shooting but said
the cadre had fired at Private J. H. U. Priyadharshana and Lance
Corporal W. M. Wijesundara of the army's Vijayabahu infantry
regiment because the soldiers had crossed into no man's land. Nordic
truce monitors who have been stationed in the north and east since
the signing of the ceasefire agreement are still conducting
inquiries into the incident. Private Priyadharshana was the 29th
soldier to be killed in the north east since the truce took effect
is strange, but a similar incident took place almost precisely two
years ago and in the very same place," said Deputy Head, Sri
Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Won Winkell speaking to The Sunday
Leader on Thursday. In that incident too, an army soldier was
killed, Winkell said. The Deputy Head of Mission said that the
monitors were still talking to both the army and the LTTE to
complete their report of the incident and make their ruling. Since
February 2002, the SLMM has ruled that the LTTE has violated the CFA
2,636 times, while the Sri Lanka Army has been responsible for 115
the Kilaly incident however, monitors and the military maintained a
degree of optimism about the ceasefire holding for yet another year.
Military Spokesman, Brigadier Daya Ratnayake said considering that
the country has been at war for 20 years, the fact that the
ceasefire has held for three years is something to be happy about.
Brigadier Ratnayake said the government forces have done well to
maintain the truce and was confident that isolated incidents would
not seriously jeopardise the ceasefire. "However, we urge the
LTTE to respect and adhere to the ceasefire agreement,"
Brigadier Ratnayake added.
the Nordic monitors, the no-war situation that has held for three
years now is a significant achievement. But after three years
'monitoring' the shaky ceasefire, even the SLMM is looking forward
to a long-term solution to the conflict. "We can only hope that
the current truce leads to the facilitation of a permanent peace
agreement between the two parties. I think it is important for all
Sri Lankans to understand the need for a final settlement,"
the event that a peace agreement comes into force, the SLMM would
either be removed to make way
or converted into a peace-keeping force which would have a
bigger mandate to mediate in conflict. Given the lack of progress on
the peace negotiations front however and the MoU not coming up for
review, the role of the SLMM is still restricted to that of
facilitating and observing - while the monitors can rule on
violations, they have no mandate to take action.
the SLMM's role has led to widespread public opinion that the
monitors are 'biased' towards the Tigers. "There is no question
about it, the SLMM closes its eyes to repeated violations by the
LTTE," an university student told The Sunday Leader last week.
However, the tally of rulings by the SLMM, available on the
monitors' website putting the number of LTTE violations at 2,636, a
whopping 2521 more than those committed by the army, proves
greatest doubt cast on the ceasefire holding so far appears to come
from Tiger quarters with both Political Wing Head S. P. Tamilselvan
saying on the anniversary of the truce that the military was
endangering the ceasefire by forming new paramilitaries to wage a
secret war against the LTTE. Naturally the killing of LTTE Eastern
Political Chief Kausalyan outside the Welikanda army camp in
government held territory two weeks ago has had an impact on Tiger
sentiments on the survival of the truce. "The ceasefire and the
peace would fall apart if this covert war against us
continues," Tamilselvan warned after his talks with Norwegian
Peace Envoy Eric Solheim on Tuesday (22).
matters is the government's continued shifting of positions on
whether to start negotiations based on the interim administration
proposals put forward by the LTTE.
speaking to The Sunday Leader, LTTE Peace Secretariat Head, S.
Puleethevan remained firm about the need to resume negotiations
based on the ISGA proposals. "There cannot be talks without
first discussing the ISGA," Puleethevan stressed when contacted
for comment last week.
a statement last week, Puleethevan's counterpart in Colombo,
Jayantha Dhanapala went public with the government's decision to
resume negotiations based on an interim administration for the north
and east, in what appeared to finally be the light at the end of the
tunnel. But less than 24 hours after Dhanapala's statement,
prospects of restarting talks dimmed once more with the JVP
declaring that it would quit the UPFA if the government was to
follow through on Dhanapala's assertion. With the political
landscape in Colombo changing at lightning speed and the government
being dealt another blow after the CWC quit its ministerial
portfolios on Thursday, a quick resumption of talks looks to become
a peripheral issue once more.
tensions that have been in the air since the Karuna split one year
ago now appear to be brimming to the surface, with the very real
danger of the Tigers' internal clashes threatening to transform into
violence between the armed forces and the LTTE. Under the
circumstances, Colombo's complacency that the no-war, no-peace
status quo will remain might prove detrimental. Having survived a
change of government and a serious split in the ranks of the LTTE
however, the ceasefire may in fact prove its skeptics wrong again.
saved due to the CFA
estimated 3,000 lives will be saved if the ceasefire holds for
one more year, according to official statistics. In the 20
years of conflict, Sri Lanka lost 3,000 lives to the war each
to the SLMM there were 5,459 complaints against the LTTE since
the CFA came into effect.
Army has noted 181 murders purported by the LTTE following the
signing of the CFA.
included 28 soldiers and 153 civilians including Tamil
political activists and civilian informants.
from this there were :
Forcible removal of private vehicles
Flag hoisting acts
instances of LTTE cadres carrying weapons in cleared areas
LTTE navel exercises
a further 191 other incidents lodged by the army against the
Lanka Army Commando, Sgt. Chamila Dharmapriya lost a leg
during the army's Operation Akunu Pahara (Streak of Lightning)
to attack 14 LTTE bases in Mullaithivu in 1991. Fourteen years
later, Sgt. Dharmapriya is on a different mission. He works at
the headquarters of the Association of Disabled Ex-service
Personnel (ADEP), involved in projects to assist soldiers
wounded in action.
lost a limb to the war, Sgt. Dharmapriya harbours no
bitterness about the ongoing peace negotiations. For him, a
peaceful settlement to the conflict will ensure no more
soldiers are handicapped or killed on the battlefield.
course, many of us have some misgivings when we feel that too
much is being given - we have fought so long, it does not
always feel right. But think of the thousands that would have
died if the truce had not been in force the last three
years?" says a pragmatic war hero.
father of two, Dharmapriya is firm in his view that the path
to progress is peace in Sri Lanka. Consensus in the south, he
says is the key to preventing the LTTE from taking the upper
hand in the negotiations and adherence to the truce agreement.
the twists and turns of a three year long truce, the reactions
to the signing of the CFA between the government and the LTTE
by various political parties has largely remained unchanged.
The only about-turn on the matter has come from President
Chandrika Kumaratunga, who expressed her "shock and
dismay" at then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
signing the agreement with the Tigers in February 2002 and
threatened to declare it null and void. Today, the forces
functioning under the same President have vowed to maintain
the ceasefire and her government which swept to power bitterly
opposing the Tigers' interim administration proposals has even
expressed its willingness to resume negotiations based on the
a public meeting in Ja-ela in February 2002, the President
said - "I can stop Ranil Wickremesinghe's agreement with
one letter to the army commander. There are several suspicious
clauses in the agreement with the LTTE. I have appointed a
committee to study the agreement and the report would be out
in a day or two. Then I will take necessary action."
date, the CFA has remained unchanged.
JVP for its part has stayed consistent in its position that it
was opposed to the truce with the Tigers. Soon after the
Wickremesinghe administration signed the MoU with the LTTE,
the JVP in a letter to the speaker of parliament urging him to
summon a debate on the agreement immediately said - "The
present truce which followed the signing of the MoU between
the UNF government and the LTTE is a serious threat to the
security, territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the
country. It was said that the documents of the MoU were signed
separately by the prime minister and the LTTE. Matters
relating to these documents were not informed to the
parliament, ruling party parliamentary group and the cabinet.
It had been hidden even from the head of the State."
Sihala Urumaya, now relaunched as the bhikku led Jathika Hela
Urumaya also opposed the CFA then, and still calls it illegal
today. In 2002, the Sihala Urumaya said it would launch a
campaign among the Sinhalese people to urge President
Chandrika Kumaratunga to use her executive powers to
invalidate the CFA between the UNF government and the LTTE.
Tilak Karunaratne, then Leader, Sihala Urumaya, addressing a
press conference said that his party has decided to file a
case in the Court of Appeal seeking the nullification of the
MoU and the ceasefire agreement as these, according to him
have contravened the constitution of the country. "The
LTTE is banned in Sri Lanka. The UNF government has signed the
ceasefire agreement with a proscribed organisation. Hence the
present ceasefire agreement contravenes the country's
constitution," Karunaratna said at the conference. An
year and a half later Karunaratna joined the UNF.
parties in the Kumaratunga-led coalition continue to urge the
President to pursue the path of peace, and have done so since
the truce was signed. When the MoU was signed, Lanka Sama
Samaja Party Leader Batty Weerakoon issued a statement
welcoming the MoU and the confidence building measures taken
by the parties concerned. "The UNF government led by
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been given a mandate
by the people to usher in peace although the President is the
first citizen of the country," Weerakoon said in the
statement. He also appealed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga
"not to underestimate the MoU by alleging that it was
unconstitutional and inconclusive and to act
catch 22 situation with NGOs
tsunami has certainly helped fill government coffers as well as
those belonging to non governmental organisations (NGOs) and the UN
as well as its partner organisations.
Central Bank maintains that the government had received upto Rs. 1.7
billion by way of financial donations through the Central Bank and
two commercial banks. How these monies are to be channeled into
tsunami relief is highly questionable.
it is not just the government that has profited off the tsunami. We
have over these last few weeks consistently highlighted, drawing on
varied examples how some NGOs including those attached to the United
Nations are profiteering off the tsunami.
now learn that over 25% of a flash appeal submitted by the UNDP in
the aftermath of the tsunami seeking aid for Sri Lanka will be fed
back into the UN and its partner organisations to pay for
coordination and support services. In a summary requirement where
the UNDP has sought and received a total of US$ 352,908,700 by way
of tsunami financial aid for Sri Lanka a massive US$ 93,411,200
million is to be utilised to pay for UN staff.
money for staff
financial pledges from overseas have been made via the UN and its
partner organisations in the belief that the UN is that much more
accountable than government. But it is clear in this instance that
the UN in Sri Lanka is profiting off the tsunami if out of US$ 352.9
million secured as aid for the tsunami affected, nearly US$ 100
million is to be utilised for the upkeep and well-being of UN staff.
over two million dollars has been allocated for 'multi-sector' which
nobody at the UNDP is in a position to explain what exactly this
means. Another US$ 4.8 million has been allocated for
protection/human rights/rule of law when the UN and its partner
organisations have separately been allocated funds for project work
in these areas.
secure an explanation out of officials at the UNDP is almost
impossible as most maintain they do not know for what exactly or how
these monies will be channeled.
Central Bank says that in the aftermath of the tsunami Sri Lanka
received financial aid amounting to Rs. 6 billion. These monies have
been received via private donations for tsunami relief through the
banking system and include monies received by the government, NGOs
and others in Sri Lanka as private, foreign and local donations.
learn the UNDP is since the tsunami advertising heavily for
volunteers to work in tsunami affected areas in Sri Lanka.
Government officials complain that already some recruits are fresh
from college and thus inexperienced to liaise and coordinate
services with government agents in the affected areas.
this is not bad enough there is worse. For the UNDP has since the
tsunami re-hired an aid worker whose contract to continue in Sri
Lanka was rejected by the External Resources Department after he had
proved to be a dismal failure. The government last year rejected an
aid worker attached to a joint umbrella project on rehabilitation
with the UNDP. Mitchell Carlson had been appointed as programme
manager for this project but was later rejected by the government
when found that his performance was poor. Now, however he has been
re-hired by the UNDP, appointed in the aftermath of the tsunami as
senior advisor, World Food Programme. (See box)
also have proof of how "UN expatriate experts" have been
known to draw a daily subsistence allowance (DSA) even when not
entitled to nominate their base station out of Colombo. Or, they
deliberately change their base stations in order to draw a higher
DSA by being stationed in Colombo. There have been instances where
DSAs were drawn by some UN aid workers despite having no fixed based
the aftermath of the tsunami so huge were the financial pledges to
Sri Lanka that certain NGOs and INGOs including UN affiliated groups
engaged in a turf battle. One example is when a heated argument
broke out between representatives of UNICEF and local NGOs at
Kilinochchi when UNICEF charged that local NGO's "are too small
to work with."
the position with regard to INGOs is this. Two months after the
tsunami, from about 50 International Non Governmental Organisations
working in conflict areas, the numbers increased to an estimated
INGO's are not transparent in relation to the amount of funding they
have received. They have also arrived in the country and lured staff
from local NGOs who have therefore been effectively strangled or at
the very least forced to scale down operations.
ludicrous is that this gaggle of INGOs and NGOs including the UN and
its partner organisations are self indulging in flag-waving.
Littering tsunami affected areas with organisational flags, in a
frenzy to prove their existence and work in the affected areas, the
UN organisations as well as various INGOs and NGOs are creating a
dumping ground in the affected areas by stringing their flags all
there appears to be no coordination of services between government
and these INGOs and NGOs there is a huge amount of duplication of
tsunami relief taking place. For instance, in Amparai a fisherman
who had been given a new boat by the Fisheries Ministry after his
old one was wrecked by the tsunami later received a second boat from
an INGO that was not aware that government aid had already reached
a certain amount of disparity is taking place with regard to the
building of houses for the affected. Those to be built by INGOs for
instance are expected to be better in design and quality than those
to be built by the government. But since the organisations and
government are not coordinating designs and budgets, there will soon
probably be fist fights over those selected for government sponsored
shelter and those sponsored by INGOs and the UN and its partner
organisations. Additionally, there are private groups of individuals
also out there trying to build homes for the affected.
a possible attempt to streamline funds and services the government
last week was insisting that INGOs and NGOs wanting to build homes
for the affected work in coordination with the Urban Development
Authority (UDA). A bureaucratic nightmare apparently for the NGOs,
some of whom stormed out of meetings with government agents in the
Eastern Province when told they would have to comply with state
approval, rules and regulations in order to construct homes for the
the President last week issued a circular to all NGOs both local and
foreign insisting that all tsunami relief funds be channeled via the
Central Bank from which it would be re-directed to organisational
bank accounts. A policy decision which also had these organisations
up in arms asserting the state has no right to control funds the
NGOs and INGOs receive.
Central Bank statistics reveal billions of rupees by way of private
donations have been received by private organisations, groups and
individuals, most of which constitute either an INGO or NGO.
example would be Oxfam who together with a consortium of other INGOs
received a massive amount of financial aid in the region of US$ 600
million, since the tsunami. Similarly, Save the Children, the
International Council for the Red Cross and Care are among some of
the INGOs that have secured massive sums of money in this manner.
question is how transparently these monies raised will be utilised.
How accountable are these organisations to ensuring that these
monies are indeed channeled directly to the victims? Not at all, we
learn. The organisations are neither transparent nor accountable.
Neither is the government.
Chandrika Kumaratunga may now cry foul pointing her finger at NGOs
charging them to be corrupt. But before Kumaratunga prepares for
battle with the INGOs and NGOs she perhaps should consider that due
to the massive international solidarity expressed to Sri Lanka in
the aftermath of the tsunami, millions of dollars by way of aid has
poured into the country via these organisations. A fact confirmed by
Central Bank statistics.
a catch 22 situation. Sri Lanka badly needs the money - but is also
reluctant to allow these non governmental organisations a free reign
in the country, afraid of the long term consequences in relation to
the internationalisation of the tsunami in Sri Lanka.
worker rejected by government re-hired by UNDP
government last year rejected an aid worker attached to a
joint umbrella project on rehabilitation with the UNDP.
Mitchell Carlson had been appointed as programme
manager for this project but was later rejected by the
government when found that his performance was poor.
Also, that he was attempting to run the project minus
any transparency. For instance, he never once held a single
steering committee meeting despite there being a requirement
to do so every six months. The project began to seriously lag
behind stated objectives with no accountability on how funds
were being managed and disbursed.
was removed from the project following a letter the government
sent to Chief, UNDP, Miguel Bermeo. Now, however he has been
re-hired by the UNDP, appointed in the aftermath of the
tsunami as a senior advisor, World Food Programme.
Programme Advisor, Transition Programme, Wuria Karadaghy who
took over Carlson's position after he was removed said,
"Yes, Carlson was asked to go. I know there was a letter
from the government but I don't know what the contents were as
the letter was not sent to me, but to the head of the UNDP."
top officer at the External Resources Department (ERD) said,
"We did not extend the services of Carlson because he had
not submitted any results nor proven any outcome as far as the
rehabilitation project was concerned.
There was no point keeping him on the programme paying
him such a huge remuneration package."
It is believed that Mitchell Carlson was drawing
between US$ 10,000 to US$ 12,000 per month on this programme.
officers at the ERD said they have not been officially
informed that Carlson has been re-hired once more by the UNDP
as a senior advisor, World Food Programme, despite the
government refusing to extend his work contract.
"If he has been re-hired, it is entirely wrong and
a violation of government regulations," a top official
could not be contacted for comment but the UNDP confirmed he
is indeed working on their World Food Programme, having been
hired in the aftermath of the tsunami.
quality tents for tsunami victims
made a commitment to supply 10,000 tents to tsunami victims.
But senior officials previously attached to the Centre for
National Operations (CNO) confided that many of the tents
received not only arrived late, but were also of inferior
quality and far below international standards, which the
government was compelled to reject.
tents were "tiny" they said, asserting they also
came minus any flooring and were "so hot" inside it
was impossible to use as shelter. The government rejected the
tents demanding the UNHCR supply tents of international
standard and not second-hand ones brought in from Baghdad or
first consignment of 461 tents arrived on January 19 with more
four days later while another 8,000 were due by mid February.
Associate Programme Officer, UNHCR, Drene Aponso denied that
tents supplied by the UNHCR had been of inferior quality. She
claimed that the 8,000 tents due in February were still
"stuck in the Colombo Port awaiting clearance" while
a balance 2,000 she said "is still in storage."
when we asked her how come then 461 tents had been delivered
to the CNO on January 19, with another 513 on the 23, 25 and
26 respectively, she replied we would have to speak with a
more senior officer at the UNHCR.
were told "Robin Grove" would call us to explain but
she never did, despite repeated efforts on our part to reach
veto on donor funded housing
Chandrika Kumaratunga has issued instructions to district
secretaries and government agents preventing granting approvals for
housing projects in tsunami effected areas without the permission of
the Urban Development Ministry or the Task Force to Rebuild the
her letter dated February 7, Kumaratunga says, "No letters of
authority should be issued to any (potential donors) to undertake
housing projects in your districts without the specific approval of
the Urban Development Ministry or the Task Force to Rebuild the
letter also states that all decisions pertaining to reconstruction
should be ratified at the new District Council for Rehabilitation
and Reconstruction and that the chairman of the council should be
present at all weekly meetings. Kumaratunga has said that if any
person outside the council wished to meet with officials that
meeting should only take place if the chairman has approved it and
that invitees to such meetings should be limited to the most
several government ministers have already begun housing projects
with the help of private funding. Minister Jeyaraj Fernadopulle has
commenced a project near the Telwatte train wreck in Kahawa.
Kalmunai, UNHCR and ZOA are providing semi permanent shelters near
the devastated coast. In Hambantota, Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse's home electorate and that of the NGO bashers, the JVP,
several NGOs are involved in providing housing. The International
Islamic Relief Organisation, an Islamic organisation based in Saudi
Arabia, has already identified locations where semi-permanent
housing in Hambantota town is to be provided.
the 100 meter buffer zone law has created confusion all along the
devastated coast. Despite an announcement by the government that no
structures would be allowed within the zone, proper demarcation of
the zone is yet to be effected in most places. In Karathivu, near
Kalmunai, the only demarcation was a pole with a white flag.
would, however, be difficult to remove most of the commercial
structures in the business centres in Kalmunai and Galle. Business
owners have returned and recommenced operations and most of them are
ready to defy any government ruling on the 100 meter zone if no
proper compensation is paid.
full text of President Kumaratunga's letter is reproduced here for
the benefit of the public in general and the donors in particular.
District secretary / Government agent
organisational structure for tsunami related relief and
is to draw your kind attention to my letter of January 28, 2005
addressed to the chairman of the newly established District Council
for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction with a copy to you, wherein I
indicated the new district level organisational structure to
implement the comprehensive programmes for tsunami rehabilitation
and reconstruction work.
new organi-sational arrangements have broad based and streamlined
the existing relief and stakeholders in the implementation process.
It is therefore necessary that as the administrative head of the
district, you should work within the framework of this structure and
implement all tsunami related rehabilitation activities through the
new council that I have set up.
this connection, I wish to draw your particular attention to the
as you are aware, I have appointed a cabinet minister as the
chairman of the new council. He is instructed to hold weekly
meetings to discuss matters and monitor progress on the
implementation of programmes relating to relief and rehabilitation
work. It is necessary that the chairman of the council should be
present at these meetings, and all decisions should receive his
approve further, the chairman of the council is required to report
to me weekly, regarding progress made and any other issues /
problems that may arise.
I wish to take this opportunity to emphasise the need to avoid too
many meetings on this account in order to avoid wasting your time as
well as the time of other senior public officers. I understand that
numerous requests are received by you constantly asking for meetings
with public officers. What is required at the moment is not holding
innumerable meetings, but speedy action on decisions taken at the
weekly council meetings or on other matters which require urgent
where any person or agency outside the council structure wishes to
meet with any officials, such meetings should be held with the
participation /approval of the chairman of the council. The invitees
to such meetings should strictly be confined to those whose presence
is essential for the discussion. I have no doubt that such an
arrangement would contribute to a more productive coordination of
relief and rehabilitation operations.
also wish to refer to some reports I have received regarding some
district secretaries issuing letters of authority to certain
potential donors permitting them to launch housing projects for
persons displaced by the tsunami disaster. This should be stopped
forthwith. No letters of authority should be issued to any to
undertake housing projects in your district without the specific
approval of the Urban Development and Water Supply Ministry or the
Task Force to Rebuild the Nation (TAFREN). You should strictly abide
by this direction in view of the need to ensure conformity to
uniform procedures, transparency and accountability in the
allocation of building projects to interested private parties and
look forward to your unstinted cooperation and total commitment in
the course of this year in the effective implementation of the
government's relief and rehabilitation programme.
and the city
to go: the poilice team in plain clothes helping the
ladies in to the police vehicle
was a bad day for sex in the city of Colombo. A top level anti vice
squad team of the Women's and Children's Bureau armed with search
warrants and protected with the legal paper work stormed into
several high class brothels in and around the city of Colombo.
the process, police uncovered an organised large-scale sex sale
taking place under the name China Great Wall Hospital. Using decoy
SI Jayewardena, police not only uncovered scores of young women of
Thai and Chinese origin in various stages of undress, but stumbled
upon heaps of condoms, both used and unused.
China Great Wall Hospital situated at No. 39 B Kinross Avene,
Colombo 4, became the centre of activity as SI Jayewardena went in
there in a three-wheeler driven by Police Sergeant H.M.U.S.
Chandrasekera of the Women's and Children's Bureau.
Chandrasekera had all the makings of a three-wheeler driver this
Thursday - clad in a bright red T-shirt, wearing a gold bracelet and
chain. He also had his straight hair flicked up.
the three-wheeler the decoy, SI Jayewardena, looked like the man who
was in pursuit of a good time on a hot mid day. Wearing a white
shirt and a black trouser, SI Jayewardena looked like a man for whom
an ordinary young girl would not quite pledge her love in a hurry.
when he reached the China Great Wall Hospital, there were many young
women from Chinese and Thai origin to choose from. And paying Rs.
2,000, SI Jayewardena had picked his lady and gone up to the room.
there the lady had asked for her 'tip' and when SI Jayewardena had
pulled his wallet to pay, she had grabbed at the Rs.1,000 notes.
Being generous with the police money, which he was going to recover
later on in the day in any case, SI Jayewardena had given her a
couple of thousands.
the police team led by OIC Udaya De Silva actually stormed in to the
'hospital' there were other women waiting to be picked out. But the
team was interested in the whereabouts of SI Jayewardena, who they
soon found in a state of undress, immediately after he had tipped
off the team.
madam of the brothel could not be found, nor contacted and attempts
by the police to get her down through a young boy manning the desk
did not bring success. The record book at the 'hospital' recorded
about seven 'patients' from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
un-kept rooms upstairs had three beds in one room. There was nothing
fancy in here - basic sex objects such as condoms and tissues and
beds with sheets of different colours and some nude pictures were
all one could find for the d‚cor.
five women were taken into custody in this anti vice operation.
next stop was the Moon Night Club at No. 18/2 Sellamuttu Avenue,
Colombo 3. The sign with a dancing couple advertised the place to be
a gym, bar and VIP room. But police were determined to find out a
little more about the sports in here
into the deserted building, police saw a young security officer who
on seeing the police, ran into the bathroom to drink some water. In
here too SI Jayewardena had discovered that money spoke a language
that sex truly understood; for when police stormed into the place
after a tip off by SI Jayewardena himself, they found the SI in a
room wearing a towel with two women around him. In the other rooms
there were naked women and men who were in a state of extreme panic.
women jumped off the balcony on to a roof. They were not wearing any
clothes. Female police officers led the women to rooms where they
were allowed to get into decent clothing before they were taken into
were air-conditioned rooms filled with nude pictures and a record
book that showed only the number of the mysterious clients who
walked in here. As the women were taken to the van to be taken to
the police station, clients in three-wheelers, hiding their faces
were driving into the place, unaware that what they were going for
was being taken away.
the police team followed their decoy SI Jayewardena to St. Anthony's
Mawatha, Colombo 3 - the Hong Fu Chinese Medical (Pvt) Ltd., which
advertised foot massages, acupuncture, beauty and facials that had a
very basic brothel down below.
rooms in the narrow corridors were stuffy and the beds occupied the
entire rooms. As the women police officers stormed into the room
there was panic and naked men and women were trying to outdo each
other in their scramble for the door. Only SI Jayewardena, though
without proper clothing, remained unruffled.
found boxes of condoms and several used condoms in the dustbins in
the rooms. The women were given time to put on some clothes before
they were taken away by the police
police also met the young man who was at the reception desk at the
Chinese Medical Centre down Kinross Avenue standing here at St.
Anthony's Mawatha. When asked what he was doing here, he said that
he had come over to deliver a packet of lunch to his 'boss.'
next stop over was 'Chinese Beauty Salon' on R.A. De Mel Mawatha
opposite Liberty Plaza. The operation here turned out to be quite
simple: SI Jayewardena entered the place and was asked in no
uncertain terms whether he wanted "massage or sex."
he had paid the money at the reception, the woman he chose had gone
'to have a shower.' When she had actually emerged from the shower
and the steam was rising, the police team knocked on the door.
halt to vice
ladies do not have passports and they say that they do not
understand the language to make a statement to the police,"
said SI Jayewardena, who went on to say they would be produced in
know that we will not be able to stop all the vice in the city, but
we will do everything possible to control vice," said OIC Udaya
I.P. Udaya De Silva, SI A.P.S. Jayewardena, SI Manoj Samarasekera,
SI Premasiri, WSI Damayanthi, Sergeants 130 Priyantha, Women
Sergeant 740 Liyanpathirana, PCs 15753 Sarathchandra, 21347
Chandrasekera, 2278 RWPC Priyantha and 1125 WPC Chamila were among
the anti-vice team.
Sri Lanka's Guru
self appointed guru on psychology and organisational development
skills as well as 'solutions to stress and trauma' is not only
soliciting money from an unsuspecting public, but doing so after
having falsified and submitted to authorities forged educational
the interest of ensuring that our professional institutions are
staffed by persons with genuine qualifications particularly in the
backdrop of monies solicited ranging from anything between Rs. 3,000
to Rs. 10,000 per participant, per seminar, we spotlight this week
how one must be warned of being taken for a ride by rogue academics.
Madurusinghe, who claims to possess a doctorate and refers to
himself as "Professor," claims to be a consultant
psychologist and global expert on management and human resources
development. But, in 2001 and 2002, he submitted fictitious
certificates to the Central Bank and the Postgraduate Institute of
Management (PIM) when applying for the post of head, human resources
and visiting lecturer respectively. He seems to have cheated for a
third time round, when he applied to the Institute of Personnel
is currently chairman, Media Committee, IPM Sri Lanka where too he
appears to have handed in false educational certificates. IPM is an
educational centre which is registered under an Act of Parliament.
Apart from being a member of IPM, Madurusinghe additionally hosts
several fee levying seminars at leading hotels on 'Management Skills
and Human Resource Development.' He charges participants between Rs.
4,000 to Rs. 5,000 per workshop plus VAT. (See box)
we spoke with President, IPM, Daya Bolegalla, he said Madurusinghe's
resume maintains he has secured seven distinctions and one credit
pass at the GCE O/L examination and two As and two Bs at the
Advanced Level. He claims to have done so while schooling at S.
Thomas' College Mount Lavinia.
Madurusinghe when contacted by The Sunday Leader said, "I
cannot remember my passes at O/L and A/L." Pressed further on
how many distinctions he had secured he replied, "None - as far
as I can remember - I think I would have got six or seven credit
passes at the O/L and only two simple passes at the A/L."
we told Madurusinghe that we had proof that he had submitted
documents to various institutions claiming to have got seven
distinctions at the O/L and two As and two Bs at his Advanced Level
examinations he said, "I don't know how these have come about.
If they exist, they have certainly not originated from me."
Bolegalla maintains the resume the IPM holds, claiming Lakshman
Madurusinghe to have secured seven distinctions and his O/L and two
As and two Bs was indeed handed in by Madurusinghe himself.
a very senior head of department at the Central Bank confirmed that
Madurusinghe was not offered the job of head, human resources at the
bank after an interview board had conducted a check on his GCE
Ordinary Level and Advanced Level Certificates, he had submitted,
and found the gradings stated to be false.
bank in fact found that not only had Madurusinghe falsified his
school exam certificates but a testimonial as well that he presented
at the interview stating to have been signed by former Vice
Chancellor, University of Colombo, Prof. W. D. Lakshman. Further,
that Madurusinghe's claim of being a "visiting fellow" at
renowned British educational institutions was also fictitious.
Madurusinghe applied for the coveted post at the Central Bank the
interview board was headed by Deputy Governor W. A. Wijewardena.
Having selected Madurusinghe as being the most suitable candidate
for the job, top officers at the Central Bank however became
suspicious after perusing his educational qualifications where
Madurusinghe claimed to have passed his GCE O/L with seven
Distinctions and one Credit plus having secured all As at his
was very rare for an individual in the 1960s to get gradings like
this," a bank official who wished to remain anonymous said. But
these sun-shine grades prompted the institution to contact the
Commissioner General of Examinations who had confirmed that the
gradings given were fictitious. The Commissioner General had also
maintained that Madurusinghe had not even sat for all the subjects
he had claimed to have taken at GCE O/L, one of which included
by now they had almost committed a faux pas and hired a fraud, the
bank then checked out the testimonial purportedly signed by Prof. W.
D. Lakshman of the Colombo University. This letter claimed that
Madurusinghe was "a visiting professor" both with the
Colombo and Peradeniya Universities.
officers pointed out one could only be appointed as a visiting
lecturer and not professor. Also, that the Colombo and Peradeniya
Universities are two different entities independent of each other.
Therefore, the bank concluded, Prof. W. D. Lakshman, despite holding
the powerful post of vice chancellor of the Colombo University could
not have appointed Madurusinghe as a visiting professor to the
Peradeniya University as well.
the man himself said as much when contacted by the Central Bank.
Prof. W. D. Lakshman maintained he had never signed such a letter to
for his part told The Sunday Leader he never ever had a letter
issued to him by Prof. W. D. Lakshman and he "doesn't have a
clue how it originated."
bank meanwhile had informed Madurusinghe that they would not be
appointing him to the post of head, human resources. The Central
Bank also referred the documents to the CID since the issue amounted
to an attempted case of forgery and cheating a public institution by
having submitted forged and fictitious documents, in order to obtain
a plum post.
the investigation at the CID for some unknown reason never
progressed to a conclusion. The Central Bank also did not pursue the
matter because they had not given Madurusinghe the job for which he
had been selected and so they left the matter at that.
this was not to be Madurusinghe's first or last attempt. We found
that prior to applying to the Central Bank, Madurusinghe had applied
for a post as "visiting lecturer" to the PIM.
PIM, Prof. Gunapala Nanayakkara said, "I looked at his resume
and attempted to clarify with him from where he has secured his PhD.
He said he had got his doctorate in psychology from an organisation
Nanayakkara asserted that Madurusinghe had explained that Maharishi
is a university founded by some Indian nationals in the United
States and that he (Madurusinghe) was professor of a branch of the
university which he claimed to be located in Colpetty. But Prof.
Nanayakkara said that when he personally checked the address out he
found there was no university or any organisation called Maharishi
located at the said premises.
further checked and found out that Maharishi is not even listed in
the International Year Book of Universities which carries all the
approved universities of the world," Prof. Nanayakkara said,
adding he arrived at the conclusion that Madurusinghe "while
claiming to be an academic and professional did not even possess
basic qualifications." Prof. Nanayakkara further reiterated
that "neither did he even possess a letter or certificate
appointing him to a post of professor," he said, pointing out
he does not hold the title professor emeritus.
we questioned Madurusinghe on this aspect he said, "There has
been a misunderstanding.
Maharishi University is not registered in Sri Lanka. It
functions in the State of Iowa in the US. I have been associating
with this university over the last 15 years. I do have a letter
dated January 3, 2000, which states that I have been appointed as
Professor of Maharishi Global Administration which is registered
under a Colpetty address."
Madurusinghe admitted that following a request to President
Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2000 to allocate 550 acres of land at
Belihuloya for the setting up of this university "there has
been no progress." He maintains that he instead "networks
with people from all over" from the Colpetty address on behalf
of Maharishi Global Administration. "The university is for now
a concept where you network with people all over." he said
admitting, "there is no university per se" nor, have there
ever been any buildings or lecturers conducted.
recently got accepted at the IPM Sri Lanka and functions as
chairman, Media Committee, while also appearing to have convinced
human resources managers at certain banks to involve him in their
human resource development seminars.
banks however, the People's Bank is one example, have politely told
him they are not interested after being warned and duly convinced
that Madurusinghe is nothing but a fraud.
danger individuals like Madurusinghe continue to pose to society is
this. If Madurusinghe is conducting public fee levying seminars at
leading hotels under the patronage of the IPM, in the backdrop of
having been detected forging school and other certificates, then his
discourses on policy management, trauma counselling, organisational
development skills and whatever else that may catch his fancy,
cannot be allowed.
even told us he has recently been involved in training "over
700 people" to trauma counsel tsunami victims. (See box)
IPM, Daya Bollegala maintains he was not aware that Prof.
Madurusinghe had barely three years ago submitted fabricated
educational certificates to the Central Bank and PIM.
mentioned he is an attorney-at-law and there is a document
maintaining he is a registered lawyer. He did submit a GCE O/L
certificate which we did not check for authenticity as his letter of
registration as a lawyer was sufficient for us to give him the
post," Bolegalla said. But Bolegalla maintained that if this
matter is reported, IPM will be compelled to take necessary action.
proved that indeed the educational certificates submitted by Prof.
Madurusinghe are fictitious then we will take necessary
action," the IPM President asserted.
the matter is more complex than that with wider repercussions. Sri
Lanka has many a scam perpetrated. She is a sitting duck for
swindlers, lax and lethargic as government is in its endeavours to
ensure that people abide by the law. The consequences as a result
are drastic. For, at the end of it all our youth will pay a price,
sitting at the feet of self-proclaimed gurus who survive purely by
wit and the gift of the gab.
Sri Lanka, for almost every recognised discipline, a professional
institute or body has been established. Most of them have obtained
incorporation by an act of parliament. As has the IPM of which
Madurusinghe is now an employee. Parliament has encouraged the
establishment and incorporation of such professional institutions
whose objective is to ensure that the particular profession is run
with integrity, transparency and efficiency.
has only to peruse the telephone directory to see a proliferation of
professional institutes in Sri Lanka. For example, there is the
Bankers Institute, Institute for Chartered Accountants, for
surveyors, for insurance, for marketing and management, etc. These
bodies frequently advertise education and training seminars. These
seminars or workshops are mostly held at leading hotels and
participation fees range from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 10,000 per
the participants at such seminars can judge their quality and
effectiveness, they would have no way of knowing the true
qualifications of the speakers at such workshops. They expect and
assume that the speakers are genuine and are as qualified as
advertised or outlined in the seminar/workshop brochures. Therefore,
it is important that all professional institutions that conduct such
seminars are fully aware of the true qualifications of the
staff/speakers conducting the seminars.
is in that context that professional institutions have a
responsibility to the public when they hold workshops/seminars
(especially fee levying ones) to ensure that the speakers/panelists
are genuine persons with a proven track record.
from ethical issues there are also legal consequences. If for
example, it is later found out that one of the speakers/panelists at
such a seminar/workshop did not have the qualifications professed or
had 'bogus' qualifications or was an imposter or cheat, legally the
professional institution promoting such seminar would be liable in
damages to each of the participants. At the very least, the
institutions will have to refund the fee levied; while the
government would also be in a position to take action against the
institution because it is recognised through incorporation by an act
Madurusinghe cries foul...
Madurusinghe for his part claimed that he could not have
entered and passed out of Law College if he did not posses GCE
O/L passes as required. He claimed he was a
"batch-mate" at Law College together with Minister
Rohitha Bogollagama, Secretary, BASL, Anoma Goonetilleke and
High Court Judge, Rohini Perera.
the issue is not whether Madurusinghe passed or failed his
O/Ls and A/Ls. It is to do with the gradings. Three
institutions insist Madurusinghe had on his resume submitted
gradings of the highest order. But Madurusinghe says otherwise
when contacted by us.
is also CEO and managing director of a company called
Intellect. When asked what exactly are the functions and
objectives of Intellect he replied, "Intellect is a
company that deals with leadership development, psycho-mental
testimonies and world educational programmes on organisational
development." He said the training programmes
"target the corporate sector."
is of the view that "professional jealousy" is the
reason why a mud-slinging campaign has been initiated against
him. He believes he is a prime target for jealousy given his
global reputation as well as his many achievements which he
said, include him having authored and published books on
Buddhism and Christianity as well as books on organisational
claimed he never had a testimonial letter issued by Prof. W.
D. Lakshman that if such a letter is around "then it must
have been created by someone else." He added that
"in no country in the world" has he ever made a
statement that "I had anything to do with Prof. W. D.
claims he never took the job at the Central Bank "because
the remuneration package they offered did not meet my
expectations," he said.
drew attention to his membership with varied Western
educational bodies, claiming he is well recognised and
appreciated in the Western world for his intellect and
academic achievements. He further asserted he is a lawyer of
repute "appearing even in the Supreme Court."