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13th March, 2005  Volume 11, Issue  35

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Issues

Tigers exposed through Jeyadevan affair

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

Thearrest, detention, interrogation, duress, coercion, mental torture and criminal misappropriation of property suffered by a......

More...


 Top Issues Stories

> Harrold and the "unofficial state"

> Battle beyond tourism

> Govt. humbled by donor agencies

> Bureaucracy slowing relief work

> Mangala's strategy to sideline Mahinda (....Pot Shots)

> Federalism: the god that failed


Tigers exposed through Jeyadevan affair

Karuna Amman and Batticaloa-Amparai Political wing Leader, Kuveni

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

Thearrest, detention, interrogation, duress, coercion, mental torture and criminal misappropriation of property suffered by a London based Sri Lankan Tamil, Rajasingham Jeyadevan at the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has exposed several fault lines of an organisation claiming to fight for Tamil liberation. The pain and agony undergone by this British resident in the Wanni is all the more pathetic because Jeyadevan was a man who supported the LTTE wholeheartedly in the past and was never found wanting in espousing the Tamil cause. The Rajasingham Jeyadevan affair with its ramifications is indicative of the once proud Tamil liberation struggle deteriorating into opportunistic mafia like gangsterism.

Tussle for power

"Will you come into my parlour," said the spider to the fly in the nursery rhyme. Grown up, mature, man of the world types are enticed into the Tiger lair in the Wanni through attractive incentives. Once in Tiger clutches they are helpless victims as the felines 'play' around with them as cats do to mice in their paws. Jeyadevan was incarcerated and held incommunicado by the Tigers from January 8 till March 9. While suffering mental torture he was not allowed to communicate with his family in London. His father in law passed away in London from a massive heart attack after hearing about the shocking plight of his son in law. The LTTE did not release Jeyadevan even then. Finally appropriate pressure exerted by British authorities on the LTTE succeeded in getting the man released last Wednesday at 2.30 p.m.

Forty nine year old Jeyadevan is an accountant by profession. Though a staunch supporter of the Tigers in Britain, the independent firebrand had fallen foul of LTTE bigwigs in Britain and had been sidelined during recent times from the organisation's activities in London. This had not dampened his spirits and Jeyadevan continued in his own way to serve the Tamil cause and community in Britain.

He had pioneered many Tamil oriented projects in the past. Among these was the Eelap Patheeswarar Sivan temple of which he was the managing trustee. Another of his projects was the Tamil Community Housing Association. Jeyadevan was working full time as its director until recently. Though a diehard LTTE supporter Jeyadevan was viewed by the Tiger leadership in Britain as an 'enemy.'  The LTTE infiltrated the Housing Association board and got Jeyadevan's services terminated. He has filed legal action in this matter.

The Tigers were also keen on getting Jeyadevan out of the temple management. The LTTE has been eying hindu temples in north - east Sri Lanka and abroad for quite some time now as a perennial cash cow. Almost all temples earning reasonable revenue through devotee donations are now paying a regular levy to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The amount differs according to the revenue generating capacity of each temple.

Most Sri Lankan Tamil managed Hindu temples abroad are paying a levy too. In some cases Tiger stooges have taken over the temple management through fair and foul means. There has been resistance to these moves in the case of some temples, resulting in even overt violence and covert intimidation. Ironically, some temple managements resisting Tiger machinations are LTTE supporters too. They object to the LTTE interfering in religion and also to their being ousted from temple control. On the other hand some of the outwardly pro-Tiger people trying to wrest control of temples in the name of the LTTE are neither 'true' Tigers nor 'pious' Hindus. It is very often a tussle for power, position, prestige and of course profit.

Temple trustees

Jeyadevan was the pivotal force in establishing the Eelap Patheeswarar Sivan temple in 2000 at Ealing Road in Wembley, Middlesex. It was he whohad insisted on the "Eela" to be included in the official name as a sign of Eelam patriotism. The temple had become quite popular over the years in spite of 17 Sri Lankan Tamil owned Hindu places of worship existing in Britain. By this time Jeyadevan was out of the LTTE loop in London due to various reasons. He put all his input into developing this temple while claiming to be a Tiger supporter despite the London LTTE hierarchy being estranged from him.

With the Eelap Patheeswarar temple becoming a successful temple the LTTE tried hard to gain control but Jeyadevan with his purported authentic Tiger credentials stood firm. Usually the Tigers brand anyone they don't like or who holds a different opinion or displays some independence as "traitor" and vilify him. They could not do that in the case of Jeyadevan because of his track record. Many people recognised that the attempts to infiltrate the temple and oust Jeyadevan was nothing but a profit motivated exercise for power that had nothing to do with Tamil liberation.

The LTTE did manage to get hold of at least one temple trustee named Sivarajah but found others backing Jeyadevan up solidly. Most of them were ardent Tiger supporters but were opposed to these insidious moves. Finding that this kind of "paruppu" (lentil) will not boil in this type of "thanneer" (water) the London Tigers changed tactics. Instead of blowing hot they started blowing cool. Two persons "Bala" Master and "Paambu" Ajith started cultivating Jeyadevan.

Swallowing bait

'Bala' Master was a German citizen involved in Tiger fund raising there. He had got into some difficulty and was asked to come over to the Wanni. It is said that after some punishment he was rehabilitated. Bala Master then moved to London and began collecting money for the LTTE. "Paambu" (snake) Ajith was a former bodyguard of Tiger Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan who came over to Britain with Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu in 1989. It was suspected then that he had been sent to monitor the erstwhile Jaffna LTTE commander's movements.

Paambu Ajith and Bala Master convinced Jeyadevan that the problems Jeyadevan had with the London LTTE was basically "local" and had nothing to do with the LTTE hierarchy in the Wanni. The Tiger leadership there was very much appreciative of Jeyadevan's patriotism and service to the community. The LTTE supremo himself wanted to meet Jeyadevan personally and iron out differences. If Jeyadevan met the Suryadevan personally all his London centered problems would vanish like the morning dew in sunshine they promised. He could return to London restored to former glory and put all his opponents in their places they suggested. Jeyadevan did not merely nibble the bait but swallowed it fully, hook, line and sinker!

He made arrangements to go to the Wanni in late December. Jeyadevan was to take with him about 8,500 sterling pounds to be donated on behalf of the temple to the Navam Arivukkoodam. This is a rehabilitation project for maimed Tigers run in the name of Lt. Col. Navam who sacrificed his life voluntarily to save Pirapaharan during the IPKF days in the Wanni. Navam, a youth of up country Tamil origin was himself without a whole arm, but managed very efficiently and effectively. Jeyadevan was scheduled to reach Colombo on December 27.

The tsunami on December 26 did not change his plans but Jeyadevan made a special arrangement on behalf of the temple for tsunami relief. It was announced that the temple collection on January 1 would be donated in full to tsunami relief. Jeyadevan proceeded as planned to Colombo on December 27 and stayed withhis sister in law. The Ealing Road temple collected over 15, 000 sterling pounds on new year day. Another trustee and secretary to the temple board, Vivekanandan took this money and reached Colombo on January 3 of this year.

In "prison"

Both Jeyadevan and Vivekanandan are close friends and firm supporters of the LTTE. While Jeyadevan is a British permanent resident but holding a Sri Lankan passport Vivekanandan is a British citizen. He works as a sales assistant. Jeyadevan and Vivekanandan reached Kilinochchi on January 8 morning and met the LTTE official in charge of overseas Tiger branches, Veerakathi Manivannan alias Castro. He is a native of Poligandy and an old student of Hartley College, Point Pedro.

Injured in the Elephant Pass battle of 1991 Castro is paralysed and confined to a wheel chair. His role has increased in scope and power after the 2002 ceasefire. The supervisory role of chief procurer KP has been done away with and Castro is now in sole charge. He exercises control over overseas branches directly through phone, fax, e-mail and personal courier. Castro has removed many old hands and packed the Tiger offices with his own lackeys.

In typical LTTE duplicity, Jeyadevan and Vivekanandan were welcomed profusely. The money they took was handed over officially to the LTTE in two ceremonies where former LTTE international spokesperson and current Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) Planning Director, Lawrence Christie (Thilagar) was present. After a sumptuous lunch both were told that Pirapaharan is awaiting them and led them to a vehicle. They were blindfolded for security purposes- they were told - as the LTTE Leader's whereabouts were top secret. Thrilled at the prospect of seeing their "Sun God" face to face and being blinded by his dazzle the unsuspecting men sped along blindfolded into the trap.

Instead of the Supremo's abode they were taken to what seemed an old, virtually deserted house. They were locked up in fortified, darkened rooms. They were kept in solitary confinement. They were periodically taken out for "interrogation," and made to sleep on the bare floor plagued by rodents and insects - rats, cockroaches, red ants, white ants, lizards, centipedes and scorpions were abundant in the darkened room. Vivekanandan, a vegetarian from childhood was horrified when he saw two dead mice floating in the earthen jar from which he was drinking water. Later a nephew of Vivekanandan working in the LTTE medical unit stood guarantee for his uncle and got Vivekanandan out. He had to present himself regularly for interrogation, but Jeyadevan the chief target, languished in the 'prison.'

Giving in

The interrogation was spearheaded by Castro himself. Jeyadevan was shown a "petition" signed by three people. One was Sivarajah from the temple trust. The other two were Navanayagam and Ramaraj from the housing association. Castro told him that the petition was handed over to him personally by a London based businessman, Mathanarajan. It soon became obvious that the LTTE's objective was to pressurise Jeyadevan into transferring control of his money spinning temple to other Tiger agents in London. The gentle Vivekanandan cracked soon and was willing to relinquish control, but Jeyadevan was made of sterner stuff. After weeks he too gave in.

So Vivekanandan was given power of attorney through a document purportedly drafted by a London solicitor. Another deed also drafted in London transferred ownership and control of the Eeelap Patheeswarar temple to the Sivayogam trust in Tooting, London. This trust originally set up in the name of Sri Lankan Tamil sage Yogar Swamigal was now controlled by Nagendran Seevaratnam on behalf of the LTTE.

In another bizarre twist Seevaratnam happened to be married to Jeyadevan's younger sister. Since that marriage itself was amid controversial circumstances both Seevaratnam and Jeyadevan were estranged and were not on speaking terms. Vivekanandan returned to London with necessary documentation to transfer temple control to Seevaratnam.

The fall and rise of Seevaratnam in LTTE circles makes an interesting study. This native of Myliddy is an accountant too. While working in Nigeria he accompanied Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP of the LTTE on a fund raising campaign in Africa. KP too is from Myliddy. Later Seevaratnam went on a fund raising campaign to the States for the specific purpose of buying anti-aircraft missiles. While Seevaratnam's family was in India the man moved to London. He started the English fortnightly Tamil Voice International (TVI) in London to compete with the independent Tamil Times.

Rising high

This was during the IPKF period. Anton Balasingham, the LTTE political advisor also returned to London during this period. Soon there was an undeclared battle between Balasingham and Seevaratnam to be numero uno Tiger in the UK. The famous intra-Tiger London battle between "Sinna" Kugan and "Periya" Kugan in those days was actually a proxy war between Bala and Seeva. This was resolved when Pirapaharan removed both the Kugans and appointed Segar as London chief. Segar is the brother of "ideas" Vasu, James and Sundari all of them LTTE leaders who died in the conflict.

Seevaratnam also organised two international conferences in London during 1988 and 1989. This writer too presented a paper at the 1989 Conference. Some of the attendees were A. P. Venkateshwaran, P. Upendra, S. Unnikrishnan, N. V. N. Somu, A. Aladi Aruna, Prof. A. J. Wilson, Samantha Datta Ray, Viduthalai Veeramani, etc.When Kittu took over in London he found the TVI magazine a heavy drain on the Tiger purse. He also found Seevaratnam's accounts flawed. Moreover, Seevaratnam was involved romantically with a TVI employee who was half his age while his wife and family remained in Chennai.

The puritanical Pirapa wanted Seevaratnam out because of this. While Kittu was planning to get Seeva out the TVI made a great blunder. Jeya Wilson, the former Oxford Union President and Prof. A. J. Wilson's niece was then writing an "Ask Rani" column for the TVI. Instigated by Seevaratnam a question was posed whether Balasingham had a PhD. She answered with substantiated facts that he did not have one. Until that time everyone was addressing Bala as "Dr Bala." The myth was blown ironically enough in a Tiger journal. This was enough pretext for Kittu. The TVI was stopped and Seevaratnam put in cold storage.

Subsequently, Seevaratnam obtained a divorce and married the girl with whom he had a liaison. She was none other than Jeyadevan's sister. There was no love lost between the brothers in law. While Seevaratnam went off the Tiger radar in London the stock of Jeyadevan was rising high in British Tamil circles. Apart from the Wembley temple, Jeyadevan was also a founding member of the International Federation of Tamils, The Confederation of Tamils, Tamil Refugee Action Council, Tamil Community Housing Association, Kingsbury Tamil School, etc. He was also the administrator of the LTTE English journal The Tamil Guardian. Jeyadevan was then the virtual head of the LTTE supporters in Britain.

Anti-terrorism law

Jeyadevan was also active in Labour Party politics. Till he moved recently to Millhill he was an active member of the party in Brent North. Jeyadevan was closely associated with the sitting MP, Barry Gardiner. It was Jeyadevan who was responsible for getting Gardiner involved in Sri Lankan Tamil affairs. Jeyadevan has also contested local authority elections on the Labour Party ticket and lost.

The family members of Jeyadevan were Tamil nationalists in Jaffna itself. His father Rajasingham was a well-known writer. Their house in Temple Road, Nallur - "Kanthan Karunai" - was a Tiger base in the '80s. The family moved to Navatkuli where Jeyadevan's mother and a younger brother were shot by the Indian Army. His elder brother Dr. Narendran went public with what happened and in an open letter provided full details of that atrocity. It is said that Jeyadevan became a full fledged Tiger supporter after that tragedy.

Jeyadevan was of great service to Anton and Adele Balasingham when the couple left Sri Lanka in 1999 and were stranded in South East Asia without passports or visas. It was Jeyadevan who used his 'pull' with the British establishment and got new passports and other documents for both. They were able to relocate to London and obtain medical treatment mainly due to Jeyadevan's efforts. Relations between Balasingham and Jeyadevan soured as the latter being a "Vanangaamudi" (unbowed head) refused to be sycophant of Bala "Annai." Another problem was that the scrupulously honest Jeyadevan was having friction with A. C. Shanthan, the LTTE man in charge of finances in London. Balasingham and Shanthan got on famously.

Around this time occurred another incident that shocked Tamil circles in London. The British government was about to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act. Jeyadevan and another lawyer, Neminathan wanted to challenge that law and ban on LTTE legally. But unknown to them Balasingham had made a clandestine deal with the British authorities. There would be no crackdown on the LTTE in Britain if the Tigers closed down their offices including the international secretariat formally and adopted a low key presence. The Tigers should not contest the anti-terrorism law or ban. Balasingham fearful of being targeted first if London did come down hard on the Tigers agreed to play along.

Trouble in London

Jeyadevan and others went ahead with their plans. This put Balasingham in a fix. He intervened and asked Jeyadevan to stop the legal challenge plan without divulging the real reasons. This resulted in an intense argument. Balasingham began scolding Jeyadevan in filth. Shocked beyond belief Jeyadevan responded by drafting a letter outlining what had happened including Balasingham's recourse to profanity. He circulated it among Tamil circles in Britain, Europe and also sent it to the Wanni. No action was taken against Balasingham, but LTTE circles abroad particularly the educated professionals were shocked. Balasingham was furious and began blacklisting Jeyadevan from LTTE activity . He was aided by Shanthan in this.

The next turn in this sordid game of byzantine intrigue was Seevaratnam coming out of the woodwork to patch up with Balasingham. Both forgot their old enmity and closed ranks against their common foe Jeyadevan in true "Panchathanthra" style. Balasi- ngham needed a counterfoil to Jeyadevan. Seevaratnam wanted rehabilitation and also an opportunity to avenge himself against his brother in law who had hurt him immeasurably in personal relations. Seevaratnam also had a close relationship with Castro who was at one time tipped to be his future son in law. With Castro gaining greater power over overseas branches after the ceasefire and mending fences with Balasingham, Seevaratnam was now getting ready to take on Jeyadevan. This led to the next round of intra-Tiger strife in London.

(To be continued next week)


Harrold and the "unofficial state"

 Much heat has been generated over the statement made by World Bank Country Director, Peter Harrold, to a Sunday newspaper last week.

Harrold was quoted in the interview as saying that the LTTE has an "unofficial state." Subsequently in a statement Harrold claimed he was quoted out of context. The journalist who did the interview with Harrold from The Sunday Times, Tyronne Devota, when contacted by The Sunday Leader to ascertain if he stands by the story said "no comment."

Following the original report, the JVP called for the ouster of Harrold from Sri Lanka while Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, who just the previous week invited India to get involved in Sri Lanka also condemned Peter Harrold's statement.

On Friday (11), The Sunday Times announced it would carry Harrold's interview in full in its Sunday issue prompting the World Bank in Colombo to post the controversial parts of the interview on the bank's website in a bid to substantiate Harrold's claim that he never used the words "unofficial state" together with a personal note.

We produce below in full Peter Harrold's statement and a transcript of the disputed part of the interview as posted on the World Bank website. 

World Bank does not recognise "unofficial state" in LTTE controlled areas 

I deeply regret any offense or misunderstanding caused by the published version of the interview I gave to the Sunday Times which appeared on March 6, 2005. The Sunday Times reported that I used the phrase "a kind of unofficial state." Regarding World Bank policy toward the LTTE, I stand by my previous statement that I never used the phrase "unofficial state." Rather, what I said was ".an official statement" while discussing the government's LTTE policy.

I do not regard the LTTE-controlled areas as an unofficial state, nor does the World Bank.

Upon further review of our recording of the interview, it is clear that a reasonable person could have misunderstood me. I am sorry I did not speak more clearly, but I am sure about what I said, and I think that when it is heard in its context, it becomes clear that I have not said anything that is out of line with current government policy.

In the interest of full disclosure I have asked our staff to place an unedited excerpt of the interview on our website so that people may judge for themselves. The interview can be played by clicking on the following link: http://www.worldbank.org/lk.

The World Bank works directly with sovereign governments. We have a long-held partnership with the government of Sri Lanka, and we act in accordance with their policies.

I sincerely hope that we can put this situation behind us so that we can focus on the urgent tasks of rebuilding the nation after the tsunami disaster, and fighting poverty in Sri Lanka, for all Sri Lankans.

Peter Harrold
Country Director for Sri Lanka

Excerpts of the interview on the World Bank website 

You say that the bank will be participating with other development partners including the LTTE. What does that mean?

We have always regarded the LTTE as a key stakeholder. I've often been roasted by various members of the press - and no doubt will again - after you print this interview. But there are various members of the press and, for example, of the Patriotic National Movement who have regarded the fact that we have - wish - to have conversations with - and consultations with the LTTE as inappropriate. We have, regarded - given that there is such a thing as the LTTE-controlled area - that's an official statement - you know, an officially recognised part of this country is the LTTE-controlled area; given that they are a party to a Cease-Fire Agreement with the government of Sri Lanka, which confers on them a certain status as a legitimate stakeholder; and given that many of the poorest people in Sri Lanka happen to reside within the Wanni area, the area controlled or influenced by the LTTE, we've always regarded them as a group who were a legitimate stakeholder, with whom it was not only appropriate but actually critical that we had a dialogue as we designed programmes of activity that would actually physically take place within the area under their influence.

And anybody that thinks - anybody that anybody including the government itself can successfully carry out activities in the north east without having a dialogue with the LTTE and without bringing them in as a stakeholder, a stakeholder, that's just naivet‚. The government agents carry out activity all the time and of course have a constant dialogue with the LTTE. How on earth is the GA for Mullaithivu or for Kilinochchi to exist: it can't be done, they're surrounded. And they can simply be prevented from effectiveness if they don't have a dialogue with the LTTE.

But what this statement does not imply is that we have changed the way that we transfer financial resources. It does not mean we are embarking on a programme of transferring financial resources to the LTTE, because we have not been asked to do that by the government of Sri Lanka, nor would I expect them to ask us to do that. The question, the more, shall we say, difficult, challenging question will be what happens if there is a joint financing mechanism approved and what will be the nature of that joint financing mechanism. That remains to be seen whether the government and the LTTE will come to an agreement on that.

 Until then you're working through the GA

Till then we work through the GA and the North-East Provincial Council, as we always have.

That's for the transfer of funds. But there's some much in this document, like income support - you know - when you say that you are including them also as a key stakeholder in this whole tsunami relief operation would it mean you would go by their statistics?

Well they don't really have statistics, because the LTTE tends to go by government statistics. I mean we don't go by anyone's statistics without verifying them. But do we ask them for their estimates? Absolutely. Did we ask the LTTE for their estimates of the damage? Absolutely we did and that's fine.

You said there was a figure of would be around what is it - $60 million

For housing. $65 million.

How much of that will go into the north and east?

Probably close to three-quarters - something over 70%.

Seventy percent is going to north and east.

Yeah.

Obviously.ah you see because (laughs).

The provision of support has to be driven by needs not by politics. This is a human disaster and a capital disaster.


Battle beyond tourism 

Anura Bandaranaike and Udaya Nanayakkara

By Frederica Jansz 

A behind the scenes drama unfolded in the making of a television documentary titled Beyond Beaches, an initiative of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board to promote alternative tourism after the tsunami.

The one hour television documentary produced on the instructions of the Tourist Board to woo foreign tourists has been documented with images of minority communities and practices given the chop in order to favour a majoritarian image, portraying the island as a Sinhala Buddhist state.

No ethnic harmony

It is not that the documentary does not feature other ethnic minority communities. It does. The issue is how and in what context. Muslims have been depicted only in visiting a mosque and Tamils in traditional dance form at Kataragama and the Vel festival.

A very senior official from the Tourism Ministry speaking on grounds of anonymity said the one hour video does nothing to promote ethnic harmony or depict Sri Lanka as being multi ethnic with a harmonious mingling of cultures. Instead, the emphasis is on a Sinhala Buddhist state with Sinhala Buddhist traditions and practices taking precedence.

The Tourism Ministry and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board have long been at loggerheads over the marketing of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination ever since the two institutions came under ex brothers-in-law Anura Bandaranaike who is Tourism Minister and Udaya Nanayakkara, Chief of the Tourist Board. 

Ministry officials confided that the video was edited by Wrap Factory, a privately owned television production company, but, was compiled by a three member team comprising of Marketing Director, Tourist Board, Malraj Kiriella, President, Eco Tourism Foundation, Palitha Gurusinghe, and Vilja from the international non governmental organisation GTZ. This group directed and decided on the contents of the documentary. GTZ funded the multi million rupee documentary.

Beyond Beaches was planned to project Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami as possessing a variety of alternative tourist attractions. The video is being launched at the International Tourism Exchange festival in Berlin which is being held from March 11 to 15.

The objective of the documentary is to depict Sri Lanka's cultural triangle, ancient cities, wildlife parks, adventure sports and ayurvedic practices with a focus on eco tourism as all being viable and lucrative tourist destinations. In short, alternative tourist attractions to Sri Lanka's sun kissed beaches which image in the aftermath of the tsunami has taken a severe beating failing to lure or convince tourists in large numbers that the beaches are indeed safe to visit.

Pottu out

Television images worldwide showing images of utter devastation on a third of Sri Lanka's coastline since December 26 has largely contributed to this dilemma. A dilemma for both the Tourism Ministry and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

But the issue for officials at the Tourism Ministry is that the television documentary while focusing on heritage and culture has a very significant thrust towards portraying the island as a Sinhala Buddhist country with a definite attempt to eclipse scenes of the Tamil and Muslim culture.

One angry Tourist Board official commented, "its worse than the tsunami - talk about a tectonic shot." He added that at a glance if one were not aware of what took place before the documentary was finalised the insidious attempt to project Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist country would not perhaps figure.

He revealed how the steering committee chaired by Malraj Kiriella ordered that certain "scenes" be chopped and changed to ones that did not lay emphasis on Tamil and Muslim culture.

One example of the hatchet job began with a scene depicting a Sri Lankan woman clad in cloth and jacket with a "pottu" on her forehead descending Sri Pada. This clip was removed. Sri Pada is now depicted minus the woman with the offending pottu.

Minorities sidelined

Another shot of kottu roti being made next to rasa kavili was also removed after the Tourist Board protested that it gives the wrong impression of the country as kottu roti is a "Muslim food," and rasa kavili "a sacred food item" associated with Sinhala Buddhist cultural values. But the documentary does carry an image of kottu roti being made, but not immediately after images of rasa kavili are shown. Food, in this documentary has now assumed an ethic flavour.

Another clip depicting a Tamil man dressed in saffron robes with a pottu on his head praying inside a Catholic Church was also removed. The church is shown but the Tamil man, saffron robes, pottu and all was banished from the scene.

The Tourist Board had further insisted that a Buddhist temple precede the segment on religions in Sri Lanka before that of any other religious practices. Thus, a Buddhist temple precedes this segment which is followed by images of a kovil, mosque and church. Minus, images of any harmonious blending of ethnic groups in places of worship.

The Tourist Board had also insisted that the Sinhala New Year take centre stage in the video with Sinhala Buddhist children portrayed worshipping their parents and having oil put on their heads. When pointed out that the Sinhala New Year includes New Year festivities for the Tamil population too and should be featured thus, the Tourist Board had discarded such suggestions as not being necessary to portray. Not a single Burgher or Malay custom or persons have been depicted.

The production house may not have had visuals of Burghers and Malays. When we contacted Wrap Factory for verification and comment they refused asserting that they could not jeopardise professional ethics or contractual obligations.

Video in Berlin

But the fact remains as pointed out by officials at the Tourism Ministry that the Tourist Board never even attempted to portray these two communities. The existence of a Burgher and a Malay community in Sri Lanka did not even figure at a single meeting the steering committee held.

When we contacted Director Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Malraj Kiriella, he aggressively insisted we name our source who had revealed details of this documentary while it had been in the making. When we refused to do so he said, "I totally deny it. This video gives an alternative product beyond beaches which includes heritage, culture, nature, eco tourism, ayurveda to modern health facilities, lifestyle and numerous sports activities including adventure sports." Kiriella added all segments in the documentary have been well portrayed as multi ethnic and multi cultural.

The documentary we reliably learn is now complete and already in Berlin to be screened at the ITB festival this weekend.

When The Sunday Leader requested to view the  documentary the newspaper was told by wrap Factory there was an embargo on the film and the newspaper could not be allowed to view it.


Govt. humbled by donor agencies

Country Head, World bank, Peter harrold

By Frederica Jansz

For all its loud rhetoric on national policy based on a nationalistic approach toward rebuilding Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami, the UPFA government has dismayingly bowed hook, line and sinker to the dictates of foreign donor agencies. 

Government agents in tsunami affected districts as well as in other districts in the north and east in an operation called phase two to rebuild devastated areas as well as promulgate human rights, governance, economic infrastructure, conflict and gender sensitivity issues, have to tow the line and report not to the government-led TAFREN but to foreign lending agencies and their representatives. TAFREN too, according to a document clearly outlining the work details and composition of teams, has to fall in line.

This document clearly identifies specific donor agencies for each sector of TAFREN activity, which the public have been made to believe would be government-controlled. But the ground reality is to be anything but, as international lending agencies are to effectively control and manage key state sector areas.

Follow instructions

The sectors are disaster response, education, environment, finance, fisheries, health, housing, livelihoods, power, railways, roads, tourism, water and sanitation.

For each and every one of these areas, a foreign donor agency has been appointed as head of numerous teams with whom government agents will have to work and follow instructions. This includes TAFREN representatives.

For instance, the railways sector where the government will have to report to the ADB. In relation to tourism the state has to report and discuss all matters in relation to tourism with USAID. Water and sanitation is to be completely managed and controlled by JBIC.

Fisheries will be overlooked and supervised by the Netherlands, finance by GTZ and the ADB, health by JICA and the World Health Organisation, housing by the World Bank, roads will come under the ADB and livelihoods are to be handled and controlled by the ILO and the World Bank. Education is to come under UNICEF, disaster response under the UNDP and capacity building also under the UNDP.

TAFREN has absolutely no lead role to play.  Neither does any other government agency or state official.

Lead players

These agencies are funding the rebuilding and rehabilitation of these sectors.  As stake-holders, they will by no stretch of imagination function as silent partners. In fact a note addressed to other foreign donor partners by Country Head, World Bank, Peter Harrold, clearly indicates the allocation of responsibilities to varying sections of the international lending community and their very defining role as lead players.

A support and advisory team who will function out of Colombo overseeing the other teams functioning at district level is to be led by Brian Smith at the Asian Development Bank. The government, in this 14 member key core group, is represented by just one member -Rachel Perera from TAFREN. 

Another group identified as 'Team 1' to coordinate policy and rehabilitation work in Jaffna is to be led by Joe Williams of Canadian CIDA. Jaffna Government Agent, K. Ganesh as well as Monty Ranatunge from the Ministry of Triple R and other officials from state departments will all have to report to William.

'Team 2' for Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu is being led by Abhiyan Jung Rana of UNICEF. Here too, Mullaitivu Additional GA, Shanmugalingam, Jayamohanandan from the Ministry of Triple R, Jayantha W. Ratnayake from the Ministry of Fisheries and Kilinochchi Project Director Sriskandavel have to all report to UNICEF.

'Team 3' is to cover all state activities in Trincomalee. The chief of this team to whom the government must report and follow is to be Martin Stuerzinger from the Swiss Embassy. Trincomalee Additional GA Singarajah, Jayawickrema from the Fisheries Ministry, Dr. Ibrahim from the Health Services Ministry and Gamage from Samurdhi are some of the government officials who must coordinate all work under the supervision of the Swiss Embassy.

'Team 4' is to oversee all government activity in Batticaloa. This team is to be led by Manjula Amerasinghe at the ADB. Director, TAFREN, Kaushal Rajapaksha, Assistant Commissioner, Local Government, Dayabaran Jeyanathan from the National Housing Development Authority and Municipal Commissioner, Navaneethan are to all report to Amerasinghe at the Asian Development Bank.

'Team 5' will cover Ampara and is to be led by Ramraj Narasimhan of the UNDP. Naufer from the Pottuvil Divisional Secretariat, Najeeb from the District Land Use Planner, Director Planning, Bawa and Lalantha Seneviratne from the NWSDB are the government officials who will come under the supervision and instructions of the UNDP and its partner organisations in this district, which include JBIC, JICA, and the Foundation for Co-Existence.

Southern teams

'Team 6' will cover Hambantota with USAID, UNDP and UNICEF functioning as the "external stakeholders" to whom the varying government departments will report and under whom they will function.

'Team 7' has been composed to oversee all government functions in Matara. This team is led by Agnes Mendis of CIDA and will function in partnership with Sumith Pilapitiya at the World Bank. Here too, all government officials including Yudish Omprasadam from TAFREN will report and follow instruction given by CIDA and the World Bank.

Galle is to be covered by 'Team 8' led by Princess Ventura at the World Bank, Dr. Ahaya Tissera at World Health Organisation and Hideaki Matsuoka at UNICEF.

'Team 9' will cover Kalutara, Colombo, Gampaha and Puttalam, and is led by Tom Beloe at DFID.  The other external stakeholders are the UNDP and WHO. All divisional secretariats including government agents and  government appointed project directors working in the four identified districts will have to report to and work under the supervision of these three foreign donor agencies.


Bureaucracy slowing relief work 

By Amantha Perera 

Kasumathi Thangamani's memories of the tsunami are similar to those of countless others all over Sri Lanka. The suddenly crashing waves and obliteration of life as it was ten minutes before.

"Now it's all gone, the waves came and I ran, and now nothing is here," the 43-year old told The Sunday Leader squatting on what was left of her house on the beach in Panichchankerni, Batticaloa.

If it is any consolation, hers was but one of 75,300 houses that were smashed by the waves, according to the Department of Census and Statistics. The chances of the figure reaching 100,000 are a very real possibility given that the department's figure does not tabulate the destruction in the Wanni under the control of the LTTE.

The LTTE said that a sum of US $ 336 million would be needed to repair the damages in the north east inclusive of the districts of Jaffna, Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. A report by the LTTE Planning and Development  Secretariat, titled 'Post Tsunami Reconstruction - North East Needs Assessment' said that in Mullaitivu, 5433 houses were fully or partially destroyed and in Kilinochchi the figure was 246.

Government package

Of the 75,300 houses that were damaged by the waves, 42,308 can not be repaired. Two weeks back the government announced that it would pay a total package of Rs. 750,000 per house, inclusive of loans to rebuild houses. If the calculation is right, then the government would have to be ready to accommodate an expenditure of Rs 31.5 billion for housing costs alone. The advertisement said that the government would provide Rs. 100,000 per partially damaged house and Rs. 250,000 per fully damaged house.

The government advertisement said that "'the proposed houses will be located in urban and rural settlements which will be provided with infrastructure such as electricity, water, sanitation, recreation facilities and road systems." The government also said that it will build houses to the extent of 500 square feet free of charge. All these would be added expenditure on top of what was announced.

That is a massive  undertaking and it is just part of the deal. There are 33,330 houses that were damaged but which have been declared repairable, the costs for the repairs would have to be borne or at least facilitated by the government if they go above the Rs. 100,000 mark.

The longer the displaced remain in temporary camps, higher the costs for their upkeep. According to relief workers, most cannot think of regaining any employment till the housing issue is taken care of. Those like Pradeep Thilan of Tangalle say that they can only think of work on the beach where they worked as fishermen. But the government ruling on the 100 metre buffer zone has meant that his future remains in limbo.

A survey carried out by the World Food Programme and the International Labour Organisation in January found that only 1% of the households in the tsunami affected areas were now depending on fisheries for income. Before December 26, 2004 it was 37%.

Focus on health and sanitation

At the camps, the health and sanitary situation needs constant attention, according to the latest assessment reports compiled by UN agencies. The findings of a joint survey conducted by UNICEF, WFP and the Medical Research Institute show that despite the lack of disease, alarm bells are ringing in the camps.

The survey found -

More than two-thirds of under five year olds were suffering from acute respiratory infections and nearly one in five children had diarrhoeal diseases;

While latrines were generally available in the camps, they were used by only 25% of the population which is made up of displaced from fishing communities with a low tradition of latrine use;

Although the general food distribution for adults is adequate, children do not get appropriate supplementary food;

Triposha - a blended food rich in micronutrients is only available to 14% of children under five years old. Corn Soya Blend although available with WFP in adequate quantities at the national level, has not yet been distributed due to logistical delays and the need for WFP to train health workers in distribution and monitoring;

Although Vitamin A capsules are readily available in the country, only 23% of children received Vitamin A supplements.

It also said that 16% of the children in camps suffered from malnutrition, up from a national figure of 14%. "The prevalence of acute malnutrition in the east (19.8%) and west (18.1%) were higher compared to the north (12.7%) and south (12.8%)."

Schools and infrastructure

The WFO said that it would be adding a further 120,000 children to the school nutrition programme. Children receive a snack while at school under the programme, which  covered  160,000 children before the tsunami. "WFP will begin distributing corn-soya blended food to 200,000 "vulnerable group" members and to 112,000 mothers and infants. In May or June, WFP will assist 277,000 people to rebuild roads and other local infrastructure in the affected areas, the WFP said last week.

UNICEF also said that there was a need to look at the supply of drinking water and latrine facilities in the Districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Galle on the basis of 100 litres per day for a family and one latrine per 20 persons. In Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee the supply was below 50 litres per family while in Galle it was 65 litres.

Ironically the agency reported that there has been a proliferation of latrines in camps in Jaffna, Trincomalee, and Mullaitivu (one per every two families) leading to fears of ground water pollution.

Ninety seven health facilities were either fully or partially damaged in the tsunami. Of that 42 were completely damaged and 45 partially damaged. According to statistics maintained by the Health Ministry the preliminary assessments, a total of Rs. 67 billion would be needed to restore the damaged health facilities. The health sector also suffered loss of medicine and equipment. "The total loss of consumables and non-consumables can be estimated as Rs. 172,939,407 or US $ 1.73 million. Damages to the consumables and the non-consumables in the affected government health institutions need to be rectified," a report titled Restoration Of Health Facilities Destroyed by Tsunami 9.0, released by the Ministry said.

The LTTE report said that US $ 55 million was needed for the repair and reconstruction of health facilities in the north east.

One hundred and eighty schools were damaged by the waves, according to UNICEF which has undertaken the repair of 17 such schools.

"A second batch of school supplies has been ordered and will be delivered in the coming weeks. Orders have been made for an additional 3,000 desks and 7,000 chairs. An order has also been made for 175,000 metres of white school uniform material. This material together with the blue material already in stock (used for boys' shorts and trousers) will be enough to stitch uniforms for approximately 100,000 additional children. UNICEF has already provided uniform material for an estimated 107,000 children," UNICEF situation report for February 28 said.

School attendance fair

UNICEF however assessed that school attendance in the affected areas were satisfactory other than in Jaffna. "In the UNICEF report of February 21, attendance was estimated at 70% in Batticaloa, 80% in Hambantota, 80% in Matara, and 90% in the non-affected schools and 55% in the relocation sites of Jaffna. This week, UNICEF reports school attendance at around 80% for Akkaraipattu and Kalmunai zones in the Ampara District. In Galle, attendance has increased to 80%."

The government three weeks back started  strictly monitoring the work of NGOs and applying customs duty on supplies. The latest United  Nations Joint  Logistics Centre Bulletin said that bureaucracy was slowing down relief work. "All humanitarian agencies continue to experience delays in clearing relief commodities through customs at Bandaranaike International Airport and Colombo Port. According to government sources it has been forced to impose the usual duties on commodities consigned to NGOs to prevent misuse of aid flowing into the country by local businesses, trying to bring in goods for commercial use disguised as tsunami aid. The UNHCR, together with other UN agencies, has approached the government to push for a swift resolution of the matter," the bulletin said.

While the government has moved to monitor the NGOs and other agencies which appear to be carrying out the bulk of the relief and reconstruction work, it is yet to tabulate the nationwide figures of the tsunami damage.

The WFO has had to readjust its operation schedule due to slack work carried out by the government. "The government is still in the process of registering tsunami affected people and has issued more cash/food coupons to the affected population (bringing the total issued so far to about 950,000). Discussions with the government have been initiated to resolve the situation, as WFP is concerned that not all registered people are in need of food aid.

"As the government is unlikely to be able to resolve the situation in the immediate term, WFP will most likely not be able to shift to targeted recovery activities before May 2005," the WFP's latest report said. 

Kalmunai fisherfolk take  matters into their own hands 

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema 

CONFUSION reigns supreme in Kalmunai, the worst affected from the December 26, 2004 tsunami, over the 200-metre buffer zone.

People of Kalmunai last week staged a protest on the delay in setting up temporary shelters - which did not include tents - and the building of houses 200 metres from the coastline.

A group of displaced persons blocked roads and cooked on the main highway as a mark of protest against the government's lethargy in delivering aid to the worst affected areas.

The fisherfolk in the area, which forms a majority of the eastern coastal population have expressed their concern over being relocated, due to the impact it would have on their livelihoods.

During last week's protest, the people in Kalmunai handed several proposals to the Ampara government agent (GA) in a bid to find solutions to some of their grievances.

GA, Ampara, H. M. Herath Abeyweera observed that most of the proposals forwarded by the protesting villagers were reasonable and acceptable.

Abeyweera told The Sunday Leader that the main proposal handed over to him by the protesters was to locate the houses of the fishermen immediately after the 200-metre boundary.

He explained that the fishermen have accepted the buffer zone, but have requested for priority when allocating the newly constructed houses on the buffer boundary.

According to the GA, the others will be housed in a nearby marshland.

However, he noted that according to regulations, temporary buildings like tents and shacks are permitted to be put up on the coastline within the buffer zone.

This regulation has further compounded matters for the fishermen as they do not know the government's definition of a temporary structure.

Abeyweera said that fishermen could put up huts for their ice storage rooms. According to Mohideen Ajmal who owns a fish stall in Kalmunai right by the beach, he is yet to be informed as to whether his stall is considered a temporary shelter or a permanent one.

Apart from the buffer zone and the temporary structures, his grievances also included the delay in receiving aid promised by the government.

"Fishermen in Kalmunai are yet to receive aid from the government," he said. Ajmal pointed out that most of the fishermen in the area have returned to their livelihoods by obtaining personal loans.

"They waited for more than two months and since they did not get any help from the government, they have taken loans to get back on their feet," he said.

Abeyweera reiterating that the grievances of the fishermen were reasonable, said that he had requested the villagers to form a forum with a leader in order to streamline communication with the authorities.


Tsunami scorecard 

Total number of affected people:  950,000

Total number of houses completely destroyed:  27,870 (excluding  the Wanni)

Total number of houses damaged and can not be repaired:  14,438 (excluding the Wanni)

Total number of houses where damages can be repaired:  33,330 (excluding the Wanni)

Total number of houses damaged or destroyed in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts (Wanni):  5679

Total number of schools in need of repair : 187

Total number of health facilities completely destroyed:  42

Total number of health facilities partially destroyed:  47 

Source : UN/government agencies, LTTE


Mangala's strategy to sideline Mahinda

It could be said that events that unfolded on the political stage last week will decide the fate of things to come in the next few months. Much of what took place had little to do with any of the opposition parties and was confined to the already fiery conflict within the UPFA government.

This column last week revealed how the battle between the two UPFA presidential aspirants was hotting up, with Tourism Minister and First Brother Anura Bandaranaike calling together SLFP organisers and members of the Gampaha District and having them demand that a Bandaranaike be named the SLFP's presidential candidate. Since then, the conflict between Bandaranaike and Premier Mahinda Rajapakse has only been getting worse.

The SLFP's youth convention was held on March 2. It was one of the most successful in the party's history, and the Maharagama Youth Council auditorium was filled to capacity with young men and women. As soon as Prime Minister Rajapakse entered the premises, the entire gathering exploded with applause for the popular politician, who was also to be presented with an award for his service to the SLFP.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga arrived much later. As soon as the Premier's name was announced on the public address system as the recipient of this special award, the meeting erupted again with applause, cheers and whistles for Rajapakse. As Rajapakse came up to accept his award from President Kumaratunga, she leaned over and said - "Now they are whistling at you also." The Premier just smiled and kept mum. No doubt the weight of her words were not lost on Rajapakse, given the conflict within the SLFP about who was to be nominated the party's next presidential candidate.

Exactly two days later (March 4), President Kumaratunga summoned all SLFP district leaders to President's House. The first issue to be discussed at the meeting was the restructuring of the SLFP. As if planned beforehand, Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera brought an urgent motion before those gathered, as a result of which the entire tone of the meeting changed.

Minister Samaraweera's point was that it was useless restructuring the party or holding conventions unless the most pressing decisions facing the party were made. After those decisions are made, how to restructure the party can be discussed, he said. "There are two huge issues the party is facing today. That is whether or not we are going to field a candidate for the next presidential poll and whether we are going to change the constitution. If we are going to change the constitution, how is that going to be done and when? If we are nominating a candidate on the other hand, it has to be done immediately. There is no point talking about anything else without sorting these two matters out first," the Minister said.

All eyes had by now turned on Prime Minister Rajapakse. Unable to fully grasp what was about to happen, Rajapakse too began to look around helplessly. Even the President, perhaps unaware that such a topic was to be raised at this forum, said nothing.

The only ones to raise their voices at all were Colombo District Organiser Mervyn Silva and Samurdhi Minister Pavithra Wanniaarachi. "The President has to stay in power! She must also be the leader of the party! We don't want a presidential election! Let's change the constitution and make her prime minister," they yelled almost in tandem. Samaraweera joined in to say that whatever was going to be done had to be done soon and therefore plans had to be made. He said that during the SLFP executive committee meeting on March 11, decisions had to be taken on the matter and put into action as soon as possible.

Even Anura Bandaranaike who has made no bones about his presidential aspirations called for the abolition of the executive presidency at the meeting. Interrupting all these tirades were the Premier. "I am in no way opposed to the abolition of the presidency. But it has to be done in a way that is acceptable to the people. Otherwise we won't be able to walk on the roads in peace. We gathered the civil society organisations together and called for the abolition of the presidency. Having done that, we forgot about all those who had rallied around us when we made this call and went on a political journey all our own. So if we're going to do this now, it must be made very clear to the people that we are not doing it for some petty political gain," Rajapakse pointed out.

He added that if the executive presidency was to be abolished at all, it should be done only in the interest and at the behest of the people of this country. "It can't be done just because someone is in a hurry," the Premier said.

Oddly, President Kumaratunga agreed with Rajapakse. "The Prime Minister is right. Proposals should not be made and approved in a hurry," the President said, adding that if the presidency was to be abolished, discussions with civil society organisations beforehand were imperative. Despite the somewhat anti-climactic ending to the discussions that day, the events at President's House that day only further fuelled the existing controversy regarding the forthcoming presidential poll and the SLFP's candidate for that election. 

SLFP Blues

According to the constitution of the SLFP, before the party convention is held, its executive committee has to meet and confirm proposals and recommendations to be presented at the convention. Therefore it was decided that the proposals to be presented at the SLFP convention on Friday, March 11 be confirmed at the ex-co meeting to be held beforehand.

As usual, President Chandrika Kumaratunga held several rounds of discussions prior to the convention. The aim of these discussions was to ensure that proposals about abolishing the executive presidency and changing the constitution would be approved by the party at large at the convention. The proposals were to be presented in order to avoid the issue of naming a presidential candidate at the convention.

However, many of the ministers close to the President told her that if she stuck with tradition and called an ex-co meeting, there was a good chance that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's name would be nominated and confirmed as the SLFP's next presidential candidate. They told the President that if such a nomination took place, it would be difficult to control the situation or avoid it in any way. And so President Kumaratunga decided on Monday (7) to break with tradition and hold the convention without having an ex-co meeting beforehand and informed SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena of her decision. 

CBK's move for a referendum

It seems that everytime the President addresses a public gathering these days, the political arena is shaken to its core. Last week was no different. Speaking at the SLFP's Women's Day meeting on Tuesday (8), President Chandrika Kumaratunga informed the gathering that a referendum was on the cards.

The President said at the meeting that the referendum should be held in order to ascertain the peoples' views on a federal solution to the ethnic conflict. But it had several people questioning the hidden motives of holding such a referendum for various lesser known reasons.

Political analysts and observers are beginning to venture various opinions as to why the President wants to call a referendum at this juncture. Political insiders say that the referendum is part of a far more elaborate political plan.

A few days before she made the speech, President Kumaratunga summoned several ministers and legal experts to President's House. She inquired from them how they should go about changing the constitution. They responded that while the executive presidency should be abolished, a referendum at this point would be detrimental, since it would give the people the impression that the President and her government were merely power-hungry. The best method, the legal experts advised, was to subtly get the UNP also to support moves to abolish the presidency.

The legal experts were of the opinion that the referendum if held, should be based on the question of whether a federal system was an acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict, while the issue of the abolition of the presidency should be weaved in as a secondary issue. They said that after this was done and the Supreme Court consulted, the constitution could be appropriately changed.

It was based on this advice that the President fired her first referendum salvo on March 8, causing heated debate and controversy in various political circles. Now the issue on everybody's mind is what the President's next move is going to be. Several political parties began discussions on her statement. The UNP decided that if the issue of abolishing the presidency was woven into the federal system issue at a referendum, the people should be mobilised against this move. The JVP meanwhile, which has remained stoically against a federal solution, decided that if a referendum was called seeking the approval of the people, the party should defeat the motion from within the government and then oust President Kumaratunga from the UPFA. 

Kadi's pledge to sideline Norway

Although even the UNP met to discuss the President's latest statement about a referendum, the decisions reached at the JVP's politburo meeting proved the most crucial. JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe chaired the meeting held on Wednesday (9) which included members of the JVP's central committee as well.

At the meeting, Amarasinghe made a special announcement about the state of the conflict between the JVP and President Kumaratunga. "We have not got an appointment to meet the President at all. So we decided to deal with Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar who helped us so much to form the alliance," Amarasinghe said, introducing the Foreign Minister as the JVP's champion from now on. He said that although the President was on a different tack, Kadirgamar was doing a great job as foreign minister. Amarasinghe added that the results dealing with Kadirgamar was yielding were also good.

"Tilvin, Kadirgamar and I met and had long discussions. He gave us a guarantee that Norway would not be allowed to continue in its role in the peace process. That's not all, he said that he would in no way allow for the peace process to proceed in a manner that goes against the UPFA's original policies."

Amarasinghe continued to detail Kadirgamar's virtues. "If Kadirgamar says something he keeps his word. Today the President is like an outdated coin. Remember that her term is ending soon too. Whatever statements she makes, if we make sure that the mechanisms required to implement those policies are defunct, her hands will be tied. If we do this right, her big plans will be merely confined to words," Amarasinghe explained. The JVP Leader added that the JVP had no cause to fear losing control of governance right now. The only foreseeable problem, he said was if the President dissolved parliament in April or holds a referendum. "There is nothing else the President can do," Amarasinghe added saying further that since the JVP had begun restructuring in anticipation of her attacks on them, there was nothing to fear from her.

The JVP Leader went on to say that the coming months will prove crucial for the country and the JVP. He advised his party cadres to act with responsibility at this time. Amarasinghe said that without taking any notice of the President as either the Head of State or the leader of the UPFA, the JVP should work as a party, he suggested, a recommendation that was immediately ratified by the politburo. But on Thursday, March 10, the President having got wind of the developments, instructed Kadirgamar not to have any more official meetings with the JVP.

Mangala - Dilan battle hots up

The battle between Media Minister Mangala Samaraw- eera and Deputy Minister Dilan Perera has been a peripheral conflict in the overall UPFA crisis. Last week, this column highlighted the beginnings of this cold war between Samaraweera and Perera, once staunch allies.

A Sinhala weekly in an article published last weekend criticised Deputy Minister Perera so severely that the Deputy Ministers' Forum decided to hold an inquiry into the matter. Having seen the article, Perera called up the President immediately. He informed Kumaratunga that since the article was highly suspicious, he would be looking into it.

The Deputy Ministers' Forum soon found out details about the publication of the derogatory article. The forum submitted a comprehensive report to Perera, including from where the article was supplied to the newspaper and the journalist involved.  According to the report, the instructions to draft the article had come straight out of JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa's official MP's residence in Madiwela. Weerawansa had been supplied various details by Minister Samaraweera's office at the Ports Ministry according to the report. The report included details about how the journalist to write the article was hand picked, the instructions he was given, the journalist's background and everything he had been upto in the recent past. According to the report, the same journalist had written a derogatory article about the President and her involvement in a Ports Ministry transaction, apparently at the behest of another businessman with vested interests. Perera also had in his possession details of the alleged rewards the journalist was getting in return for writing the story.

Upon getting hold of the report, Perera's first move was to hand it over to the President. He has also decided to file legal action against the newspaper.

Calling up a Rupavahini news division head the same day, Perera informed him that he was sending the station a letter responding to the article that had appeared and asked that it be broadcast on the 8 p.m. news bulletin that evening.

In the battle between Samaraweera and Perera, Weerawansa is obviously on Samaraweera's side.  Perhaps this is because of the JVP MP's close ties to Samaraweera's advisor, Ruwan Ferdinandes. Either way, the Deputy Ministers' Forum has decided to go in-depth into the conspiracy to defame Perera and take  appropriate action against these moves.

Heads roll at Rupavahini

The tussle over the Media Ministry and the battle of wits between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera was sizzling last week and could not be kept under wraps any longer. Samaraweera has been a long-time ally of President Kumaratunga and one of her chief political protectors. As a result of this co-dependence, both their political futures received a boost. But with the recent estrangement between them, largely owing to the JVP factor, what twists and turns their political careers will take remain uncertain.

Last week, both Director General, Rupavahini and Deputy Minister Dilan Perera met President Kumaratunga and informed her that the Media Ministry was being manipulated totally according to the whims of the JVP. The accusing fingers were all cast at Samaraweera-confidant, Ruwan Ferdinandes, whose links to the JVP are strong. Both Perera and Ranatunga alleged that through Ferdinandes, JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa had practically taken over the operation of state media.

A result of this was that within hours, Ranatunga and Ferdinandes received instructions from the Presidential Secretariat to remove Acting News Director, Kulasiri Kariyawasam from his post.

Kariyawasam is the brother of the Editor of the JVP newspaper Lanka, Dharmasri Kariyawasam. Dharmasri Kariyawasam too has been lately involved in coordinating several programmes on Rupavahini. But the Presidential instructions were firm. Both Kariyawasams were to have no further hand in manipulating Rupavahini according to the wishes of the JVP.

While Ranatunga proceeded to remove the Samaraweera allies from Rupavahini, the Minister was laying down plans of his own. Samaraweera informed the President that former Coordinating Secretary to Professor G.L. Peiris, Janaka Ranatunga had been given a high position at Rupavahini. Again the Presidential hand was quick. Janaka Ranatunga was to be removed from his position forthwith, the President's office ordered. The order was given this time to Secretary, Media Ministry W.B. Ganegala. However, since Ganegala is currently on an overseas visit, it will remain to be seen how he puts the Presidential order into action upon his return.


Federalism: the god that failed 

Political leaders think they know what the people think and want. If not they wouldn't be political leaders. President Chandrika Kumaratunga knows it all, as is evident from her perorations delivered ever so often to the masses.

On Monday, addressing the SLFP Women's League on International Women's Day, she was at her rhetorical best. The former revolutionary girl from the Paris barricades of the 1960s struck a Joan D'Arc posture. She was prepared to sacrifice her life for the cause of federalism etc, she proclaimed. This was sterling stuff for the true blue Attanagalla womens' brigades and the like.

But for those not among the convinced and certainly the sceptics and unbelievers, it is not the singer but the song that matters. And the theme song was that 90 per cent of the people would support federalism.

We have nothing against federalism. Some of the greatest nations - big and small- have federal forms of government such as the United States, Russia, Germany, Switzerland etc. But whether federalism is applicable to this country in the peculiar circumstances we are placed in is another matter. Post-independence history has shown that since the proposal of federalism was mooted, it has been treated as an F - letter word by a great majority of the people in this country. It is still considered by many as the panacea for all our political ills but it has been opposed strongly by the people. It has been a god that failed.

President Kumaratunga did not, as usual, adduce reasons for her conclusion that federalism was the panacea to all ills or as we Sri Lankans say the 'kokatath thailaya.' Perhaps her reasoning was that since she supported federalism, her arch rival Ranil Wickremesinghe too was for federalism, the old leftist parties too were for federalism and certainly the Tamil parties are for it, there was 90 per cent support for this form of government. Only her revolutionary colleagues from the JVP and the Buddhist monks' party, the JHU, would object, she may have surmised.

Flaw in thinking

But the flaw in this line of thinking is that in this country, on racial and religious issues, supporters by and large do not follow their leaders. This is evident from history. Federalism has been considered a stepping stone for the establishment of a separate Tamil state and Tamil leaders who formed the Federal Party have been quite open about it.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the Oxford liberal who swept to power in 1956 on a communal cry of 'Sinhala-only' on assuming power tried to make amends one year later with the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact, which provided for autonomous regional councils in Tamil areas. He was compelled to tear up this agreement under mounting public protests by the Sinhalese.

History continued to repeat itself down the years. There was the Dudley - Chelvanayakam Pact that met a similar fate and since then the 13th Amendment under the J.R. Jayewardene government for the establishment of provincial councils under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. Despite this legislation having the backing of the regional power, India, as well as most of the world powers, it failed to reach fruition and only part of its facets have been implemented.

In recent times there was President Chandrika Kumar- atunga attempting to implement her 'devolution package' but failing to do so. She was later forced to dissolve parliament and go to the polls. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with his ceasefire agreement was able to halt the 20-year old conflict, but he was defeated at the April 2, 2004 parliamentary elections because of allegations that he had conceded too much to the LTTE.

President confident

Chandrika Kumaratunga addressing her women's brigades at the Vihara Maha Devi Park had vowed that she would not turn back from her decision to go ahead with federalism even at the risk of her life. She said she was prepared to hold an election or referendum on a federal solution and that she was confident of victory because many other parties would support her.

Her proposal of holding a referendum is indeed welcome because this question of a federal solution has been subject to long debate but never put to the people. Such a referendum is of necessity particularly with regard to the Eastern Province where Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are in near-equal numbers. The grave problem is to hold a free and fair election with the LTTE, which governs by the bullet and not the ballot. Even international monitors may not be able to ensure free and fair polling as was evident in recently held elections.

While the international community, the Sri Lanka government, NGOs etc. are all ga- ga about a federal solution, the vital question is whether Velupillai Pirapaharan wants such a solution. His ISGA proposals drawn in Dublin with the assistance of his 'constitutional experts' make no reference at all to a federal solution - short term or long term. The ISGA as we have said before is a blue-print for a separate state. An analysis of LTTE moves and counter moves during the past two decades indicate that what they need is not a federal state, but a separate state.

'Free jaunts'

During the past few years, well meaning and not so well meaning foreign powers and NGOs sent Sri Lankans to various parts of the globe to observe federal governments in operation. Amongst those given free jaunts there were many LTTE cadres who for the first time came out of the Wanni jungles, discarded their jungle fatigues and put on lounge suits. All that is well and good. But on their return do we hear of them waxing eloquent of democratic federal governments at work in the West?

To be fair by LTTE cadres, even those from the democratic stream of politics, some of them Colombo 7, did go on study tours. But they do not seem to have been impressed too much about federalist forms of government and have remained dumb. In this blessed isle, who can resist the temptation of a free ticket to go abroad with board and lodging?

The thinking is that federalism is the sure cure for the political ills of this small country. There are a few constitutional lawyers and intellectuals who think otherwise. The Sinhalese masses have opposed a federal state for the north and east for the simple reason that  they consider it the first step towards the formation of a separate Tamil State, and uniting with Tamil Nadu - that has now a 60 million populace - in the near future.

If Chandrika Kumaratunga wants to hold a referendum, she should be encouraged to do so. But this referendum should be on an all-island basis because more Tamils live outside the north and east today. The federal solution could then be decided on once and for all time.

If the federal solution is rejected by the people, will Chandrika Kumaratunga bow out of politics?


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