in gridlock as CBK plays for time
While the SLFP's presidential election
nominee stakes were thrown into utter confusion last week
following startling revelations on Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse's financial dealings...........
funding and 'Helping Hambantota'
towards power (...Corridors
fight spills over to government areas
in gridlock as CBK plays for time
Wickremesinghe, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Anura Priyadharshana
and Mahinda Rajapakse
While the SLFP's presidential election
nominee stakes were thrown into utter confusion last week
following startling revelations on Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse's financial dealings in relation to tsunami aid,
President Chandrika Kumaratunga weakened the party's case
further by declining to name the prospective candidate.
Despite repeated calls by party seniors
and branch organisations to name Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse as the SLFP's presidential candidate, the President
has steadfastly refused to do so, insisting the election is
not due until end 2006.
That the timing of the election is not
her's to decide Kumaratunga knows only too well but has taken
cover under the alleged secret oath taking ceremony to justify
the end 2006 claim and delay naming the candidate.
For Kumaratunga personally, it is a
no-lose situation since the only way she can ensure holding on
to the SLFP leadership is by ensuring a candidate of the party
does not succeed at the presidential election and what better
way to achieve that objective than giving the eventual
candidate very little time to map out a successful campaign
strategy and programme.
This fact, Rajapakse and his loyalists
were alive to and planned a counter strategy to pressure the
President into naming the candidate using various party fora
both at grassroot level as well as at the centre to do so,
albeit with little effect.
The counter to this Rajapakse strategy
was swift, with the President directing her senior ministers
to inform the country at a press conference the presidential
election is not due till end 2006.
To weaken the Premier's case further,
the President also informed the party officially, the SLFP
will not have any truck with the JVP in future, thereby
sending a signal to the Marxists, they would have to field a
separate candidate, practically sealing the fate of the SLFP
This thinking the President made known
when she met with the SLFP parliamentary group on Tuesday,
July 5, at President's House where both contenders, Prime
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Tourism Minister Anura
Bandaranaike, were at hand.
Interestingly, prior to this meeting,
Bandaranaike had made it known that a Rajapakse-JVP combine
would be a deadly combination with disastrous consequences for
the country and should be averted at all costs, a view shared
by the President as well.
CBK attacks the JVP
Thus at the very outset of the group
meeting, the President hailed the SLFP for taking a decisive
decision to proceed with the P-TOMS agreement notwithstanding
JVP pressure and pointed out the party had proved to the whole
world it could not only take important decisions in the
interest of the nation but also stand up to the Marxists.
Having said that, the President
unleashed a barrage of criticism on the JVP stating, no party
could govern in alliance with the Marxists given their
antiquated ideology and self-serving politics.
The President said the JVP went into an
alliance with the SLFP for the specific purpose of destroying
the party and only her timely action had thwarted their plans.
Continuing, the President said the SLFP
would not go in for any future alliance with the JVP - be it
to contest elections or form a government - and advised the
MPs to start strengthening the party's electoral base for the
"I was always against this
alliance. I knew their game plan all along. Our own people
came and put pressure on me to form the alliance and dissolve
parliament. Now look at what we have reaped. Once in
government, we can't act like an opposition. We have to take
decisions on national issues. This is where the JVP has
failed. It has no policies to solve the problems faced by the
country," she said.
Added she: "Now I don't see any
future with the JVP. Therefore, go out and organise our party
branches to face future elections."
Not stopping at that, the President put
a lid on the presidential stakes issue stating the election is
not due till end 2006.
"Get ready for the local
government elections. We must decide whether we are going to
contest under the 'hand' symbol or the 'chair' symbol,"
she further said.
And to impress upon her MPs she meant
business when it comes to the JVP, the President said the four
portfolios held by the Marxists would also be filled with four
deputy ministers of the SLFP in the very near future.
"If we are to win a presidential
election, we must link up with the minority parties. We lost
their support because of our alliance with the JVP. We must
work with the TNA also," Kumaratunga added.
However, Deputy Sports Minister,
Sripathi Sooriyarachchi - a strong supporter of Rajapakse -
had other ideas and threw caution to the winds and challenged
Kumaratunga's stand on the JVP.
Said he, "I came after meeting the
people at my public day. The people are opposed to us getting
together with the UNP in the Western Province. They say it was
for the SLFP/JVP alliance their votes were cast and we should
continue along the same path."
Shot back the President, "I don't
know which party people you are meeting, but I get a lot of
praise for distancing the SLFP from the JVP."
Supporting Kumaratunga on this issue
was Deputy Ports Minister, Dilan Perera who said the people
were supportive of the two main parties working together.
"It was proved in the Western Province. Better to go
without the red shirts and go with the UNP instead," he
Equally vocal on the issue was Deputy
Minister, Salinda Dissanayake who argued there was no
difference between the JVP and the LTTE.
"If the LTTE are murderers, so are
the JVP. I fully endorse the President's decision to make a
clean break with the JVP. We don't need them. Let us rebuild
the SLFP and the people will back us," he said.
Backing up Perera and Dissanayake was
Deputy Minister, Tissa Karaliyadda. He said if the local
authority elections were contested under the hand symbol, he
could guarantee victory for the party in the Anuradhapura and
The surprise however came in the form
of Plantations Minister, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa who in the
recent past had been working behind the scenes to bring the
JVP back into the fold.
Said he, "When the UPFA was
formed, I said it was not in the interest of the SLFP. I said
if the alliance was to be formed, it should be done with
adequate conditions to protect the SLFP. But what happened was
that through the alliance pact, we sold the SLFP lock, stock
and barrel to the JVP. As a result the JVP got 39 seats and is
holding us to ransom. This has to stop."
It was at this point Labour Minister,
Athauda Seneviratne thought it fit to broach the subject of
the Presidential election, much to the consternation of the
Seneviratne said the UNP's Jana Bala
Meheyuma was gathering momentum and becoming a big issue in
the country and the government should take some decisive
action to counter it, suggesting the best course of action
would be to nominate the SLFP's presidential candidate.
"We must name our candidate within
the next two weeks giving him adequate time to map out a
campaign," Seneviratne argued.
But Kumaratunga was not impressed and
promptly poured cold water on the issue before any other
member chose to agitate the same cause.
Said the President, "We will do it
at the right time. No need to do so now when the election is
not due till 2006. There is no need for any person to start
planning campaigns either. The party will select the candidate
at the right time."
With that the President put a lid on
the issue, having made it clear the chances of any prospective
candidate hoping to link up with the JVP in getting the party
nomination will be zero.
In fact, the Prime Minister was given
an indication of the President's thinking the previous day and
throwing caution to the wind, personally presented the P-TOMS
agreement to parliament on Tuesday morning, earning in the
process the ire of the JVP.
The JVP in fact has now decided to
field its own candidate at the presidential election believing
the party could, given the public mood against the SLFP, even
win the election based on the voting system.
The logic of the JVP is that Opposition
Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe will not be able to secure the
50% plus one vote required to win on the first count forcing
the count of the second preferential vote.
And the second preference of the SLFP
candidate's vote, the JVP believes, will be for its candidate
and not Wickremesinghe, ensuring thereby the victory of its
This thinking of the party was
articulated by former Deputy Minister, Bimal Ratnayake when he
spoke with TNA MP, Joseph Pararajasingham who in turn
communicated it to his colleagues.
Probing the JVP on the issue, Joseph
had asked Ratnayake whether his party would support the
candidature of Rajapakse at the presidential election and the
reply had been a vehement "no."
"We are fielding our own
candidate" Ratnayake had said.
Asked Joseph - "But won't you help
Ranil Wickremesinghe to win easily by doing so?"
Replied Ratnayake - "No, he will
not get the 50 percent required to win on the first count.
When the second preference vote is counted it will be to our
favour because those voting for Rajapakse will give us the
Leaving aside the logic of that theory,
the bottom line is, the JVP will field its own candidate and
has also vowed to agitate for Kumaratunga's exit by November
JVP Propaganda Secretary, Wimal
Weerawansa made the party position on this aspect clear in
Kandy on Tuesday when he said Kumaratunga has just a few more
months in office and the party would campaign to ensure that
will be the case.
It would necessarily follow, the JVP
too will be campaigning for a November presidential election
with the intention of fielding its own candidate.
Thus, with the single act of presenting
the P-TOMS, as is now evident, the Prime Minister too buried
any chances of obtaining the JVP's support for his
presidential candidacy, no doubt realising the top item on the
agenda was to first get hold of the SLFP.
But unknown to Rajapakse, the President
was putting in motion her own action plan having sent word to
UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe she was prepared to appoint
him prime minister.
The President had indicated she was
prepared to appoint a cabinet of his choice together with some
of her nominees provided Wickremesinghe was prepared to take
Wickremesinghe was not enamoured by the
idea, informing the emissary, the UNP was insisting on a
presidential election this year and any link up could be
considered only after the people have spoken at an election.
Wickremesinghe was understandably wary
of Kumaratunga's motives given his experiences in the past,
particularly in relation to her solemn pledge early February
2004 she would not dissolve parliament.
With that move coming a cropper,
Kumaratunga is now looking at the possibility of dissolving
parliament later this month and going for a snap general
election and personally spearheading the campaign for the SLFP,
possibly after resigning from the presidency, thereby knocking
out Rajapakse in the process as well.
This option is now looked at seriously
having got bogged down over the P-TOMS agreement as well, with
the Norwegians approached to further amend the signed document
in consultation with the LTTE giving the Treasury control over
As a result the entire mechanism has
become a non starter and that Kumaratunga is just fine if a
general election is going to be the order of the day.
The amendment the President is seeking
relates to the appointment of a multi lateral agency to be the
custodian of the regional funds as per Article 7 of the signed
Regional Fund issues
Article 7 titled 'Regional Fund' reads
(a) There shall be a post-tsunami
costal fund for the six districts (the Regional Fund),
consisting of unspecified (programme) and secretariat funds.
The unspecified (programme) funds shall consist exclusively of
foreign funds while the secretariat funds shall consist of
both foreign and local funds.
(b) The parties shall appoint a
suitable multilateral agency to be the custodian of the
(c) The purpose of the Regional Fund
shall be to expeditiously make available funds, following
proper approved procedures, to facilitate and accelerate the
relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development
programme in the tsunami-affected areas of the six districts.
(d) The parties and the custodian shall
agree on a mechanism for the establishment and operation of
the regional fund.
That at least is what the P-TOMS
What the President has now proposed is
that the multilateral agency be replaced by the Treasury as
the custodian of the Regional Fund, a proposal the LTTE has
refused to look at.
Given this situation, the entire
agreement is now bogged down with Kumaratunga not nominating
her members to man the committees and the LTTE too not doing
likewise, awaiting the flow of funds to the multi lateral
But in naming the multilateral agency,
as per Article 7, there must be a joint decision by both
parties and with the President now insisting on the Treasury
being the custodian, the question of deciding on a
multilateral agency is not even up for consideration by her.
To the LTTE, with the joint mechanism
already signed and tabled in parliament, the President's
insistence on stalling the process until such time the
amendment appointing the Treasury is made tantamounts to
reneging on the agreement and it has made that position clear
to the Norwegians and the international community.
Thus, having already lost the JVP over
the P-TOMS deal, the President is running the risk of the LTTE
too withdrawing from it over her backtracking, leaving
Kumaratunga neither here nor there.
Easy way out
It is to overcome these crises
Kumaratunga is now looking at the easy way out by
dissolving parliament and letting the people decide the issue.
To Kumaratunga, the non-implementation
of the P-TOMS before the general election is also a better
position to be in, helping take a battle cry away from the JVP.
It is in keeping with this same
thinking, President Kumaratunga once again pushed to the back
burner naming the SLFP's presidential candidate as well when
the issue came up for discussion at the party's central
committee meeting Thursday night.
Having already instructed her Ministers
to announce Friday morning the presidential election will not
be held till end 2006, Kumaratunga bought time by appointing a
committee to consider prospective candidates for the
nomination. The committee comprises Kumaratunga, Mahinda
Rajapakse, Anura Bandaranaike, Maithripala Sirisena, D.M.
Jayaratne and Susil Premajayanth.
In doing so, Kumaratunga also took a
swipe at Rajapakse stating the choice of candidate will be
decided by the central committee and not branch organisations
at electoral level which comments saw the Prime Minister
immediately rising to his defence.
Rajapakse said though various district
organisations had proposed his name, he was not behind the
move and had in no way orchestrated his nomination.
Kumaratunga however was not impressed,
having earlier learned Minister Mangala Samaraweera had
discussed the issue of proposing Rajapakse's candidature and
also the secret discussions the duo had had in parliament.
Samaraweera in fact was planning to
push for Rajapakse's nomination at Thursday's central
committee meeting, prompting the President to in a pre-emptive
move appoint the committee to look into the issue.
Samaraweera's thinking is that with
Rajapakse controlling the levers of the SLFP, the JVP could be
brought back into the alliance and the government stabilised.
In the meantime, the UNP's Jana Bala
Meheyuma was gathering momentum as it wound its way to Colombo
with many members urging Wickremesinghe to lead the procession
to President's House demanding a presidential election this
year - a call the UNP Leader has hitherto resisted.
Whilst the UNP Leader is convinced the
presidential election will be held in November this year, he
has told party members, such drastic action should be
contemplated only if attempts are made to prevent the election
And now with the TNA also indicating it
will vote against the government's budget in November given
the growing frustration over the delay in implementing the
P-TOMS agreement, the UNP too is set to defeat the government
in parliament forcing a general election if the presidential
poll is not held this year. Thus at best the government can
only last till November,
The TNA is particularly suspicious of
the President's motives, believing she would fall back on the
Supreme Court decision to frustrate the implementation of the
These suspicions were further
heightened after leave to proceed was granted by court
Wednesday on an application by the JVP, prompting the LTTE to
call for a meeting of select TNA MPs to the Wanni for urgent
Given this political hodge podge and
the gridlock in government, an election this year - be it
presidential or general - is inevitable and is bound to be a
watershed in the country's history.
funding and 'Helping Hambantota'
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti Our
Not even the P-TOMS agreement
demonstrated the divisions in this country the way last
Thursday's parliamentary debate on the Suppression of
Terrorism Financing Bill did. It certainly proved that
one man's terrorist is decidedly another's freedom
The speeches were so divided that it
was almost impossible to believe with such segregated
views, it was still possible for the members to occupy
seats in one legislature.
There were verbal clashes and attempts
to shout colleagues down. Only Foreign Minister,
Lakshman Kadirgamar who presented the enabling
legislation and Opposition Chief Whip, Mahinda
Samarasinghe were spared due to the diplomatic restrain
in their contributions.
Ratnayake, Sripathi Sooriaarachchi,
Mavai Senathirajah and Dinesh Gunawardena
Samarasinghe was happy that Sri Lanka
was presenting enabling legislation whereas often, the
practice is to rush and sign treaties but not create domestic
laws that reflect the spirit of such treaties.
However, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena
had no chance of making his speech, with the TNA members
clashing with him from the very start as the MEP Leader made
thundering accusations about LTTE fund raising.
Gunawardena demanded that an end should
be put to LTTE fund raising, an organisation, he believed,
that has terrorised the entire world. Beyond that, he could go
no more with the TNA members noisily protesting the LTTE was
doing what was right in pursuance of a community's rights.
Continuing on Gunawardena's lines was
JVP's Bimal Ratnayake who claimed when bombs were exploding in
Colombo, none of the anti-terrorism crusaders were there to
support Sri Lanka, "until they themselves became targets
of an angry Afghan who was incidentally created by the US
The MP noted there was no provision to
share funds with a terror organisation and said that it was
clearly stated such groups seek to operate by exploiting tags
like 'charitable,' 'social' and 'cultural.'
Ratnayake blamed both UNP and PA
administrations for losing their Sinhala and Muslim political
base by pandering to a terrorist organisation that now enjoys
"If action should be taken against
anyone for aiding and abetting terrorism, then both
governments are responsible. That's what they did through the
ceasefire agreement and P-TOMS. When the state grants them
legitimacy, what purpose does this legislation serve?" he
queried, adding that finally, the LTTE has the right to
control US$ 3.3 billion.
"Earlier, it was a case of
providing arms, radio equipment, billions of dollars, other
material support and finally duty free vehicles. Sri Lanka has
violated this convention and played a massive role in support
of terrorism. It is laughable to have this piece of
legislation presented today," noted Ratnayake.
He added the JVP has challenged the
election of TNA members to parliament, yet preferred if they
as elected parliamentarians handled the aid that would come
into the district committee than give such to the TRO.
Furiously responding to Ratnayake's
speech was TNA's Mavai Senathirajah. A very emotional
Senathirajah claimed it was time to give due recognition to
Tamils and allow self-determination.
"You try to portray the LTTE as a
terrorist organisation. It fights for our freedom," he
said, listing out Tamil leaders who advocated Tamils' right to
self-determination. However, though naming the likes of
Amirthalingam and Thiruche-lvam, he studiously avoided naming
their killers, a fact Sripathi Sooriaarachchi was quick to
An angry Senathirajah thundered,
"This constitution cannot bind us, the Sinhala government
cannot suppress us and the military cannot control us."
Waxing eloquence, he also scoffed at government efforts to win
India's support to quell the LTTE, breathily adding that it
would never happen.
Senathirajah said there was no proper
definition for terrorism, and the JVP not so long ago was
labeled as such, at which point Dinesh Gunawardena jumped up
and demanded to know the reason for killing Rajiv Gandhi, and
a verbal clash ensued.
Quietly observing that if the world's
super powers did not get hurt, a tiny island nation would not
have had international support to suppress terrorism was
Deputy Sports Minister, Sripathi Sooriaarachchi.
He noted some Tamil intellectuals who
supported the Tamil cause were originally with the two
mainstream political parties. "Some wrongs have divided
us and driven the two communities apart. But we should not
stand here and condone terrorism," he said.
If UN conventions were to be the basis
on which terrorism is discussed, TNA Leader, R. Sampanthan
decided he would also refer to something that aided his
argument, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He noted the declaration stressed on
the "recognition of inherent dignity and the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family"
and was the cornerstone of all other treaties and domestic
"There is nothing beyond that. We
are talking about the dignity of a race. We were not at war
some 40 years ago; we have been driven towards this. If you
drive a man to violence and then question him as to why he
does it, I think a lesson in history is needed first," he
At the end of the day, 87
parliamentarians including UNP members voted in favour of the
legislation while the TNA's 20 voted against. Exercising a
conscience vote was UNP's T. Maheswaran who also voted against
the bill which only went to prove how divided the community is
- which of course is reflected in the legislature where
opinions are hardly expressed recognising the right to
Minister speaks out...
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse while refuting allegations of
funds from the Prime Minister's Fund being illegally
transferred to a private fund named 'Helping Hambantota,'
claimed his action had cabinet approval.
The Premier on Thursday morning tabled
the cabinet memorandum to the House.
On Tuesday afternoon, the opposition
took up the matter of some Rs. 32 million being
transferred from the Premier's Fund to that of a private
account maintained by the Standard Chartered Bank for
the exclusive development of Hambantota. The adjournment
motion was moved by UNP frontliner, John Amaratunga and
seconded by Dayasiri Jayasekera.
However, prior to the debate,
Amaratunga alleged the Premier was dodging the issue as
the government has originally requested the debate be
postponed to Wednesday (6). An angry Premier at this
point responded he had nothing to hide and was glad to
have the opportunity to defend himself.
The house turned noisy at this point
with Deputy Ministers Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dilan
Perera, Mervyn Silva, Jayatissa Ranaweera and Sripathi
Sooriaarachchi shouting at Amaratunga. Chief Government
Whip, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle insisted the UNP failed to
give the government sufficient notice. Proposing the
motion, John Amaratunga said on the face of things,
there appeared to be an obvious transfer of funds from
the Premier's Fund to that of a private account
targeting only Hambantota development and that The
Sunday Leader has exhaustively dealt with the issue last
"These funds come in to help
tsunami victims. Will the money reach the victims or
become part of an image building exercise, especially
now that the Premier is the party's next presidential
candidate?" queried Amaratunga.
Dayasiri Jayasekera, who seconded the
motion, had more battles to contend with. Due to the new
seating arrangements, Jayasekera found himself
sandwiched amongst government legislators who disturbed
his entire speech, thumped on their desks and shouted
abuse. MP Mervyn Silva switched off and turned
Jayasekera's microphone away shouting that Jayasekera
was making false allegations. "Mewa boru," he
repeated, while an angry Jayasekera snapped, "Pissek
Jayasekera, nevertheless insisted a
premier was elected for the entire country and not for a
single district, alleging that it was wrong of him to
unduly concentrate on a single district in this manner.
Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Deputy
Ministers Dilan Perera, Rohitha Abeygunawardene and
Sripathi Sooriaarachchi collectively defended the
Premier claiming that Rajapakse has sufficient wealth
and did not need to siphon out monies that came in to
help tsunami victims. Fernandopulle claimed Rajapakse
was above corruption while Dilan Perera refuted the
charges as baseless propaganda that stemmed from ugly
Making stinging accusations against The
Sunday Leader, Deputy Sports Minister, Sripathi
Sooriarachchi claimed the newspaper was conducting a
continuous campaign against Sinhala Buddhist leaders and
the Premier was the latest victim.
Premier Rajapakse in his reply said he
was happy to have the opportunity to clear his name at a
time when the UNP was doing its best to tarnish his
image. He charged the UNP took a scurrilous poster
design to a printer on the same issue, only to be turned
down. "All money transactions have been approved by
cabinet and a separate account was opened for Hambantota
as some donors were specifically interested in assisting
Hambantota development work. The unspecified monies, all
went into the Disaster Management Fund and not a single
cent has disappeared or been misappropriated. I can
account for every rupee and the funds are managed with
absolute transparency," he said.
The Premier in his response said the
transfers had cabinet approval and he had not dealt with
a single rupee in violation of rules of transparency.
The Premier, making a reply speech to an adjournment
motion on the alleged transfer of funds to a private
fund manned by him, claimed cabinet had been informed at
all times. He further said 'Helping Hambantota' was
created on the request of a few donors who specifically
wished to support rebuilding efforts in Hambantota.
|It might not be a startling revelation
that in just 14 months, Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar has made 22 trips overseas at the cost
of Rs. 35,386,346.
What is truly stunning about the matter
is that the Minister's response to an oral question
raised by UNP Parliamentarian, Ravi Karunanayake on
Thursday (7) being a shameless skirting of the issue -
giving no details of others who participated in those
Kadirgamar, who made a rare appearance
in the House to present enabling legislation to the UN
Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing, in
answer to the query, only provided information with
regard to the number of trips abroad and the cost
incurred by him.
In his tabled answer, he provided
information about the purposes of the visits - but was
careful not to answer part (b) (1) of the question,
"the total cost for the Minister and the others who
participated in the aforesaid trips separately."
It was UNP's T. Maheswaran who asked
why the particular question was unanswered, with Chief
Government Whip, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle doing his best to
save Kadirgamar's skin by insisting the answer was
complete. When Karunanayake highlighted how Kadirgamar's
wife Sugandhi accompanied him, the Minister responded
that certain circulars existed that provided for such
UPFA Parliamentarian, Mervyn Silva is a
busy man these days, promoting a patriotic alliance and siding
with a lone ranger, Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Chatting a few scribes last week in the
parliament lobby, Silva made an observation that nobody won
governments by organising protest marches, the obvious
reference being to the UNP's current Jana Bala Meheyuma that
demands a presidential election.
"If a march from Dondra to Colombo
can install one in power, then dogs should reign supreme. They
walk than more than any other," quipped Silva, happily
forgetting all the Pada Yatras against the Premadasa
administration not so long ago that certainly saw the PA's
ascendancy to power.
The Speaker's repeated cautioning to
have mobile phones switched off when parliament is in session
often falls on deaf ears. On Wednesday morning, a phone began
to noisily ring and there was TNA Parliamentarian, Natarajah
Raviraj rushing to switch it off. At least the MP had the
grace to appear apologetic for breaching rules, which cannot
be said about most members who are often seen pushing their
heads under the tables and yapping away oblivious to the
At the government group meeting, the
talk was all about forming progressive fronts, and pushing the
idea were Sripathi Sooriaarachchi and Athauda Seneviratne.
Deputy Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Dilan Perera were
supportive of the new alliance theory, but were not keen on
the progressive label.
Dousing cold water on Sooriaa-rachchi's
enthusiasm, President Kumaratunga said new alliances were
certainly in order, but for an alliance to work, it should be
with the UNP and no other to the delight of the pro-joint
mechanism group within who applauded the comment.
Going further, Kumaratunga said she
certainly knew about the way progressives work and the most
progressive step was taken when joining hands with the JVP.
"See what happened. An alliance is fine, if it is with
the UNP", Kumaratunga noted, while Sooriaarachchi wore a
- A heart burner
The proposed Sethusamudram canal
project has become quite a heart burner for Sri Lanka, but
more than the possible consequences of the project itself is
the irksome subservience of this sovereign state to the
dictates and whims of big brother India.
When Spokesman, JHU, Ven. Athuraliye
Rathana Thero raised a string of queries whether the Foreign
Ministry has sanctioned the project despite serious concerns
about Sri Lanka's ecology, port functions, environment
assessments and economic loss, Minister Kadirgamar only said
that India has assured that Sri Lanka's concerns would be
taken into account.
When the Thero queried whether the
government was willing to go before an international court and
challenge the project under the UN Law on the Sea, there was
Kadirgamaar was more articulate about
the Indian position and said scientists of both countries were
working on it and an informed position has so far not emerged.
fight spills over to government areas
armed LTTE cadres in Ambalanthurai and Police providing cover
for the LTTE float
By Amantha Perera
Dusk had just fallen when the dinner
bell rang at the army camp housed at the Nelliady school. It
was 7 p.m. and everyone at the camp headed to the dining mess.
Five minutes later, the entire school was rocked by a loud
The date was July 5, 1987 and Vasanthan
Vallipuram alias Miller had carried out the first suicide
attack by an LTTE cadre. He had driven an explosive-laden
truck into the school premises.
Seventeen years later, Miller's heroics
would have been in the mind of Ramalingam Padmaseelan alias
Senathiraja as he rode through the streets of Batticaloa. As
head of the LTTE political office he was busy organising the
Black Tiger commemoration events. As he neared the petrol
station close to the LTTE political office, shots rang out
interrupting the morning hustle. Padmaseelan received
serious injuries to his torso in the shooting and fought for
eight days before succumbing.
The gunmen who were also riding a motorbike disappeared
into the crowd
Until Senathiraja's attack, July 5 was
a day of honour for the Tigers. The suicide cadres, usually
revered, are publicly feted during the Black Tiger Day
commemorations. Trucks decorated with photographs of dead
Black Tigers parade the streets and relatives pay homage at
roadside shrines. The commemorations are only second to those
held during the Tigers' Heroes' Day events in November which
climax with Velupillai Pirapakaran's birthday.
The Senathiraja attack however was the
start of the worst internal bloodletting in Tiger history. The
LTTE eastern supremo Karuna
had defected to government areas in April last year
after a failed rebellion and following its success in ousting
the rebels-within the LTTE was asserting its political power
when bullets hit Senathi. Immediately after the attack the
Tigers blamed the murder on the rival faction which untill
then had been quiet. The retaliation was fast and brutal,
Kanapathipillai Mahendran alias Satchi Master, a high ranking
Karuna supporter who had acted as his spokesman was shot and
killed inside the Batticaloa jail on July 15 and seven other
Karuna supporters were gunned down at a safe house in Kottawa
on July 25. Since
the breakout of the shadow war there has been no letting up by
From the beginning the Tigers alleged
that the Karuna faction could not operate with such freedom
without the support of the security forces. "I think the
situation deteriorated because the LTTE didn't trust the Sri
Lanka Army - they accused the army of knowing about Karuna's
hide-outs and also turning
a blind eye," said sources who have dealt with
both the LTTE and the army in the east.
As the killings continued the growing
distrust between the security forces and the Tigers
deteriorated steadily. Things reached a breaking point on June
26 this year when
a bus carrying 40 LTTErs was attacked with a claymore mine at
Bowatta, Welikanda. It was about seven to eight kilometres
from the location where LTTE eastern political commissar
Kausalyan was killed on February 7. Kausalyan has been the
highest ranking Tiger to have been killed since the ceasefire.
Though the claymore went off it caused
minimal damage. A female cadre received shrapnel
injuries to her face but was able to accompany her
colleagues to Karadiyanaru. The LTTE hierarchy in Kilinochchi
however was not ready to let the incident go unnoticed. The
attempt had targeted the largest number of Tigers since the
ceasefire went into effect and had occurred in an area where
the Karuna faction had been the most active. Meeting SLMM Head
Hangrup Haukland in Kilinochchi four days later, LTTE
Political Wing Head S. P. Tamilselvan said the attack brought
into question the sincerity of the government and the security
forces. The Tigers also issued an ultimatum of two weeks to
the army to guarantee the security of cadres travelling in
government-controlled areas. It expires on July 14.
Indications from Kilinochchi last week
were that the LTTE was taking the security issue
dead-seriously. Many are expecting a reaction from the Tigers
as soon as the deadline expires.
The LTTE said it had delayed the
journey of the eastern cadres when it received intelligence
that the convoy might be attacked. Last month several LTTE
high rankers including eastern military head Bhanu were stuck
in the Vanni when the government failed to provide
helicopters. During the delay, the government indicated to the
LTTE through the Norwegian Ambassador that following the
murder of Maj. Nizam Muthaliff, the environment was not
conducive to allow Tigers to travel through
government-controlled areas. The area leaders were finally
able to return to their regional bases three weeks ago.
Last week Tamilselvan repeated the same
threat that he made when the helicopters were refused, that
the Tigers would use its own transport facilities and security
when crossing government-held areas - then he was specific in
stating that the LTTE would use its air, sea and land
facilities. Last week he also said the Tigers wanted security
forces personnel to accompany cadres in the same vehicles
while they are inside the government-held territory.
The SLMM held several rounds of
meetings last week with government authorities to reach an
agreement. But the army has been angered by the LTTE's demand
to put officers in the vehicles.
"That (the request) is going
beyond their (LTTE) mandate. Providing security within our areas is
our duty and we have done that very well," Military
Spokesperson Brig. Daya Ratnayake said. Security forces
personnel, especially from the volatile east have privately
aired reservations on travelling in the same vehicles.
Relations between the forces and the LTTE have deteriorated
even further in the east in recent days following the murder
of three soldiers including two intelligence operatives on
June 30. One more intelligence officer from the Police NIB was
killed last week and another injured in Kalmunai.
However, SLMM Spokesperson Helen
Olatsdoftir said the military would comply with the LTTE
request. The SLMM met with government officials on Monday to
discuss providing security to the LTTE. The SLMM declined to
give details of the meeting. Haukland visiting Trincomalee on
Thursday said that the SLMM was awaiting the government's
response.Two weeks ago a group of LTTErs travelled through
government-held areas in the east with STF officials inside the vehicle. However, Brig.
Ratnayake said there was no change in the manner security was
provided to the Tigers.
The LTTE has continuously indicated its
weariness over attacks by members of the Karuna faction while
travelling through government- held areas in the east.
"It is an LTTE problem. The confrontations with the
Karuna faction are spilling over to government areas because
the LTTE could not control the Karuna guys," Brig.
The extent to which the LTTE was
concerned about the security was amply clear by the number of
armed LTTE cadres present inside their areas during the Black
Tiger event. The main event was held deep inside Tiger
territory at Ambalanthurai and cadres armed with powerful
machine guns were posted to provide tight security cover. Even
a five-zero anti-aircraft gun was brought to the location. The
LTTE eastern military wing leader Banu made a fiery speech at
the gathering and said that notwithstanding what the
government does the Tigers would never forget the horrors of
Black July or the sacrifices made by cadres including the
Banu arrived at the location escorted
by motorcycle cadres armed with sub-machine guns. Even inside
government-controlled areas the LTTE motorcade was surrounded
by unarmed cadres riding cycles.
The army too had made sure that armed soldiers were
present right along the way when the LTTE convoy led by
eastern political head Marshall travelled through government
areas. Two weeks ago the LTTE requested the army through the
SLMM that they only required the security forces to clear the
routes and did not need any escorts.
Eyewitness said that there was tension
while the motorcade travelled through government territory.
However no incidents were reported connected with the Black
Tiger Day events.
It was totally different in Jaffna,
where the main commemoration took place at the Nelliady school
with relatively light security.
Tiger Day on a low key
Public participation in the Black Tiger
Day commemorations was on a low key this year according
to eyewitnesses and journalists.
Journalists who attended the Nelliady
only several hundred civilians had turned up at the
event which was attended by the mother of the first
suicide cadre, Vasanthan Vallipuram. Last year too she
was the main attraction at the event in Jaffna, but
there was more crowd participation at that time.
The same was true in the east, where
the LTTE motorcade led by eastern political head
Marshall travelled through government areas before
heading back into Karadiyanaru and beyond.
In the government-controlled areas the
largest crowds were school children who came out of the
schools to pay homage when the motorcade stopped in
front of their schools. Roadside ceremonies were held at
several locations along the way where parents of slain
cadres offered flowers and garlanded the photographs.
At the main event attended by Banu,
there was a larger crowd of around
2000. However the crowd was dwarfed by the number
of armed LTTE cadres.
There were hundreds of armed and unarmed LTTE
cadres swarming the event site due to the high security
risk that the LTTE obviously felt after the attack on
Most observers and civilians felt that
the low participation may be due to the frequency of
protests and events organised by the LTTE. The calendar
is packed with various events and most of the events
have lost their allure
during the three-year ceasefire.
fields in the east
Killings continued unabated in the east
last week as well. By Tuesday two deaths had been
reported. On Wednesday two police officers from the
National Intelligence Bureau were shot
in Kalmunai close to the Kalmunai Police Station.
One of the officers, B. G. Kapilasiri later died.
"An immediate cordon and search
operation was conducted by the police assisted by troops
and recovered ten 9 m.m. pistol rounds used by LTTE
Defence Ministry said soon after the attack.
On Wednesday night Rajeenthan
Selvarajah, a Karuna supporter was shot and killed in
Valaichchenai. His brother had been killed last year
soon after the split.
With the body count mounting since last year,
civilians in the north and east were also nervous
oflarge scale violence.
In Jaffna two weeks back when
three-wheel drivers were asked to report to Muhamalai
for a meeting, some were visibly shaken by the notice.
They felt that the meeting was a forerunner to
organising their help in the event hostilities breakout.
However, when some drivers indicated that it would not
be feasible to transport 4000 three wheel drivers, the
meeting was postponed. The move would have not only left
Jaffna without the indispensable tuk-tuk, but also would
have had a severe strain on the number of buses.
In Batticaloa at a recent meeting at
the government agent's office, a senior army officer
said that there was no evacuation plan much to the
distress of aid workers present. He said that there
should be a proper plan to move foreigners out of the
east in case violonce increases. "It was like he
felt the war was going to start tomorrow, you should
have seen the faces of the relief workers, they all had
wide eyes when he was talking," said a
of Miller at Nelliady School
Ten feet from the entrance a statue of Vasanthan Vallipuram alias Captain Miller now greets visitors
to the Nelliady Government School. He is depicted
wearing a brown uniform and with one hand raised. A
granite stone set nearby commemorates the first suicide
attack he carried out.
The statue was erected after the
ceasefire and every year since 2002 February
Vallipuram's mother graces the Black Tiger ceremonies.
This year too she took the pride of place.
Born in 1966, Vallipuram joined the
Tigers as a driver in 1983. It was however a year after
joining the movement that he became a full-time member
leaving his home. According to those who knew him from
the time he joined the Tigers, Vallipuram had been
talking about giving up his life for the movement.
Before the July 5 attack he last
visited his family on June 29 and treated his family and
friends to an ice-cream feast. During that period the
army had launched Operation Liberation to oust the
Tigers from Jaffna and heavy fighting was raging all
over the peninsula. Vadamarachchi, where the Vallipurams
hailed from, came
under heavy shelling during the army advance and
Vallipuram had witnessed the shelling of a library few
days before the attack, according to relatives.
While the LTTE claims that more than
120 soldiers died in the attack, the army has put the
figure below 50. Nevertheless the attack slowed down the
progress and gave birth to dreaded Black Tigers.
LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan has
termed the Black Tigers as the most potent weapon within
Tiger ranks. "With perseverance and sacrifice Tamil
Eelam could be achieved in 100 years, but if we conduct
Black Tiger operations, we could shorten the suffering
of the people and achieve Tamil Eelam in a shorter
period of time," he said four years after the
Military officers who have had to face
suicide cadres in battles say that they are like a
one-way weapon that only works on destruction and
achieving the mission. "No weapon, no technology
can stop the determination of the Black Tigers,"
Pirapaharan said in 2003.
Some of the most daring suicide
attacks, like the Rajive Gandhi assassination and the
attempt on President Chandrika Kumaratunga's life have
been carried out by LTTE female cadres. The first female
Black Tiger was a cadre named Ankayatkanni. The official
figure of the number of Black Tiger cadres killed in
action has never been properly established. This year
the LTTE quoted a figure between 261 to 264.