News

Politics

Focus

Spotlight

Editorial

Interviews

Insight

Review

Sports

Business

Arts

Letters

Nutshell

Now

Fashion

Archives

16th October, 2005  Volume 12, Issue  14

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

PM's carnival continues

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The presidential campaign of Premier Mahinda Rajapakse certainly appears to have gone well beyond the level of 'Helping Hambantota'.....

More...


 Top Issues Stories

   > Politicising the army and tender matters

  > Principal for principal as shadow war moves to Jaffna

  > PM vetoes President's poster  (....Pot Shots)


PM's carnival continues

The Information Department's contribution to the Prime Minister's campaign and Payment made by Prime Minister's Office to Colombo Plaza

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The presidential campaign of Premier Mahinda Rajapakse certainly appears to have gone well beyond the level of 'Helping Hambantota' and reached a stage of self-help. And the hands have dug rather deep into the state properties as the abuse of public resources continues unabated.

It seems that the presidential hopeful is trying out everything in the book, from holding banquet dinners to hastily employing cadres, to the abuse of state vehicles. And the government machinery is well involved in the entire exercise. It is a series of abuses by state agencies as much as it is abuses committed by a candidate running for the highest political office in the land.

One of the key and most recent incidents of state property abuse were recorded in Weligama in the Matara District. The Weligama police arrested six civilians and a poster-carrying cab belonging to the Plantations Ministry at 11: 10 pm on October 10. The vehicle bearing registration number 58-2186 was transporting 231 " Dinawamu Sri Lanka" posters and 176 posters announcing a musical show both of which carried the Prime Minister's photograph.

The Sunday Leader reliably learns that the Weligama OIC arrested the suspects after the Weligama mobile police patrol took the group of six into custody. At that time, they were putting up posters of presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse. The arrests were made by a Sergeant attached to the Weligama police during his night patrol beat at Gurubewila Junction in Midigama .

The six suspects are Ranepura Hewage Hemachandra, Kiringoda Arachchige Premasiri, Adigodagamage Piyal Ananda, Pilanawiladdarage Pushpananda, Wijesekera Arachchige Buddhika Pushpakumara and Randira Mahagamage Pradeep Chinthaka .       Ignorant of the law

According to legal sources, the driver of the vehicle in his statement to the Weligama police had stated that he was unaware that putting up posters and driving a state vehicle for that purpose contravened any laws. The aspects of law are best known to those who authorise such contraventions, like the Ministry official who authorised the release of the vehicle for the purpose of putting up posters.

According to Plantation Ministry sources, one Rasanga Harishchandra, a lawyer of the  Ministry has made the authorisation. Legal sources confirmed that the six arrests have been carried out under Sections 72 and 74 of the Presidential Elections Act and Section 5(1) of the Public Property Act. Sources from Matara courts also confirmed that investigations were still underway and that due to the lack of reference to public property in the Presidential Elections Act, the Public Property Act had been resorted to in charging the suspects with abuse of state property.

The matter was taken up  before Matara Magistrate, Rohan Jayawardena on Friday (14) when the  suspects were further remanded till October 19. It was argued by Anil Obeysekera PC that the matter had no basis and reference was made to the interim relief granted by the Supreme Court recently in Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's fundamental rights plea where it was held that there should not be independent police investigations in the absence of a complaint. Here, the argument was that there was no complaint lodged by the Secretary,  Plantations Ministry regarding any abuse of state property.

AG's  advice

The Weligama police submitted to court that the matter had been referred to the Attorney General's Department for further instructions and Rasanga Harishchandra who authorised the release of the vehicle. He submitted that there was a possibility that the vehicle was robbed in the first instance and therefore the person who authorised the release should be called before courts and questioned. Suspects were remained till October 19.  

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Though the Prime Minister may nonchalantly ignore the regular committing of the penal offence of "treating," it happens ad nauseum at Temple Trees where the Premier hosts people in their hundreds to win their favour at the forthcoming poll. This responsibility the Premier explains as 'Sinhala hospitality' which is to offer a cup of tea to any person who drops by. The instances and the amounts show that the Premier had gone well beyond the offering of a steaming cuppa to a Giruvapattuwa voter. These are banquets for large numbers in order to promote his candidature. The bills bear testimony to this fact. The Premier's Office had been regularly placing orders for food and drinks from the five star Colombo Plaza and had been settling some of the bills under the signature of Temple Trees officials.

A bill issued by Colombo Plaza on October 5, shows an outstanding amount of Rs. 476,016.40, which has been addressed, to the Prime Minister's Office, Temple Trees, Colombo 3. The account number given in the bill is 0039675 and to the  attention of Mr. Sumathipala. Sumathipala is Manager, Temple Trees. The Sunday Leader, to indicate the level of indulgence of a presidential candidate would like to spell out some details of the food orders and bills. On August 1, an order had been placed with Colombo Plaza Banquets under reference number 31993 for Rs. 23,576.40 and on August 15, for Rs. 17,500. The next day, August 16, a fresh order had been placed for Rs. 10,500. On September 9, yet another order had been placed with the same banquet service for Rs. 10,500 and the reference indicated was 32288. This bill had been forwarded to the Prime Minister's Co-ordinating Secretary, Vass Gunawardene.

September 14 called for another order under reference number 32132 for a sum of Rs. 372,940 and under the "particulars" of the bill, the name Ms.Lakshika Wijeratne was entered where the guest's name had to be indicated. The quantity mentioned was 140 dinners amounting to Rs. 372,960 and 15 cold canap desserts amounting to Rs. 9990. Other charges included Rs. 9990 with the bill totalling up to a staggering Rs. 392,940 for a single banquet the Premier hosted.

The Sunday Leader is in possession of a cheque drawn in favour of Colombo Plaza for food supplied on September 15 for a sum of Rs. 23,576.40 by the Prime Minister's Office. The cheque had been signed by the Premier's Accountant and the Additional Secretary. The cheque had been drawn from account number 681056 at the Taprobane Branch, Bank of Ceylon. The cheque number is 0002026287.

Use of public funds

Significantly, the evidence of spending public funds to promote Rajapakse's candidature comes hot on the heels of Prime Minister's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga's written denial on October 5 to UNP Deputy General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake. Attanayake a week ago wrote a strongly worded letter to Weeratunga holding him responsible for any public property abuses that were taking place at Temple Trees and warned of stringent action if the UNP assumes power. Weeratunga's letter denied the charges raised against Temple Trees which stated that, "I am informing you emphatically and categorically that none of the so called lavish lunches and dinners you are referring to have been financed out of public funds. I am saying this with all the sense of responsibility at my command as a senior public official," Weeratunga wrote.

As indicated before, there are collective abuses involving many state agencies where institutions compete with each other in spending public funds on the presidential campaign of the Premier.

Three vehicles and 22 employees of  Milk Industries of Sri Lanka Co. Ltd (MILCO) have been recently released for the presidential poster campaign. The vehicles are used in Hanguranketha and Nuwara Eliya areas and according to Ministry sources, were released under the instructions of   Rural and Human Resource Development Minister, C. B. Ratnayake. The three vehicles released are a Mitsubishi Double Cab (59-4289), Mitsubishi Double Cab (252-4485) and a Pajero Jeep (32-3030). The employees so released are mostly in the categories of production helpers and ordinary labourers.

Workers released

MILCO sources confirmed that some workers have been given official leave to indulge in campaign work and have been released on the purported basis of "marketing development," a function they are incapable of carrying out due to their employment status as helpers and labourers. Each person is nevertheless paid an additional payment of Rs 5,000 (payments made by MILCO) apart from 24 hours overtime and subsistence allowance for engaging in the poster campaign, the source confirms.

In the meantime, The Sunday Leader learns that the Premier had held a meeting on September 29 at Temple Trees with farmers. The gathering, it is learnt was to solicit their support for the presidential election and MILCO had spent Rs. 550,000 for the transport, refreshments etc. in two stages. Further, it is established that the money had also been spent for making cutouts and a poster campaign.

According to voucher number PBOIPO606330-AD40 issued by MILCO Private Ltd bearing cheque number 397204, the initial payment had been for a sum of Rs. 200,000. The narration of the payment states, " advance for farmers meeting with Prime Minister on 29/09/2005 AD 40 (Mr. U B Rajaguru). The second voucher bearing number PBOIPO606370-AD 40 and cheque number 397244 is for Rs. 320,000.

Seeking to make a literary contribution to the Premier's presidential stakes, through a clear case of abusing public funds is a publication by the Department of Information titled Diriya Minisekuge Nomakena Satahan (Footsteps of an unforgettable man). The 56-paged booklet commemorates Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's first year in office. Nevertheless, the publication was not released in April when Rajapakse completed his first year and a souvenir would have been appropriate but in early October as the campaign kick started.

In furtherance of the presidential campaign, the Media Ministry too had not thought twice before paying some Rs. 162,000 to artist Kamal Thilakaratne for providing a float which is to be used for electioneering. The amount was only a 50% advancement payment. The payment had been made on September 1 and carries a budget code of 710000 and the vote ledger reference is 156 -122. The total cumulative value before the request is Rs. 7,839,224.16.

Post haste

On a similar note, some quick recruitment are taking place at the Sri Lanka Samurdhi Authority for Grade II Samurdhi officers with effect from October 3. Each district has been allocated a quota of such appointments to be made in haste - some of the appointment letters The Sunday Leader is in possession of. According to sources, as per gazette notification published on September 26, applicants for the post of sanitary labourers have been called for interviews on October 6 by director, Western Provincial Council Health Services.

Meanwhile, invitations have been sent out under the hand of Kurunegala Government Agent, Jayantha C. Bulumulla and Chief Secretary, Wayamba, M. M. N. D. Bandara calling all senior government officials to attend the Prime Minister's presidential election rally scheduled to be held in Maligapitiya, Kurunegala on October 19.

The Sunday Leader understands that at least two senior government officials have refused to attend the rally stating that as public servants they were not expected to attend political rallies. As of Thursday (14) evening, there were busloads of people reaching  Temple Trees. It was dusk and the generous Prime Minister who wants to welcome visitors to his official residence with true Sri Lankan hospitality was sure going to offer them much more than the cuppa. And that is at the expence of the public, if all the bills reproduced seek to prove anything.

The Bribery Commission

The Independent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption was set up with much fanfare and was founded on this nation's wish for a corruption free country. The legislation, Act No 19 of 1994 sought to cater to these high ideals and was introduced with the blessings of both the government and the opposition. The new laws also came to encompass areas hitherto unaddressed and strengthened the definition of bribery and held public servants responsible for any abuses, corruption or bribe taking within their institutions.

To enable the process of receiving complaints with ease, Section 4 (2) was introduced. It empowered the commission to investigate a complaint made even by anonymous communication if such communication is genuine and it disclosed material upon which an investigation ought to be conducted.

What the Presidential Elections Act metes out

Under Section 20 of the Presidential Elections (Special Provisions) Act No 02 of 1981, every person who commits the act of undue influence or bribery shall be guilty of an offence, upon being tried by a magistrate to a fine not exceeding Rs. 500 or imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months or to both fine and imprisonment. Every such person convicted shall be incapable for a period of seven years from the date of his conviction to vote at an election under this act.

'Treating' is a  penal offence

Under Section 169 E of the Penal Code relating to offences against elections, whoever commits the offence of bribery shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Rs. 500. Bribery by treating shall be punished with a fine not exceeding Rs. 200. Explanation: 'treating' means that form of bribery where the gratification consists of food, drink and entertainment or provision. 

Bribery and the public servant

Public servants are charged with a significant duty under the Bribery Act No 19 of 1994. It sets apart offences other than bribery where a heavy duty is cast upon public servants in preventing abuses or corruption. Section 70 of the Bribery Act specifies that any public servant who, with intent to use wrongful or unlawful loss to the government or to confer a wrongful or unlawful benefit, favour or advantage upon himself or any person, or with the knowledge that any wrongful or unlawful loss will be caused to any person or to the government or that any wrongful or unlawful benefit, favour or advantage will be conferred upon on any person;

(a) Does or forebears to do, any act, which he is empowered to do by virtue of his office as a public servant,

(b) Induces any other public servant to perform or refrain from performing any act which such other public servant is empowered to do by virtue of his office as a public servant,

(c) Uses any information coming to his knowledge by virtue of his office as a public servant,

(d) Participates in the making of any decision by virtue of his office

(e) Induces any other, by the use, whether directly or indirectly, of his office as such public servant to perform or refrain from performing any act, shall be guilty of the offence of corruption and shall upon summary trial and conviction by a magistrate be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine not exceeding Rs. 100,000 or to both such imprisonment and fine. Similarly, Section 19 of the Bribery Act is equally clear that a person;

(a) who offers any gratification to a public servant as an inducement or reward for such public servant's performing or abstaining from the performing of an official act, or expediting, delaying, hindering or preventing the performance of any official act whether by that public servant or by any other public servant, or assisting, favouring, hindering or delaying any person in the transaction of any business with the government, or

(b) who, being a public servant, solicits or accepts any gratification as an inducement or a reward for his performing or abstaining from performing any official act for such expediting, delaying, hindering, preventing, assisting or favouring as is referred to in previous paragraph (a) of this section, or  (b) who, being a public servant solicits or accepts any gratification, shall be guilty of an offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not more than seven years and a fine not exceeding Rs.5, 000. It shall not be deemed an offence for a public servant to solicit or accept any gratification, which he is authorised by law in terms of his employment to receive.


Politicising the army and tender matters

By Sonali Samarasinghe

It's official. UPFA presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse is impervious to moral or legal persuasion when it comes to using state property to service his election campaign.

Neither would his trusty campaigners coyly desist from exploiting the indulgence of the judiciary when it comes to thrusting forward relentlessly in a mad quest for power. But more of that anon.

Our brave soldiers have not been spared either. Let's face it, they have been used by the likes of Mahinda Rajapakse and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for electioneering even in the past.

Anuruddha Ratwatte and the purchase 
order signed by Lt. Col. Dehiwatta

From distributing propaganda leaflets in the presidential campaign of 1999, to setting up barricades to prevent voters from reaching their respective polling booths in the north and east, the army machinery has been shamelessly exploited during elections. And now if you will, these soldiers are being used to bolster up the audience at Mahinda Rajapakse's election rallies.

Army vehicles

Investigations have now revealed that vehicles procured for the army have been released for Mahinda Rajapakse's presidential campaign.

On September 30 this year, the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) ordered three brands new black Toyota Corolla vehicles at a cost of Rs. 10,170.000. The unit price for each was Rs. 3,390.000 including VAT.

Any decision for the procurement of vehicles or other material by the SLA may be taken only after proper tender procedures are followed and subsequent to due technical evaluation by a competent Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).

Procurements cannot be carried out in a hurried way in a matter of hours. However this is exactly what happened with the Toyota Corollas. 

In the afternoon of September 30 at 2:30 p.m. the tender documents relating to the above vehicles was handed over by Major General Basil Peiris from the Master General's Ordnance to the Director of Ordnance Service (Foreign Branch).

Two hours later on the same day at 4:30 p.m. a tender board was summoned hastily and a decision was taken to purchase the vehicles with no approval by the TEC as is required practice.

The usual practice for procurement by the army is to publish an invitation for bids in the newspapers. Bidders will place the bids in a deposit box, which will be opened in front of all the bidders on the scheduled date.

The bids will then go through a Technical Evaluation Board which will then forward an evaluation report. The evaluation board will comprise of persons selected by the Master General's Ordnance Branch from a list of names put forward by the Defence Ministry.

The evaluation report will now be examined by a tender board which could be appointed at departmental level or ministerial level depending on the value of the tender.

An army source explained that if the army is calling for any tenders to the value of up to Rs. 5 million the army must inform the Defence Ministry. If the value is up to Rs. 10 million it is the Defence Ministry that must call for invitations to tender according to guidelines issued to the Army Headquarters by the Defence Ministry.

Nonetheless, the race was on to procure these vehicles and on October 3, the SLA Ordnance Directorate by a purchase order signed by Lt. Col. Dehiwatta ordered from Toyota Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. in Wattala the supply of three 'staff' cars as described above.

The cars were delivered to the army the next day, on October 4. The vehicles were then kept in the 'S' section of the SLA. That is the Supply and Transport Section. These cars mind you have been procured by the army and should remain for use by the army.

However no sooner the cars arrived one of them was immediately released to Retired General Anuruddha Ratwatte whose passing foray into army territory between 1995 and 2000 included dressing up in combat costume and posing for strategically appointed photographs.

Ratwatte is not only an accused in a murder case now being heard in the High Court he is also the accused in a bribery and corruption case on Rs. 42 million undeclared assets now being heard in High Court. In both matters he has been enlarged on bail.

Ratwatte also has the further distinction of being the National Organiser for the SLFP and a man now campaigning for Mahinda Rajapakse in his presidential campaign. He is also handling the Prime Minister's security in the campaign.

Army sources said that the distribution of these vehicles was done by Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda. They said the army was under the impression the vehicles were procured on the instructions of the Defence Ministry for the purposes of the Ministry.

Asked why the army issued a purchase order from its Directorate of Ordnance Service for the Defence Ministry, the source said it was not irregular to do so and vote transfers may be made.

Army sources also added that as a former deputy defence minister, it is well known that Ratwatte is a target and the Defence Ministry coordinates security for him. Further the army has consistently supplied vehicles, Land Rovers, security and transport for Lakshman Kadirgamar, Douglas Devananda and V. Anandasangaree who are top LTTE targets.

Be that as it may, earlier Anuruddha Ratwatte was given three Land Rovers by the government for what legitimate purpose and on what legitimate grounds eludes us.

Indulgence of court

But what is even more alarming is that Ratwatte, while begging the indulgence of the High Court to excuse his presence in the bribery and corruption trial on grounds of security threats, is however happily going on the campaign trail for Rajapakse and by his actions exposing himself to the public in the process. The very reason mind you which he gives to get excused from presenting himself in the High Court.

Even on October 3, on the very day the army was procuring vehicles one of which was released to him, Ratwatte was sending out letters to district organisers requesting them to set up meetings in a sufficiently large private place in the area for him to hold discussions with organisers and coordinators with regard to the presidential campaign.

Blue berets

But this is not all. Mahinda Rajapakse and his campaign organisers now thought it fit to round up some 200 army personnel, strip them of their uniform, don them in civvies, press a blue campaign cap on their heads and have them throng the Prime Minister's Town Hall rally last month.

You guessed it. The very same rally where Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse sat silent while JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe urged him to disband the army. Perhaps Amarasinghe feels that the army cadre may better serve the petty agenda of his potty little party if they can be used to bolster propaganda rallies rather than guard the borders of this country.

Indeed if Amarasinghe and Rajapakse insist on using army cadre to swell the ranks of their depleting support base, how would these brave men have the opportunity to safeguard the country against the onslaughts of antidemocratic elements?

These 200 army personnel were sent from the Panagoda army camp wearing caps in support of Rajapakse. Fifty soldiers each were sent from the Sri Lanka Light Infantry, the Artillery, the Sinha Regiment and the Engineering Service Regiment.

They were all given caps in support of Mahinda Rajapakse. The caps were supplied by a person named Charan Wijesinghe.

An army source who wished to remain anonymous denied knowledge of soldiers being used for election campaigns but stated that the army cannot be used for such purposes.

More tender benders

Meanwhile on October 7 the army called for tenders to repair armoured vehicle carriers. The accepted tender procedure was again not followed and the tender was awarded to Polytechnologies of China for a sum of Rs. 400 million. Director (Plans) Brigadier Samaraweera approved the same.

There is an accepted army procedure when awarding the tender for repair of armoured vehicles. This includes the inspection of the company capabilities and a report on the same. However the award was granted to the Chinese company without such technical report despite Defence Ministry Accountant D. Wimalasena not approving the terms of the tender award.  

Wimalasena when contacted by The Sunday Leader declined to comment on the issue. When asked to reveal the reasons why he did not approve of the said tender he suggested that a letter be sent to the Defence Ministry secretary on the matter.

Polytechnologies meanwhile already say it is willing to load the spares in China for the cost of Rs. 150 million immediately while the repairs will be undertaken next year at a cost of Rs. 250 million.

Army sources said that the army had no vote of Rs. 400 million this year. Tender provisions under S 179 allow for the army to go to the manufacturer in the case of repairs and that it was not irregular to do so. The army had Chinese armoured vehicles and the Armoured Corp Regimental HQ would inspect the manufacturer's capabilities and decide.

Flak jaks

In a separate incident the army placed an order for the repair of 3250 flak jackets. Tenders were called requesting a sample and pricing. A tender board chaired by Col A.K.D.A. Karunadara was appointed to go into the matter.

Major A. Samarasinghe from the Ordnance Unit and Major Samarasekera from the Commando Unit checked all the samples and they were then sent to Master General Ordnance (MGO).

The MGO then sent a letter dated September 30 ref. MGO/501/2005 stating that samples should be upgraded and a news set of samples should be sent.

Following this letter two bids were received. One from Hands International Pvt. Ltd., which made an offer of  Rs. 8,500 per unit and the other by S.P.S. Group whose offer was Rs. 3,800 per unit.

The application of some simple mathematics would reveal that awarding the tender to repair these jackets to Hands International would cost the army Rs. 27,625,000 while awarding the tender to S.P.S. Group would cost the army considerably less, that is Rs. 12,350,000.

Mind you, the S.P.S. Group had handed in their samples to one Major Gunasekera also of the Procurement Section on October 5.

All samples were accepted but the samples were not evaluated by a Technical Evaluation Committee but directly put to a tender board on October 7.

The tender board then decided to award the tender to Hands International but the number of jackets to be repaired was cleverly reduced. Thus even though 3,250 flak jackets needed to be repaired only 2,555 were to be repaired under this order. At the Rs. 8,500 rate came to Rs. 21,717,500.

A strategic reduction

The number of flak jackets to be repaired being reduced was not such a mystery after all. According to regulations any purchase over Rs. 25 million must necessarily go to the Defence Ministry for approval. However since now the value of the tender was reduced to fit the purpose it was Brigadier Basil Peiris and Captain Chrishantha Rodrigo who gave the approval.

On this matter the army source said that the decision to award the tender to Hands International was made by evaluating not only price but quality of the product. Both bidders were treated equally and given the chance to submit samples. S.P.S. Group was substandard, the source said.

Asked why only 2,555 jackets were given to be repaired the source said the number was reduced according to the money available. Asked if it was because any tender over Rs. 25 million had to obtain Ministry approval the source denied the charge.

The army has just completed 56 years as a professional unit with a regular force structure. It is an army that has indeed safeguarded Sri Lanka's borders and from time to time fought to quell anti democratic elements. For it to remain disciplined and structured it needs to strictly abide by regulation and law. It must regiment its personnel as much as it must regiment its finances.

The army can in no way be politicised whether the JVP intends to disband it or otherwise. Politicians cannot exploit the army and use its cadre for political purposes whether it be wearing party caps and attending party election rallies or whether it be distributing propaganda leaflets.

Indeed if the army takes pride in itself Lt. Gen. Kottegoda and his men should strive to be disciplined in every sphere so that it can celebrate 56 more years of discipline and structure with dignity and integrity.


Principal for principal
as shadow war moves to Jaffna

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Twenty years after former St. John's College Principal, Charles Anandarajan was killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,school principals have become targets of gun toting assassins again. Tuesday, October 11 saw Kopay Christian College Principal Nadarajah Sivakadatcham (54) being gunned down at his residence.

Velupillai Pirapaharan and Douglas Devananda

In what seemed a tit for tat killing Jaffna Central College Principal, Kanakapathy Rajadurai (53) was shot dead outside the Veerasingham Hall the following day (12th). It was almost as if open season had been declared on eminent educationists in Jaffna.

It was night around 8.35 pm on the 11th when two men on a motorcycle arrived at the residence of the Kopay Christian College Principal near the Kalaivani Community Centre and Library in Kopay north about 4 km north - east of Jaffna town. 

Calling out to the unsuspecting Principal the assassins entered the house. Sivakadatcham who was watching television in the company of his wife and eight year old daughter got alarmed by this intrusion and abruptly stood up. One of the men trained his pistol on the Principal at close range and fired away. Forehead shattered, a blood splattered Sivakadatcham fell down while his wife and child screamed. He was dead on the spot.

It was broad daylight around 3.40 pm when the Jaffna Central College Principal arrived at the entrance of Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna town. Rajadurai was the chief guest for the Navarathri (Nine Nights) cultural ceremony organised by the Jaffna Educational Secretariat. Even as Rajadurai alighted from the motorcycle pillion he was riding, four waiting youths walked up to him. One of them whipped out a pistol and fired fatal shots at point blank range. At least four bullets entered the head, shoulder, chest and abdomen. The youths fled on motorcycles as Rajadurai collapsed. He was taken to hospital but succumbed to his wounds at 4. 25 pm.

Jaffna shocked

Two principals of leading educational institutions had been murdered within24 hours. Jaffna once known for the regard and respect shown to education and educationists reeled from the twin shocks. The timing of the killings was symbolically cruel. The navarathri period is devoted to Durgha, Lakshmi and Saraswathy, the divine consorts of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma respectively.

The first three days are for Durga or Malaimahal the Goddess of Valour and war. The middle three are for Lakshmi or Alaimagal the goddess of wealth and Blessings. The last three days are for Saraswathy or Kalaimagal, the goddess of knowledge and arts. In Jaffna where learning and education is given pride of place the last three days and nights dedicated to Saraswathy are observed and celebrated in grand manner. The assassins had chosen to kill two principals on the days of special pooja to Saraswathy.

Broad sections of the Sri Lankan media in Colombo were quick to condemn the 'usual suspects' for both Murders. Most journalists attributing blame on the Tigers for both killings had little information independent of the police, army and Tamil organisations based in Colombo. The government too pointed the accusing finger at the Tigers for the killings.

Cabinet Spokesman Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told the weekly cabinet press briefing that the government protested strongly over the killings by suspected LTTE cadres and wanted Trond Furuhovde and Ian Martin to take the incidents seriously with the LTTE on their visit to Kilinochchi.

"We wanted them to highlight the human rights violations by the LTTE specially stressing the killing of two school principals", the Minister said. "According to circumstantial evidence so far unearthed by the security forces and the police we believe that LTTE was behind the killing of the two school principals in Jaffna," the Minister added.

Before Nimal Siripala de Silva came out with his revelations an interesting yet puerile duel was enacted over the airwaves of BBC Tamil services regular programme Thamizhosai. The LTTE's Jaffna political commissar Ilamparithi now based in Pallai told the BBC that both killings were the work of the state military intelligence with the help of Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP). EPDP Leader and Northern Development Minister Douglas Devananda denied the allegation on the same programme saying that the Central College principal was a "close friend." He also added that the Kopay Christian College principal was "a LTTE sympathiser until recently."

Both Ilamparithy and Devananda were trying to pin both killings on one party. The LTTE was accusing the security forces and EPDP of being involved in both killings. Devananda on the other hand was accusing the LTTE of being responsible for both killings. The army information center, police, sections of the southern media and even the cabinet spokesperson were ardently toeing the 'Douglas line.' The Ilamparithy spin however was NOT echoed faithfully by Tiger and pro - Tiger media like nitharsanam, puthinam and Tamilnet. Their reporting seemed to indicate that Sivakadatcham was killed by minions of the state while Rajadurai was murdered by the LTTE.

Inquiries made of informed circles in Jaffna by this writer over telephone and electronic mail resulted in an inescapable conclusion that two sets of killers had been responsible for the two murders.The intelligence apparatus of the state seems responsible for the Kopay Christian College Principals killing. The LTTE was responsible for killing the Jaffna Central College Principal. Though the LTTE had been killing people without restraint over the past years, the killing of Rajadurai seemed essentially a tit for tat killing.

What knowledgeable Jaffna residents were concerned about most was whether this spree of killings would further escalate. They feared greatly that the shadow war destroying the east had now come to the north. The killing of principals was seen as a harbinger of evil tidings.

LTTE violates ceasefire

Events of the recent past need a quick re-run to understand what is happening now. The LTTE entered the government controlled areas in large numbers to do political work after the ceasefire. At the same time members of other Tamil groups described derisively as "para - military" by the Tigers were to be disarmed. This was done to a great extent by the Wickremesinghe government. The LTTE however observed the ceasefire in the breach by assassinating members, ex - members and suspected civilian supporters of non - Tiger groups in the N- E. The LTTE also targeted informants and other members of the auxiliary forces.

The ceasefire expressly forbade such killings but the LTTE went on merrily killing. When queried the eversmiling Tiger political commissar Tamilselvan cavalierly dismissed the charges saying the army and police were responsible for law and order in the government controlled areas. The Tigers had nothing to do with the killings he said. Tamilselvan even suggested that the killings were a result of internecine feuding within and among the Tamil groups. Sadly the Wickremesinghe government and Oslo seemed incapable of checking this staggered massacre.The non - Tiger outfits like the EPDP, PLOTE and an EPRLF faction reduced their presence in the N- E and became virtually non - functional.

The turning point came with the LTTE Eastern Commander Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias "Col." Karuna's revolt. After suffering some reversals and withdrawing from the east, Karuna inspired his cadres to keep resisting the LTTE through hit and run attacks. Though his rebellion was initially homegrown he was constrained to collaborate with the Sri Lankan state apparatus for reasons of survival.

Karuna strikes

Soon the tide turned. Karuna's cadres augmented by ENDLF men began dishing it out to the LTTE. The predator became prey. The LTTE has restricted its movements very greatly in the east now and is almost non - existent in government controlled areas. It must be noted that Karuna's ascendancy was made possible to a great extent by the covert logistical support provided by the state though denying it overtly.

It was however a different scenario in the north where the LTTE continued to target its perceived enemies. These included some members of the armed forces suspected to be military intelligence too. A high watermark of the LTTE's unbridled disregard for civilised norms was the brutal murder of "King" Charlie Wijeywardene, the Jaffna SSP. This was followed by the Lakshman Kadirgamar assassination. It appears that some time after these killings the green light was given for an unofficial operation in the north too. It was felt that only an eastern type campaign would help cut the Tigers down to size in the north.What goes around comes around. The chickens have all come to roost in the LTTE coop.

The LTTE as usual became aware of the plan and began a media campaign. Nevertheless the blueprint for a shadow war went on as planned. According to an informed source a contingent of specially trained Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim security personnel are now in the north. They are guided by military intelligence personnel. They are assisted by some members of non - Tiger Tamil groups.

The shadow war commenced sometime in late September. Since every act of violence is inevitably linked to the LTTE, few suspected that the clandestine operation had been launched. The presidential election also gave impetus to the shadow war campaign. It was resolved that the LTTE should not be given an opportunity like at the 2004 elections to manipulate polling. A countervailing force to check and counter the LTTE was needed.

Travel ban by EU

Initially all killings and violent acts in Jaffna were depicted as Tiger sponsored. But the LTTE knew which was which. The Tigers suspected that their political wing operatives were going to be victimised. It is said that quite a few Tiger operatives and agents had been abducted clandestinely. The LTTE keeps quiet about it for tactical reasons as well as pride. The 30 year old video shop owner in Uduvil killed." a few weeks ago for example was a tiger agent. He was allegedly shot dead by an intelligence operative codenamed "Banda." But the southern media portrayed it as a Tiger killing while the northern media parroted the familiar killed by unknown persons line.

The LTTE with preemptory caution moved its known political cadres outside the government controlled areas. Ilamparithy now operates from Pallai near the Muhamalai border. The LTTE intelligence personnel and killer squads remain within the government controlled areas. According to a news item posted in the EPDP website sometime ago, the Tigers are targeting a list of 67 people in a preemptive bid to eliminate potential opposition. Some of the recent violence was directed against these targets.

Unfortunately for the Tigers the EU has banned travel and called for an end to assassinations. Yet the Tigers are caught up in a vortex of violence. If they are to continue their campaign it will blacken prospects with the EU. But from their perspective of self - survival there is no way out. Even if they retaliate to some acts the blame will be on them. Already the escalation of violence after the EU ban has been noted. Furthermore agent - provocateurs are likely to provoke the LTTE into more violence.

The states security apparatus and its Tamil minions are no saints either. They too are capable of imitating the Tiger in every way. Jaffna seems to be on the verge of a shadow war. Let us also not forget that as far as presidential elections are concerned aspiring candidates would like to get northern votes but opt for other choices if they are not assured of a safe bloc.

The killings of Sivakadatcham and Rajadurai have to be viewed against this backdrop of a shadow war. Contrary to propaganda being dished out by the state and sections of the media Sivakadatcham was a strong supporter of the LTTE. He had at one time been supportive of the EPRLF but was now staunchly pro - Tiger like the EPRLF's Suresh Premachandran.

It was only a few weeks ago that his nephew Nagulan was killed in Vavuniya. Nagulan, an EPRLF cadre had quit politics and was living quietly with his wife and children in a Sinhala majority area. The killing was as usual attributed to the LTTE but there is some suspicion now that the actual killers belonged to the EPDP.

Sivakadatcham was a leading office - bearer of the Tamil resurgence committee responsible for organising the Pongu Thamil demonstrations. He also was in charge of the 18th anniversary celebrations of Lt. Malathy who died during the IPKF battle on October 19th 1987 in Kopay. She was the first woman Tiger to die in battle. The first woman militant to die in battle was Shobha of the EPRLF who died in the attack on the naval base at Karainagar in 1985. Shobha was the sister of Douglas Devananda.There is some resentment in EPDP and EPRLF circles that the LTTE is distorting history by blacking out Shobha and promoting Malathy as the first woman martyr.

Rajadurai warned by LTTE

The selection of Sivakadatcham by the anti - Tiger elements as a "soft" target in the shadow war against the LTTE can be understood if not condoned in this context. If the killing of a high - profile supporter of the LTTE was calculated to send shivers down the spines of non - combatant Tiger supporters the LTTE response was prompt and predictable. An equally symbolic target had to be eliminated to demonstrate that the Tigers would not take these types of killings lying down. So Rajadurai was killed by the LTTE nineteen hours of Sivakadatcham's murder.

Rajadurai was already in the LTTE's bad books. He was principal of Jaffna Central College where Douglas Devananda had most of his secondary education. Jaffna Central College founded by Methodist missionaries is one of the oldest schools in the country. Devananda as minister showered the college with attention. Rajadurai as a dedicated principal cultivated the alumnus and got a lot of money for school development. Many new buildings. classrooms and laboratories were put up through Devanan-

da's help. Rajadurai also allowed Central College students and premises to be used in the educational program Kalvikkalam broadcast over radio.

This perceived closeness to Devananda was resented by the LTTE and in May this year the Tiger front Ellalan Padai (Elara's force) issued a leaflet warning Rajadurai. He was asked to stop all cooperation with the government and Devananda or face the consequences. This was followed by the LTTE Tamil website Nitharsanam operating in Oslo with Norwegian funds threatening him as an EPDP "consultant."  The Nitharsanam also threatened Rajadurai. Incidently this writer and his photo has also been featured frequently in this website run by "Oothai Sethu," a man linked directly to LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman.

Devananda blames LTTE

A troubled Rajadurai went to Kilinochchi after the threats and met Daya Master , Balakumaran and "Baby" Ilankumaran. He explained his position and said that he was not of the EPDP. Rajadurai also said that he was cultivating Devananda to get as much aid as possible for the betterment of the school. The LTTE told him not to worry and sent him back. Rajadurai may have thought that he was safe. It may even have been so. But when a pro - Tiger principal was killed by suspected EPDP gunmen Tiger logic necessitated the killing of a perceived pro - EPDP principal. It had to be prominent, quick and easy. Rajadurai fitted the bill. It was open knowledge that he was going to be at Veerasingham Hall. That was that and his life snuffed out just like that.

While there is no doubt in most minds that Rajadurai was killed by the LTTE there is some doubt about Sivakadatcham. The security and police circles along with ministers Devananda and De Silva are trying to pin blame on the LTTE for this too. Sections of the media are swallowing this line either wittingly or unwittingly. The desire on the part of the security apparatus and its collaborator Devananda to blame the LTTE for Sivakadatcham's death is obvious.

For one thing the launching of a northern shadow war has to be kept unpublicised. The killing of a principal for whatever reason will not go down well with the Tamil public. Moreover Sivakadatcham's killing was the provocation for the second murder and therefore deserved greater condemnation.

Thus Devananda and the security sources are coming out with contradictory pronouncements. The trouble in all this is that Sivakadatcham was a known and publicly identified LTTE supporter. He was on a Tiger platform even a few days prior to his death. So Devananda says that Sivakadatcham had arguments with the LTTE a few days ago. He had allegedly objected to student conscription. Other stories planted by security circles are about Sivakadatcham consistently opposing conscription of minors, a change of heart after the EU ban, resentment over his nephew Nagulan's killing and about LTTE anger over a poor show of Pongu Thamil. The LTTE therefore killed him.

But the LTTE has awarded him a Tamil national patriot Nattruppattraalar title post - humously. A Tiger press release was issued. The Tamil National Alliance MPs Eelaventhan, Sivanesan and Gajenthiran organised and participated at the funeral. LTTE intelligence helped organise a transport stoppage by the Kopay students at the Kopay junction where the Point Pedro - Jaffna road and Kaithady - Urumpirai roads criss - cross. Many leading education officials participated at the funeral. All this would have been impossible if the victim was killed by the LTTE.

Devananda of course says that the LTTE is going through this charade to deflect blame away from them. If so why restrict it to Sivakadatcham alone? Why not apply the same deception to Rajadurai? After all the Jaffna Central College principal was more high profile and being blamed for that killing would be more harmful. Just as the students' of Kopay Christian are being instigated into demonstrating by the LTTE, Centralites are being encouraged by the EPDP. This does not mean that the students and staff of either college do not feel sorrow or pain. Of course they do. But it is not possible for such feelings to be demonstrated publicly without instigation or protection from powerful forces.

EPDP, Security blamed

Three factors point to the hand of the security apparatus cum EPDP in the killing of Sivakadatcham. Firstly neither the Kopay police nor an army detachment in close proximity came to the scene quickly after the shooting. The man was shot at 8. 35 but the body was removed only after midnight. What kept the army and police away for so long? Contrast this with the immediate response of the authorities after the Rajadurai shooting.

Secondly there is the phenomenon of Devananda and security sources straining every sinew to convince the world that the LTTE was responsible. Theories are bandied about. Hitherto undisclosed information is stated as gospel truth to butress these views. The over zealous attempt to project an impression that the principal had quarrelled with the LTTE and was immediately victimised appears infantile.

Thirdly the response of the media and some trade unions is indicative. Much mention is made about Rajadurai. The teacher's union for example condemns Rajadurais killing but not Sivakadatcham. If both were LTTE victims then both killings should have been condemned equally. The perceived imbalance of the response shows that only one killing was by the LTTE.

The Thenee Tamil website is run by critics of the LTTE in Germany. It is of high political standard and uncompromising in its critism of the Tigers. Its latest report about the killings of the principals is headlined Sabaash! Sariyaana Potti (Wow Good Competition). In the film oriented popular culture of Tamils these lines from the film Vanchikottai Vaaliban (The youth from the fortress Vanchi) are etched in collective memory. It is the scene where two of the greatest actresses of the Tamil screen Vyjayanthimala and Padmini compete in dance before the hero Gemini Ganesh and the villain Veerappa.

Violence will continue

Even as the dance hots up Veerappa edges forward and echoes the sentiments of all viewers by saying Sabash. Sariyana Potti. The Thenee has correctly assessed that there is going to be competitive violence in the north.

Northern violence has taken a qualitative turn. It is no longer going to be one - sided with the Tigers doing all the killings. Another force has also emerged. It may be entirely state sponsored or a reaction of non - Tiger groups aided by the state.

The reality is that two entities are going to engage in violence against each other hereafter. The killing of two principals by two sets of killers indicates that. It is not a simple dance competition for people to enjoy and comment on the equal competition. It is far more serious. Jaffna runs the risk of being engulfed in a wave of internecine violence. It does not matter whether there would be victors or not. The victims are all going to be Tamil regardless of their politics. Just as eastern Tamils now the northern Tamils too will soon be victims in a looming shadow war.


PM vetoes President's poster

It is a known fact that President Chandrika Kumaratunga managed to keep everyone on pins and needles until last week. Her indecision on whether to support presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse or not had a twin effect - a debilitating impact on the SLFP ranks while managing to confuse other political parties extending support to the Premier at the forthcoming presidential poll.

Maithripala Sirisena

Maithripala Sirisena

President Kumaratunga who was on a visit to France telephoned SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena from Paris itself. She informed Sirisena that she would like to attend seven public rallies in support of Rajapakse's candidature and to have them organised.

Kumaratunga also had a list of conditions for attending them. And the key condition was that both the JVP and the JHU should be excluded from her platform and that Premier Rajapakse should submit to this decision.

Further, she said though the ban applied to both the JVP and the JHU, there was no such prohibition on political leaders who belong to the People's Alliance. Another condition was that all decorations should be in blue.

The last of the conditions was that SLFP members who were loyal to her should exclusively organise the seven rallies.

Sirisena agreed to all the conditions, and requested Kumaratunga to return to the island as soon as possible so that the meetings could be organised speedily.

Special poster

Next the President called a SLFP senior hand, Dr. Sisil Bandara Senaratne and requested him to design a poster for the Wariyapola public rally, the very first to be attended by Kumaratunga.

She instructed that the SLFP policy of "extensive power devolution within a united framework" should be included in the poster in a conspicuous manner.

SLFP headquarters commenced working on the special poster promptly.

The news about the special poster reached Premier Mahinda Rajapakse's ears shortly. He received the information from Ports and Civil Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera whose informant was Ruwan Ferdinandes.

The Prime Minister was livid and also hurt. He fired a quick call to Minister Maithripala Sirisena and instructed him that until the presidential poll is concluded, SLFP headquarters should accept only his instructions. He insisted that no publicity work should be done without his prior approval.

He further ordered the immediate halting of the printing of the special poster.

Sirisena's pleas

Sirisena wanted to pacify Rajapakse. "Don't act in haste and lose her support. She has finally consented to hold seven rallies on your behalf. Don't make something small like a poster an issue and attack her. All she wanted was to give these rallies the SLFP identity. The SLFP policy is also to devolve power so there is nothing wrong in this exercise," Sirisena said to pacify the Premier.

But Rajapakse would have none of it. He insisted that the Bandaranaikes would not drop even a pin at this moment if there were no benefit for them.

He insisted on stopping the poster. Sirisena's pleas fell on deaf ears. While the two were discussing the matter, at one point, the Premier mentioned Minister Samaraweera's name, and Sirisena quickly queried whether it was Samaraweera who carried the tale to him.

Rajapakse did not realise the slip of the tongue and said, " No, it was not Mangala who told me."

Sirisena then smilingly said that it was the Premier who mentioned Samaraweera's name just then.

The SLFP General Secretary took the opportunity to give some sound advice to the Premier at this point.

"I am telling you this because I have great respect and affection for you. There is a group that wants to create a rift between you and the two Bandaranaikes. Please ignore the tales carried by Mangala, Sripathi and others like them. They want to marginalise Anura and the President. If the Bandaranaikes are with you, then they cannot get close to you. So they want to drive you away from the Bandaranaikes," explained Sirisena.

He then said that seniors were often complaining that it was the same group that used to poison the President's mind against the people that worked closely with the Premier to the detriment of the SLFP.

"They are still carrying tales, and now they carry tales to you. Don't base your decisions on their utterances and think twice. If you insist, I will stop the poster," Sirisena promised.

Poster cancelled

He next called Senaratne and cancelled the poster. He explained that the Premier was thoroughly disturbed by the poster and appealed that all party supporters should act in such a way that there would not be a rift between the President and the Prime Minister.

But Senaratne insisted that it was a Presidential order from which he could not deviate.

"The order came from our party leader. If she tells me not to proceed, I shall stop it. She wanted me to have it printed by the time she arrives," Senaratne explained.

But Sirisena appealed that the poster be stopped immediately and promised he would handle it if the President questions the reasons for its cancellation.

He also warned Senaratne that every bit of news also made its way to the Prime Minister as much as it reached the President.

The troublemaker

Senaratne gave a lengthy reply to this and made some references to Minister Samaraweera. He said that it was Samaraweera who created trouble within the SLFP at all times.

"My position is also a problem to them. This is why Mangala's supporters gather gossip and carry tales. They created problems then and they do so now. They are now carrying tales to the Premier. Why doesn't the Premier understand this or doesn't he care?" he queried.

Sirisena cut him short and instructed to stop the poster immediately without causing further trouble.

News has wings and particularly bad news and so Kumaratunga quickly got wind of the development at the SLFP headquarters. But by then, she was already getting ready to fly back home. 

 

Unlucky 13 that stumped the Premier

That Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's campaign has been surrounded by bad omens, traditionally and astrologically, is now a known fact.

From the first rally the Premier attended in Uyanwatte, Matara where the white dove was killed when it knocked against the ceiling fan to the day of the signing of the agreement between Rajapakse and the JVP when the wind prevented the traditional oil lamp from being lit, bad omens have definitely taken centre stage.

These events raised much concern and Rajapakse from then on was extra cautious. He even asked his confidants to be mindful not to pave the way for any more incidents of this nature from taking place. However, he was to face yet another bad omen on the day of nominations.

Consulting the astrologers

Nominations were to be handed over on October 7 and on October 5, Rajapakse called two of his trusted astrologers to Temple Trees. One astrologer hailed from Ratnapura, while the other was from Matara.

The Premier held a discussion with these astrologers on the first floor of Temple Trees. Wife Shiranthi and their elder son Namal, brothers Basil, Chamal and Chamal's elder son Shasheendra also attended the meeting.

The secret discussion was held to determine the auspicious times to leave the residence and enter the Elections Commissioner's Department to hand over nominations on October 7.

After listening for a while, both the astrologers came up with one answer - that according to Rajapakse's planetary positions, October 7 was not an auspicious day. According to them, the ideal days for the purpose would have been either September 28 or October 3.

Rajapakse then said that it was useless talking about it now as the date to hand over nominations was final and it was on October 7.

The astrologers then informed Rajapakse that there is an auspicious time at 4:37 p.m. on October 7 and asked him if he could delay the time of handing over nominations till then.

"No I don't think that is possible. There is a specified time to accept nominations. Basil, you know the time don't you?" asked Rajapakse.

Basil said that the time allocated for handing over nominations was between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and half an hour would be allocated for any objections to be filed. He also said that the whole process would end by 11:30 a.m.

The astrologers once again looked at the Premier's chart and asked if he could not delay the time till 2:30 p.m. as there was an auspicious time at 2:21 p.m.

Rajapakse then called the Elections Commissioner's Department and spoke to an official who informed him that neither the time nor the date allocated for nominations could be changed. The official further said that if any changes were made it would result in a lot of controversy.

Visibly angry after his conversation with the official at the department, Rajapakse charged, "Just give me some time. I have a lot of work to finish. I just wanted an auspicious time as everyone forced me to do so."

Finally with the greatest difficulty, the astrologers came up with a time for the Premier to hand over nominations. That was 10:34 a.m. on October 7.

Guidelines for Rajapakse

The astrologers also asked Rajapakse to follow several guidelines.

They informed him that the Premier would have to enter the hall by 8.46 a.m. and not budge an inch from his seat till the handing over of nominations. At 10.34 a.m., Rajapakse was told to hand over the nominations facing a certain direction and also how he should leave the hall.

The Premier was also informed as to how he had to leave Temple Trees. He was asked not to leave Temple Trees from the main entrance, but from the rear entrance and wife Shiranthi was asked to give Rajapakse a glass of milk before leaving.

Everything was planned accordingly, but on October 7, after observing all the practices prescribed by the astrologers, it was just as Rajapakse was getting into his vehicle that he encountered the unexpected.

Rajapakse was getting into the vehicle when Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi came in front of him with a glass of water. Sooriyaarachchi had been previously informed that he was to greet the Premier before his departure.

Seeing Sooriyaarachchi first did not please Rajapakse, but he silently got in to the vehicle. Rajapakse then berated the security officer in the vehicle. "Who the hell sent that man and don't you people check who comes in?" he asked.

"Sir we didn't know. He did not tell us that he was going to come with a glass of water," the security officer said. Still not satisfied with the answer, Rajapakse continued to berate the officer. He asked the officer why Sooriyaarachchi was not stopped from coming near him.

"It is you people who will kill me one of these days. Not Pirapaharan," Rajapakse barked.

Until he arrived at the Elections Commissioner's Department, Rajapakse continued to find fault with the security personnel.

The 13th candidate

Rajapakse did not look happy when he entered the hall and it was Wijedasa Rajapakse who noticed it. "Sir is there a problem?" he questioned. Rajapakse explained what happened. And once inside, he handed his nomination in last.

However, since one of the 14 candidates did not hand over nominations, Rajapakse had to hand in his nominations as the 13th candidate.

The Premier who did not notice it was informed by wife Shiranthi that being the 13th candidate was not a good omen.

Shiranthi informed Rajapakse that astrologers have requested her to hold several poojas blessing him.

Rajapakse was concerned about the turn of events and said that it was all because Sooriyaarachchi decided to step in at the last minute and ruin things. However, he asked wife Shiranthi to hold the necessary poojas to nullify the bad effects of being the 13th candidate. 

 

CBK-Mahinda in slanging match

The political situation was tense at the time of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's return to the island. Her first task was to call up a few people and censure each individual.

She was angry that the poster she conceptualised for the Wariyapola meeting was shot down by others. She also revealed her anger to SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena and Leader of the House, Nimal Siripala de Silva.

"How dare Mahinda stop the poster? I am still the Party Leader. I am still the President of the country as well. Tomorrow I shall have that poster put up all over the island," she said angrily to Sirisena.

Blame on Mangala

Sirisena tried to diffuse the tension and requested the President not to take drastic decisions. His suggestion angered her further and she began to blame Minister Mangala Samaraweera for the situation.

"That Mangala carried tales to me and drove many loyalists away. Today he is doing the same thing to Mahinda and creating a rift between us. I thought Mahinda has some intelligence but it doesn't appear to be so. I shall teach everybody a good lesson," thundered Kumaratunga.

Realising that the tension was only likely to increase if the situation was not resolved, Maithripala Sirisena made a beeline to Temple Trees. He wanted the Prime Minister to quickly settle the misunderstanding he has with the President and try to work together.

He told the Premier that it was difficult to predict what would happen if there was no peace between the two leaders. But the Premier would have none of it.

"Tell her to do whatever she wants. If she tries to undermine me, I am going to announce at every meeting that she is obstructing my path daily. Then of course people will stone the President's House and that would teach her a proper lesson," said an annoyed Rajapakse.

Sirisena, now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, tried reasoning out with the Premier. Finally the Premier showed a conciliatory attitude and requested Sirisena to organise a meeting between himself and the President.

The SLFP General Secretary was quick to organise a special discussion between the two leaders. At their collective request, Sirisena was also included in the discussion. The two hour discussion commenced around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, October 8.

The first 45 minutes were full of heat. The Prime Minister entered the discussion room with a question that also carried a request.

President meets PM

"You are doing it quite well Madam, but please decide which candidate you wish to support. You can either support me or decide to lend assistance to my opponent Ranil. If you want to help me, don't use all types of trump cards against me," he said.

This had the President fuming and her response was equally cutting. She did not attempt to conceal her anger or select her words carefully as she hurled accusations at Rajapakse.

"Do not speak like an ungrateful man, Mahinda. If I want to defeat you, remember that there are many things I could say as well as do that could easily destroy your political future. Until November 17, I remain the Executive President of this country. You behave like a JVP presidential candidate manipulated by Mangala Samaraweera. You have fallen to their degrading level and indulge in third grade politics today," she breathed.

Kumaratunga also defended her agreement with the JVP as an attempt to win the JVP over to support a negotiated political settlement based on extensive power devolution and an open economy.

Emotional outburst

"What did you say then at the central committee? You said I was destroying party principles and in fact blamed Samaraweera for conspiring to destroy the SLFP. You also opposed some of Anura's stances. Anura also told me to get the JVP support but to ensure that they remained closer to the SLFP ideals. You finally gave in to all their whims and became a JVP manipulated candidate who does not care for the SLFP," she said.

At the end of her emotional outburst, the President's eyes were filled with tears. This had a stabilising effect on the Premier.

"Please don't get angry or upset Madam. I am doing all these things to win the election. You know that I have got them on my platform not out of love for them but to ensure our victory. Without them, you know that we cannot win the election," the Premier explained.

To this the President agreed. "I understand that position. But, you can't do elections in this manner. There is no victory possible at a presidential election without Hakeem and Thondaman and you have alienated them," she explained.

The Premier agreed that the task ahead was insurmountable.

Rajapakse explained that he planned on winning Hakeem's and Thondaman's support at the last moment, now that he had lost the first round with the two minority political leaders. "I also heard that you put obstacles in their way," the Premier said.

To this the President struck back saying, " So I heard that you got Mangala to spread the word that I sent Thondaman away and that I took him to New York to brainwash him. How do you propose to prove that charge? I get to hear everything that you tell others. You think I never get to hear them. But people complain to me saying that you have turned your back on the SLFP and what it stands for," she added.

The President further said that Rajapakse could have won Thondaman over if he did not align himself with the JVP and the JHU.

"That's what Thondaman told me. If you don't trust me, why not ask Thondaman? Not only that, I also asked him to support you. You dug your own grave by believing Mangala. I quite agree that to give Ranil a fairly good fight, you are going to at least need these two political parties. But that is because you don't have anyone else, at least not any party that matters," she added.

President agrees to help Mahinda

The Prime Minister then said that it was good that the President finally saw reason. " You can lend strength to my campaign Madam. That would be a good move," Rajapakse said.

Kumaratunga, somewhat conciliatory by then, agreed to assist Rajapakse in his campaign for presidency but insisted not to include the JVP and the JHU on any of the meetings that she addresses.

"They are so repulsive to me, so allow me to do it my way and I will do my best. I have policies to protect and they are policies and stances that I have represented for decades. I cannot compromise them on the eve of ending my political career. I will do my meetings on my own," she said.

Then surfaced the contentious issue of the presidential poster. The Prime Minister was of the view that a poster need not mention unnecessary details but should only announce the event.

"You say united and I say unitary. Just print the poster without that detail. When you speak also, please exercise some measure of caution. Thousands of party cadres listen carefully and would see that we are at variance," the Premier added.

President's instructions

The President instructed the Premier not to get into the habit of telephoning SLFP headquarters and shooting down orders issued by her.

"You are trying to show the country that Chandrika is now history. Don't do that. If you have a problem with my decisions, speak to me directly. Or else, at least tell Maithripala who could be trusted," she said.

Kumaratunga also entrusted the task of organising her seven meetings to Maithripala Sirisena himself. Now that the tension was significantly diffused, the Premier was in a happy mood.

"Just bring a JVPer and a JHU member and keep them close to your stage," he joked, but the President strongly objected to their presence in any form.

"Don't you get me started once more. If you want me to canvass on your behalf, allow me to do it my way. If I am not wanted, I will go overseas and let you run the show the way you want," she said.

The Prime Minister quickly said that he had no intention of disrespecting her wishes.

"I just wanted to ask you, now that you are feeling much better. But if you don't want it, then I will go along with it," he said.

Ad campaign that went haywire

The controversies within the Prime Minister's campaign keep increasing every day due to bad management.

It is an accepted fact that during any election, print and electronic advertising plays a decisive role in the final outcome of the election.

The UPFA's electronic media campaign in the run up to the 2004 elections stands as testimony to this fact.

The campaign carried out under the slogan 'Kawda Mewata Waga Kiyanne?' still rings in the voters' minds. Therefore the advertising campaign receives prominence during an election.

However, Premier Mahinda Rajapakse's election campaign has run into a problem with regard to the advertising part of it.

Triad turns down PM

At the outset, Triad Advertising, which pioneered the UPFA's advertising campaign in 2004 (also owned by Minister Sarath Amunugama's daughter Varuni), was called and asked to take charge of the Premier's election campaign. After highlighting several facts, Triad refused to take charge.

Several rounds of discussions were held with the agency and they all ended without arriving at a final decision.

By this time, several advisors and officials linked to Rajapakse understood that the advertising campaign was going to cost several millions and would be a fountain of money, which would personally benefit them.

Everybody wanted to be part of the advertising campaign merely to secure for themselves a share of the money allocated.

It was at such a time that Rajapakse's Media Secretary Chandrapala Liyanage introduced an advertising agency called Mind Ads. Liyanage informed the Premier that it was Mind Ads that carried out the 'Kawda Mewata Waga Kiyanne?' campaign.

Tussle for campaign

Two others joined Liyanage in carrying out this task - one was Lakshman Hulugalle, who was involved in the Channel 9 controversy and the other was Anura Siriwardena, who owns several advertising agencies.

The other party to take part in the tussle was another advertising agency - Bates, the big shot of which was Mangala Samaraweera's brother-in-law. Bates forwarded its proposals with Samaraweera's blessings.

Climax

However, the battle between advertising agencies reached a climax last week. It resulted in officials at Temple Trees also dividing into two factions fighting for the agency they supported.

Finally, it was Mind Ads which received the green light to produce the television commercial.

The commercial, which was aired on ITN, did not receive any positive feedback. Several who contacted Samaraweera informed him that when compared with the ones aired on behalf of Ranil Wickremesinghe, Rajapakse's advertisements looked inferior.

Samaraweera who was upset over the failure of his brother-in-law's company to secure the advertising campaign asked the Premier to remove Mind Ads from the campaign. He said that if the ads continued, it would be to the detriment of the campaign.

India wins the day

Rajapakse said that the task was handed over to the company as he was informed that it was Mind Ads that carried out the 'Kawda Mewata Waga Kiyanne?' campaign.

Samaraweera cleared matters then and there. "No you were wrong, it was Sarath Amunugama's daughter's firm, Triad that carried out the campaign," he said.

The Premier then asked if the task should be handed over to his brother-in-law at Bates.

Samaraweera who was faced with a difficult situation said, "You have to somehow give it to Triad without giving it either to Minds or Bates."

Accordingly, the airing of advertisements produced by Minds was stopped immediately.

However, all efforts made to hand over the campaign to Triad failed last week as they said that they did not have sufficient time to carry out the campaign and that they did not wish to tarnish their good name.

The final outcome was to get an advertising agency from India to take over the campaign.


ŠLeader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :
editor@thesundayleader.lk

 

 

lsdlfkdlfkjjkakskfkd