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21th May, 2006  Volume 12, Issue  45

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

Rajiv's murder and its aftermath

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Fifteen years ago on this day, May 21,  Rajiv Gandhi was killed at a place called Sriperumbhudoor in Tamil Nadu. He was not prime minister then. An election campaign was going on to elect......

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 Top Issues Stories

  > Tigers lose advantage gained at Geneva talks

  > Changing face of the JVP and Wimal ( ....Pot Shots)

  > Pandemonium in condominium

  > Checkpoints double as the search continues


Remembering Rajiv Gandhi on his 15th death anniversary

Rajiv Gandhi, J.R. Jayewardene, 
R. Premadasa and Velupillai Pirapaharan

Rajiv's murder and its aftermath

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Fifteen years ago on this day, May 21,  Rajiv Gandhi was killed at a place called Sriperumbhudoor in Tamil Nadu. He was not prime minister then. An election campaign was going on to elect a new Lok Sabha or parliament. The Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi was the front runner. After Rajiv's death it was a Congress government that assumed office under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Death came in the form of Dhanu, a young Tamil woman from Sri Lanka. 

Dressed in a churidar she came up to the smiling Rajiv and garlanded him. The chubby, dark - skinned, bespectacled girl then bent low to touch his feet as a mark of respect. Then came the explosion. A bomb strapped to her body was triggered off. Rajiv Ganhi was no more. Eighteen died and many others were injured in the suicide bomb attack.

The date of Rajiv Gandhi's death has poignant significance for me. May 21 was my birth day. Thereafter his memory looms large on each birthday. My birth and his death which happened 37 years later are inter-twined in my consciousness. It is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since his death.

I recall discussing Rajiv's death with Frontline Editor Narasimhan Ram on the telephone. Both of us did not believe then that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were responsible. It was a time when influential journalists in Chennai were trying hard to bring about rapprochment between Rajiv and the LTTE. The well-known Tamil poet Kasi Anandan (Kathamuthu Sivanandan) had met Rajiv Gandhi in March that year. The London based financial consultant Arjuna Sittambalam had met Rajiv some weeks later. Both were regarded as pro-Tiger emissaries.

It appeared that the stage was being set for some kind of political reconciliation. The Indian establishment at that time was more angry with Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa for booting out the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) than the LTTE, which fought the Indian army. Earlier Rajiv had told 'Murasoli' Maran that he was prepared to discuss even a de facto Eelam with the LTTE if necessary.

Tigers responsible

It was against this backdrop that we felt the LTTE would not have committed this murder. I wrote an article then for Frontline in which I argued the pros and cons. It was overwhelmingly against the chances of the Tigers being responsible. Yet I ended the piece with the line that if the LTTE was indeed responsible the ultimate losers will be the losers. Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias 'Col' Kittu then in London argued passionately with me that the Tigers were not responsible.

He sincerely believed then that his movement was not responsible. It was Kittu acting at the behest of his leader who was instrumental in sending emissaries to meet Rajiv Gandhi. He was doing so because Velupillai Pirapaharan had ordered him to do so. I was quite close to Kittu then and  played a minor role in these efforts. Though I had been critical of Rajiv Gandhi and the IPKF earlier, the wisdom of hindsight had made me realise that the Tamils could not afford to be alienated from India in the long term.

Alas! All those hopes and the efforts of those Indian journalists who in association with Kittu arranged for the meetings with Rajiv were all dashed when it became clearly established that the Tigers were responsible for the killing. What has happened thereafter is a progressive estrangement between 'Mother' India and her 'Eelam' Tamil children. The people of Tamil Nadu in particular were hurt and angry.

Jayalalitha Jeyaram swept the polls in Tamil Nadu. The DMK regarded as being partisan towards the LTTE was vanquished. Only its Leader Karunanidhi managed to scrape through with a 800 vote lead. Jayalalitha followed a hard, strict policy towards Tamil refugees in the state. Even educational opportunities were restricted. Harassment became the order of the day. Thousands of Tamils who preferred to live in Tamil Nadu because of the Tamil ethos reluctantly relocated to the west.

More importantly the Indian public mood changed. India had welcomed Tamil refugees in 1983 and looked after them. Now it was made known, they were  unwelcome. Sri Lankan Tamils were regarded as having abused Indian hospitality.The LTTE was officially banned. Indian policy towards Sri Lanka changed. No longer was the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils in Indian calculations. Having banned the LTTE India found itself unable to interact with the Tamils as it had done before. That situation prevails still though some improvement is there.

The LTTE had a golden opportunity to salvage the situation a little in April 2002 when Pirapaharan held his famous press conference in Kilinochchi. When Indian journalists raised the issue of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination the LTTE leader could have been apologetic. Some remorse could have been displayed. This could have demonstrated that the killing was regretted and the Tigers were sorry. Instead Anton Balasingham called it a thunbiyal sambhavam (tragic incident) and asked journalists not to dig into it. This made the situation worse.

Most harmful act

The killing of Rajiv Gandhi was perhaps the single most harmful act inflicted upon themselves by the Tigers. Not only the Tigers but all Sri Lankan Tamils by extension were affected. Fifteen years later it remains as the biggest stumbling block to better relations between India and the Tamils.

I was in Jaffna when the IPKF - LTTE fighting began. I saw the atrocities and civilian killings first hand. When I returned to Colombo and exposed these in The Island I was arrested and detained. It was this and consequent harassment that made me leave Sri Lanka then.

There was a time when my relationship with the Indian High Commission people in Colombo was excellent. I was The Hindu correspondent then. Other Indian journalists used to call me the "blue-eyed boy" of the IHC. Yet my relationship soured because I criticised the IPKF,  some aspects of the Indo-Lanka accord and Rajiv Gandhi. I was even fired by The Hindu for trying to expose IPKF rapes.

I was for some time very bitter about Rajiv Gandhi and the Indian role in Sri Lanka. But time changes things. Rajiv's assassination was a shock. However much one may be critical of a person no decent human being would want that person to die or worse still be killed in this gruesome fashion.

As time went on my thoughts about the Indian role and Rajiv Gandhi too began to change. Looking at the predicament of the Tamils now I feel that the Indo-Lanka accord with all its shortcomings would have been much better for Tamils in particular and Sri Lanka in general if it had been allowed to be implemented.

Indo-Lanka accord

The Indo-Lanka accord has provisions that changed Sri Lanka for the better. The accord recognised the reality of Sri Lanka being a multi -ethnic , multi-religious nation and not a mono-ethnic, mono-religious entity as proclaimed by majoritarian chauvinists. It also acknowledged the north-east to be the historic habitat of the Tamils and Muslims.

The accord also brought about the north-east merger. It afforded official language status to Tamil. More importantly it brought about a scheme of devolution. The provincial councils were introduced because of the Indo-Lanka pact. The powers had to be reduced due to the tricky situation of getting it past the Supreme Court. The SC decision was five to four with three of those judges voting in favour coming from the minority communities.

The Indians had plans of enhancing devolution on a staggered basis. They had obtained an assurance in writing from President J.R. Jayewardene to that effect. One of the changes envisaged was doing away with the concurrent list of powers. But then the provincial council was never allowed to function properly in the north-east. Today PCs are active in the Sinhala areas but not in the north-east for whose people it was mainly intended.

Best deal

I recall High Commissioner Dixit, Political Secretary Hardeep Singh Puri and information secretary Lakshmi Puri trying to convince me in discussions that the Indo- Lanka accord was the best possible deal that the Tamils could have obtained at that time. Historically it was the highest quantum of Tamil rights recognised by the Sinhala dominated state.   'Lets work it out and improve it further' they would say. But I would have none of it.

Appapillai Amirthalingam and I were engaged in a heated argument once about the Indo-Lanka accord. I remember him repeating again and again " I am telling you from experience. The Sinhala state will never accept our rights without outside intervention. We need India to help us. If the Indian army goes off before our rights are ensured our people particularly those in the east and Vavuniya will be finished."

Belatedly I realise the wisdom in those views. I too wanted the Indians out then. I was happy when the N-E provincial council was dissolved. But what has happened now? After years of strife and sacrifice the Tamil people have not achieved anything tangible. Multitudes have died or been maimed, the economy is shattered, people dispersed, values brutalised, culture eroded and dwellings destroyed. Yet the Tamils have nothing.

The LTTE may have built a military machine. But practically it is of no use other than to perpetuate misery and loss.  Even the LTTE had lost only 611 cadres at the time of the Indo-Lanka accord. Today they have lost nearly 19,000.  Compared to this situation the Indo-Lanka accord would have been better.

Was genuine

It is with this mindset therefore that I think of Rajiv Gandhi. Though critical of him then I realise now that he was trying to do the right thing by the Tamils and Sri Lanka.  N. Ram the editor-in-chief of The Hindu was to tell me once that Rajiv Gandhi despite his blunders was genuine in trying to resolve the ethnic problem in Lanka. Other Indian journalists have told me that Rajiv really felt sorry for the Tamils and wanted to usher in a fair deal for them. I also subscribe to these sentiments now.

Rajiv was the great grandson of Mothilal Nehru. The grandson of Jawaharlal. Son of Indira and Feroze Gandhi. He belonged to what was modern India's greatest political dynasty. Yet he was reluctant to enter politics. It was the plane accident that killed his brother Sanjay which made Rajiv enter politics. Otherwise he would have been quite content to be flying planes. His mother's assassination catapulted him into the prime minister's seat.

I was in India covering the momentous election of December 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi won with a landslide. It was the biggest margin of victory enjoyed by the Congress till then. With his handsome features and attractive smile Rajiv was India's darling. He brought modern methods into politics. Initially Rajiv with Arun Nehru and Arun Singh formed a trio at the helm. The three 'P's they were called (Pilotwalla, Polishwalla and Paintwalla).

 Gandhi dynasty

Rajiv's mission was to take India into the 21st century. That was not to be but today India has entered that century and is doing gloriously well. The dynasty too flourishes. His widow Sonia is the power that rules India. His dashing son Rahul is an MP. His vivacious daughter Priyanka reminding many of grandma Indira will be a political force to be reckoned with in the future. Even his sister-in-law Meneka and nephew Varun are in politics though at the other end of the political spectrum.

After Rajiv Gandhi became premier he brought about two praiseworthy political settlements in the domestic sphere. One was the pact with Punjab Sikhs and the other the accord with Assamese student activists. It was in the wake of these agreements that he accelerated efforts to resolve the Sri Lankan crisis. He was a man in a hurry and people in a hurry often make mistakes.

He removed veteran G. Parthasarathy and sent the high flying Romesh Bhandari as his special envoy to Colombo. Rajiv made a significant departure from his mother's strategy when he brought in the militants for talks. Indira and GP kept the militants out and relied on the TULF alone for negotiations. Five militant groups were kept on par with the TULF at the Thimpu talks. Being in haste the originally envisaged extended time frame of the staggered ceasefire was telescoped into a short duration. The talks failed but due to this reason alone.

Later Rajiv got into a 'huff'  with Foreign Secretary A.P. Venkateshwaran which led to the latter's resignation. This was a great loss as APV was fully cognisant with the Lankan issues. Then came Natwar Singh, P. Chidamparam and even Dinesh Singh as emissaries. In Colombo it was Dixit who did the spade work ably assisted by the Puris.

It was a matter of touch and go. Had Sri Lanka resisted the air drop of supplies by India history may have been different. Even if a de jure Eelam had not come into being a de facto Eelam like that of Turkish Cyprus may have been there. But the crafty Jayewardene knew when to bow his head. This, Jayewardene did, and New Delhi was happy. Negotiations were on and soon came the Indo - Lanka accord. It had its shortcomings but could have been improved if allowed to work. This was not to be.

Won admiration

Rajiv won the world's admiration and respect when he went to Colombo to sign the accord. The Tamils on the whole were happy then. I remember writing a piece "Why Tamil eyes are smiling" for The Island then. Rajiv had a nasty experience when a naval rating took a swipe at him with his rifle during the guard of honour. Rajiv saw it from the corner of his eye and deftly sidestepped taking the blow on his shoulder instead of head.

When Rajiv returned to India President Venkatraman defied convention and came to the airport to receive him. "The hazards of waging peace" said Venkatraman, aptly describing the situation. If that blow was fatal history Indo-Lanka history may have been different. Then came the war with the LTTE. A confident Rajiv said "It will be a short, swift strike. Our boys will be back home soon."

How wrong he was. The IPKF - LTTE war dragged on. Tamil civilians suffered and many harboured deep antipathy towards India. Finally India was outsmarted when the LTTE aligned with Premadasa to drive the third party out.

Then Rajiv himself lost elections. The Bofors scandal had raised its head. Had Rajiv lived longer this issue itself may have been detrimental to his image. But that was not to be. The explosion at Sriperumbhudoor changed all that and the course of history.

Fifteen years have passed since Rajiv Gandhi's death. Is not the time opportune now for the "Eelam" Tamils to express their regrets publicly?  I am informed by knowledgeable Indian circles that one thing troubling Sonia and the children is the fact that there has been no apology made so far publicly. Private expressions yes, but no public or collective expression. What hurts the family is the fact that Rajiv really wanted to do good for the Tamils.

Collective guilt

When the 1983 July violence happened the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala, Rt. Rev. Lakshman Wickremasinghe wrote a letter publicly apologising to the Tamils. The ailing Bishop was not in the country at the time and certainly had no hand in the violence. Yet he spoke of collective guilt and stated his views openly. I speak from experience in saying that Bishop Lakshman's act helped soothe to a great extent the pain and sorrow felt by many Tamils then.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa is another example where years of animosity are overwhelmed when frank admissions of guilt and genuine expressions of remorse are stated. Rajiv Gandhi may have been killed by the LTTE and except for a few the Tamil people have had no hand in that, but a collective expression of genuine regret could certainly help change the current status quo.

Let us remember Rajiv on the 15th anniversary of his death for the good intentions and actions taken in pursuance of those. Let us remember him as the man who wanted to usher in a fair deal for Sri Lankans in general and Tamils in particular. Let us commemorate his anniversary with the admission that the accord he signed in 1987 remains still the best possible settlement to the Tamil national question ever made so far.

 


Tigers lose advantage gained at Geneva talks

Geneva Peace talks in progres

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The 25 member European Union seems set to list the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) as a terrorist organisation. The EU technical committee has already made a recommendation to this effect.

The 700 member EU parliament has passed a unanimous resolution calling for a freeze of LTTE assets and finances in Europe. The travel ban on LTTE already in force has been duly recognised. Member states have been asked to do away with the illegal taxation conducted by the LTTE among the Tamil diaspora. More importantly a total proscription is being actively considered.

The LTTE is already proscribed in India, USA, Britain and Canada as a terrorist organisation. In Australia some restrictions are in force. The travel ban and proposed freeze could hamper the movement considerably. A formal listing could affect the LTTE more in Europe.

The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora is widely scattered among European countries. It is of sizeable numbers in Britain, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Ireland. The EU listing will not affect Switzerland and Norway who are not members. But it could have repercussions in other countries.

Dependent on diaspora

The LTTE relies heavily on the Tamil diaspora for finance and propaganda. It is unrealistic to expect that all Tiger fund raising and propaganda would cease because of the ban. But it could certainly diminish and even become less strident.

More importantly the Sri Lankan state could depict the ban as a victory for its war against LTTE  'Terrorism.' It could seek to undermine the Tamil national struggle as being 'terroristic.' The Sinhala hawks could be encouraged by this to pursue the military war more vigorously.

On the other hand an already paranoid LTTE may regard the 'world' as incurably hostile to them , quit the peace process and resume full scale fighting.

"The more the international community alienates the LTTE, the more the LTTE will be compelled to tread a hardline individualist path," warned LTTE chief negotiator and political strategist Anton Balasingham.

For at least two years, the Sri Lankan state has been waging a 'shadow war' against the LTTE, Balasingham pointed out. "This shadow war has now transformed into a low-intensity war" he claims.

"Emboldened by international support, and especially by further proscriptions of the LTTE, the Sinhala hardline elements will undoubtedly take steps to further escalate the violence and precipitate a war in which they hope to destroy the LTTE," he said. "If this happens, the LTTE will be compelled to resist."

EC ban

"As such, an EU ban is not going to help bring about peace, but will only serve to exacerbate the conditions of war and endanger the lives of Tamil civilians entrapped by Sinhala occupation forces," Balasingham further said.

Already some Sinhala hardliners are cock - a - hoop with glee about the proposed EU listing. Pro - Tiger media is lamenting the fact and pushing the line that with the international community turning against Tamils the LTTE will have no choice other than to fight. Tamils are being exhorted to rally around the Tigers.

What is sad in this scenario is to see how the LTTE has lost within three months the advantages gained through participating at the Geneva talks in February this year. The Mahinda Rajapakse regime through some unethical yet adroit manoeuvres has managed to outsmart the LTTE and erode the advantage gained. The LTTE through some hasty, ill - advised acts has squandered its advantage away and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The LTTE was in bad shape 'diplomatically' in January this year. The consequences of three major blunders were having their effect. The three blunders as stated in these columns on March 12 were the Lakshman Kadirgamar assassination, enforced boycott of presidential elections and escalation of violence against the security forces in the name of the people.

The European Union had already imposed a 'travel ban' on the LTTE after the Kadirgamar assassination. The LTTE was being put on probation. Its conduct was to determine any future course of action the EU could take. A full ban was very much on the cards when the LTTE enforced a boycott and stepped up violence.

Fairy godfather

The LTTE however had a fairy godfather. Norwegian special peace envoy Erik Solheim campaigned valiantly for a reprieve through the good offices of Nordic countries in the EU. Solheim also managed to persuade the LTTE into attending the Geneva talks on February 22 and 23.

Doing so helped the LTTE come out of the international dog house. The LTTE was once again being perceived as a credible partner in the peace process.

The talks focused on the ceasefire and the violence threatening to disrupt it. An agreement was reached where both sides agreed to end it. The government agreed to end Tamil paramiltary violence in government controlled areas and disarm the groups. The LTTE agreed to control violence carried out by Tamil civilian forces.

Both sides had been arguing earlier that both types of violence were being committed by independent parties. They had no part in this they said. The Geneva agreement was a tacit admission that both sides were capable of controlling the respective types of violence.

At face value the LTTE had gained a victory. The Tigers had presented details of the Tamil paramilitaries in each north - eastern district. The government was now obligated to crack down on the groups. If that happened the LTTE would have won without firing a shot.

But the Colombo regime had some dirty tricks up its sleeve. The problems started when the LTTE delegation landed at Katunayake. The luggage was ransacked. Catalogues of weapons were depicted as contraband and held up for hours. Heavy duty was imposed on some items brought by the Tigers. A big fuss was made in accommodating a woman LTTE member on a helicopter. She had fallen sick and required a quick ride. Even more was the humiliation when media carried stories of this treatment.

Then came the rebuttals. Government personalities and eminent lawyers went on record arguing against what had been agreed upon in Geneva. The Army Commander said that no paramilitaries were in existence in government controlled areas. The government's position was that it was required to take action only if such a phenomenon existed. Since there were none 'officially' nothing further was required.

This act of denial was accompanied by an ironic development. LTTE cadres and supporters were attacked by Tamil paramilitaries in the north and east. But the state was keeping mum. The International Community (IC) was lukewarm. An assurance was given earlier that the IC would exert pressure on Colombo to disarm the Tamil groups. But nothing firm was being done. Incidently the IC that was indignant about the Kadirgamar killing was less than concerned about the horrific murder of Joseph Pararajasingham in church during Christmas mass.

Refusal to provide transport

Another irritant was the refusal of the government to provide helicopter transport to LTTE eastern commanders to go to Kilinochchi for consultations with the Tiger leader. It was true that Colombo was not legally required to provide such transport, but it was a courtesy that could have been extended without a big fuss. This angered the LTTE further.

Thereafter comenced an absurd drama. Instead of offering the simple choice of direct helicopter transport Colombo was coming up with bizarre offers to demonstrate to the world that they were being flexible - private aircraft, sea boats, sea planes etc. were offered in stages. The Tigers played into government hands by seemingly agreeing and disagreeing. It was really funny to see all these efforts going on instead of deciding on the easy option.

While these moves were on major violence erupted. The state drew blood when assassins allegedly from the Karuna faction lodged in EPDP offices in Trincomalee shot dead Trincomalee TNA political leader Vanniyasingham Vigneswaram. The Tigers could have utilised the murder politically by pressurising the IC. Instead of that the LTTE once again resorted to attacking security forces personnel through claymore mines. When one exploded in the market killing civilians of all communities, Sinhala - speaking mobs unleashed calculated violence against Tamil civilians. Security forces did not prevent it.

The next LTTE blunder was the suicide bomber attack on military headquarters which killed 11 and injured 26 including the Army Commander. The government retaliated by bombing and shelling civilian areas. But it rationalised the attack by saying only LTTE positions were targetted. This was bunkum but the SLMM and IC seemed to buy the explanation. Meanwhile the Tigers came in for much criticism for the suicide bomber attack.

LTTE gets reprieve

Fresh efforts were made to get the EU to ban the LTTE. But the Scandinavian factor helped the Tigers. A ban could result in monitoring activity being affected. Finland, Sweden and Denmark were monitoring nations. So the LTTE got a reprieve again.

Then came two colossal mistakes by the LTTE. First was the announcement that the Tigers would not attend talks again until the state implemented what was agreed upon in Geneva earlier. Whatever the problems the LTTE should have never abandoned talks. Participating at talks was the way to keep the IC wolf at bay.

The second was the friction with the SLMM and attack on the naval flotilla.The LTTE's 'tactical' friends were the SLMM in a bleak scenario. But the LTTE political commissar sent three undiplomatic, intimidatory letters to the SLMM demanding that they do not accompany navy ships. Then came the attack off Point Pedro where the lives of two monitors were endangered.

Instead of being apologetic the LTTE summoned the SLMM chief and ticked him off. They also issued an ultimatum. Earlier the LTTE had treated both facilitator Norway and the SLMM shabbily by refusing to meet with then. The facilitators as well as the monitors were cheesed off with the Tigers.

The government on the other hand played its cards well. It began to campaign ardently for a ban on the LTTE. Colombo was clever enough to say that the ban was only a device to exert pressure on the LTTE to attend talks. The IC bought into that argument.

The early years of the ceasefire saw the IC being extra lenient towards the LTTE on the basis that 'carrots' were necessary to keep the Tigers in the peace process. But now the thinking seemed to be that the 'stick'was needed to force the LTTE into talks. The Sri Lankan government adroitly pushed this line which was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the IC.

The paradox in this was that it was the LTTE which would have been on top politico - diplomatically at the second round of Geneva talks. It was the government that had gone back on its assurances first. The Tigers could have exercised patience and driven that point home.

Unfortunately the LTTE resorted to its familiar method of violence. The Tigers are reluctant and impatient to follow acceptable, non - violent , democratic methods of protesting or negotiating. They prefer to hit hard as they believe that force is the answer to everything. As a result the LTTE has lost its moral ascendancy and advantages gained in Geneva.

Complicating matters further is the total absence of tactful diplomacy. The 'gung ho' letters sent to the SLMM in the name of Tamilselvan are monumental disasters. The statements released on behalf of the LTTE are often drafted in bombastic fashion. The purpose seems to be that of titillating its irresponsible, jingoistic expatriate supporters rather than conveying its viewpoint clearly with credibility.

Diplomacy is a fine art and in the sphere of international relations every word , phrase and sentence need to be drafted carefully. The nuances are very important. The SLMM response to the LTTE letters show a lack of communication between both sides. The points made could have been effectively put forward if careful craftmanship went into formulating the missives.

Qualified Tamil expatriates

The LTTE has a vast resevoir of talented and qualified Tamils to draw on. There are many ex - diplomats and academics with a background in international relations among Tamil expatriates. The LTTE would do well to consult them or make use of their professional input.

Even now the situation is not irreversible. War is not the sole option. If the LTTE transplants the Maoist dictum of "one step backwards two steps forward" into the politico - diplomatic sphere it has a chance of turning things around.

Firstly it has to swallow some humble 'kanji' by apologising sincerely to the SLMM and Norway and withdrawing its demands made of the monitors. The LTTE must guarantee SLMM security and SL Navy security.The Tigers must reconcile with the SLMM and Norway.

Secondly it must announce that it is ready to participate in Geneva. The government and sections of the media may ridicule the LTTE as having caved into EU pressure, but the Tigers should not heed it too much. The main thing is to demonstrate to the IC that the LTTE is a credible negotiating partner capable of staying the course.

Thirdly Tigers can focus attention on the pathetic plight of Tamil civilians. The bombings, shellings, assassinations and civilian massacres etc. The conscience of the IC should be stirred. This of course requires abstention from violence by the LTTE.

Federal solution

There is also another aspect which if followed could turn the tables on Rajapakse. The LTTE could take the fight to Rajapakse politically by announcing that it is prepared to negotiate with the government on a federal solution. The Tigers must set up a time frame. If the LTTE does that the Rajapakse regime would be exposed. Given the Sinhala 'hardline' ideology that sustains this government an invitation to transform the unitary to federal would create terrible fissures within its ranks.

Let me conclude this piece with a quote from Randolph Bourne. It was cited recently in an editorial in The Island. "Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which states seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of arts, the objectives of which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war."

 


Pandemonium in condominium

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
and Jamila Najmuddin

It seems that the country's condominium industry is bogged down by a multitude of problems which are often concealed.   

Thurga Court apartments in Pamankada, Letter from Chairman, UDA to CMA and Appeal letter from Alavi Moulana

The prevailing situation in respect of condominium properties goes to prove a singular fact - that most developers are constructing condominiums in blatant violation of the country's apartment construction and ownership laws.

Besides the maladies affecting the construction part of these properties, often there are many problems that violate the rights of property buyers/owners.

Yet another case in point, as this investigation seeks to reveal is what has taken place at Thurga Court residencies, situated down Suvisuddharama Road, Pamankada where the developer has allegedly not provided the owners with their respective condominium ownership deeds.

Like many other apartment owners who have been lured by good advertising and initial construction plans that promise potential owners a sheer heaven on earth, Thurga Court residents are now faced with the reality that despite having settled payments for their respective apartments, they are yet to receive their deeds of ownership.

Angry residents

Angry residents have been lodging their protests with relevant authorities for the past two years including with former President, Chandrika  Kumaratunga seeking redress to no avail.

Residents told The Sunday Leader producing their receipts of payment that despite having paid the full amount in order to purchase their specific condominium properties that todate they have been denied their deeds of ownership.

Residents allege that the developer, S. Nithsingham had refused to give the condominium deeds. They further alleged that some of the promised facilities are only part of the developer's imagination which has not been translated into reality. "We have been facing several problems with the developer for over a period of five years. The residents are still to receive the deeds which the developer had been promising since the time of construction," they angrily claim.

Speaking on the basis of anonymity, a group of angry residents alleged that having settled their dues in full, they were yet to be elevated to the status of legal owners. " Who are we but tenants because we have no way to prove our legal ownership with a developer who is demanding more money from us and refusing to execute the deeds in our favour," they claimed.

One of the residents speaking on the basis of confidentiality said, "We purchased this condominium at Rs.1.975 million. While I paid him Rs.1.9 million, I agreed to pay the remaining Rs.75,000 after I receive the deed. However, instead of a deed now I am receiving threats from the developer. I fear for my life."

Angry residents also charge that in order to earn some quick bucks, the developer has now begun to demand for a further payment of Rs. 300,000 in order to release the deeds. According to residents, these are not the only two problems they have with their developer.

They also claim that the developer has become a law unto himself and has resorted to putting up illegal structures within the condominium premises which have now been rented out to outsiders who are not owners.

"We have a common roof top for all the residents. However, the developer has constructed two rooms and rented it to people whose identities are not known to the permanent residents. In this day and age, we have to feel safe inside our homes which is why more people spend exorbitant amounts to buy these houses," they said.

New groups of tenants

Furthermore, residents alleged that these new tenants who are not actual owners also do not adhere to the rules and regulations of the condominium complex. What is worse, they allege that the security guards have often requested them for identity cards only to find out that some of these tenants do not possess any form of national identification.

While several complaints have been lodged at the Wellawatte Police Station, the Urban Development Authority (UDA), and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, no action has been taken to date to provide  any redress to the actual residents.

Thurga Court residents have more grievances.  They claim though the CMC is expected to halt illegal constructions and is empowered to remove the existing illegal structures, no such action has taken place here.

The residents also alleged that despite the absolute illegality of the unauthorised constructions, the developer had managed to obtain CMC approval subsequently.

Refused

"The residents  refused to allow the constructions. They immediately complained to the CMC. Former Mayor Prasanna Gunewardana had visited the complex and held an inquiry after which he ordered that the unauthorised structures be demolished forthwith. Former UDA Chairman, S.  Amarasekara and former Western Province Chief Minister and incumbent Governor, Alavi Moulana  also visited the complex and said the illegal structures should be demolished immediately," residents claimed.

Sad experience

For them, it has been a sad experience where the authorities have not implemented the law and allowed illegal activities. For them, it also means being denied their space for which they have paid a significant amount of money.

In the meantime, residents have lodged a complaint with the Wellawatte  Police. However, the police had not visited the premises to ascertain the truth or conducted any inquiry in this regard. Following this, the residents have taken the matter to a higher level and complained to the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The IGP had subsequently initiated an inquiry which has not yet been concluded.

Yet, nothing has significantly changed for the Thurga Court residents.

Today, they are demanding their money back - invested in the condominium for which they have no legal ownership - if the authorities are not willing to take any action to mete out justice.

One resident said that following their fresh demand for  reimbursement of their  money, some residents have begun to receive threatening calls.  " We fear for our lives. The developer is certainly not willing to hear our complaints out," they claimed in exasperation.

Not legal owners

Today, the actual residents of the 20 condominiums insist that they are mere residents but not legal owners due to the developer's abhorrent and illegal conduct. They feel that they have reached a dead end where no authority would correct the situation, remove the unauthorised constructions or order the removal of unauthorised occupants. Some of them want to leave, but fear that the developer would not return their money.

As for them, it is a situation of no hope. They are tired of their ongoing battle with the developer and their many failed attempts to rouse up the authorities to do their job. 

"We are tired of complaining. It has brought no results. But we have no other place to go. We hope the President himself would take notice of this terrible injustice and take some action," they said.

Inquiry is on - CMA

When The Sunday Leader contacted the Condominium Management Authority (CMA), officials said that several complaints have been lodged by residents of Thurga Court against harassment and illegal structures put up within the condominium premises.

"We are conducting an inquiry," officials said.

Officials added that the CMA was receiving a regular stream of complaints from residents living in various condominium properties and said it was difficult to conclude inquiries quickly. "We are conducting several investigations with regard to different properties. Therefore, the residents cannot expect immediate results," officials said adding that they were severely constrained by both time and resources.

I know nothing - Moulana

Despite the written evidence we possess, former Western Province Chief Minister and current Governor, Alavi Moulana denied visiting the Thurga Court Residencies during his term as the chief minister. "I have not heard of these residencies and I do not know where it is. Therefore I cannot comment," he told The Sunday Leader.

No more a public person, says former mayor

Former Colombo Mayor, Prasanna Gunewardeana refused speaking to The Sunday Leader saying that he was not a public person anymore as his term as mayor had ended. "People should know not to invade my privacy. I am not a public figure anymore.

"What I did during my term as the mayor ended with the completion of the recent local government elections. Therefore I will not comment to the media as I am now a private person and owes no explanation to anybody," he said.

No complaints - UDA

Officials from the UDA told The Sunday Leader that they had not received any complaints from residents of Thurga Court residencies. If a complaint is lodged, investigations would be held, they said refusing further comment.

I am clean - Developer

Developer of Thurga Court residencies, S. Nithsingham told The Sunday Leader that the Thurga Court residencies' plans were approved in 2003 by the authorities.

However due to heavy objections from the residents, he claims he was unable to give the deeds of the condominiums as residents were not willing to accept the plan which was amended after the initial draft plan.

He added that if the residents wanted their deeds, they could obtain it by forwarding a letter stating that they were not against the amended plan which was approved by the UDA in 2003.

Nithsingham denied demanding a further Rs. 300,000 from the residents in order to release the deeds. "These are all false accusations by the residents to make out a case ," he said.

 


Checkpoints double as the search continues

By Ranee Mohamed

A two-fold increase in security checkpoints in the city has caused uneasiness among the minority community. "They are studying our identity cards and the moment it says Vavuniya or Jaffna, then we have to stay," said a schoolteacher. "It becomes worse if one is wearing a shalwar kameez," she pointed out.

Women who have been stopped this way say they feel their throats going dry. "The wait is long. If it is any place in the north or east, then we will be taken to the police station," said a woman in Nugegoda.

Duty of the forces

Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe was quick to point out however that it is the duty of the security forces to make the city a safe place. "We have increased the checkpoints by 50 percent. This is in view of suspected Tiger attacks on the nation in general and the VIPs in particular," pointed out Samarasinghe.

He said these checkpoints have not only detected people on reconnaissance missions but also underworld figures on the prowl. "We are not necessarily looking for identity cards; what we want is for people to be able to establish their identity. Our soldiers may not be good in public relations but they are doing a wonderful job," pointed out Samarasinghe.

However, Jaffna District MP Suresh Premachandran said he is appalled at the way civilians are being harassed in the name of security.

Two problems

"Tamils of this country are facing two kinds of problems. Firstly, with only a limited number of vehicles allowed on the A9 highway, only about 50 lorries are allowed to leave each day, whereas earlier 150 lorries were able to pass from here. As a result of this limitation the people in the north do not get the essential goods and prices are rising," pointed out Premachandran. He also said the drivers and staff of the lorries have no shelter or lodging in Omanthai.

The second factor, he said, are the problems that the Tamils of Colombo are facing. "If you are a Tamil, you are checked thoroughly and your ID cards are sometimes sent for NIB clearance. Tamils are just being sent to the police station and remanded," said Premachandran. "Recently 14 youth on their way to Kataragama were arrested in Hambantatota. Though they were in possession of their identity cards, they were remanded," pointed out the MP.

Premachandran went on to say that in Colombo, Tamil servants from the hill country too were being arrested. "A Sinhalese woman had to sit in  the police station and wait because her 19-year-old servant girl was arrested," he said.

Trauma

The MP went on to point out that this is a sad situation because when Tamil civilians are arrested in this manner, their parents and families are in a quandary. "They do not know what could have happened to their sons and daughters and where. And when they  hear that headless bodies have been discovered, then it becomes an unbearable trauma for them," pointed out Premachandran.

"Though some of these Tamil civilians may speak Sinhalese, the security personnel do not speak Tamil, so little is being understood by both sides," said Premachandran. He said the least that could be done is to allow these people to phone their loved ones to keep them informed as to what is taking place.

"Tamils are losing faith. I think they are being unnecessarily harassed. The Tamil people are totally fed up of all this," said Premachandran.

The checkpoints of the pre-ceasefire era have reappeared with greater gusto. And Activist Shanthi Sathithanandam said that it is history repeating itself.

History repeating itself

"I still remember that frightening day  in the 1990s when my husband was arrested. There had been a scare about an LTTE attack. My husband went to Pettah, parked his car and took a three-wheeler to Dam Street where a documentary which he had made for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had been mailed to him. He had won an award for this documentary. He had gone to the Post Office in Dam Street and got this video cassette, then he had stopped by at the bank and withdrawn some money for his mother and got into the three-wheeler, when he was searched and arrested. It seemed like a classic LTTE affair, the money and the cassette and all that," said Sathithanandam.

"All this had happened around 11:30 a.m. but even when I reached home at 5:30 p.m., I did not know anything, nor did anyone else in my family. It was time to take the children for swimming and it was only when I was at the Otters pool that I received a call from a mutual friend that my husband had been arrested," she said.

Sathithanandam said she had to visit several police stations to find out where her husband was. "It was only when I heard his voice outside that I knew that he was at that particular police station. When I saw him, he was bare-bodied. He told me that he and the other suspects had been asked to take off their shirts," she recalled.

Meanwhile, a senior teacher from Jaffna said that when she came to Colombo on New Year's Day, the security forces were cordial. "They said it was not necessary that I get down from the vehicle, maybe because I am elderly. They even played with the little children in our vehicle. I have not been badly treated at any point and I am glad about that," she said.

Combined checkpoints

DIG Colombo Pujitha Jayasundera said the police too are dedicated to ensuring security in the city. "These are combined checkpoints. A sub inspector is usually there and two sergeants and two police constables," said Jayasundera.

DIG Jayasundera said the security of the city is a priority. "These checks are carried out on intelligence reports and information received. There is a systematic search going on. Areas are categorised and vehicles are categorised and searched accordingly to ensure the nation's safety," said Jayasundera.

Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake of the Sri Lanka Navy said the navy is responsible for the security of the harbour and outside the harbour. "In addition to this, we are assisting the army at the checkpoints. The navy has not only shown its capabilities at sea, but is doing an equally good job in ensuring the preservation of security on land," said Commander Dassanayake.

Inconvenience

Samarasinghe said these checkpoints are at different places at different times. "There may be some inconvenience caused to civilians, but this must be endured in the name of security," said Samarasinghe.

"Our security personnel may not be good at public relations. They may be lacking in some courtesy. But this does not mean that they will waver when it comes to duty and impartiality," said Brigadier Samarasinghe.

He said there may be inconvenience caused to civilians but checking and checkpoints have to go on. "It is the safety of the people that matters. The security of the nation comes first," insisted Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

 


Changing face of the JVP and Wimal

The changing face of the JVP and its party leaders and the dilemma the party is faced with due to the shift in its policies is now exposed to the public.

It is this very same shift in polices that made the Marxists, who decided to contest separately at the last local government elections, suffer a humiliating defeat.

The double dealing acts of JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa have been criticised by the party's politburo and the central committee as a key reason for the party losing its vote base.

A new Weerawansa

Weerawansa, with his changing lifestyle, no longer possesses the power of attracting the masses towards the JVP, which he did in 1994. Hence some of the party leaders are now engaged in grooming a new Weerawansa to bring the lost votes back to the party. This new character, the party leaders believe, should not posses any of the weak points of the old Weerawansa.

Party leaders have now come to the conclusion that the new Weerawansa should be one who has stood by the polices of the party in both the political arena as well as in real life.

However, while the party leaders were busy grooming a new Weerawansa, the old Weerawansa was continuing to sacrifice his party's policies at Temple Trees. The latest let down came to light a few days after Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's visit to India.

During Samaraweera's discussion with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, most of the conversation was based on the JVP and its 'changes.' Samaraweera had informed Singh that the JVP was no longer an extremist party when it came to the ethnic conflict and that it had softened its stance.

Secret agreement

He had further told Singh that he was informed by a Marxist leader that the JVP, which earlier stood for a unitary state, has now secretly agreed to a solution based on sharing power within a united Sri Lanka.

However, what caught even the Indian Premier by surprise was the news that the JVP, which consistently carried out mass protests against the UNP and its Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for considering a federal solution to solve the ethnic conflict, had informed Samaraweera of its desire to accept a solution based on a federal structure.

Samaraweera had said the JVP cannot at once change its stance from a unitary state to a solution based on a federal structure and that it would take at least one year for the change.

Shift in party policy

The Marxist leader whose stance Samaraweera based his presentation on was none other than Weerawansa, who is known to have let down the party on earlier occasions as well. Weerawansa had promised Samaraweera to get the party's approval for a federal solution to the ethnic conflict.

He had explained to Samaraweera that the humiliating defeat suffered by the party at the local government polls had silenced to an extent the hardcore members in the politburo as well as the central committee and hence a shift in the party's policies was a possibility with time.

Since the party would lose face if it were to shift its stance on the ethnic conflict overnight, Weerawansa had requested a period of one year to make the change.

However, the JVP's bloody history with regard to its shaky policies should not be forgotten. In 1987, it was the JVP that was responsible for the deaths of over 60,000 youth from the south as it opposed the Indo-Lanka pact and the formation of the provincial council system in the country to solve the country's ethnic conflict.

The JVP just a few years later then happily entered the provincial council system and contested and secured seats in these councils. They went so far as to boast that it was the JVP that held the remote control in some of the very same councils they earlier violently opposed. The Marxists found fault with Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP for reaching an agreement with the LTTE to find a solution based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka as well as the CFA. They claimed it to be the great betrayal of the country.

Ironic

The UNF government was toppled due to these allegations and the controversies that began from this have now resulted in a low intensity war between the government and the LTTE.

Ironically, the JVP is now working at accepting and promoting the very same solution presented by Wickremesinghe and the UNP, which they not so long ago vehemently rejected. The JVP has also meekly accepted the UPFA government agreeing in Geneva to uphold and respect the CFA which they earlier charged would lead to the division of Sri Lanka.

The JVP has requested one year to go public with its policy change with regard to the ethnic conflict. However, it took the JVP several years and the deaths of several thousand youth serving in the forces to change its mind, once again.

Cleaning the stables at SLRC

Last week two unbelievable incidents took place at Temple Trees - one regarding NGOs and the other with regard to the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC).

President Mahinda Rajapakse and the JVP have quite frequently accused NGOs of having close links with the LTTE resulting in the government keeping a close watch on the goings on in NGOs. An order was also directed to the state media that attacks should be carried out through news items and programmes against NGOs.

NGO bashing

Sudarman Radaliyagoda of ITN, who was informed of the order, set the wheels in motion and immediately organised an NGO bashing session through ITN's political talk show, Thulawa, hosted by him.

Together with representatives from the government, JVP and the JHU, Radaliyagoda carried an all out attack on NGOs. All went well until the names of Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe and Prof. A. T. Ariyaratne, heads of two well known NGOs in the country, were dragged into the scene.

Those on the programme unleashed a personal attack on these two individuals. As soon as word of this verbal attack on the two individuals reached the President, he called Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and inquired why such a programme was telecast.

Yapa, who was unaware of the programme saw his opportunity and said, "Sir, I cannot do anything about it. Most people at ITN and Rupavahini do not listen to what I say. They do as they please."

Angered by the response, the President asked, "How can you speak like this? The minister is answerable to me andtherefore he has to be aware of what goes on in these two institutions. What is your problem?"

Yapa responded with a heap of questions and the President said, "Okay, come and meet me, we will see what we can do about it."

Chance to respond

Yapa then inquired as to what could be done about the Thulawa programme.

The President said, "Since they were individually attacked, they should be given a chance to individually respond. Get them to request for time to respond to the allegations and give them the opportunity through another Thulawa programme."

Rajapakse then called Dr. Rupesinghe and inquired as to what went wrong. Dr. Rupesinghe explained things to the President in detail and Rajapakse for his part assured that such events would not take place in the future.

The second incident was with regard to the SLRC. Soon after the presidential election on November 17, ITN Head Newton Gunaratne was appointed as SLRC chairman.

At SLRC, Newton boasted saying, "I can do anything. I'm from Colpetty. If anyone tries to go against me I will push them down, so don't try to clash with me."

Hearing this, the staff realised that Gunaratne would not be able to function in his new post for long. Gunaratne is now silent as he is no longer sure of holding onto the post.

Among the problems discussed by Yapa with the President with regard to media institutions were issues related to Gunaratne.

"I cannot work with this man. He is destroying Rupavahini. He does not take notice of what I say," Yapa told the President.

"If you cannot work with this man, then sack him. The minister has the power to do so," the President responded. Yapa asked, "Will you have a problem if I do that?"

Sacking Newton

"I won't have any problem. It is the minister's right to kick out anyone who does not do the job assigned to him," Rajapakse said.

Yapa then said that most of the staff at ITN and SLRC did not perform their duties.

"Most of the people try to show that they have breakfast, lunch and dinner with you. They say that you have instructed them on the programmes. Some have even started to write to newspapers to indicate that they spend a lot of time with you. In these articles they say what they ate and drank with you. Apart from that there's nothing else," the Minister said.

Angered by Yapa's comments, Rajapakse retorted, "Stop those dirty articles. I'm sending Sarath Kongahage. Appoint him and ask Newton to leave. Let's replace him with another."

The following day, an assistant secretary at the Media Ministry had called Gunaratne and requested his letter of resignation.

Gunaratne who inquired as to why he was required to do so, was informed that since he did not want to leave the position, he was being asked to hand his letter of resignation.

Gunaratne informed the secretary that he was not appointed by the Minister and therefore did not have to pay attention to his orders, and decided to get the help of one of his political allies.

He called JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa and informed him of the situation. Weerawansa immediately called Presidential confidant Parliamentarian Dulles Alahapperuma and informed him that if Gunaratne was removed from SLRC,the JVP would be compelled to take action.

JVP stance

Weerawansa further threatened that if Gunaratne, who has worked to bring the government to power, was removed and UNPers like Kongahage were appointed to SLRC, the JVP would fire its first salvo at the government.

Alahapperuma immediately informed Rajapakse of Weerawansa's threat. The President however, maintained that if Minister Yapa could not work with Gunaratne, it was up to the Minister to make a decision on the SLRC Chairman.

Ignoring Weerawansa's threat, Rajapakse diverted the conversation. However, the threat made by Weerawansa took a serious turn when JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake called the President's brother, Basil Rajapakse with the same threat.

"If you touch Newton, the JVP will withdraw its support to the government. If the President has forgotten those who helped him come to power six months after assuming office, we cannot trust him. Doesn't the President know that Sarath Kongahage's wife is a UNP provincial councilor?" Dissanayake charged.

Basil responded by saying that Kongahage had silently helped them during the election and the President recognising the good work he has done at Sirasa had appointed him to SLRC. He had further requested Dissanayake not to make such threats in the future.

Dissanayake's challenge

Dissanayake, challenging Basil to try and remove Gunaratne from his post, then hung up.

Basil informed the President of Dissanayake's threat.

"Newton is using the JVP to threaten us to continue in his position," Rajapakse said. However, he also informed Basil to try and amicably sort things out.

Basil Rajapakse however was to say that Dissanayake did not speak to him and complain about Kongahage's appointment.

The President thereafter summoned Yapa, the ministry secretary and Gunaratne to Temple Trees on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. Rajapakse requested all of them to work amicably without creating unnecessary problems.

Kongahage was appointed as chief executive officer of SLRC last Wednesday, clipping Gunaratne's wings. He is now a toothless chairman with Kongahage apparently calling the shots.

MR's damage control over human rights

The attack on the navy carried out by the LTTE last week in the north eastern seas was considered a definite sign of the country returning to war.

The statement issued by the SLMM following the attack was considered beneficial to the government while being a black spot on the LTTE as far as the international community was concerned.

However, a few days later in a house near a navy post, 13 Tamil civilians including children were found killed.

The LTTE accused the EPDP and the security forces of carrying out the attack. The international community in turn has frowned on the killings, which took place in a government-controlled area.

Kayts killings

The international community overlooking the LTTE's attack on the navy's Pearl Cruise II, has now turned its attention on the killings in Kayts, allegedly carried out by the EPDP and the Karuna faction.

Visiting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Camp also focused on the killings.

Camp was on a fact-finding mission in Sri Lanka. He was gathering information for the US representative at the Tokyo Donor Conference to be held at the end of the month.

Camp met with several political leaders from the government and the opposition. All eyes were then focused on the comments Camp would make to the media at the end of his visit. The Presidential Secretariat too was ordered to keep a close eye on the statement Camp was expected to release.

Camp's statement

Camp had said the US would request the EU to ban the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. However, he also cautioned the government.

Camp observed that the government should take full responsibility for the killings of Tamil civilians in areas under its control. He further noted that the government should hold an independent investigation into the matter and bring the perpetrators to book.

He also noted that as a democratic government, it should protect democracy.

Camp's comments reached Temple Trees minutes after they were made .

Hearing Camp's statement, President Mahinda Rajapakse realised that the US was keeping a close watch on the protection of human rights and democracy in the country and decided to respond to the statement before the donor conference scheduled for May 30.

Rajapakse ordered an immediate inquiry to investigate the killings in Kayts and also turned his attention towards the reconstitution of the now defunct Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Commission

With the delay in the formation of the Constitutional Council, which according to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, has to make appointments to the independent commissions, the President decided to exert his executive powers and appoint the Human Rights Commission on his own, overlooking the Constitutional Council.

After his visit to Sri Lanka, Camp visited India to confirm its participation at the Tokyo Donor Conference. Although the Indian government has responded positively, both parties have agreed to keep it under wraps till May 30.

All attention has now been focused on the Tokyo Donor Conference scheduled for May 30.

Camp and Japanese Special Peace Envoy Yasushi Akashi, who was also in the island early this month, have drawn the conclusion that while the LTTE was behind the breakdown of the peace talks, the government too had its shortcomings.

It is learnt that while the Co-Chairs would work at banning the LTTE in the EU, they would also impose a new set of conditions on the government to bring both parties back to the negotiating table.

Dulles - a man of letters

Prior to thepresidential election on November 17, Dulles Alahapperuma was considered a man of high principles who put the party before himself despite having left the countryin the run up to the 2001 general election defeat and taken refuge in the US.

Alahapperuma's powers

Alahapperuma is now a close confidant of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Standing next to the Executive President, Alahapperuma is now all powerful.

Cabinet ministers, non cabinet ministers and deputy ministers put together cannot constitute the powers enjoyed by Alahapperuma. Most party seniors have no option but to silently watch Alahapperuma's actions as they know clashing with him would mean a direct clash with the President himself.

A few months after the President assumed office, several ministers started to say that Alahapperuma was going over the limit.

Alahapperuma had even started to send written orders to cabinet and non cabinet ministers. These orders directed ministers to fill several vacant positions in the respective ministries with the people he recommended.

The orders further stated the respective persons were personal friends of the President and that the orders should therefore be carried out. These letters signed by Alahapperuma became the topic of discussion before and after every cabinet meeting.

Letters

A witty minister who shares a close friendship with the President and one of his close political allies said, "This is all because you people do not know who Mahinda Rajapakse is. Don't take notice of the letters sent by Dulles. None of these are sent with his approval. I received two such letters and I inquired about it directly from the President. He told me that he had no knowledge of those people mentioned in the letters and asked me to disregard the letters.

"The President informed me that if it was an order by him, it would be signed by his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga or his Additional Secretary Gamini Senarath. I threw both letters into the wastepaper basket. Now Dulles does not send any letters to my ministry. Without whispering about it, speak to the President and sort it out."

President's orders

Accepting this minister's advice, several ministers approached the President and inquired about the letters sent by Alahapperuma.

However, several ministers opted to remain silent on the matter as they believed it could be detrimental to their political future.

The ministers who inquired about Alahapperuma's orders were informed by the President to discard the letters.


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