13th August, 2006  Volume 13, Issue  5

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                                    


Govt. unleashes 'humanitarian' war˙ on eastern Tamil civilians

By D.B. S. Jeyaraj

'Mission Watershed' was launched by the Sri Lankan government headed by Mahendra Percy Rajapakse with the ostensible objective of removing the blockade of Mawilaru canal waters by the Liberation....


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  > JVP exposes war strategy of govt. ( ....Pot Shots)

  > Hidden agenda in continuing war˙in the east

 Govt. unleashes 'humanitarian' war˙ on eastern Tamil civilians

By D.B. S. Jeyaraj

'Mission Watershed' was launched by the Sri Lankan government headed by Mahendra Percy Rajapakse with the ostensible objective of removing the blockade of Mawilaru canal waters by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It was in the words of cabinet spokesperson on defence matters a 'humanitarian' war. "Water cannot be used as a negotiating tool" thundered Keheliya Rambukwella.

The exercise was a humanitarian mission and not a military operation  said the government. Hence the emphasis on mission instead of operation in the codename. It was in a sense like the war for peace launched by Chandrika Kumaratunga and Anuruddha Ratwatte. That war never brought peace. It was only after Ranil Wickremesinghe became prime minister that a ceasefire came into effect.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, Anuruddha Ratwatte, 
Gotabbaya Rajapakse and Mahinda Rajapakse

If the purpose of 'Watershed' was only to open the sluice gates of Mawilaru that task was fulfilled on August 8. At 3 p.m the sluice was re- opened by the LTTE as a humanitarian gesture. 

This was in deference to a request made by Erik Solheim said Elilan the Tiger political commissar of Trincomalee.˙ By the following morning both the right and left canals were flowing with the waters of Mawilaru again! There was no reason for 'Mission Watershed' to continue.

There were some who believed that the ugly incident had closed with a fairy tale ending - they were sadly mistaken. The government continued with its military operations. Massive offensives were re- launched to take control of Mawilaru Anicut. The LTTE began resisting. Aerial bombardment, multi-barrel rocket launches˙ and artillery shelling resumed on a massive and brutal scale.

Cruel reality

The government announces that LTTE positions in and around are being targeted.˙ The cruel reality was starkly different. Tamil civilians and not Tamil Tigers were bearing the brunt of this so called humanitarian war. Tamil dwellings in the LTTE controlled areas of Muttur east and Eechilampattru Divisions in Trincomalee and the Koralaipattru North sector in Batticaloa District are being bombed and shelled.

The human cost of this humanitarian war is terrible. More than a hundred civilians have been reported killed.  Around 300 are injured. Many dwellings and the limited infrastructure available have been destroyed. The Ilankaithurai- Muhathuvaaram bridge is damaged. The Verugal-Vakarai ferry was hit. Defying humanitarian standards the air force has dropped incendiary devices. Large scale fires have broken out.

The number of˙ existing displaced and refugee Tamils in the region was enlarged from April this year when the government began bombing and shelling of LTTE controlled areas. The number shot up by 15,000.  Now the number is further increasing. The bombing and shelling which recommenced with 'Watershed' intensified after the LTTE conducted its three- day 'limited operation'  in Muttur town and adjacent areas.

The resumption of bombing and shelling after waters began flowing again in the Mawilaru canal has been most severe. Civilians crossing Verugal river were bombed and five killed. Tamils cowering in fear behind a culvert were deliberately targeted and eight were  killed. These are but few of the reported incidents. Many bodies are lying in wayward spots.

The intensifying of anti-people bombing and shelling in the last few days has led to a phenomenal growth among Tamil displaced people. The earlier phase of˙ 'Watershed' saw another 25,000 becoming displaced. The ongoing bombing and shelling is also causing˙an increase in these numbers. It may not be an exaggeration to say that few Tamils are not displaced in Muttur east and Eechilampattru.

Many Tamils who lived in Muttur and other government controlled areas have moved to Kantale and Trincomalee. Many others consisting mainly of those living in LTTE controlled areas are barely existing under extreme deprivation and hardship. Large numbers however have begun moving south to the Koralaipattru north region in Batticaloa bordering Trincomalee to escape shelling. But they are still subject to aerial attacks.

About 45,000 to 50,000 displaced Tamils are now located in the areas of Kadiraveli, Paalsenai, Vakarai etc. in Batticaloa north. Aerial bombardment continues and many civilians have been victimised. In addition to these displaced people from Trinco District some Batticaloa Tamils too are displaced after the recent army operation in Panichankerny-Mankerny.

Terrible plight

The plight of these displaced persons is made terrible by the lack of facilities and infastructure in LTTE controlled areas to accommodate them. Many families are languishing under trees. The makeshift camps are hopelessly ill-equipped to serve them. Besides many of these coastal areas are yet to recover from the tsunami impact. Even the P-TOMS set up to address tsunami affected needs in the north-east never got off the ground thanks to the JVP and the Supreme Court.

There is also a woeful lack of hygiene and medicine in addition to a chronic food shortage.  Aggravating these problems is the attitude and approach of the government. The security forces acting under the direct orders of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse have prevented NGO aid workers and charitable organisations from taking food or medicine into these LTTE controlled areas.

No access

Vehicles and persons are stopped in Trincomalee District on the basis that fighting is going on and that proceeding further is dangerous. In Batticaloa the security forces were more direct and said that the Defence Ministry under Mahinda Rajapakse had given orders to prevent aid from going in. A further dampener to aid workers going in is the gruesome execution of 15 Tamil and one Muslim aid workers in Muttur allegedly by the security forces.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation and some churches are trying to provide some aid and assistance to these hapless people suffering for no fault of their own. But these are not enough to cope with this growing tragedy.  Compounding the problem further is the inability of the LTTE  to provide any help at this juncture because the Tigers are pre-occupied with resisting the security force advances. The security forces in Batticaloa are restricting the people from LTTE controlled regions travelling out into government controlled areas too.

There is much discrimination in refugee assistance in Trincomalee and Kantale too. The Sinhala refugees though few in number are looked after well whereas the larger number of Muslims are not catered to that well is the Muslim complaint. Besides the Sinhala people of Kantale are unhappy about the large influx of Muslims into their area. But Tamil refugees in Trincomalee and Kantale are worse off than both Sinhala and Muslim refugees. Yet their position is so much better than Tamils in LTTE controlled regions.

Pecking order

The pecking order in the case of refugee relief is very much reflective of the state of things in contemporary Sri Lanka. Even during earlier times Tamils got a fair deal only from International and Non-Governmental organisations.  It is the perception that the NGOs are helping Tamils that contributes much to the INGO hostility in the government. The˙ bomb attacks on three NGOs in Muttur were caused by this feeling. There has been a well-designed move to get NGOs and INGOs out of the Tamil regions so that anti-Tamil activity could go on unchecked. The execution of 16 aid workers was part of this design. The escalation of hostilities has helped the state to restrict NGO activities thereby preventing aid to Tamil refugees.

This destruction, displacement and deprivation weakens the Tamil people. This in turn affects the LTTE. Currently the massive increase in Tamil displaced persons in LTTE controlled areas hampers the war effort undertaken by the LTTE.  Apart from this short-term goal of hindering the LTTE  military efforts there is also the long term goal.˙ Sinhala hegemonism has always wanted to undermine and de-populate the east, particularly Trincomalee of Tamils. The present conflict affords Colombo a great opportunity to pursue this objective.

Tamils ignored

The government continues with its war against Tamils and uses it as an excuse to prevent INGOs, charitable agencies and the media from going into LTTE controlled and even adjacent areas like Muttur. The plight of displacement is being portrayed solely as a Sinhala and Muslim predicament. Moreover attempts are being made to depict the Muslim displacement as a Tiger exercise of ethnic cleansing whereas an equal number or possibly more Tamils have been displaced. Besides dislocation and displacement is a never ending experience for Tamils in the past.

Furthermore the Tamil refugees in LTTE  controlled areas are fast becoming the wretched of the 'Eelam' earth. They have no institutional assistance; there is˙inadequate infrastructure in those areas to accommodate them. The government continues to bomb and shell thereby killing, maiming and terrifying the pathetic people. There is a shortfall in food, medicine, supplies etc. The government callously prevents such assistance reaching them. Thus a terrible human tragedy of monumental proportions is in the making.

Act fast

This column has for a long time˙ been warning of a terrible war to be unleashed on the Tamil people and the horrors facing civilians. What is happening now is but a glimpse of things yet to come. The use of incendiary bombs is but one example. This column has in the past urged the decent, peace loving people among the Sinhalese and the international community to act and restrain 'Apey' Mahinda and his crimson-saffron brigade. Once again this column appeals to both the Sinhala people and the international community to act fast and positively.

The word 'Genocide' has been bandied about loosely in the Sri Lankan context. The word was more a propaganda tool. But now the Sri Lankan state has launched a war˙ with genocidal attributes. Under the guise of attacking LTTE positions the government is actually targeting Tamil civilians.

Enlightened sections among the Sinhala people and the international community cannot be blind, deaf or dumb to the fact that a major component of this war is in reality a massive crime against humanity.  If and when there is a time of reckoning every single person who played a part in this crime against Tamil humanity from Mahinda Rajapakse down to the pilot dropping incendiary bombs will have to face the consequences.


Hidden agenda in continuing war˙in the east

Mahinda Rajapakse and Velupillai Pirapaharan

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

If the current war in the Eastern Province was all about water then the cause for that no longer exists. The waters of Mawilaru are flowing freely along the right and left bank canals. In spite of this the Rajapakse regime in Colombo has not called "Mission Watershed" off. Instead the conflict has brutally intensified.

Tamil civilians in LTTE controlled areas are suffering immensely due to the aerial bombartdment, multi - barrel rockets and artillery shelling. More than 50,000 are displaced. There is an acute shortage of food, medicine etc.

There is no infrastructure to accommodate most people. The government prevents food and aid from going into the affected areas. Unless "Apey Mahinda" is made to see sense, a humanitarian tragedy seems inevitable.

Glaring contradiction

This glaring contradiction between professed intention and actual practice baffles quite a few who are unfamiliar with the history of modern Sri Lanka and the perfidious role played by successive sinhala dominated governments. Past decades have taught Tamils the painful lesson that Colombo governments do not honour their pledges. The Mawilaru incident where Colombo wanted Oslo to negotiate a settlement and then went back on its word is just the latest episode in a long trail of sordid betrayals.

If there is anyone who is genuinely perplexed about the government's inconsistency over Mawilaru and puzzled about the continuing war then he or she must realise that this war was never about water. There was always a hidden agenda. What is happening now is a full - fledged effort˙ by "Malthattu" Mahinda and his cohorts˙ in khaki, crimson and saffron garb to implement that agenda.

This agenda is nothing new. It has always been the dream of Sinhala supremacists to destroy or drive the Tamils out of the east and make it a "Sinhala" province. Once the Tamils are diminished the Muslims will be targetted. Developing agriculture through massive irrigation schemes and providing land in the dry zone to the landless is a fair and acceptable policy. In Sri Lanka˙ this project assumed sinister and insidious motives. "Colonisation" became the means through which Tamils and Muslims were made a 'minority' in their historic habitat. Altering demography in favour of the Sinhala majority was the name of the game.

This policy was heavily augmented with the use of violence. Various programmes were unleashed against Tamils in general and easterners in particular. Use of water in irrigation schemes was curtailed to Tamil farmers. There was very little economic development in Tamil areas. This political project continued and became war. The escalation of the conflict enabled the state to practice a blatant 'scorched earth' policy towards eastern Tamils. This resulted in death, destruction and displacement. Many moved out of the east. This was particularly so in Trincomalee.

Trincomalee was important

Trincomalee was important for more that one reason. Blessed with a natural deep water harbour Trinco was of strategic importance. It was also the district bordering the Northern Province. The earlier "Pathavi-

kulam"(Padaviya) scheme has interdicted north - east territorial contiguity. Later came the ethnic cleansing of the "Manal Aaru" region. A new entity "Weli - Oya" was created. All this was aimed at breaking north - eastern contiguity.

With the ethnic conflict intensifying the importance of Trincomalee began increasing. There was a deliberate effort to de- populate the district of Tamils and re - populate it with Sinhala people. This was particularly so in the case of the Tamil majority in Trinco town and important coastal areas. In spite of all these attempts the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam continue to maintain a significant presence in the district.

During the United National Party Government period from 1977 to 1994 the strategy was to establish greater authority and control over the Eastern Province. The deliberate scorched earth policy saw the Eastern Tamils becoming increasingly diminished. The tigers too were restricted to jungles and adjacent rural areas. The idea was to deflate "Tamil Eelam" and merge North - Eastern Province concepts in actual practice.

The advent of Chandrika Kumaratunga altered this approach. The focus became the north. Jaffna was retaken.Thereafter the aim was the Wanni. For this additional security personnel from the east were re- deployed in the north. This created a vacuum in some places in the east. The LTTE utilised the opportunity and brought many areas in the hinterland under their control. Even some littoral areas came under Tiger˙ domination.

Big issue

In Trincomalee there were some places under LTTE control that were described as 'liberated zones.' These˙ were mainly in the Muttur East and Eechilampattru divisions of the Trincomalee District. Among these were coastal areas such as Sampoor and Kadatkaraichenai. They were separated from Trincomalee town and its environs by the Kottiar bay. The harbour was about 13 nautical miles away. The possession of long range artillery gave the LTTE the ability to strike at the harbour. Securing Muttur would have enhanced that capacity further.

The vulnerability of Trincomalee became a big issue during the tenure of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister. This was the prime excuse cited by Kumaratunga to dislodge him from power. Yet she did nothing in that direction after assuming power. After her departure "Apey Mahinda" assumed presidential reins. Rajapakse is perhaps the first Sri Lankan head of state who subscribes fully to the Sinhala supremacist ideology. The khakied hawks, saffron clad chauvinists and crimsoninan national socialists were overjoyed..

The military project of˙ subduing the LTTE in Trincomalee received top priority. It was first necessary to reduce theTiger threat posed to Trinco harbour. For this the LTTE domination of the Muttur East division had to be eradicated.The first instance of this new policy became apparent when a suicide bomber exploded herself in Colombo. The LTTE was blamed. Reprisals were launched instantly. It was not Kilinochchi that was targetted but Muttur East division. Artillery fire from army camps, shelling from naval gunboats and aerial bombardment continued for two days.

Sampoor, Kadatkaraichenai, Senaiyoor, Iraalkuli, Kattaiparichan, Ilakkanthai etc. were bombed. Thereafter Muttur East was regularly shelled and bombed for the slightest reason. In recent times the area was shelled regularly for no ostensible reason at all.Multi barrel rocket launchers˙ and artillery fire were directed˙ against Muttur East on July 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, 16 and 18.This was long before the eruption of the Mawilaru crisis.

15,000 displaced

These attacks have resulted in over 15, 000 Tamil civilians being displaced. These people are not issued dry rations or relief allowances. The government also appointed a retired Major  General, Ranjith de Silva as Government Agent for Trincomalee District. This man authorised severe measures. An undeclared economic embargo  came into force - cement, steel, bricks and building materials were banned.

There were also restrictions on food and essential items. If not for INGOs, charitable organisations and religious institutions the people living in the LTTE regions would have undergone starvation.The ADB project to provide water to Eechilampattru was also shelved.

It is against this backdrop that the Mawilaru crisis erupted. This gave the Rajapakse regime a pretext to plan , prepare and launch a major war. The avowed purpose was for water. But the hidden agenda was different.

Gates open

Thanks to Norway's persuasion the LTTE withdrew from Muttur and also opened the sluice gates. But Colombo has not ceased its war. It continues with a ferocity never seen before. There is absolutely no concern for Tamil civilians. There are even incidents where planes targetted civilians deliberately.

The short - term military objective is to capture the Mawilaru anicut and the entirety of the stream and canals. The reason given would be to prevent the LTTE from blocking water again. But the military logic cannot end with that. Another tributary, Vellai Aaru and the Verugal Aaru rivers also need to be brought under government domination if the waters are to be fully controlled. This means that the greater part of the Eechilampattru division has to be "captured."

The military logic cannot stop with that. Full control of the Verugal river is possible only if the other bank is also taken. Since the river is the border between Trincomalee and Batticaloa the other side is in the latter district. So the next push would be to take the other side too.

The next target would be the LTTE controlled areas of Kathiraveli, Vaaharai, Panichankerny etc. in Batticaloa. If those areas are taken the LTTE in Batticaloa - Amparai would be confined to the Paduvaankarai hinterland and Kanchikudichaaru, Tharavai, Kudumbimalai, Vadamunai jungles alone.

Rajapakse regime

The Rajapakse regime thereafter hopes to bring Batticaloa - Amparai under its full control through the services of the Karuna faction. Bringing the east under its full control is of great importance to Rajapakse. This would restrict Tiger activity and curtail mobility to and from the north. More importantly it will facilitate Rajapakse's long cherished dream of de- linking the north and east. The JVP litigation seeking such a de-merger fits into this scenario well.

If the Rajapakse regime does succeed in dominating the east and de- links it from the north that development could help Mahinda in going for a snap election. The JVP and JHU will be on board with him. Mahinda can attract a large slice of hawkish elements from the UNP. He can also overcome any threat from the Kumaratunga loyalists. For all this and more "Apey Mahinda" needs control of the east. First the waters of Mawilaru Vellai and Verugal; then the lands of Muttur East, Eechilampattru and Koralaipattru north. Finally the entire Eastern Province.

Different phases

This strategy could have phases in its implementation. There could be lulls in the fighting. This would be for logistical, diplomatic and political reasons. There would however be no let down in the project. This is why the war continues now. It is not for water but for something more. This is why Muttur East and Eccilampattru and Koralaipattru North divisions are getting shelled and bombed. This is why these areas have been systematically deprived in the past and are denied relief at present.

The civilian cost of this exercise could be tremendous but Mahinda and his cohorts are not bothered. After all is this not a "humanitarian" war and is not Mahendra Percy Rajapakse a pious and devout Buddhist?

The government is on a militaristic role. It hopes to subdue the will of a people through force. It hopes to lull the collective conscience of the international community. A war of genocidal proportions is on. The best laid plans of men and mice go awry at times.

The government condemned its military exercise as 'watershed.' The hidden meaning was that the war will be a watershed in the sense that the LTTE will be vanquished as a result of it. It could still be a watershed but not in the sense that Mahinda wants. If the opposite of this regime's desire happens "Mission Watershed" will prove to be a watershed indeed! 


JVP exposes war strategy of govt.

The war has for sometime become a handy tool for successive governments and various parties to get political mileage.

The Marxist JVP holds a special position when it comes to gaining political mileage out of the war. The JVP has always used the war to increase its vote base. This was once again evident during the Mawilaru issue.

The JVP began a media campaign in the south over the whole issue, ably supported by several media institutions.

Most of these media institutions, playing along to the JVP agenda, therefore decided to mask the true facts from the public. However the story behind the opening of the sluice gates is as follows.

Norwegian Special Envoy John Hanssen-Bauer and the Norwegian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hans Brattskar last Sunday visited Jaffna and Trincomalee in a bid to resolve the Mawilaru crisis. After their visit to Jaffna and Trincomalee, their next destination was Kilinochchi for a meeting with LTTE Political Wing Head, S.P. Tamilselvan. Hanssen-Bauer and Brattskar had previously discussed their mission with Government Peace Secretariat Head, Dr. Palitha Kohona.

The discussion was mainly based on opening the Mawilaru sluice gates and the government's stance that the gates should be opened without any conditions. They also discussed the issue concerning the SLMM monitors from EU countries vacating the north east by September 1.

Even though the Norwegian delegation arrived in Kilinochchi proposing four options for a settlement, the LTTE had already decided on the issue following a request made by Special Peace Envoy Erik Solheim to open the sluice gates on humanitarian grounds. The LTTE therefore decided to open the gates unconditionally and said it was so decided in response to the appeal made by Solheim, and the subsequent visit of Hanssen-Bauer and Ambassador Brattskar to Kilinochchi and finally the humanitarian factor.

Tamilselvan conveyed the decision of the LTTE leadership to the Norwegian delegation.

The Norwegians then tried to convey the message to Colombo and tried in vain to get through to Dr. Kohona. They then tried to get through to any official from the Peace Secretariat, but the attempts did not bear fruit.

However, between and 1 and 1.30 p.m., they managed to get through to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Hanssen-Bauer informed Samaraweera that the LTTE had agreed to open the sluice gates without laying down any conditions. Samaraweera agreed to convey the message to the President and the Peace Secretariat.

Upon being informed of the news, Samaraweera had expressed happiness and had not at any point said the government had to consider the LTTE's unconditional offer.

Since Hanssen-Bauer did not receive a negative response from Samaraweera, the Norwegians were under the impression that the sluice gates could now be opened without any problem.

Tamilselvan conveyed the decision to LTTE Trincomalee Political Wing Head, S. Elilan.

Elilan then proceeded to open the sluice gates with SLMM Head, Ulf Henricsson, but they were prevented from opening the gates due to heavy artillery shelling by the armed forces.

Henricsson was shocked at the turn of events, given the government's request to open the gates due to humanitarian reasons and the LTTE's decision to open the gates unconditionally.

He then raised serious concern over the turn of events and the government responded by saying that it was not aware of Henricsson's visit to Mawilaru.

Attention now has been focused on finding what went wrong - had Samaraweera not conveyed Hanssen-Bauer's message to the relevant authorities? Was that conceivable given the fact that he was to visit India that evening and the Mawilaru issue would be a topic of discussion?

On his way to the airport, Samaraweera had in fact contacted Dr. Kohona, who informed him that he had been uncontactable as he was in his hometown in Matale.

The JVP and the JHU meanwhile received special messages.

That was that the LTTE had agreed to open the sluice gets without laying down any conditions.

Fearing that it would mean an end to the Mawilaru battle, which would also pose a barrier to their joining the government, the JHU and the JVP informed the government that the sluice gates had to be opened not by the LTTE, but by the government. Their position was that any let up now will permanently seal the possibility of them joining the government. The JVP insisted that the Mawilaru issue should be used to consolidate the government position in the east and clear Sampur of the LTTE. The Marxists also said if the LTTE was allowed to open the sluice gates the government will have no justification in proceeding with that strategy without being accused of starting the war.  Accordingly, the government decided to proceed with its military action notwithstanding the LTTE's unconditional offer.

The LTTE however opened the sluice gates last Tuesday, putting the government in a difficult situation as it then exposed the government's war strategy with its continuing military action despite the water flowing once again. This has resulted in the international community reconsidering their role in Sri Lanka, particularly in the backdrop of the massacre of 17 aid workers.

UNP's Judases and unity moves

The UNP has had its share of problems since the presidential election last year and key among them is the crossing over of UNP MPs to government ranks.

Among the names associated with those crossing over were those of seniors as well as back benchers. While some have joined the government, some have opted to remain in the party, dismissing talk of crossing over as mere rumours.

Lionel Premasiri's name was never among those who were in the list to cross over, but he managed to shock everyone when he did the 'jump' last week.

Premasiri was an SLFPer who joined the UNP and is known to be a close associate of S. B. Dissanayake.

Upon hearing the news of his intended cross over, party seniors began to look for him, but he had by then already managed to go into hiding.

The story behind Premasiri's crossover has now been revealed.

A few days before the cross over, Premasiri had received a telephone call from one of his friends in England and Premasiri had informed him of his intended crossover and that he was persuaded to do so by Dissanayake. According to what Premasiri had said, Dissanayake had advised him there was no future in the UNP. Dissanayake had adopted a similar strategy when Anuradhapura District MP, Ekanayake was planning to crossover.

At that time, when Dissanayake was told to speak to the MP and prevent his crossover, he had said Ekanayake was taking the right decision and the way to weaken Ranil Wickremesinghe and capture the party leadership was by weakening him through defections.

And so it was with Premasiri. With the news filtering to long standing UNPers of this strategy by Dissanayake, they were livid and decided to unite and face the challenge posed by the newcomer to the grand old party.

The story behind Premasiri's cross over came up at the UNP's last parliamentary group and working committee meetings and it was Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who spoke first.

"This is the time to end the controversies within the party and strengthen it. We have to cast aside our differences and unite for the sake of the party and the country. Now look at what has happened to the government. They cannot survive. What we have said has now been proven and they have realised that they cannot run a government with the JVP and the JHU. We predicted it before. Now what we have to do is to unite as a party and save the country. The party members expect that of us and so do the people in the country," he said.

Wickremesinghe then made an interesting proposal.

UNP MP Mahinda Wijesekera has been challenging the party leadership since the conclusion of the last presidential election. He was stripped of his working committee membership due to this reason.

However, Wickremesinghe and Wijesekera met and discussed the issue in the open and managed to sort things out.

Wijesekera said that all he did was point out the need for party reforms and not a change in the leadership. Wijesekera expressed regret if his comments were misunderstood and pledged loyalty to the leadership.

Wickremesinghe then proposed to reappoint Wijesekera to the party's working committee.

"Mahinda had to be removed from this working committee, but the background that led to it has now been changed. Now is a time for all of us to unite. So Mahinda has to be appointed once again to the working committee. I asked Mahinda to come for today's meeting, but he had to attend a prior appointment. We have to add Mahinda to the committee again," he said.

Wickremesinghe's decision to reappoint Wijesekera was despite having succeeded in court against Wijesekera and the UNP Leader was showing magnanimity in victory.

Thus, Wickremesinghe made the decision to reappoint Wijesekara to set an example to party members on the importance of standing together and burying differences. This position even Colombo District MP Milinda Moragoda had spoken of in his letters to Wickremesinghe where it was stressed, the need of the hour was unity.

In a further move in this direction, the UNP Leader also decided to appoint three vice chairmen to the party.

The three Vice Chairmen appointed at the meeting were Dharmadasa Banda, M.H. Mohomed and Alick Aluvihare.

John Amaratunga then requested Wickremesinghe to appoint Rukman Senanayake as the party's chairman and Tissa Attanayake as the party's secretary as reported widely. Wickremesinghe however said that he would look into the matter soon after he returns to the island from a scheduled overseas trip and after consulting Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya.

The working committee also received the disciplinary committee report on Keheliya Rambukwella. Accordingly, he was sacked from the party.

Although the disciplinary committee had provided him with two occasions to make representations before the committee he had not attended on both occasions.

It was also decided to inform parliament of the party's decision. Rambukwella now has a month's time to challenge his expulsion in the Supreme Court.

The disciplinary report on Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe was also discussed at the working committee.

Since he was going overseas on the date allocated for him to make representations to the disciplinary committee, Samarasinghe had requested for another date and the working committee decided to grant him another date to make representations.

When the committee was discussing positions in the party, Sajith Premadasa was to make a remark.

He noted that all appointments to the party should be made after an election.

Wickremesinghe however said that according to the party constitution, that could not be done.

"Sajith is working according to SB's agenda. He makes proposals without knowing the party constitution. If you had not reminded him of the party constitution, we were planning on reminding him of that. We also wanted to tell him not to work according to other people's agendas. Before he discusses on how elections should be conducted, he must first work as a team in his own district," the seniors said.

The UNP Leader however said the member had a right to express an opinion even if one did not agree with it and that Premadasa would learn more about the workings of the party with experience and should be encouraged to be a team player.

Mahinda loses his cool with Newton

Most of the institutional heads appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse following the presidential election victory last year are now engaged in working against the President.

When running a country with a simple majority in parliament, the President and the government sometimes have to bow down even to the institutional heads.

Soon after assuming office as President, Rajapakse appointed Newton Guneratne as chairman, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC).

However, this appointment was made by the President solely due to a request made by the government's main ally the JVP.

With the SLRC incurring heavy losses, ignoring the Mahinda Chinthana and not heeding orders made by Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, the President sharply criticised Guneratne at a meeting held at Temple Trees.

"This man is not one of my men. He is not working the way I want him to. He is working according to the JVP and several ministers," Rajapakse said and these words did not take long to reach Guneratne.

Guneratne however carried on regardless.

The President on the other hand wanted to remove Guneratne from the SLRC.

Rajapakse, who was the chief guest at the World Press Freedom Day when told something by Guneratne in a hushed tone, responded loudly saying, "If you can't run the corporation leave. Don't come for advice from me on news and other programmes. You have two designations, you can leave both."

The President has not yet abandoned his plan to get Guneratne out of the SLRC.

The latest clash was last Saturday when the President held a live interview with several of the TV stations.

Rajapakse on that day shouted at Guneratne in front of over 150 SLRC officials.

The President who saw Guneratne after the programme said, "Oh so you are here. I was waiting to get hold of you. Are you following my orders and working according to my rules or someone else's?"

"Mr. President, what have I done?" asked Guneratne.

Rajapakse was angered more by this question.

"What's wrong is that when I asked you to stop a programme that was against the government, you went and told the monks and the parties that I wanted it stopped. They are now calling me. If you can't keep a secret of the state head, you should not be kept as the head of the institution. You must be under the impression that I'm scared of such acts. Don't try these tactics with me," the President said.

The programme in question was Kadaima, which the President felt was creating an impression of the country returning to war.

When the President requested the programme to be stopped, Guneratne was quick to convey the President's directive to JVP's Wimal Weerawansa and Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thero, who had asked for the programme to be telecast in the first place.

They had in turn inquired from the President as to why the programme was ordered to be stopped.

It was then that Rajapakse lost his cool with Guneratne.

Wimal's game plan and SLFP policy

The 20 proposals prepared by the JVP as conditions to join the government are now in the custody of the SLFP.

Two of the main proposals are the ouster of Norway from its role as peace facilitator and the abrogation of the ceasefire agreement (CFA).

In order to arrive at a decision, President Mahinda Rajapakse presented the proposals to the SLFP central committee.

Several senior SLFPers did not agree with the JVP proposals.

Ministers Maithripala Sirisena, Mangala Samaraweera and Nimal Siripala de Silva informed the President of the seriousness of the JVP proposals.

They observed that agreeing to the proposals would make the SLFP an extremist party, creating an adverse impression internationally.

The President agreed. "Yes, that is true. I agree that accepting the proposals would make the SLFP look like an extremist party. We will also have to face problems from the international community. But we have to do this strategically. Without rejecting the proposals outright, let's take time on it," Rajapakse said.

However, the SLFP then decided on preparing a set of counter proposals to the 20 proposals presented by the JVP. As soon as the JVP heard of the SLFP's decision, discussions began on it immediately.

The JVP arrived at a firm decision. That was to stand firm on their proposals. They also decided to reject any counter proposals presented by the SLFP on the proposals forwarded by JVP.

The JVP's decision was conveyed to the SLFP.

JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa quickly informed the President's brother, Basil Rajapakse of the party's decision.

Weerawansa's raison d'etre is to bring the JVP and the government together. He also gave an assurance to Basil.

He informed the President and Basil that he could get the party to withdraw several proposals.

This news reached JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who decided to take a tough stance.

He said that irrespective of the promises made by Weerawansa to the President and Basil Rajapakse, the proposals would not be withdrawn.

Weerawansa has assured the President that he would somehow prevent the JVP from withdrawing its support to the government, merely because it did not agree with the two main proposals.

However, the JVP has decided on giving the government a deadline to respond to the 20 proposals, which is to be made public soon. But Weerawansa assured Basil, the JVP will not withdraw support to the government merely because of the refusal to withdraw from the CFA or keeping Norway as facilitator. That he said according to their party leader was simply to keep the hardliners in the JVP and the grass root supporters happy.

He had said the JVP will continue to agitate on the two issues but would not withdraw support to the government because of it and for Rajapakse to use it as a tool with the international community to say the President was taking a political risk with the JVP's threat to withdraw support to the government and obtain the necessary support.

Nandana silenced

The power struggle in the JVP between the pro SLFP faction and the hardliners continued last week over the issue of joining the government and support for President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The latest Sunday newspaper, the Irida Mawbima, has several guest columnists, including JVP Parliamentarian Nandana Gunathileka, who has so far written three columns.

However, the contents of these articles have raised concerns within the JVP.

The contents of his articles have essentially been on the need for the JVP to change from its radical viewpoints to the present needs.

This issue was raised at the party's politburo meeting last week. It came up for discussion during the latter part of the meeting.

The politburo decided that the contents were against party policies and hence it was decided that Gunathileka should stop his column in the Mawbima newspaper.

Gunathileka however, opposed the decision. He said that he had the freedom to write to the newspaper expressing his thoughts.

He however took pains to explain that his copies had been edited in a way that went against party policies.

The politburo however, stood firm on its decision and told Gunathileka to stop writing to the Mawbima.

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