South Korea's Ban Ki Moon again topped the poll with 14 encouragements and one discouragement while India's Sashi Tharoor had 10 encouragements three discouragements and two no opinions. Thailand's Surakiart Sathirathai polled nine encouragements, three discouragements and three no opinions while newcomer
Prince Zeid got six encouragements four discouragements and five no opinions.
A third straw poll is planned for September 28, although the form it takes is not yet decided. The final vote is expected in October.
The winning candidate for the powerful post needs at least nine of the council's votes - and no veto from any of the five permanent members - before he or she is referred to the General Assembly for final ratification.
Security Council President Adamantios Vassilakis, permanent representative of Greece to the United Nations has now suggested that a final vote may take place even as early as this month.
"I believe if we vote we will have a decision by the end of the month," he reportedly said.
Dashing the hopes of Sri Lanka and Dhanapala and perhaps even Nirj Deva as a late entrant, Vassilakis also said, "For the Sri Lankan it's not worth it to continue and the others have
too many discouragements in order to go ahead. I believe that whoever is coming in now, it's too late."
Prince Zeid's fourth place in the second straw poll has shocked UN watchers given the rousing welcome his candidature received earlier. However he too may be seen as 'technically Asian, but foreign to the intense regional rivalries,' an article published in the UNSG website said. It also suggested that the
"showing may be related to whether other governments do indeed accept Zeid as Asian.
Age a barrier
"As withDhanapala, his age may also be a factor - at42, he would be the youngest UNSG if selected."
While Zeid is too young Dhanapala may be considered too old. UN watchers state that Dhanapala is either no longer seen as a serious candidate or is the archy typical 'compromise' candidate, most likely the former. They say that the fact he is 67-
two years older than the official UN retirement age - is perhaps a vital reason for his poor performances at the polls.
Surakiart picked up two more encouragements, giving him the 'magic number' of 9 votes necessary to win provided he got no vetoes. UN experts now expect the Thai to stay in the race even though his own Prime Minister Thaksin had earlier told UK and French diplomats he had only a 50/50 chance of winning.
It is Ban Ki Moon however who is clearly the favourite. But will he receive a veto from China which will render nugatory the support of all other 14 members? Speculation is rife as to who cast the discouraging vote.
While South Korea is looking good, for Sri Lanka the going is at its worst. Dhanapala has not been helped by Sri Lanka's waning support within the international community. Last Tuesday (12) the Co- Chairs released a statement calling for talks and an immediate halt to the military offensive.
The tenor of the Co-Chairs statement is such, Sri Lanka as a whole is seen in poor light especially given the references to human rights abuse and the lack of respect for humanitarian law, and such comments would not have helped Dhanapala's case.
President Mahinda Rajapakse himself comes out as a devious politician willing to go back on signed contractual obligations for short term personal gain and Dhanapala as his senior advisor is not about to come out smelling of roses.
Perhaps for the rest of the world a candidate from Sri Lanka is hardly attractive at this juncture.
In any event with a third straw poll due to be held on September 28, Havana last week, became a battlefield of Asian candidates vying for support within the 116 member Non Aligned Movement.
Representing nearly two thirds of the UN General Assembly and one third of the UN Security Council (Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Tanzania)- the 116 member NAM was an attractive forum for the UNSG candidates to consolidate their support base. More
so as China, one of the council's five permanent members, was present as an observer.
Dhanapala even with the support of President Mahinda Rajapakse and 53 others was however unable to talk his way into anything but last place yet again.
Earlier in May, Dhanapala sought support from the NAM at its ministerial meeting held in Putrajaya telling foreign newswires the Non-Aligned Movement was an influential grouping, and their decision would be of great importance today.
However his pitch, "I come from a small country which has always had moderate policies in international affairs and has been successful in achieving consensus building," seems somehow weak and miniscule compared to what Tharoor, Moon and the Jordanian Prince Zeid can bring to the post given the
global ramifications at play.
Even his wealth of experience within the UN and a commitment to reform is unlikely to help Dhanapala buoy his flagging campaign, with many international watchers now urging him to step down from the race gracefully.
Thus for Sri Lanka the prospect of clinching the top UN post is dismally low. Dhanapala had already failed miserably to make any headway in the July 24 straw poll collecting more 'discouragements' than 'encouragements' from the 15- member strong
Security Council, when he was dealt another severe blow last Thursday(14).
First straw poll
At the first straw poll last July, South Korea's Ban Ki Moon won the most support - 12 'encouragements,' one 'discouragement' and two 'no opinions.'
Tharoor received 10 votes for, two against and three abstentions, while Surakiart and Dhanapala obtained seven and five positive votes, respectively.
One criticism of both Dhanapala and Surakiart has been that both started their campaigns too early. History has shown that early favourites usually peter out losing their momentum while new candidates take centre stage.
And it does not follow that the declared candidates would even get the job, as others could easily join the race.
There has been a flutter of excitement nonetheless for newcomer Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, who if successful, would become the first Muslim to head the U.N.
No Muslim has been secretary-general in the UN's 61-year history, although an Arab has held the post. Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali is a Coptic Christian.
Support of Arab League
Zeid has won the backing of the 22-member Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a grouping with 56 member states.
UN Chief Kofi Annan whose term ends on December 31 this year has said he should be replaced by an Asian in line with the convention for regional rotation of the top job. Asia has not had a UN chief since Myanmar's U. Thant finished his second term in 1971.
Jordan is considered part of the Asian regional group at the United Nations.
The winner will need the support of at least nine of the council's 15 members, including that of all five veto-wielding permanent members. The council's decision is then sent to the General Assembly for ratification.
For Sri Lanka however the humiliation was doubly painful. If Dhanapala was now relegated to the backbenches, then another candidate identified as Sri Lankan was about to face a humiliating turn of events.
The British/Sri Lankan Nirj Deva-Aditya who was once appointed ambassador-at-large by the Ranil Wickremesinghe government is a member of the European Parliament in Brussels.
By September 6, Nirj Deva had spread it around thickly that the Republic of Fiji had nominated him as a candidate. Media reports referred to him as Ambassador Deva-Aditya though it was not immediately clear whether Aditya remained aAmbassador-at-large under the Rajapakse regime.
Following Dhanapala's poor showing at the first straw poll, Nirj Deva sought the support of President Rajapakse. Personally meeting him at Temple Trees he was to canvass support but failed to get anything but a smile and a cup of tea. Rajapakse said he could not back him as Sri Lanka was already backing
Nevertheless Deva who sent emails willy nilly about his official nomination had also set up a web page to promote his candidacy. He cited a letter dated July 18 to the President of the Security Council, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Fiji Senator Kaliopate Tavola, as proof of official nomination.
Fiji later denied it.
In a letter dated September 4 to the President of the Security Council, Adamantios Vassilakis, permanent representative of Greece to the United Nations, Nirj Deva proceeded to accept the 'nomination,' stating " I have the great honour to transmit a letter dated
July 18, 2006 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Fiji, signed by the Foreign Minister, formally nominating me as a candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General...."
Fiji refutes letter
"I also attach a copy of my Sri Lankan passport No. D 0009571 issued in Colombo on September 13, 2002, which confirms my Asian citizenship. Although I am a Sri Lankan citizen, I do not
seek to be a Sri Lankan candidate as Sri Lanka has fielded an excellent candidate as long ago as December 4, 2004...."
Alas just four days later on September 8, Fiji refuted the letter distributed to the 15 Security Council members on September 6.
While Deva may not pose a threat for Dhanapala there comes into the game many facets of international power play and regional issues that will queer the pitch for all candidates.
And it is ironically here that Dhanapala may find some respite. Following the first straw poll in July, US Permanent Representative to the UN - John Bolton told media the US traditionally does not indicate its preferred candidate for fear it may discourage and or encourage other voters.
Peradventure, other voting members may also feel the same way and merely play around with votes in order to confuse and confound. Dhanapala should certainly hope so.
Important US vote
Clearly the US vote is an important one and a number of media reports earlier cited confidential diplomatic sources as saying the US voted against all four candidates in the July straw poll. If true, that means US envoy John Bolton would have accounted for the one negative vote for the South Korean Ban Ki
To this mix comes another element to make the race to the finish even more interesting. For with the US supportive of a candidate on merit rather than rotation, one cannot rule out a Non Asian candidate emerging.
On the subject of a woman candidate John Bolton stated " I have said repeatedly that with all this talk of rotation, regional rotation and the rest of it, it is striking there is so little talk of gender rotation. We have had one gender for 60
years, so maybe that would, if you are going to be in that business of rotation, maybe you would want to consider that as well."
However his remarks were perhaps more captious in nature and aimed at caviling against the rotational theory rather than encouraging a woman candidate.
Certainly as with all elections, high on the list of considerations would be politics. North Korea and its nuclear activities will feature strongly at UNGA this month and later on at other UN forums. South Korea has often differed with Washington on how to deal with Pyongyang.
Japan, the rotating member
Experts also say Japan, a rotating member of the council, is unlikely to vote for a South Korean, given Seoul's opposition to Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat on the body.
India, placed second in both polls is, like Japan, vying for a permanent council seat. This could work against India's candidate Tharoor suggests reports pointing out that even Annan and his predecessors all came from mid-sized countries - Ghana, Egypt, Peru, Austria, Burma, Sweden and Norway.
Some Thais have called for Surakiart to quit. This would enable the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN) to submit another candidate - perhaps Singapore's former Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong.
The Chinese too are expected to have enormous influence on the final outcome of the contest, while India is set to further intensify diplomatic efforts to push Shashi Tharoor's candidature and impart a new momentum to its pursuit of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Some experts say however that Goh would best serve the interests of both US and China while Prince Zeid, may have trouble winning over China.
UN General Assembly
It is in this backdrop that the 61st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York will see a concentrated effort by not only the South Asian giant but other nations to push a candidate of their choice.
Meanwhile, the UN Bridging Nations will be hosting a Candidates' Forum on September 26 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, just two days before the third straw poll is held providing an opportunity for the world tolearn more about those individuals seeking this high post.
Given the global political scenario and Sri Lanka's fall from grace in the eyes of the international community, Dhanapala is faced with a daunting task and one not necessarily of his making.
Vartharaja Perumal and strategic planning in India
Leader of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), Vartharajah Perumal was once a well known name in the Sri Lankan political arena till his disappearance from the country after his ill-fated unilateral declaration of independence. .
His disappearance was a topic of discussion among the country's security forces for a long time.
The explanation for his disappearance was that after declaring a separate state in the northeast, he sought refuge in India for protection.
Perumal who vanished after the 'declaration' made a sudden reappearance in New Delhi last week.
The story behind his reappearance however is an interesting one.
India has an institution that studies and investigates the security situation in the region in order to advise the government on handling issues. The institution functions under the patronage of the central government.
A special discussion was held at this institution recently to discuss as to how India should act with regard to the situation in Sri Lanka.
The discussion, which was held in Room No. 3 at the institution, went on for a full day.
During the discussion, the participants had arrived at several important decisions with regard to Sri Lanka.
A one time senior in the country's diplomatic staff, former High Commissioner to Sri Lanka N. N. Jha, Lt. Gen. V. K. Singh and Narayan Swami also participated at the discussion. Perumal was also among those gathered at the discussion.
It is interesting to note that Perumal, who at one point declared a separate state in the northeast was now involved in India's decision making process with regard to Sri Lanka.
The three main decisions arrived at the discussion was to keep a close watch on the developments in the north and east of Sri Lanka and find out the true facts behind the issue as well as to find out the impact it has had on India.
The final decision was to formulate a policy India should adopt with regard to Sri Lanka.
The discussion took an in depth look at the root causes behind the country's ethnic conflict.
It was identified that successive Sri Lankan governments had failed to address the aspirations of the Tamil people and the armed conflict which was prompted by it, had destroyed the country while pushing its economy into the doldrums.
It was also accepted at the meeting that although the Indo-Lanka pact was criticised by some, it managed to bring about some redress to the issues faced by Sri Lanka.
During the discussion it was also identified that while the needs of the Tamil people were never addressed, the chance of finding a solution during former President Chandrika Kumaratunga's tenure in office was also cast aside with political parties opposing her devolution proposal and the amendment to the
It was also determined that no Sri Lankan government had made any concrete proposals with the true intention of devolving power for the benefit of the Tamil people. Any party that tried to find a political settlement to the ethnic conflict was labeled as traitors of the country.
Several representatives at the meeting believed that the LTTE joined the peace process with the intention of strengthening its military prowess while the Sri Lankan government too has not been sincere in its effort at finding a lasting solution to the problem.
The discussion continued on India's role in the conflict and the strength of the LTTE.
The representatives agreed that while the LTTE, which is currently split in two factions, did not possess the necessary power to gain control of the north and east of Sri Lanka, the state forces too did not possess the power to neutralise the LTTE.
It was also highlighted that the LTTE was now in the last stages of guerilla warfare as it has now claimed to have formed a separate state by forming its own police force and formulating its own tax regime to find the necessary funding for the movement.
The defection of Karuna and his faction was also believed to be hampering the LTTE's plan of creating its own state in the north and east.
Some representatives also noted that due to Karuna's capability of neutralising the LTTE in the east of the country, the government too could be supportive of the group. Accordingly, it was concluded that as a separatist group, the LTTE was now weak and in a position they could no longer move forward.
A contradictory viewpoint was also forwarded at this point. That was if the LTTE was weak now and the government was adopting a policy to divide the LTTE, the aspirations of the Tamil people would not be met by the state.
Also noted at the meeting was that the LTTE would not change as the organisation would not soften its stance of calling for an Eelam, which the Sinhalese majority would never agree to.
As for India's role in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, the representatives believed that the problem could not be overlooked due to the Tamil refugees in South India.
However, it was also decided that India should not aid the Sri Lankan government militarily.
Another decision was for India to continue dealing only with the two main parties in Sri Lanka.
The final decision at the meeting was to adopt a broad policy of supporting a negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka where the rights of all ethnic groups are protected.
JVP's plans to back track on CFA abrogation bared
The JVP has been reiterating that it would only support the government if it accepts the conditions forwarded by them, conveniently forgetting the fact that they are already part of the UPFA
Whenever the JVP was criticised for keeping silent when the government made a mess of things, the Marxists issued a statement critical of the government but continued to stay put.
Interestingly, the JVP, "the common man's party," as the party likes to claim, has not seen it fit to raise concerns over the sharply increasing cost of living.
However, occasionally they feel the need to keep the gallery pacified and make some noise over some issue or the other. It is this necessity that has now prompted the JVP to hold public seminars on the conditions forwarded by the party to the government and reiterate the stance that they would not soften
its hard line stance.
All eyes were therefore on the discussions held between the government and the JVP - the question was whether they will 'join the government.'
It was due to this reason that much prominence was given to the meeting between the President and the JVP two weeks ago.
The JVP held several rounds of discussions of its own before going for the talks with the President. The Marxist party's leadership discussed the course of action to be adopted during the talks with the President. The most decisive meeting within the JVP was held the day before the meeting with the
The party's Propaganda Secretary, Wimal Weerawansa from the outset of the meeting adopted a stance that the party would be faced with greater issues if it did not join the government, unconditionally.
He supported his argument with examples and the first was the fact that after capturing Sampur, the President would carry out further operations and go for a general election.
The other reason put forward was that although the government had no intention of getting the UNP into its fold, the talks could be fruitful given the support it would receive from the international community.
Weerawansa said that under such circumstances, the government and the UNP would join forces.
The third reason pointed out by Weerawansa was that the party was not in a position to prevent party senior Nandana Gunatilleka and several other MPs from crossing over to the government.
Weerawansa observed that the party would be in a fix if one of the three reasons came true.
He went on to say that as a result, the party had to make a drastic U-turn at this point and join the government unconditionally for the survival of the party.
Weerawansa's statement caused a stir at the discussions and party frontliner, Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake maintained a hard-line stance.
"We have made public several conditions. They were not made recently. We always said to oust Norway from the role of facilitator, abrogate the CFA and de-merge the north and east. So they are not conditions we can back track on. If we take back the conditions we have laid, then we would not only lose
our base, but would be faced with a worse plight than the Hela Urumaya," Dissanayake said.
Weerawansa did not agree with Dissanayake. He continued to say that under the present circumstances, the JVP should join the government unconditionally.
Checkmating the president
Party Secretary Tilvin Silva expressed his views at this point.
He said the party had to discuss these issues with the President before arriving at a final decision. Silva also said that the JVP should operate tactfully, in a manner where the President too could be checkmated.
"We cannot go back on our conditions, but we have to work in a way that the President too would not be able to make another decision," Silva said.
Silva's comments did not bring an end to the heated arguments that were going on.
The gravity of the situation was such that Dissanayake decided not participate in the discussions with the government the following day.
Party Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe was to participate at a conference in South Korea and the party decided to send Dissanayake with Amarasinghe.
The scheduled meeting between the government and the JVP took place at Temple Trees, the following day. The government was represented by Ministers Maithripala Sirisena, Mangala Samaraweera, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Susil Premajayanth and Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma.
The JVP team included Silva, Weerawansa and K. D. Lalkantha.
The discussion went on for about two hours.
On the back foot
Sirisena and Samaraweera observed that although the government agreed in principle to the three conditions of ousting Norway as the facilitator, abrogating the CFA and the de-merger of the north and east, it was not prudent to do so at this moment.
They further said that the government was helpless due to the pressure exerted by the international community and therefore could not agree with the JVP's proposals on the issue.
It was Weerawansa who shocked the government delegation at this point by saying that the JVP understood the government's plight.
He said that although the conditions could not be withdrawn, an in-depth discussion needed to be held on how it should be done systematically.
The government delegation said that if the JVP was willing to withdraw the three conditions, they could immediately join the government and accept ministerial portfolios.
Call for discussions
A seasoned campaigner, Silva however was not about to give up.
"The JVP cannot solve this issue within 24 hours. This should be subject to a complete discussion. If we are to take back the conditions, we have to discuss it extensively," he said.
Sirisena and Samaraweera continued to maintain that the government could not agree with the conditions forwarded by the JVP.
President's confidant Alahapperuma observed that if the JVP withdrew its conditions and accepted the government's stance, the President would join hands with the JVP.
Weerawansa was to then air his views. "It would be easy for us if the government continues with its attacks after Sampur. Then we can show these victories to the people. We can highlight them and slowly pull out the conditions. But we can do that only if the government continues with its military
action," he said.
The government delegation then informed the JVPers that the President had already ordered the capture of Elephant Pass and that the government was planning on continuing with the war.
Silva also said that if the military attacks continued, the JVP could join forces with the government, using it as a shield.
Before the end of the discussion, Weerawansa made a plea. "If the media at least hints that the JVP is planning on withdrawing its conditions, then the UNP and certain sections of the media will attack me. The extremists will also gang up against me. So let's issue a notice saying that the discussion
was successful and hide the details from the media," he pleaded.
Alahapperuma accepted the responsibility on behalf of the government and took on the task of issuing a statement to the media.
Silva reiterated the importance of continuing with the discussions and proposed the second step should be a discussion between the President and Amarasinghe. The meeting was to be held before the President's trip to the UN.
Accordingly, Alahapperuma issued statements to certain sections of the media and Weerawansa too spoke to several English dailies and weekly newspapers to give his spin on the talks.
Although the JVP's U-turn was a temporary fix, it was not welcome news to the President and his political advisors. This was because they had already come up with a different agenda.
They believed that the government would have to face grave consequences in the face of the international community if the JVP did not agree to withdraw its conditions. They also felt that the government could not progress far even if the JVP joined the government, hence, the advisors were all out to
discourage the JVP from joining the government.
The JVP then got down its Leader Amarasinghe from South Korea to attend the meeting with the President before he left to attend both the Non Aligned Movement Summit and the UN sessions. They informed Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse that Amarasinghe would arrive in the island on Tuesday and requested
The presidential staff diplomatically said that the President was having a busy schedule.
The JVP then realised that the government was purposely avoiding the meeting with the party leader and decided to reconsider its decision to withdraw the three conditions. Silva was instrumental in pushing this line of thinking.
He told Weerawansa that in the present situation, the JVP could not function as a party without a backbone. Disturbed by the news, Weerawansa immediately called Basil and informed him of the party's decision.
Basil too said the President was busy, but promised to make an appointment as soon as time permitted. The JVP followed it up by getting Vijitha Herath to issue a statement that it would not withdraw its conditions.
However everything changed after 11 p.m. last Tuesday.
MR uses JVP cat's paw against Co-Chairs
THE JVP's stance on the conditions placed before the government saw a change following the statement issued by the Co-Chairs after their meeting
in Brussels last week.
The Co-Chairs statement as well as the statement made by Norway's International Development Minister, Erik Solheim to the international media resulted in the JVP's change of position.
The President was scheduled to leave the island the following day.
It was in this backdrop that the President heard of the statement made by Solheim and was disturbed by it.
He immediately summoned Defence Spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to Temple Trees.
The President asked him to release a statement saying that the government had not agreed to talks with the LTTE unconditionally and asked Rambukwella to hold a special press briefing on the issue.
Using the Marxists
This also prompted the Presidential advisors who were trying to avoid Amarasinghe, to organise a meeting between the two leaders.
They believed that the President should meet with the Marxist leader before leaving the country and pose for photographs and release them to the foreign media so that it would have an impact on the international community.
Amarasinghe was informed of the meeting at midnight, Tuesday. Basil asked Weerawansa to bring Amarasinghe to Temple Trees the following day. Dullas Alahapperuma also conveyed the same message to Weerawansa.
Happy at last, the JVP leader with Weerawansa and Tilvin Silva made their way to Temple Trees half an hour before the appointment.
The President had informed Alahapperuma to make sure that the event was covered by the local and foreign media. Rajapakse was particularly keen to ensure Sirasa TV, which had the largest viewership was there to cover the event.
The discussion between the JVP and the President lasted about half an hour.
At the outset of the meeting, the President said that he did not have time to conclude the meeting the JVP delegation had with the government delegation the previous Friday as time did not permit it.
"I really don't have the time to finish the discussion you'll had that day. I called for this meeting to discuss the situation that has arisen following the statement released by the Co-Chairs. To be honest, I have no time to discuss anything extensively," Rajapakse said.
Amarasinghe inquired from the President if there was any truth in the statement that the government has agreed to hold talks in Oslo without laying down any conditions.
"That is completely false. Solheim spoke to me about a day or two ago and I reiterated the government's stance. This statement was released to put us in trouble," the President said.
Amarasinghe then asked the course of action the government planned to take.
"I asked a statement to be released. I have asked Keheliya also to release another statement. No matter what, we will have to discuss with the LTTE from our stance," Rajapakse said.
Campaign against Co- Chairs
It was also a subtle warning the President fired at the JVP.
"These Co-Chairs have held a meeting and are trying to order us around. I'm not going to give into such orders," he said.
Amarasinghe suggested that it would be wise for the government to release a statement criticising the statement issued by the Co-Chairs.
"There is no point in fighting against the Co-Chairs. You can attack them. Why won't you launch the campaign," the President advised.
Weerawansa agreed and said that he would call a press briefing and attack the Co-Chairs. The President gave his full consent to the endeavour.
It was Weerawansa who raised yet another question. He inquired from the President if they could come to an agreement on the JVP joining the government.
Rajapakse strategically avoided the question by saying that he would discuss it upon his return to the island as he was short of time that day for such an important issue.
Meanwhile, the media representatives were allowed to enter the room to click photographs of the meeting.
Amarasinghe who went to shake hands with the President for the photographs was faced with an unexpected situation.
The President said, "Why shake hands, we should be hugging each other," and hugged Amarasinghe. The media personnel obliged by clicking away.
Soon after the JVP representatives and the media made their way out of the room the President told Alahapperuma, "Ok, job done, we can send an excellent message through the photographs."
Things can change overnight
With the country at war and the people in a state of despondency, we at The Sunday Leader want to put a smile on your faces and hold out some hope that things will not remain the same and that they can change overnight.
In keeping with the widely held view that nothing is permanent, we continue our series of satirical graphics, titled 'Things can change overnight.'