anniversary of the aborted Banda-Chelva˙pact
Bandaranaike and S.J.V. Chelvanayagam
coming week will mark the 50th anniversary of a landmark event in
the modern political history of the country. It was on July 26, 1957
that the then Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike
and Samuel James Velupillai Chelvanayagam, the leader of the
Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi - known as Federal Party (FP) in
English - signed an agreement that came to be known as the Banda-
Chelva or B-C pact.
B-C pact˙which intended resolving some of the major grievances
facing Sri Lankan Tamils, was the first of its kind in the
post-independence history of the country. The B-C pact recognised
several key elements of the Federal Idea through a scheme of power
sharing. The story of how this aborted pact evolved, deserves to
be narrated on its golden jubilee week.
1956 elections had seen a deep polarisation between the Sinhala and
Tamil communities. While the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna joint front
headed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike swept the polls in the south, the
Federal Party led by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam won six out of nine seats
in the north and four out of seven in the east.
of the first acts by the new government was the enshrining of
Sinhala as the sole official language of the country. On June 5
Tamil Satyagrahis peacefully protesting at Galle Face were beaten up
by thugs as the police did nothing. Anti-Tamil violence erupted in
several parts of the country. On June 15, Sinhala was made the only
official language by a vote of 56 to 29.
was much tension in the country when the FP held its party
convention in Trincomalee during August 17- 19, 1956. FP members and
supporters marched for 10 days from Jaffna in the north and
Thirukkovil in the south of the Eastern Province to Trincomalee. The
FP convention passed a unanimous resolution incorporating four basic
demands. They were
The establishment of an autonomous Tamil state or states on a
linguistic basis within a Federal Union of Ceylon.
The restoration of the Tamil language to its rightful place,
enjoying absolute parity of status with Sinhala as an official
language of this country.
The restoration of the citizenship and franchise rights to the Tamil
workers in the plantation districts by repeal of the present
The immediate cessation of all policies of colonising the
traditionally Tamil-speaking areas with Sinhalese people.
convention resolved that one years time be given the government to
respond positively to these demands. If there was no response the FP
was to commence a 'direct action' campaign of non-violent protest.
The deadline given was August 20, 1957.
year 1957 dawned with much friction over the issue of
the 'Sri' letter in vehicle number plates. The earlier system
was to use English alphabet letters from the country's name CEYLON
(CE, CL, CN, EY, EN etc). Now the new government wanted it to begin
with the Sinhala 'Sri.' The Tamil politicians resented this as a
form of Sinhala imposition. They protested and demanded that the
Tamil 'Shree' also be substituted. Ironically there was no letter 'Shree'
in theTamil alphabet. The 'Shree' used was derived from Sanskrit.
January 19 the FP began an anti-Sri campaign in the northeast.
Vehicles began running with Tamil letters. The 'Sinhala' Sri was
changed into the Sanskrit derived 'Tamil' Shree.
February 4 the FP observed Independence Day as a 'black day' of
mourning. A hartal paralysed normal life in the northeast. Nadarajah,
a volunteer in Trincomalee was shot dead when climbing the clock
tower to tie a black flag.
counter-campaign began in the Sinhala majority provinces. Tamil
letters were tar-brushed or blacked out on street signs and name
boards. There were widespread incidents of communal friction on a
FP also called for a boycott of government ministers and deputy -
ministers visiting the northeast for 'official' purposes.
Satyagrahis would surround places where ministers were scheduled to
go and curtail movement.
Ministers W. Dahanayake and M. Marikkar were mobbed in Batticaloa.
Stanley de Zoysa was treated to a massive show of black flags in
Minister of Labour M.P de Z. Siriwardena who went by the mail train
to Jaffna found his path blocked outside the railway station by
youths led by the then enfant terrible Appapillai Amirthalingam. He
returned to Colombo by the next "Yarl Devi."
increasing communal tension the country seemed to be heading for a
blood bath. S.W.R.D. who was arguably the most intellectual of all
Sri Lanka's prime ministers realised that the situation had to be
checked and reversed. He understood that the Tamils had genuine
grievances that had to be redressed.
the man who espoused federalism for Sri Lanka in 1926 knew that the
federal idea in the form of effective power sharing was the only
solution. He now proposed extensive de-centralisation through the
setting up of Regional Councils.
is widely believed that the Regional Councils scheme was introduced
Bandaranaike as a result of the B-C pact. Actually, a draft bill
for Regional Councils was published on May 17, 1957. The B-C pact
came later in July.
with Tamil leaders
presenting the Regional Councils Bill S.W.R.D. wanted to arrive at
an understanding with the Tamil leaders and modify it further.
the FP was getting ready for its 'direct action' campaign scheduled
to begin on August 20.
Volunteers numbering 25, 000 were registered.
Sinhala leaders began a move to mobilise 100, 000 volunteers to
combat the Tamil campaign. A major showdown seemed inevitable.
was then that saner counsel prevailed. A meeting between S.W.R.D.
and S.J.V. was mooted. It was done on the personal initiative of the
Prime Minister himself.
Tamil lawyers, P. Navaratnarajah QC and A.C. Nadarajah arranged for
the rendezvous. Navaratnarajah was a personal˙friend of both
S.W.R.D. and S.J.V.
was a vice-president of the SLFP. From the government side Finance
Minister Stanley de Zoysa played a commendable role in promoting
first meeting was held on June 22 at the Premier's residence in
Horagolla. S.W.R.D. himself came up to Chelvanayagam's car and
helped him get out.
Both men seemed to realise the gravity of the situation.
present on this historic occasion were S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and
de Zoysa from the government; Navaratnarajah as an intermediary;
S.J.V.˙ Chelvanayagam, C. Vanniyasingham, N.R. Rajavarothayam, V.A.
Kandiah, E.M.V. Naganathan and V. Navaratnam from the FP.
could not read or write Sinhala
first meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. S.W.R.D. tried to
downplay Tamil fears by saying that it would take many years for
Sinhala to become the official language in practice.
himself had given evidence at the Theja Gunawardena case that he
could not read or write Sinhala. "I dont intend making Sinhala
the language of administration till I learn it and I must confess
that I am a slow learner," he chuckled. He also took a swipe at
Sir John Kotelawela by referring to a politician 'who learnt French
between bedclothes in Paris.'
FP appreciated Bandaranaike's position but insisted that
provisionary arrangements on the status of Tamil will have to be
made. S.W.R.D. concurred.
the question of power sharing arose the FP presented its case for a
federal state. The FP pointed out that S.W.R.D's own viewpoint in
the '20s that federalism was the ideal solution had been a source of
inspiration for the party in demanding federalism.
S.W.R.D. replied by saying that though he espoused federalism
then he had subsequently changed his mind.
he had no mandate for introducing federalism. "Could not the FP
think of an alternative solution short of federalism that would
redress Tamil grievances and address aspirations?" he queried.
FP understood the Prime Minister's situation and agreed not to press
for a federal solution. Both parties agreed to seek ways and means
of power sharing within the parameters set out by the Choksy
Commission report on de-centralisation and the draft bill on
PM then suggested that the FP should come up with alternative
proposals envisaging 'massive de-centralisation' but not 'federal
autonomy.' The FP agreed and departed.
FP consulted former Law College Principal Brito Muthunayagam and˙Alfred
Jeyaratnam Wilson, the son-in-law of Chelvanayagam. Wilson then a
university lecturer˙went on to become political science dean at
Peradeniya and New Brunswick in Canada.
Muthunayagam felt 50 years ago that the status of Northern Ireland
in Britain was the ideal model to follow. The Northern Ireland
parliament was subordinate to the British parliament but retained a
lot of powers not amounting to federalism.
FP was given a copy of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Act by
the Law College principal. Wilson provided copies of the
constitution of several federal countries.
Kopay MP. C. Vanniyasin-gham and ex-Kayts MP. V. Navaratnam set
about drafting an alternative scheme. The FP leaders accomplished
the task in three days and forwarded the draft through
Navaratnarajah for S.W.R.D's perusal. The Ulster model influenced
the draft greatly.
northeast was to be a subordinate state with a unicameral
legislature and cabinet. External affairs, defence, currency,
stamps, customs, inter-regional transport, would remain with the
grants would be made by Colombo while domestic taxation could also
supplement revenue. Policing was a state responsibility.
subordinate state would be represented in Colombo through elected
MPs. There would be a central cabinet minister for Tamil affairs.
second round of talks was at S.W.R.D's Rosemead Place residence.
Chelvanayagam, Vanniyasingham, Naganathan and Navaratnam represented
the FP. Bandaranaike pointed out that the proposals in essence
amounted to federalism.
suggested that the scheme be whittled down in point form to
emphasise administrative de-centralisation.
He also objected to words like 'parliament' and 'cabinet'
saying they smacked of a separate state.
FP then returned and revised the document by summarising proposals
in point form. Since the Regional Council concept was a brainchild
of Bandaranaike the FP replaced 'parliament' with 'regional
was substituted by 'board of directors.'
The substance of the original proposals was retained to a
a series of discussions took place among Stanley de Zoysa,
Navaratnarajah and FP leaders. The PM did not participate but
proposed many changes through his representative de Zoysa.
FP was persuaded to accept most of them though they diluted to some
extent the original proposals. But on one point the FP remained
FP wanted the northeast to form one single regional council. S.W.R.D.
was willing to allow the north to be one unit but he wanted the east
to be separate with two or more units.
man who was adamant on this issue was FP strategist V. Navaratnam
dubbed as the 'golden brain' of the FP. Finally A.C. Nadarajah
persuaded Navaratnam to accept a compromise. The north and east were
to be separate councils with the provision to amalmagate if so
conclusive meeting took place on July 25, 1957 at the Prime
Minister's office in the old Senate building.
Several cabinet ministers were in attendance. Many FP leaders
Navaratnarajah the 'facilitator' was also there. It began at
cabinet ministers were firm that the status of Sinhala as official
language should not be eroded. After protracted discussion a
compromise was suggested by William Silva that Tamil be recognised
as the language of the national minorities. Tamil was to be the
language of administration in the N-E.
the unit issue the FP consented to the premier's stance that the
north be one council and the east be divided into two or more
councils. The councils could merge if desired even cutting across
provincial boundaries. Existing boundaries could be re-demarcated if
it came to powers of the council several ministers led by Philip
Gunewardena refused to delegate their powers. The FP members retired
to another room while cabinet ministers sorted out the issue.
Subsequently 'line' ministers agreed to devolve their powers.
PM was willing to stop colonisation and also agreed to land
settlement procedures satisfactory to the FP.
the question of citizenship Bandaranaike stated that he would
resolve the issue through discussions with plantation Tamil
representatives. He suggested the FP should "leave it at
The FP complied.
was well past midnight now and July 26 had dawned. At 2 a.m on July
26, V. Navaratnam read out in point form the agreement reached. Both
sides formally agreed.
2.30 a.m the members of the fourth estate, waiting eagerly for a
sensational breakthrough, were called in to the cabinet room.
flashing cameras Bandaranaike apologised in his courteous manner:
"My friends, I am sorry to have kept all of you awake. But it
is a historic night for you, for us and for the country."
Handy was then a Lake House journalist. The irrepressible Ranji who
became Mrs. Maithripala Senanayake˙in later life blurted out
"tell us the result please."
Stanley de Zoysa announced "We have reached an agreement."
then turned to S.J.V. and said "Chelva they want to hear from
you." Chelvanayagam said an agreement had been worked out and
that the details will be given by the PM.
then asked the press whether there was time to catch the printing
deadline. Joe Segera shouted spiritedly that special arrangements
had been made to print late and wanted the full details. S.W.R.D.
then read out from V. Navaratnam's notes.
press persons asked FP leaders whether they were satisfied.
Naganathan, Vanniyasingham, Rajavarothayam and Amirthalingam replied
in the affirmative.
then stated that the FP would postpone its 'direct action' campaign
scheduled for August 20.
press rushed out and the morning papers came out later than usual
with the full text of the agreement. The evening papers came out
earlier than usual with more details.
may be hard to believe but the funny thing was that no pact had been
signed by Bandaranaike or Chelvanayakam at that point. There was no
B-C pact. It was like a gentleman's agreement
and Navaratnam returned to the FP Leader's residence at Alfred House
Gardens. It was there that Navaratnam pointed out that there was
nothing concrete in writing that an agreement had been entered
into. There would only be media reports.
then suggested that Navaratnam take some rest and handle the matter
in the morning.
Getting up early morning, Navaratnam drafted in triplicate,
terms and clauses of what is known as the Banda-Chelva pact now.
was in two parts. Part A - was a summary of discussions and
agreements reached. Part B - was about the structure, powers and
composition of the proposed Regional Councils.
then took the copies and went at noon on July 26˙ to the Prime
Minister's office. It was there that the old Thomians
- Solomon and Samuel - endorsed the historic agreement known
as the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact. It was done quietly away
from the media glare.
had one copy and Chelvanayagam the other. Navaratnam the
'draftsman' kept the third copy.
later Navaratnam told this writer in a conversation at his son
Mohan's house in Toronto, the sad tale of how that copy of the
"historic document" was destroyed by EPRLF militants
during the Indian Army period.
was at his residence in Jaffna which the EPRLF had taken over then.
the driving force behind the˙B-C pact also told me that the FP was
not happy with all aspects of the agreement but compromised in a
spirit of pragmatism.
veteran Tamil leader who split from the FP in 1968 and founded the
Tamil Self-Rule party passed away some months ago in Montreal.
retrospect the B-C pact seems to have been one signed by leaders who
realised that the ethnic problem had to be resolved if the nation
was to realise its full potential.
was also a sense of urgency then to arrive at an understanding in
order to contain the rising mood of ethnic confrontation in the
the pact was never implemented. There was much opposition to it. J.R.
Jayewardene and the UNP on the one hand and the Sinhala-Buddhist
hardliners on the other whipped up a sustained campaign.
Tamil Congress on its part also opposed the pact for its own
provocative act of sending new buses to the north with 'Sinhala' Sri
number plates saw the FP resorting to a tar brush campaign again.
This evoked counter measures in the south.
Buddhist priests and 300 others squatted outside Bandaranaike's˙
house on April 9, 1958 demanding the pact be revoked.
S.W.R.D. caved in and repudiated the pact unilaterally, tearing up a
copy to symbolise it. He blamed the FP tar brush campaign for his
Bandaranaike and Chelvanayagam entered into the agreement to avoid
an ethnic conflagration. Yet a month after the BC pact was aborted
ethnic violence erupted on a large scale.
ethnic crisis deteriorated into open war and the country is still
bleeding 50 years later.
B-C pact was a golden opportunity to resolve the problem at its
early stages through a solution comprising elements of the federal
idea. Yet it never worked or was allowed to work.
and why the B-C pact ended in failure is a sad story that needs to
be related on another occasion.
jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com
of Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam Pact, 1957
of the Federal Party have had a series of discussions with the
Prime Minister in an effort to resolve the differences of
opinion that had been growing and creating tension.
an early stage of these conversations it became evident that
it was not possible for the Prime Minister to accede to some
of the demands of the Federal Party.
Prime Minister stated that, from the point of view of the
government, he was not in a position to discuss the setting up
of a Federal Constitution, or regional autonomy, or take any
step that would abrogate the Official Language Act.
question then arose whether it was possible to explore the
possibility of an adjustment without the Federal Party
abandoning or surrendering any of its fundamental principles
this stage, the Prime Minister suggested an examination of the
Government's draft Regional Councils Bill to see whether
provision could be made under it to meet, reasonably, some of
the matters in this regard which the Federal Party had in
Agreements so reached are embodied in a separate document.
the language issue, the Federal Party reiterated its stand for
parity, but in view of the position of the Prime Minister in
this matter they came to an agreement by way of adjustment.
They pointed out that it was important for them that there
recognition of Tamil as a national language, and that
the administrative work of the Northern and Eastern Provinces
should be done in Tamil.
Prime Minister stated that as mentioned by him earlier it was
not possible for him to take any steps that would abrogate the
Official Language Act.
discussion, it was agreed that the proposed legislation should
contain recognition of Tamil as the language of a national
minority of Ceylon, and that the four points mentioned by the
Prime Minister should include provision that, without
infringing on the position of the official language as such,
the language of the administration of the Northern and Eastern
Provinces be Tamil, and that any necessary provision be made
for the non-Tamil speaking minorities in the Northern and
the question of Ceylon citizenship for people of Indian
descent and the revision of the Citizenship Act, the
representatives of the Federal Party put forward their views
to the Prime Minister and pressed for an early settlement. The
Prime Minister indicated that the problem would receive early
consideration. In view of these conclusions the Federal Party
stated that they were withdrawing their proposed satyagraha.
Regional areas to be defined in the Bill itself by embodying
them in a schedule thereto.
That the Northern Province is to form one regional area whilst
the Eastern Province is to be divided into two or more
Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more
regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limit; and for
one region to divide itself subject to ratification by
parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for
two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of
Provision is to be made for direct election of regional
councillors. Provision is to be made for a delimitation
commission or commissions for carving out electorates. The
question of MPs representing districts falling within regional
areas to be eligible to function as chairmen is to be
considered. The question of Government Agents being regional
commissioners is to be considered. The question of supervisory
functions over larger towns, strategic towns and
municipalities is to be looked into.
Parliament is to delegate powers and to specify them in the
Act. It was agreed that regional councils should have powers
over specified subjects including agriculture, co-operatives,
lands and land development, colonisation, education, health,
industries and fisheries, housing and social services,
electricity, water schemes and roads. Requisite definition of
powers will be made in the Bill.
It was agreed that in the matter of colonisation schemes the
powers of the regional councils shall include the power to
select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority
shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be
employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the
area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this
matter requires consideration.
The powers in regard to the regional council vested in the
Minister of Local Government in the Draft Bill to be revised
with a view to vesting control in parliament wherever
The central government will provide block grants to the
regional councils. The principles on which the grants will be
computed will be gone into. The regional councils shall have
powers of taxation and borrowing.
by conning the people
JHU, the self-proclaimed standard bearer of Buddhist principles and
morality, we presumed, would not concede any deviation from such
commitments particularly where public trust in people and
institutions are concerned. But that is not to be according to Udaya
Gammanpila, one of the key spokesmen for the JHU.
reported in The Morning Leader of June 18, Gammanpila in a TV talk
show had maintained the position that if any person gave money to
the LTTE to win the presidential election with the aim of trapping
the LTTE thereafter, such a person should be hailed and not
condemned for such a clever tactic.
is a politician and a lawyer and we presume that he is not
absolutely innocent of what went behind the SLFP-LTTE deal. But what
he fails to realise or does not admit is that the SLFP by this move
uttered a barefaced lie to all the voters of Sri Lanka. They were
accusing the UNP of treason for doing a deal with the LTTE, while it
is now alleged that such a treasonable act was committed by his
political allies whom he is defending.
apart from the Dasarajadharmaya, the 10 Buddhist principles which
the JHU claims to abide by, Gammanpila
by his statement is condoning the violation of the fourth
basic precept of the five precepts - the panchaseela - which every
Buddhist vows to abide by - I shall not tell an untruth.
who started his politics in the JHU seems to have been widely
influenced by what could be called the 'Hulftsdorp Dharmaya' where
telling the truth is not always the wisest thing to do. He may be in
tune with Machiavelli or the Indian Machiavelli Kautilya but the
kind of political skulduggery which he condones with, where the
people are deceived by barefaced political lies and leaders
are elected on such a basis, is totally repugnant in modern
in the United States, Britain or any other leading Western democracy
it is revealed that a leading contender had done a secret deal with
a totally reprehensible individual or organisation and won an
election, that person would not exist for long in politics. The
allegation is similar to a situation where a US presidential
candidate does a deal with Osama bin Laden.
desire to outwit Velupillai Pirapaharan can be appreciated but not
by deceiving the Sri Lankan voters at large. The narrow margin by
which President Rajapakse won could easily have been influenced by a
deal which is alleged to have been done between the SLFP and
would be recalled that striking out thousands of names from voters
lists in Colombo would also have definitely affected the final
Buddhists who voted for the JHU did so on the basis that they would
be a cleansing force in Sri Lankan politics and public life and not
be a cover for politically dishonest acts.
the other hand, those of the JHU, if they are of perceptive minds,
should query - if the allegation is correct - why Pirapaharan should
prefer having Mahinda Rajapakse as president when it was considered
that Ranil Wickremesinghe would be far more accommodating towards
Tamil grievances and even considering LTTE demands.
a deal was done or not, Pirapaharan was issuing a fatwa, which
Tamils dared not disobey and did not cast their ballots. It was very
well known that Tamil sympathies were with Wickremesinghe. The
million dollar or rupee question is: Why did Pirapaharan prefer
Mahinda Rajapakse to Ranil Wickremesinghe? That is a question which
SLFP political pundits or its supporters have yet to answer.
it because Pirapaharan
realised the international support Wickremesinghe was
gathering and that the LTTE would soon be trapped in an
international safety net if it did not commence negotiating a
the basis of devolution of power? Pirapaharan had rejected
devolution - even of a federal form. On the other hand Rajapakse was
beating his war drums in the south and the Western powers were not
one year of Rajapakse at the helm, the international situation has
been reversed. Rajapakse is in the dock, being accused of human
rights violations and moves are being made to appoint a UN human
rights delegation to inquire into the Sri Lankan situation. If
Rajapakse now turns his guns towards the north the appointment of a
UN human rights investigation seems inevitable.
Pirapaharan may have lost the east but he has gained in his fight
abroad. True, Western powers are also cracking down on LTTE
operatives in their countries, but whether it is for their own
security or that of Sri Lanka is to be seen.
government does not seem to take the issue of violation of human
rights seriously enough. But today the mood among Western powers is
to enforce their will on issues of human rights against sovereign
is a part of Serbia now governed under UN supervision after an
attempt to breakaway. Western powers are making determined efforts
to make Kosovo an independent state and the only hurdle appears to
be Russia's power of veto in the UN Security Council, Russia being
an ally. But Western powers seem to be determined to grant Kosovo
week in an interview in BBC's Hardtalk US Under Secretary of State
Richard Burns stated that the US was determined to help Kosovo to
independence with or without the consent of the UN Security Council!
Recognise a Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo?
when those like Gammanpila talk about Pirapaharan being tricked by
Rajapakse, let us all remember that it is still a long way to
victory. It may be possible to con your way to an election victory
which Gammanpila endorses but an actual military victory will be
very much more difficult.
The vanishing Tigers
was really troubling me last week. I cannot quite remember how long
I sat at our favourite table at Paradise Club studying dozens of
newspapers and pouring over press releases looking for clues, any
clues that would settle the unease in my mind and provide an answer
to a troubling question.
am no Sherlock Holmes or the head of the CID. I am not learned in
the art of friendly persuasion like the white van brigades who
demand instant gratification.
am but a humble journalist. More humble and least noticeable the
better since we are not a welcome sight in the eyes of some of those
heavenly bodies that have entered our political environment from
across the oceans and are orbiting round our Paradise -
not the club but our isle.
had to do with this battle for Thoppigala, the military victory that
the government had planned to celebrate days before the lion flag
was finally planted on the highest point in the terrain now in the
hands of our heroic soldiers.
had visions of Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norkey planting the flag -
a New Zealand flag I was told several decades later on the top of
Mount Everest. But they, however heroic they were, had only to
battle the elements.
on the other hand had to fight the Tigers, tooth and nail (if you
must know) and that is no mean task given the resourcefulness and
the tenacity of the four-legged predators.
a student of military history I remember reading of the great
battles fought throughout the ages, from the days of King Arthur to
they were won, lost or merely stalemated, they made fascinating
reading for here were sharp military minds plotting strategy and
working out in minute detail the logistical requirements of armies
preparing to do battle.
the greatest English dramatist Shakespeare could not forsake the
clash of arms in some of his historical and tragic plays.
you at Philippi, the assassins of Julius Caesar told Mark Anthony
before they rode away to prepare for the coming battle.
could hear the clash of swords ringing in my ears as I drowned my
Old Arrack thinking that they do not fight like they used to. Today
they stay miles away and fire rockets from multi-barreled launchers
hoping that one or two would land on the enemies' head, or anybody
else who unluckily happened to be around. At today's prices it would
be terribly costly if they didn't hit anybody.
those days wore breast plates and helmets like the cricketers of
today. But at least you could see the eyes of your enemy before you
swung the broad sword and sent his head flying.
suppose I'll have to wait for the arrival of Puli Pachchathanni, the
poet laureate of Pungodativu to tell us about the war poets like
Rupert Brook and Wilfred Owen who either praised patriotism or
subtly ridiculed its folly.
that would still not settle the question in my mind.
I ordered another drink from Siribiris our bar tender and
concentrated again on this battle of Thoppigala.
was deep in meditation like Bruce Lee when some of habitues of
Paradise Club trooped in like they were heading for the
regimental parade ground (see how military terminology slips into
everyday thought). They stood there studying my worried face. I
thought I even heard a clicking of the heels like some Nazi
oberstgruppenfuhrer moments before surrendering.
well, well, Pachoris, what on earth are you so engrossed in. For one
moment I thought you were going to jump up and salute," said
Kandiah (call me Ken) Vinasapathi of the former Civil Service.
it is just a little mystery I am trying to unravel," I said
somewhat nonchalantly, perhaps too nonchalantly. Nobody seemed to be
fooled by my tone.
more like a conundrum to me," said the poet.
us anyway and maybe we could do something," added Dr Ananda
(call me Andy) Ansabage helpfully.
it is about this military victory in Thoppigala," I said
cautiously and tentatively hoping nobody would overhear and accuse
me of demoralising the security forces, being a traitor and a paid
agent of the LTTE, even before I could complete what I had to say.
fact what I had to say, if I'm allowed to complete my thoughts
instead of being dragged away to some Guantanamo-like detention
centre, is rather a compliment to our fighting forces.
read all the newspaper reports and comments. I've read the remarks
of the usually loquacious Defence Spokesman and Minister Rambukwella.
I don't seem to be able to find the casualty figures of the Tigers.
Why I ask is this. Normally day in and day out there are
announcements, some of which sound like pronouncements, about how
many Tigers have been killed or wounded and how LTTE pistol gang
members have been shot or arrested. But there are little or no
statistics, however dubious they might be, on the battle for
of you journalist fellows. Always searching for something to throw
mud at us," exploded Tissa Isakudichchi, secretary to the
Ministry of Ali Boru.
say Tissa that is not mud. He is asking for figures. Next time you
government propagandists will say the newspapers are writing lies
and reducing LTTE casualties and multiplying government casualties.
Then you will use that to try and justify reintroducing criminal
defamation," cut in Pandu Pusvedilla of the Notorious Peace
why are they interested in the casualties and how many terrorists
died. The fact is that Thoppigala was captured by our gallant
soldiers," shouted Tissa Isakudichchi on the verge of apoplexy.
is it not strange that little or no mention is being made about how
much the Tigers suffered in battle before they were defeated?
Abandoned weapons are discovered, detention cells are found and even
vehicles left behind. But where are the bodies, the wounded,"
inquired Para Pathiam, the Mannar mathematician.
course there are no bodies," continued Isakudichchi, getting
increasingly agitated. "We warned the Tigers one month before
that our troops were coming to capture Thoppigala. We gave the
terrorists enough notice that we will clear the east. You must have
is exactly what worries me," I said. "Why tell them ahead
of your battle plans and strategies? Imagine if Field Marshal
Montgomery publicly announced one month ahead that he will wait for
Rommel at El Alamein and clobber his Africa Korps. Imagine if the
Vietnamese General Giap informed the American military command that
he was going to rout the South Vietnamese and Americans alike or
earlier the French at Dien Bien Phu. Imagine if General Ariel Sharon
told the Egyptian high command that he would break through between
the Egyptian second and third armies and be on the way to Cairo. Or
perhaps the Russian generals should have warned Hitler's troops
months ahead that a Russian winter is severe and to bring enough
warm clothes along."
my friend, you forget we belong to the great tradition of King
Dutugemunu. Even in victory he paid his respects to the slain King
Elara and ordered that drums be silenced when passing by Elara's
tomb," explained Batty Bebadda, former MP for Arakkupattu.
yeah," said Mabel Manasgathe suddenly. "Have they not
heard of the saying that those who fight and run away live to fight
was silence as the thought sank in like the Double Distilled from
and Sri Lanka - the parallels
moves made by the United States and European powers to make Kosovo,
a province of Serbia an independent state should be of great
interest to Sri Lankans because of the existing parallels between
the Sri Lankan and Serbian situations. In our previous commentaries
too we have referred to the Serbian and Sri Lankan parallels.
a province of Serbia which comprises 19 per cent of Serbian
territory went under UN administration when Kosovo's ethnic
Albanians attempted to separate from Serbia resulting in a crackdown
by Serbian forces. This was the time of the break up of Yugoslavia
and NATO forces intervened on the grounds of human rights violations
of the Albanians by Serbia and brought it under UN administration.
year, the UN commissioned a former Prime Minister of Finland, Martii
Ahitasaari to make recommendations about the future of Kosovo and
his proposals amounted to making Kosovo an independent state. The
United States and the European Union are strongly behind this move
but are being opposed by Russia, a long standing ally of Serbia.
Russia with its veto powers in the UN Security Council can veto any
moves to grant Kosovo's independence.
of the sore points between Russia and the Western powers is the
issue of Kosovo and Russia is standing firm despite attempts to
bulldoze the move through the Security Council. Serbia is fortunate
in having Russia with its veto powers to defend its interests. But
what would be the fate of other Third World countries with no such
powerful allies if the Western powers decide to violate their
the Western powers have not given up.
Last week the United States and the European Union made an
attempt to draft a new Security Council resolution calling for
negotiations between Serbia and the separatist Albanians. Russia
rejected the proposal saying that it was attempting to grant
independence to Kosovo in the teeth of opposition from Belgrade.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica pointed
out that there was no need for such a resolution because
there was already a resolution passed by the Security Council
in 1999 declaring that Kosovo is formally a part of Serbia.
week the European Union made a proposal that international envoys
could mediate to reach a compromise between Belgrade and the Kosovo
separatists, if moves made in the UN are stalled. This proposal was
summarily rejected by both Russia and Serbia. Kostunica warned last
week that the formation of another Albanian state in the Balkans
would have serious consequences for the regional and world order.
led by Vladimir Putin seems to be the only bulwark against the
rampaging Western nations in their shinning armour riding over
nations not giving a damn about their sovereign rights and doing
what they think is the right thing to do.
of the Non Aligned Movement have succumbed to the mighty dollar and
nuclear power status while China in recent times has been
maintaining a discreet silence, probably to further its business
interests. The only strident voices that can be heard are from Latin
America with the ailing Fidel Castro still defying the
with emergent Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of
between Russia and the US as well as Russia and
Britain have hit rock bottom.
With the US it was on Kosovo and the opposition to the
strategic missile defence shield which the US is planning to build
in Europe. President Vladimir Putin put forward an eminently
reasonable alternative to a defence shield in Europe by proposing a
regional defence shield located in Azerbaijan and Southern Russia
itself which the US President
could not reject out of hand.
observers have noted that Putin is playing a very astute game of
diplomacy but not descending to the levels of a Cold War.
bitter diplomatic row between Britain and Russia continued with
Britain expelling four Russian diplomats last week for
not conceding to its request to extradite a KGB agent, Andrei
Lugovoski whom Britain accuses of murdering a former KGB Agent,
Alexander Litvinenko in London. Litvinenko had been granted
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman had a stunning reply which made
the British look foolish. He pointed out that the Russian
constitution forbids extradition of its citizens for trial to
foreign countries. "Did Britain want Russia to violate its
constitution to accommodate the request of the British?"
spokesman went on to say that Russia wanted 22 Russians now in
Britain extradited which Britain was refusing to do. On the basis of
four diplomats being expelled for not granting one request, Russia
would have to expel 88 British diplomats he pointed out. On Thursday
Russia expelled only four British diplomats.
analysts point out that the former KGB Officer Vladimir Putin is
playing it cool. He took about a week to react to the expulsion of
the Russian diplomats but would not yield to
British pressure. Russia is keen that Britain would not
sabotage its entry into the World Trade Organisation and British
investments in Russia amount to 12 billion dollars. Besides Britain
is also a prime customer for Russian gas, oil and precious metals.
tough and unyielding Russia with the colossus China could provide
the required counterbalance to the sole superpower, British cousins
and European allies.