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 Politics

The political fraud behind APRC


Mahinda Rajapakse, Tissa Vitharana, Manmohan Singh, V. Anandasangaree, Yasushi Akashi, 
Rohitha Bogollagama and G.L. Peiris

Documents in possession of The Sunday Leader show how the farce was enacted

Vitharana forced by President to submit castrated 13th Amendment

Police, land, health and education powers under 13th Amendment withheld

India sees 13th Amendment only as a 'first step' and not solution

After labouring for 63 sessions, over 250 hours and spending millions of tax payers' rupees, the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and President Mahinda Rajapakse last week delivered an ant in what is nothing short of a massive political fraud perpetrated on both the Sri Lankan people and the international community.

And here's why.

It was President Rajapakse who in his Mahinda Chinthana and thereafter, in appointing the All Party Conference and the APRC that promised a political solution to end the ethnic conflict whilst also pledging to forward the consensus reached to the LTTE as a basis for negotiations.

Having said so and holding out the APRC process as the panacea for all ills plaguing the country on the one hand, the efforts of the committee were systematically sabotaged  on the other at the insistence of extremist parties like the JVP and JHU who were directing the administration towards a military solution.

Thus when the APRC on January 8, 2007 submitted what it titled the Main Proposals To Form The Basis Of A Future Constitution wherein the unitary state concept was jettisoned and a federal model advocated, the JVP and JHU breathed fire resulting in the President directing APRC Chairman, Minister Tissa Vitharana to put his document which ran to over 30 pages, in the shredder.

Memorandum of Understanding

Mind you, the APRC proposals came in the backdrop of the Rajapakse led-SLFP having signed a Memorandum of Understanding with he UNP just three months earlier where it was stated with regard to the ethnic issue,  "the cornerstone of the political solution is power-sharing within the country on a basis acceptable to the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities and reflecting the experience of our country over the last few decades."

The reference to the experience of the last few decades was with the specific intention of taking into consideration the proposals submitted in the past including the 13th Amendment, 1995 proposals of the PA and the PA's 2000 Draft and move forward.

The MoU document drafted by G.L. Peiris, then an opposition MP, added,  "The basic assumption underlying an equitable framework for power sharing is that the central government would be invested with all powers, functions and responsibilities essential for the effective conduct of national policy in all fields (principally including but not limited to defence and security, foreign relations, the national budget, monetary policy, elections, immigration and emigration, national planning, shipping and navigation and related matters) while other matters will fall within the purview of regional administrations."

With this document hailed both locally and internationally as ground breaking, the government moved to capitalise on it at the second round of talks in Geneva too with Chief Negotiator Nimal Siripala De Silva telling LTTE political wing leader S.P. Tamilselvan and the Norwegian facilitator, Minister Erik Solheim, a proposal based on a consensus reached with the UNP will be submitted to the Tigers for discussion.

Moved forward

It is in this same spirit, the APRC also moved forward despite the JVP not participating and the UNP too withdrawing over the delaying tactics adopted by the President, but Minister Vitharana pressed on with the international community too, not only backing the process but even telling Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to support the initiative.

And with international pressure continuing to mount on the government with threats of sanctions also looming large over the human rights situation in the country and the failure of the political process, President Rajapakse assured the diplomatic community a political package evolved through the APRC will be forwarded before end January.

There was to be an added sense of urgency the previous week with Japan's Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi informing the President of the fate awaiting their financial assistance unless a viable political package was submitted speedily for consideration by all parties including the LTTE.

In a joint statement on Monday, January 21, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UK Premier Gordan Brown too while ruling out a military solution called on the government to put forward a credible devolution package, and inherent in that statement was a call for something more than what is already in the statute books.

Said Akashi on Tuesday, January 15 - "Last evening I had a meeting with His Excellency, the President during which I conveyed the serious concerns of our government and emphasised that the political solution of the problem would be indispensable and in that context, a devolution package on which the Government of Sri Lanka had been exerting considerable efforts must be drafted as soon as possible and be offered to the relevant parties, including the LTTE. His Excellency the President in response expressed his commitment to the political solution of the conflict, stating that the drafting of the devolution package would be completed very soon."

President's assurances

While giving such assurances to the international community, the President also did not want to lose favour with the JVP and JHU and had by this time summoned the APRC representatives and given them a document calling for the implementation of the 13th Amendment with a directive to submit it as their recommendation.

The President at that meeting, the full details of which, including the document, were published in The Sunday Leader of January 13, had said any consensus formula by the APRC will be confined to paper since it will lead to the government's collapse due to the JVP's objections and hence to stick with the 13th Amendment.

That the 13th Amendment was already law and the provincial councils in operation from 1988 barring the north and east were not relevant with the idea being to blow a smokescreen and take the international community for a ride that a new political solution was in fact on offer, and in the process keep the JVP and JHU also on board.

With the stage thus set, President Rajapakse directed Vitharana to do the needful and get the APRC to fast track its report based on his directive, but at that point the Minister was not ready to be party to the subterfuge and decided he will go ahead with his report whilst also submitting a response to the 13th Amendment proposal.

Accordingly, Minister Vitharana convened a meeting of the APRC and submitted a report based on the discussions had upto that point dated January 17, 2008 titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Implement Sections Of The APRC Proposals Through The Present Constitution.

Three lists

That document went beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and for example restricted the power of parliament to legislate on subjects and functions in the provincial list in addition to part of the concurrent list as presently enumerated.

For elucidation, it must be mentioned that under the 13th Amendment there were three lists, the reserved list - the subjects which were exclusively for the centre, the provincial list of the provinces and the concurrent list - the subjects which could be given to the province by the centre.

Thus under the heading in bold print titled, Steps Necessary To Permit Maximum Devolution Of Powers To Provinces Under The 13th Amendment, the proposals called for the cabinet of ministers to take the following executive decisions in respect of its legislative power inter alia:

(a) The government will not hereinafter initiate legislation on subjects and functions in the provincial list, unless one or more provinces requests parliament to do so. Such laws will apply only in the said provinces.

(b) The government will not hereinafter initiate legislation in respect of any of the subjects and functions in the concurrent list, except in respect of subjects and functions listed in the schedule hereof..

And the document proceeded to spell out powers for the provinces and its subjects which the centre could not take away thereby, making it an advancement of the 13th Amendment in its present form which of course ran counter to what the President wanted the APRC to adopt as per his document which was a dilution of the existing law.

Full implementation of the 13th Amendment even in its present form would include devolving police and land powers to the provinces in addition to restoring the health and education powers but the President wanted even those subjects kept out of the APRC recommendations much to Vitharana's chagrin.

In effect what the President proposed was 13th Amendment minus.

Locking horns

This mood of Vitharana was reflected in the minutes of the 61st meeting of the APRC dated January 17, 2008 held at the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process where JHU representative Udaya Gammanpila locked horns with the Chairman, who at that time stuck to his guns, not succumbing to the President's pressure tactics.

Said Minister Vitharana as per the minutes: "As we decided at the last meeting that we had, the decision is that we should complete the set of proposals that we have been discussing for over almost one and half years and present that to the President when we meet him on the 23rd and at the same time present as requested, a set of proposals which can be implemented through the present constitution without any amendment of this constitution based on the document that was presented to us at the meeting that we had with the President and the party leaders."

No sooner Minister Vitharana articulated his position JHU's Gammanpila jumped in, insisting there was no agreement to submit two reports and gave the game away on the President wanting the APRC process delayed and wanting a report to his liking submitted.

Not the ideal time

Said Gammanpila inter alia according to the minutes: "Mr. Chairman, the point is this. The President clearly conveyed to us that this political climate is such that this is not the ideal time to release a final document and you know whenever the President wants to expedite the matter, the entire group cooperates in the maximum possible way to expedite and when the President wants to delay, we do not want to respond to the same. So, there is some sort of duplicity."

With those words Gammanpila exposes not only the fact, the President is not keen on the APRC's proposals given the current political climate but that he wants them delayed, words which are completely the opposite of what was uttered to Akashi by Rajapakse.

Jumped in Sri Lanka Muslim Congress representative Attorney Nizam Kariyappar, taking up the position that calling for the delaying of the report was a negative tactic which cannot be equated to expediting the report which was a positive step.

Said he, according to the minutes: "Now, I am hearing for the first time that the President had wanted this to be delayed. If that is so, it is well and good. He is the person who convened. If he wanted to delay, it is at his discretion to say so and delay the whole process. He has all the rights..."

And as the JHU and SLMC members continued to argue their positions on the issue, Minister Vitharana stepped in and said he intends submitting the APRC's final proposals as well as a response to the President's 13th Amendment proposal by January 23, thus making it clear he will not be pushed around, or so it seemed at the time.

Deadline

Said Vitharana inter alia according to the minutes - "Without making this a very lengthy discussion, if I remember the discussion we had, it was in fact brought up during the discussions, that we had targeted the 20th of January as the date for finalising our document. Then during this discussion that we had while accommodating the request made by the President, we agreed very clearly that we should try to make our document available when we meet the President on the 23rd because if we had set our objective as completing our document by the 20th, there is no reason why we cannot complete it by the 23rd." (see box for excerpts of minutes).

This move by Vitharana was to upset the game plan of the President and the JHU to confine the APRC document to the 20 year old 13th Amendment in its present form whilst also diluting some of the existing powers, and no sooner the meeting was over Gammanpila met with Rajapakse and explained the state of play.

Furious, the President was to telephone Vitharana and castigate him, asking whether he was attempting to undermine the government and bring it down, knowing very well the JVP will play hell if the APRC produces a final document.

Taken aback Vitharana was to explain that the APRC had almost finished its work and was ready to submit their final report together with a response to the President's proposal, but Rajapakse would have none of it. He told Vitharana to confine his report to the 13th Amendment and drag on the APRC claiming a final report will be given later.

Completely ruffled at the President's tone, Vitharana caved in and agreed to comply and minutes later Gammanpila was briefed on the situation and told to keep the pressure on the APRC Chairman and ensure he falls in line with the government strategy.

Written response

And on Sunday, January 20 even as the APRC prepared to meet, Gammanpila made a pre emptive strike by submitting a written response on behalf of the JHU under his signature to Vitharana's draft on interim arrangements, which in part were personal criticism of the Chairman.

"Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) is of the view that the draft proposal prepared by Prof. Tissa Vitharana in his capacity as the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee in respect of interim arrangements is manipulative and outside the scope decided at the government party leaders meeting on 09.01.2007," the response read. The reference to 2007 of course was a mistake made by the JHU for 2008.

Added the JHU -"The government party leaders after considering a document read out by Prof. Vitharana at the aforesaid meeting decided in the presence of the APRC that the APRC should propose an interim solution for the north and east conflict based on the document read out. However, the document dated 17.01.2008 prepared by Prof. Vitharana in this respect has significantly deviated from the document discussed. The JHU is mindful that Prof. Vitharana abusing his capacity as the Chairman of the  APRC has previously manipulated the Chairman's report to introduce the rejected majority report of the expert panel in the guise of preparing a summary of all reports produced by the expert panel and deliberations of the APRC."

The reference to the report Vitharana read out at the party leader's meeting was of course the document the President force-fed him at the meeting and the JHU knowing very well the Minister cannot accuse Rajapakse of so doing publicly was using it as a weapon to beat him before the APRC membership.

Amended report

By this time, the fight had gone out of Minister Vitharana and when the APRC met, Monday, January 21, he submitted an amended report titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Fully Implement The 13th Amendment And Other Provisions Of The Present Constitution In The Light Of The APRC Proposal Which Await Presentation.

Please note that as opposed to the January 17 report which said "Action to be taken by the President to implement sections of the APRC proposals through the present constitution," the January 21 document said in the caption, "Action to be taken by the President to fully implement the 13th Amendment and other provisions of the present constitution in the light of the APRC proposals which await presentation."

Thus, it will be seen in contrast to the January 17 proposals and the minutes of January 17 where Vitharana not only proposes a 13th Amendment plus solution but also his intention of submitting that report to the President on January 23; the January 21 report speaks of only implementing the President's call for the 13th Amendment with the APRC Report postponed for the future.

But the moment the January 21 report was tabled, the SLMC, CWC and Chandrasekeran's UPF took objection stating Vitharana was going back on the agreement reached and undertaking given to submit both reports on January 23 to the President.

It was SLMC's Kariyappar who belled the cat stating the caption in the January report was indicative of delaying tactics and that if the intention was to only submit a report based on the President's 13th Amendment proposal, his party would opt out, sentiments the CWC and UPF representatives also expressed.

Request for time

In a bid to deflect criticism, Vitharana said they will finalise the contents of the document and return to the caption but with the minority parties insisting on submitting both reports on January 23 or nothing, a decision was taken to ask the President for further time to submit their reports and fixed the next meeting for the following Monday, January 28.

Interestingly, SLFP representative Minister Wiswa Warnapala himself walked upto Vitharana and said since there was concern over the issue, he too would speak with the President and explain the need for further time to submit the reports, an offer the APRC Chairman welcomed.

By this time, JHU's Gammanpila had made it known to the APRC that even on the 13th Amendment, neither police nor land powers can be devolved until such time the LTTE is militarily defeated, a point the committee took note of though not in full agreement.

Interestingly, the January 21 report, which ran into 13 pages, also spoke of an interim arrangement for the north and east pending the restoration of democratically elected provincial councils to the two provinces, which too was counter to a decision reached the previous day. That decision was to hold elections for the Eastern Provincial Council and have an interim arrangement only for the north and that position too was rectified at the Monday meeting.

But the match was far from over and within minutes of the meeting concluding Gammanpila was to once again inform the President that the committee decided to delay the report over objections to confining the document to only Rajapakse's demand for a 13th Amendment proposal and Rajapakse was to once again call Vitharana and read the riot act.

Insisting that a report confined to the 13th Amendment be submitted to him by January 23, the President said a meeting of the APRC and other party leaders be summoned for the next day, January 22 at Temple Trees.

Loud and clear

"I will do the batting and ensure the report I want  is given," Rajapakse said. He was to also speak with CWC Leader Minister Arumugam Thondaman who was away in India and insist that his representative, R. Yogarajan toe the line. To Thondaman, the message was loud and clear and said he will advise Yogarajan accordingly.

Likewise, the SLMC was also spoken to with Gammanpila himself making contact with Kariyappar, Tuesday morning and applying subtle pressure and being minorities, they all decided to call it quits and give into the President's demand to submit a report based only on the 13th Amendment. That too, a 13th Amendment minus some of the powers already in the constitution as opposed to 13th Amendment plus which the APRC was planning to propose as per the January 17 report.

And when the APRC met the President on Tuesday, January 22, also present were TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree, PLOTE Leader D. Sidharthan and a representative of Vartharaja Perumal's EPRLF together with other party leaders supporting the government minus Chandrasekeran.

At this meeting, Vitharana submitted his final report to the President dated January 22, 2008 titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Fully Implement Relevant Provisions Of The Present Constitution As A Prelude To The APRC Proposals.

Please note once again the caption had undergone a further dilution from even the January 21 caption which spoke of the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and other provisions to the full implementation of 'relevant provisions of the present constitution..'

This amendment was deemed necessary because the President had by this time decided to curtail some of the powers vested in the province under the 13th Amendment such as police and land in addition to health and education, hence the re-wording of the caption.

Resurrection attempt

Still, trying to make the best of a terrible situation, Vitharana in his 13 page report attempted to introduce many provisions of the 13th Amendment as possible and had several headings after the introduction which included, 'Legislative Powers of Provincial Councils and Parliament,' where the provincial subjects and functions were detailed.

Further, under the same heading, he also dealt with 'Reserved subjects and functions,' 'Concurrent subjects and functions' and 'Parliament power to over-ride provincial councils,' in a bid to prevent parliament from usurping the powers of the provincial councils.

The report then dealt at length with the 'Steps necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the provinces under the 13th Amendment,' once again ensuring at least the powers contemplated in 1987 would be given to the provinces.

Next came the 'Special arrangements necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the 13th Amendment,' followed by the 'Implementation of the official languages provisions of the constitution' and finally the all important - 'Schedule.'

It is important to note here that in the 13 page report, 10 pages which dealt with content were typed in small print with single spacing. The other three pages were the caption, the parties present and the table of contents.

But even that was far too much for the President and at the meeting got Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to read the report and started chopping off large chunks and with that went out the entire section on 'Legislative powers of provincial councils and parliament' with the five pages dealing with 'Steps necessary to permit maximum devolution of power to provinces under the 13th Amendment' reduced to four short paragraphs devoid of all substance.

Special arrangements

Likewise the provisions dealing with the 'Special arrangements necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the 13th Amendment' was also emasculated, making a mockery of even the watered down report of Vitharana much to TULF Leader Anandasangaree's astonishment. Even the 'Schedule' was unceremoniously thrown out.

In fact the 10 pages of content in the report typed in small print with single spacing was reduced to a mere four and half pages of double spaced extra large lettering.

It is also not without significance that in the 'introduction' to his diluted January 22 report, Vitharana referred to the APRC being mandated by the President to prepare a set of proposals that would be the basis for a solution to the national question and added, "the outcome would be a basis for any peace talks as well as a completely new constitution."

Hatchet job

That part of the introduction was also deleted by the President and the final document read thus, "The outcome would be a basis for appropriate constitutional arrangements." The references to peace talks and a new constitution, it will be seen found no place, thus giving an insight into the President's mindset.

Of course the President by now knew he had convinced all the minority parties to go along with his game plan, if not through conviction, at least due to fear and the icing on the cake was to get Anandasangaree, Sidharthan and the Vartharaja Perumal group's blessings but it was not to be.

Completely bewildered by what was going on, Anandasangaree told the President in 1987 the ethnic problem was a mere ulcer and it was to treat that ulcer the 13th Amendment was introduced whereas 20 years later today, it has become a cancer and the same medicine in a diluted form was being prescribed to cure the killer disease.

Nothing more insists President

Not expecting such a response, the President dismissed Anandasa-ngaree's protest with a wave of his hand stating nothing more can be given at this point of time. Not relenting, Anandasangaree fished out LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan's 'Heroes' Day' message and started reading parts of it, telling the President, an organisation which has pitched its case so high with the Tamil people can never be subdued through the proposals on offer.

And even as Anandasangaree started reading Pirapaharan's speech, the President went ballistic, thundering to the TULF Leader not to read such statements in his presence.

"Don't read those things here. Who cares what he has to say. I will catch him and give you to do what you please," Rajapakse roared.

With that the issue was closed and the parties supporting the government plus the Muslim Congress were asked to sign the document in its emasculated form and sign they did.

The parties, which subscribed to the farcical document, according to what was given to the diplomats were SLFP, UNP (Defectors), JHU, CWC, SLMC, ACMC, MEP, NUA, UPF, CPSL, EPDP, National Congress of Athaulla, WPF and the LSSP. (The Sunday Leader is in possession of all the reports referred to in this article).

Even on this document a lie was perpetrated stating Mano Ganesan's WPF had subscribed to it, an assertion the party was to deny on the telephone to US Ambassador Robert Blake, Friday.

Drastically amended

And it was this drastically amended document Vitharana once again presented to the President as an APRC report in the presence of the media on January 23 and Foreign Minister Bogollagama, the very day presented a copy to Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad and several other ambassadors with a briefing also given the following day, Thursday.

And what the international community thought of the document without being privy to the underhand dealings was best reflected in a statement India issued, on the matter where it welcomed the move as a "first step."

That alone was a message to the government, they have a long way to go in presenting a viable devolution package.

The show of course was far from over and at Wednesday's cabinet meeting, while Minister Vitharana sat in embarrassed silence the President kept up the charade telling the ministers he received the APRC report which had called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment.

Not ready

Said the President - "I must announce to the cabinet that Minister Tissa Vitharana has given the APRC proposals. It entails the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. I am not presenting it today because the translations in all three languages are not ready. I will give it to you next week. We must be committed to implementing the 13th Amendment. It will strengthen the moderate forces and give them an instrument to marginalise the LTTE. Ministers must be conscious of the need to implement it fully and cooperate."

Ironically the man who stressed the importance of marketing the proposals to the country was none other than G.L. Peiris who not only fathered the Oslo Communiqu‚ to explore a federal solution but the 1995 and 2000 draft proposals of the Chandrika Kumaratunga government which were also federal in content.

At that time, Peiris waxed eloquent why the 13th Amendment was not adequate to address the ethnic issue and the importance of adopting the proposals based on a federal formula.

But on Wednesday, Peiris saw the virtues of a diluted 13th Amendment as the panacea to resolve the ethnic issue and spoke on the importance of marketing it to the people. So be it.

APRC minutes that tell a sorry tale

The Chairman: I would like to welcome everybody in the APRC to the 61st Meeting and we are now really reaching the ultimate stages of our deliberations in trying to prepare a set of proposals. As we decided at the last meeting that we had, the decision is that we should complete the set of proposals that we have been discussing for over almost one and a half years and present that to the President when we meet him on the 23rd and at the same time present, as requested, a set of proposals which can be implemented through the present constitution without any amendment of this constitution, based on the document that was presented to us at the meeting that we had with the President and the party leaders.

So I have prepared a draft of a second document and several party representatives have sent in their comments also on that document. I think we can circulate all of these, so that people can read them and then either later today depending on how we progress or at our next meeting we can go into that.

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to the unfinished areas of the main document and at the end of the last meeting I distributed a document containing various issues that remain to be resolved and certain suggestions with regard to them. So, I would like to request you...

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: Mr. Chairman, you just announced that at the last meeting we decided to finalise both documents and to submit them to the President on the 23rd. Frankly, when you said so - I glanced through our minutes as well - we have not decided to do so, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: No, this was at the meeting which we held without any record. In the last meeting that we had where we discussed in the absence of any record being kept

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: Mr. Chairman, what I think

The Chairman: This was on the last Thursday.

Mr. Y.L.S. Hameed: Mr. Chairman, was it a decision or a view expressed by one member?

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: There were different views.

Mr. Y.L.S. Hameed: There were major consensus. There was only one question raised by most of the members and that was whether the proposal for implementation of the 13th Amendment should go to His Excellency as a proposal of the APRC or the APRC makes its response or comments or observation to the proposal made by His Excellency. Then, the major consensus was that it should not be sent as a proposal of the APRC, but as a response to the proposal made by His Excellency. That was the decision as far as I can recollect. But of course one member - I cannot remember - who proposed that there should be both the proposals given at that time. That was not a decision.

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: There was a suggestion.

Mr. Nizam Kariyappa: No, I do not think so. On the contrary, my recollection is, we discussed extensively and a number of views were expressed and one of the views expressed by number of people, not by only one member, number of members, including me is that there should be both reports that have to be sent for which the Chairman as well agreed and I went under the impression that it is so, that we are going to send both together.

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: We had no such impression at all and I wondered when Mrs. Gunatileke contacted us and wanted to have a meeting in between as well. Mr. Chairman, the point is this. The President clearly conveyed us that this political climate is such that this is not an ideal time to release a final document and you know whenever the President wants to expedite the matter, the entire group co-operates in the maximum possible way to expedite and when the President wants to delay, we do not want to respond to the same. So, there is some sort of duplicity. Then, we should have maintained a position that we are quite an independent body, we work at the pace that we want and we are not going to listen to the President. But that was not our stand. Whenever the President wanted to make this expedited, we responded and sometimes we met twice a week from 2.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. to meet the request made by the President, but when the President made a contrary request, we are going to ignore the President's request. I mean, I am not taking an issue that we should listen to the President or we should not listen to the President, but we should have a consistent policy, unless otherwise we will look jokers.

Mr. Nizam Kariyappa: Quite interesting. With permission, my view is whether the President or any one for that matter, when they ask us to expedite, it is a very positive step and in our own discussion we agree to do it because it is a positive step. But it does not mean that we have to follow a negative step. That is number one. Number two is, it is for the first time I am hearing this because I was not a party to the President's meeting. Neither did Chairman convey what really happened. The Chairman never told us to my recollection that President wants this to be delayed. Now, I am hearing for the first time that the President had wanted this to be delayed. If that is so, it is well and good. He is the person who convened. If he wanted to delay, it is at his discretion to say so and delay the whole process. He has all the rights. But that has not been officially notified to us.

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: I am so sorry, Mr. Kariyappa. If it is the case because you are the one and only person who were absent at that meeting, but what he said was, he did not explicitly say please delay the report or delay till this. But what he said was, as far as what I could recollect, just like our last meeting there was no official minute as such for that meeting as well, but as far as I could remember and subject to be corrected by my colleagues, the President said, 'This is not the ideal time to release the report. So you can take your own time and prepare the report.'

In other words, he has put us a go fast instruction. He officially withdrew that statement and said, 'What I want is...' 'I am happy if you give by 23rd some sort of an interim solution.' Of course true based on the document submitted by him. But he did not want us to merely endorse what he says. He wanted us to discuss with suitable amendments. He wanted to submit our interim report by 23rd, not the final report. So, Mr. Kariyappa, you said that we only adhere to the positive responses, but not the negatives. For him, expediting is a positive step because he thinks that this is the ideal time to have a report. In the same manner, he may have to delay.

Even in a war you go fast, you may delay, you make withdrawals. So all are positive. If you think that going forward is a harmful one, going backward is something positive. Delaying is also something positive. So, just because he wants to delay, it does not mean that it is something negative. If he is genuinely interested in implementing this, he can positively request us, this is not the ideal time. If he just wants us to produce a document and say, 'Look we tried our best but it failed.' So, he can say, okay without looking at timing, he can say produce anything.

Mr. Nizam Kariyappa: I must say one thing as far as the JHU representative, Udaya Gammanpila is concerned. I know he is the best man who could really tell us the real mind of the President - it is positive. He says, even when going slow is positive, of course, we accept it. Another thing that I always appreciate of him is, he is very open about it. He says, 'Okay, this is what the President wants.' Of course, that was not conveyed. I do not know. I would like to know from the Chairman, if that is the position because I still remember very clearly on the last meeting on which we did not have a minute he clearly said that if at all if we are to submit a response to the proposal submitted to the APRC without mentioning who submitted it, it is my view which was endorsed by some others, if I remember correct, including the Hon. Dayaratna that whatever the consensus that we have reached up to date in respect of the other document must go along with that because otherwise all our efforts will be negated.

This feeling that as if we are just submitting an interim report or whatever only based on the implementation of the 13th Amendment was viewed by some of us. I neither want to say majority or minority, some of us. That may not be considered - especially we are talking about the process, the credibility so on and so forth. So that was my understanding and if the Chairman conveys us that the very person who convened, has all the right to say - I do not want the report at the moment, I want to delay, for whatever reasons; may be the war, the politics or whatever the reasons. Then of course, let us be very frank about it and proceed further.

Mr. Udaya Gammanpila: Mr. Chairman, my main concern is, we are not doing this rigorous exercise just to produce a document and say we have also produced a document like Banda-Chelva Pact or 2000 August document. We want a pragmatic document and we want to see the light end at the tunnel. So, having that objective in mind, not only the content, timing is also important. I do not know Mr. Kariyappa about your religion, in our religion timing has been considered extremely important. That is why Gauthama Buddha before seeking the birth, he had been waiting for a opportune time. He looked for "pas maha balum" as we have learn't in our school.

The Chairman: Can I say something? Without making this a very lengthy discussion; if I remember the discussion we had, it was in fact brought up during the discussion that we had targeted the 20th of January as the date for finalising our document. Then, during this discussion that we had while accommodating the request made by the President, we agreed very clearly that we should try to make our document available when we meet the President on the 23rd because if we had set our objective as completing our document by the 20th there is no reason why we cannot complete it by the 23rd.

And then, at the same time from this document we are taking out what can be implemented through our present constitution and presenting it in response to the document that the President had given. And I must tell you that I had communication after that with the President and then he asked me very clearly what is happening. Then I said, we are going to have this document and will be presenting our final document to you on the 23rd and along with that we will be presenting this document in response to your document which will identify what can be implemented in terms of the 13th Amendment. Then he actually stated to make sure that all the party representatives signed the document that we are presenting to him because he would like it in that way. So I said I will endeavour as far as possible to get that done.

So, I have already conveyed to the President what we are planning to do as best as I could understand was the outcome of our discussion that we had on Thursday. So, I would appeal to you now that we have been going through this whole process of trying to finalise our document, let us try to finalise it. And I have prepared in response to the President's document, a draft document and in a little while this will be circulated to you. There have been responses as I mentioned, by different representatives also as a reaction to the document that the President has given to us and let us consider all that together after we have gone through this unless you have some serious objections to doing that.


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