By Dilrukshi Handunnetti Our Lobby
There are a few things that unify
parliamentarians such as perks and
privileges. On all other matters, they stand
divided and hell bent on keeping the
unsuspecting plebeians divided. That's their
Debates on even the mildest of topics tend
to draw blood and there is hardly any
agreement. If consensus were possible, the
country's ethnic strife would have long
since ended. But that is akin to expecting
parliamentary conduct from Labour Minister
Mervyn Silva. Some things can never happen.
The same golden rule applies to bringing the
government and the opposition to agree on
how to end the conflict, and it does not
matter which party in power, they would
oppose each other. That's sheer force of
The brainwashing that had taken place is so
complete that it excludes all dissenting
voices in society and the legislature which
was once a forum for diversity, now has all
legislators readily nodding and competing
with each other, excluding the TNA, to
shower their blessings upon the armed forces
in their forward march.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake who
opened the debate on the extension of the
state of emergency on Thursday did not even
try to conceal that his heart was swelling
at the very thought of capturing territory
in the north with the possibility of
vanquishing the LTTE.
Generally a charitable soul, but this time
he took broadsides at 'some who aided and
abetted terrorism and some NGOs that simply
worked against the government motive' and
said, the betrayals should not be forgotten.
Passionately wishing the army well, he
referred to Pirapaharan as a 'pirate now in
hiding' and said the days are numbered for
the megalomaniac who killed his own people
in pursuit of an illusive dream.
"The big Tiger is prowling around in a small
forest area. His final movements will be
painful," he predicted.
Wickremanayake declared next: "The LTTE must
acknowledge that their militancy has failed,
not fared well against the strong Sri Lankan
army, and not only is the Tiger outfit
defeated, it has also failed the Tamils
UNP's Lakshman Seneviratne was never one to
conceal his appreciation for the armed
forces, even when the UNP's political stance
was opposed to a military solution. Thus
Seneviratne did not have to conceal his
feelings as he hailed the military successes
and called for an end to terrorism -- but
importantly, in all in its forms.
He went to the extent of pledging support to
a settlement that could accommodate the
political concerns of minorities after
crushing the LTTE, and pledging the two
thirds majority that the present day hung
parliaments can only dream of.
War on media
Moving swiftly from the war against
terrorism to the war against the media,
Seneviratne demanded to know why the
government felt compelled to suppress
dissenting voices using the military
"Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated
exactly a month ago. What happened to the
investigation? Or should that question be
raised at all? There is a discrepancy about
the JMO's report. Was he stabbed as well as
shot? Why aren't there any direct answers
and why isn't there a final medical forensic
report on it?" he demanded to know.
Looking up at the media gallery, he said all
his sympathies remained with the journalists
who were working in a combat zone taking
immense risks with each story they wrote or
"The Sunday Leader Editor was killed. A year
ago, there was an arson attack on the
newspaper's printing press within a high
security zone. Chairman of the company, Lal
Wickrematunge has written to the IGP
requesting security for the office premises,
but so far, there had not been even an
acknowledgement," he noted.
"What is your innate fear that those who
report independent views are eliminated? Why
must everyone hold identical views? Why this
pettiness?" thundered Seneviratne.
And he noted, that the future was indeed
bleak for a country that now sees an end to
the war but there is another war in the
south that targeted the media.
The tone of Seneviratne's speech spurred on
the next, Wimal Weerawansa. The MP, speaking
from the government benches for the first
time said it was historic to find the likes
of Ranil Wickremesinghe who openly scoffed
at military solutions to finally concede
that the soldiers were indeed professional
and executed the war to the satisfaction of
an entire nation.
He recalled the time when great betrayals
were planned out with Norwegian
facilitation, and how now the truce had been
abandoned and consigned to the dustbin of
Taking broad swipes at former ally Managala
Samaraweera, he said every attempt was made
to undermine the military effort and listed
among them, the Defence Watch.
He noted that during the past few months,
the opposition parliamentarians have been
seeking to divert attention from the
battlefront. 'But these tactics and changes
in stances did not fool people. They decided
to support the troops and seize the last
opportunity to end the bloodshed. To achieve
this, they also made other sacrifices such
as bearing the brunt of the economic
hardship with a smile.'
In his element as he waxed eloquent about
the successes of the military forces,
Weerawansa sniped that when Kilinochchi
fell, the Opposition Leader could not find
it in his heart to celebrate the victories
of the armed faces. This he waited till
Mullaithivu fell and with the greatest
difficulty, he finally forced himself to
demonstrate that the UNP was also supportive
of the ongoing military actions.
Launching a blistering attack on the UNP,
Weerawnasa said that the party was
politically and conceptually dead.
"Their oft repeated argument was that the
LTTE was invincible and indestructible. The
same peaceniks were later heard to be
hailing the armed forces. Two things have
been achieved. One is the defeat of the LTTE
and the other is the defeating of
imperialists like the UNP who fuelled the
flames of terror by going soft on them,"
The JVP pole vaulter's contention was that
the army commenced its journey at a time
when there was very little conviction that
they could record such successes. "There
were too many who claimed that a military
solution was unacceptable especially because
the Sri Lankan armed forces could not
strongly oppose the LTTE guerilla tactics.
That ideology too has been now defeated," he
Everyone appeared interested in taking
credit for the success of the armed forces.
No exception was Sunil Handunnetti who
reminded the house that some of the
important decisions taken by the JVP have
prevented the Sri Lankan state from
Handunnetti, despite the military successes,
was not convinced about the political
leadership of the UPFA. He sniped that the
SLFP was led by a politician who did not
have the strength to challenge President
Kumaratunga when the P-TOMS agreement was
"There was deafening silence when the P-TOMS
was proposed. When we realised that others
who could have and should have remedied the
situation maintained silence to retain their
political positions we got activated.
"It was an unpopular move when everyone was
clamoring for a negotiated solution and the
implementation of the P-TOMS agreement. The
situation compelled us to seek judicial
intervention and that is how the JVP
prevented the P-TOMS from becoming law and
subsequent implementation of the same."
Next he said the demerger of the northeast
was also achieved through court action while
others were happy to ignore these issues.
Next he faulted the government for using the
military successes to drum up crucial
support. "We all know that your heart was
not in it. It is now horrifying to hear all
these government politicians speak of
demergers and an ethnic conflict."
Amidst speculation that TNA legislators were
either fleeing the country or settling on
foreign soil, spoke EPRLF Secretary General
He argued that a humanitarian corridor was
said to be in existence but in reality there
was no such. Also, routes are permanently
kept close with them being opened only for
fourth hours a week despite the humanitarian
concerns, he noted.
"This zone comes under serious aerial
attack. The routes are not clear and there
is no proper mechanism to assist the
civilians to leave the areas under LTTE
As for the 48-hour ceasefire unilaterally
called for by the government, he said there
was no proper understanding as to when
exactly this period commenced as well as it
ended. He called this temporary no fire
period as a reaction to the Indian
government, announced at the behest of
India. "This happened soon after Foreign
Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Colombo,"
Importantly, Premachandran sought to remind
the House that by eliminating people,
nowhere in the world had anyone succeeded in
defeating an idea. And that's the part of
the debate that nobody wishes to discuss
And so the emergency extension was carried
in the House with little dissent, as is
customary, with only the TNA voting against.
And those who dissented appeared to have
lost their voice or preferred to maintain
silence than go against the trend when the
war hype in the country appears to be at an
all time high.
Interesting times are ahead it appears for
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Making
an important political transition,
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna
Amman is now said to become a
fully-fledged SLFP member in view of the
The parliament lobby was agog with the news
that the nominated legislator is now ready
to be inducted as a party member. There were
no guesses made as to the outcome of this
elevation, with Pillayan and Vinayagamoorthy
now set to fight each other with more
The food prices at the public canteen have
been raised by a fraction, 'in keeping with
the current prices.'
But insiders have two concerns. Firstly, the
enormous wastage of food and secondly, that
for certain functions how top officials get
parliament to supply fruits and vegetables.
Information suppression policy
The government's doublespeak was evident yet
again, when Prime Minister Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake told parliament that it was
natural to have battle casualties in an
intensified war like the one that was being
But true to the government's policy of
suppressing information, despite all the
gloating, the battle casualties were not
revealed, neither the dead nor the injured.
And the same applied to civilian casualties