Tuesday, 13 February 2018

LG polls: Mahinda makes headway, govt. and its allies in turmoil



By Shamindra Ferdinando

A smiling wartime Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, on Monday (Feb. 12) said that he couldn’t be prime minister under any circumstances as he was a US citizen. Rajapaksa said so in response to a media query whether he would accept prime ministerial position if the SLFP offered it to him. The question was posed as he left the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), after arriving from the US. The tough talking Gajaba Regiment veteran said that those who had exercised their franchise against war-winning twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa had realized their folly and voted overwhelmingly for a return to the Rajapaksa era. The former Defence Secretary asked the media whether they were present there along with the CID (Criminal Investigation Department). Obviously, it was a reference to Health Minister and cabinet spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne’s repeated vows to arrest Rajapaksa over alleged misappropriation of funds in a transaction with Ukraine to acquire MiG 27s, immediately after his return from the US.

Rajapaksa, who skipped the local government polls, returned as earlier announced after the massive electoral victory achieved by his older sibling, Mahinda led SLPP at the countrywide local government polls. The destabilizing defeat caused unprecedented turmoil in the ruling coalition with a foolish attempt now being made to blame the UNP component for the crisis. Obviously, both President Sirisena led SLFP, the UNP as well as the civil society grouping had pathetically failed to comprehend post-2015 presidential poll situation.

The youngest recognized political party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), secured overwhelmingly the highest number of local bodies, Pradeshiya Sabhas, Urban Councils and Municipal Councils in electoral districts outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Elections were held for 340 out of 341 local authorities. A Court stayed local government poll at Elpitiya.

Rajapaksa won 232 local government bodies. The UNP secured a poor second place with 41 councils whereas the SLFP managed to win just nine councils.

During the local government polls campaign, MP Wimal Weerawansa declared that Feb. 10 victory would pave the way for a campaign leading to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa becoming the president and Mahinda Rajapaksa prime minister.

A section of the media, and some interested parties, have sought to shield Sirisena at the expense of Wickremesinghe - an exercise in futility.

Rajapaksa’s unprecedented triumph over Sirisena and Wickremesinghe has jeopardized the high profile Geneva project meant to introduce a new Constitution, subject to a referendum. In fact, Sirisena was chosen to facilitate the controversial constitution making process, spearheaded by Wickremesinghe, after the failure of the 2010 attempt.

Anura Kumara’s JVP, too, suffered a debilitating setback. Although the TNA had secured the most number of seats in the northern local government bodies, except Kayts, it lacks the required strength to form an administration. The TNA, too, now faces challenges, with its political opponents making substantial progress there, in the wake of Northern Province Chief Minister, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, distancing himself from the leadership. EPDP secured Kayts on its own whereas the TNA gained Pooneryn. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s outfit, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), made progress in the north, while the TNA, in spite of overwhelming support from Tamil media, western powers, diaspora and the university community, couldn’t secure outright at least the Jaffna Municipal Council.

The ground reality is that three major political parties, the UNP, JVP and TNA, which backed Maithripala Sirisena’s candidature at the Jan. 2015 presidential election had suffered huge setbacks at the Feb. 10 polls, with Sirisena’s SLFP receiving a shocking drubbing - the worst ever performance by a party in power. In fact, Sirisena’s SLFP, and the UNP, as well as the JVP, now face the daunting task of revamping their respective battered outfits ahead of the forthcoming provincial councils, presidential and then the parliamentary polls, within less than two years.

Unholy alliance

It would be pertinent to mention that the UNP-JVP-TNA alliance that came into being, in late 2014, made an abortive bid to bring Rajapaksa’s rule to an end within a year after the LTTE was brought to its knees on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. The US run operation pitted war-winning Army chief Sarath Fonseka against Rajapaksa, an unbelievable scenario against the backdrop of the TNA and the US alleging massacre of Tamil civilians during the Vanni offensive (March 2007-May 2009).

In addition to them, Rauf Hakeem’s SLMC and Arumugam Thondaman’s CWC backed Fonseka and Sirisena at the 2010 and the 2015 presidential polls.

Those who had backed Fonseka didn’t even bother to check whether he had the right to exercise franchise at the 2010 presidential poll. When the Rajapaksa administration got to know about Fonseka’s predicament, halfway during voting, state television brazenly exploited the situation to Rajapaksa’s advantage. The then Election Department was powerless to intervene. With so much at stake, the Rajapaksas flouted presidential election laws to their hearts’ content though there was absolutely no basis to accuse them of having manipulated computers (computer jillmart) to steal victory as alleged by the losing side.

Obviously, the UNP lacked a clear understanding of ground realities. In spite of being plagued by treasury bond scams, involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), to the idiotic sacking of Sri Lanka’s Defence Attache Brig. Priyankara Fernando over ‘throat slitting gesture’ in the face of British citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin protesting outside the Sri Lankan High Commission there, on the eve of the Feb. 10 polls, Deputy Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ajith P. Perera declared that the UNP could secure 275 out of 341 bodies. Perera ended up with egg on his face having even lost his own home town.

Geneva-TNA project in disarray

TNA leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan in Nov, 2017 called for the SLFP’s support for constitutional making process. The veteran politician declared that the country expected genuine SLFPers to throw their weight behind the process. Sampanthan’s efforts to secure SLFP’s support would have to be examined against the backdrop of the SLFP being weakened to such an extent, consequent to the Feb. 10 poll, the yahapalana partner cannot under any circumstances engage in any exercise spurned by the Sinhala community. The crisis has engulfed the SLFP and the situation is most likely to further deteriorate as Rajapaksa flexes his muscles with Sirisena under mounting pressure to reach a deal with the SLPP or face the consequences.

When the writer, last Sunday, sought an explanation from the SLPP/Joint Opposition leadership as regards their role in the ongoing constitution making process in post-poll era, former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris unequivocally declared that a government, much weakened by the Feb. 10 defeat, wouldn’t be in a position to pursue constitutional making process. Prof. Peiris addressed the briefing at the Nelum Mawatha office of former President Rajapaksa, in his current capacity as the Chairman of the SLPP.

By delaying local government polls by over two years and then having those three years after the last presidential poll, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government gave the electorate the perfect opportunity to vote on its performance or more pertinently the lack of it.

Sunday’s briefing was the first called by the SLPP/JO leadership in the wake of Rajapaksa’s triumph over Sirisena and Wickremesinghe. Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s bid to capitalize on the treasury bond scams to make significant progress, at least in rural areas, failed, much to the disappointment of the top Marxist party leadership. But, the biggest loser is Sampanthan whose efforts, both in parliament and outside, to promote a new Constitution, will be stymied by Rajapaksa’s victory. The TNA and its foreign sponsors realise the ground situation. The former LTTE mouthpiece has no option but to engage in some petty campaigns to secure Tamil support. Having stoutly backed the LTTE, since late 2001, the TNA recently joined the UK-based Tamil groups to pressure the UK to recall Brig. Fernando over threatening gestures towards protesting British nationals of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. The Gemunu Watch officer is on record as having said that ‘throat slitting gestures’ were meant to signal the conclusion of the war and the end of Prabhakaran. President Sirisena’s intervention in Brig. Fernando’s issue has made matters worse with some ministers, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene and Minister Navin Dissanayake publicly defending the officer.

The UK incident certainly caused severe damage to the government on the eve of the Feb. 10 polls. Although, the National Election Commission (NEC) has issued media guidelines in respect of the Feb. 10 polls, the print and electronic media, as well as uncontrollable social media, flayed the government over the UK fiasco. In fact, the government never realized how social media had steadily influenced the electorate though NEC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya warned mainstream media against promoting or undermining any political party during what he called silent period. With a vast majority of Sri Lankans eligible to vote, having access to internet, political campaigning has taken a new turn. Those who had praised social media for helping oust authoritarian Rajapaksa rule are now at the receiving end.

PM Wickremesinghe towards the end of his campaign declared that 4,000 villages would be provided free wi-fi. Had that happened, politicians would be in real trouble as electorates would have had more opportunity to gather dirt on those elected and appointed.

Social media operatives brutally attacked Sirisena over his inadvertent reference to Sri Lanka gaining independence from the British, 30 years ago. However, lack of knowledge prevented social media from attacking President Sirisena over Ratnapura declaration that UPFA parliamentary group comprised 96 whereas it consisted of 95 and more than 50 of them are with Rajapaksa.

The TNA played into the hands of those exploiting the incident by issuing a joint statement demanding Brig. Fernando’s expulsion. The TNA joined 10 foreign-based Tamil diaspora organizations in demanding that Boris Johnson, MP and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs ‘declare the Sri Lankan military attaché, Brig. Fernando, a "Persona Non Grata" for committing serious offenses under British Law, abusing diplomatic immunity in the UK and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka..."

The letter has been signed by representatives of the following diaspora organizations, apart from the TNA: British Tamil Conservatives (BTC), British Tamil Forum (BTF), Global Tamil Forum (GTF), International Centre for the Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide (ICPPG), Tamils Coordinating Committee (TCC-UK), Tamils for Labour, Tamil Friends of the Liberal Democrats, Tamil Information Centre (TIC), Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and Tamil Solidarity.

Let me emphasize that all those LTTE flag carrying protesters are British nationals. It would be interesting to know whether those seeking political asylum there on bogus claims, too, participated in the recent protests against Sri Lanka.

A divided government

The SLPP/JO leaders cannot claim credit for the Feb. 10 victory. Although, the electorate responded, enthusiastically, to the Rajapaksa-led campaign, leading to an unprecedented victory, the crushing defeat, suffered by yahapalana leaders, were largely of their own making. A section of the media, too, contributed by not succumbing to government pressure whereas the well-funded NGO community promoted phony values.

Contrary to assertion, the treasury bond scams, perpetrated by the yahapalana government, in Feb. 2015, and March 2016, are certainly not one of the main reasons for the devastating electoral debacle, though wide reportage of the scandalous transactions, over a period of three years, influenced the electorate.

When jubilant SLPP/JO leaders declared victory, at Battaramulla,  Nelum Mawatha media briefing, even before the releasing of final results, they never bothered at least to refer to how the yahapalana government harassed, humiliated and disgraced the war-winning armed forces after the so-called Jan. 8 revolution. Perhaps, they lacked the courage to do so as they remained tight lipped when Gen. Fonseka was imprisoned. There hadn’t been absolutely any reference to treacherous yahapalana decision to co-sponsor the Geneva Resolution 30/1 meant to set up a hybrid war crimes probe, targeting Sri Lanka. SLPP/JO leaders, obviously not realized how and why the yahapalana government became so unpopular in predominately Sinhala majority districts, within weeks, if not months, after Sirisena’s victory. Having defeated Rajapaksa with heavy Western and Indian support, the government had to follow Geneva dictates. On the basis of still unproved and strongly disputed war crimes allegations, Geneva has prescribed a new Constitution. Now, their plans are in tatters, thanks to the Feb. 10 mauling of yahapalana partners.

The UNP-SLFP administration unceremoniously cancelled Sri Lanka’s annual Victory Day parade, in May 2015, to appease the TNA, foreign nationals of Sri Lankan origins and Western powers despite immense sacrifices made to bring about that historic triumph over the most ruthless terrorist outfit the world has seen, especially by the security forces. The SLPP/JO made no reference to this despicable yahapalana move. Essentially, they felt the overwhelmingly anti-government vote meant the electorate hated those in power for attacks on the Rajapaksas. They conveniently forgot that western powers demanded a new Constitution on the basis of unproved war crimes allegations. There hadn’t been at least mention of officers and men being arrested over such allegations. The writer couldn’t understand how the SLPP/JO failed to at least refer to the arresting of Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake in respect of wartime disappearances.

Naseby’s move

The government earned the wrath of ordinary Sri Lankans for not exploiting an opportunity presented by Lord Naseby to challenge bogus war crimes allegations on the basis of which western powers formed a political alliance to bring the Rajapaksas’ rule to an end. However, the writer is of the firm belief that the former

President Rajapaksa shouldn’t have sought a third term at the expense of deserving party members. He caused unnecessary upheaval by seeking to extend his term after having enacted the 18 Amendment to the Constitution in the wake of CJ Shirani Bandaranayake’s impeachment.

The yahapalana government never recovered from its members pulling in different directions and pursuing different agendas. In January 2017, JHU member and UNP National List MP, Ven. Atureliye Rathana, who had been deeply involved in the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thera-led campaign to oust Rajapaksa in Jan. 2015, switched sides. Ven. Rathana ignored the JHU’s calls to quit the UNP National List seat in case he wanted to serve as an independent member.

In Aug 2017, the UNP sacked Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, over allegedly violating cabinet responsibility. MP Rajapakse remains an elected member of the UNP though he openly attacks the party.

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake was forced to resign in Aug. 2017 over damaging  evidence that transpired against him in relation to treasury bond scams, perpetrated twice, in 2015 and 2016. Treasury bond scams caused irrevocable damage to both the UNP and the SLFP, though the latter sought the credit for setting up Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCI) into disputed transactions. Interestingly, the UNP brought back Tilak Marapana, PC, the former Attorney General, in place of Karunanyake in Aug. 2017. Marapana resigned in early Nov. 2015 over accusations of conflicts of interest regarding his relationship with controversial Avant Garde enterprise run by retired army Commando Maj. Nissanka Senadhipathi, a close confidante of wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Those who had praised President Sirisena for timely intervention could never explain why PCI was constituted in late Jan. 2017, one month short of two years after the bond scam and nearly a year after the far bigger second heist was staged. They couldn’t also explain or justify the presidential decision to dissolve parliament, in June 2015, to thwart the presentation of a parliamentary watchdog report on the first bond scam.

President Sirisena paid a very heavy price for blaming the treasury bond scam on the UNP. The President’s move resulted in a heavy exchange of ‘fire’ between the two sides, though some ministers downplayed the issue. Cabinet spokesman and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella wrongly asserted that everything would be normal after the Feb. 10 poll.

Yahapalana government also ruined its reputation by going ahead with all projects initiated by the previous government after having repeatedly promised to do away with them.

With nine provincial council polls, presidential poll and parliamentary polls scheduled to take place in 2018 and 2019, yahapalana partners will increasingly come under pressure to reassert political authority, both in and outside parliament.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Close on the heels of Naseby disclosure, British Royals at Colombo military parade



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka last Sunday (Feb. 4) celebrated her 70th anniversary of her independence from the UK with an armed forces parade, at Galle Face with the participation of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and the Countess of Wessex. The royal couple represented Queen Elizabeth II.

In a message to President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Queen Elizabeth II, declared: "...The relationship between our two countries has continued to grow, and it is my hope that the connections between our people continue to flourish in the years to come."

The statement released by the British High Commission in Colombo, ahead of the Galle Face parade, quoted the Queen as having told President Sirisena: "Although I am unable to be with you as you mark this historic moment, I am very pleased that the Earl and Countess of Wessex are able to represent me and join you in celebrating all that the people of Sri Lanka have achieved in the past 70 years."

It would be pertinent to examine what Sri Lanka has achieved in the past 70 years. There cannot be an accomplishment bigger than the triumph over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, nine years ago. Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion amidst a determined Western effort to save the LTTE, an organization proscribed in the US, UK, Canada, India, EU et al.

Asian giant India, having gained independence also from the UK, in Aug 1947, plunged Sri Lanka into turmoil, 36 years ago, when Indian trained LTTE terrorists wiped out an army patrol in Thinnaveli, Jaffna. Overnight, hit and run attacks in the northern region turned to a conflict that soon grew into a large scale war. Terrorism bled Sri Lanka for 26 years until the combined armed forces brought the LTTE down to its knees on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009. The Vijayaba Infantry Regiment (VIR), the youngest of Sri Lanka’s infantry formations, established in 1988, received the recognition for killing LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The nearly three-year long offensive, under the political leadership of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, culminated with the elimination of the megalomaniac Prabhakaran, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists, in Nov., 1988 caused chaos in another Commonwealth Country, the Maldives. The Maldives gained independence from the UK in July 1965.

The Army almost brought the war to an end in early April, 2009 east of Puthukudirippu. Several hundred hardcore terrorists, including their experienced commanders perished in what was later described as the first classical encirclement operation carried out by the Army under extremely difficult circumstances on the Vanni East front, though it had overwhelming firepower as well as unlimited ground forces. The defeat of the LTTE formations at Anandapuram made the outcome of the conflict a foregone conclusion in spite of a section of the international community trying to throw a fresh lifeline to the LTTE. Then Brig. Shavendra Silva’s battle-hardened 58 Division carried out the operation with Brig. Kamal Gunaratne’s 53 Division, though, at that time, the Gajaba Regiment veteran was away. In his absence, Brig. Chagi Gallage had been in charge of the 53 Division.

Among those who had been seated among the invitees at the 70 anniversary celebration was war-winning Army Chief and Sinha Regiment, veteran Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, who sustained the largest ever ground forces offensive against the LTTE. Not present at the historic event were Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke who played significant roles in the war victory. The government didn’t even bother to invite wartime commanders of the Navy and the Air Force, certainly a matter for deep regret. Yahapalana rulers obviously found fault with them for being key members of the Rajapaksas ‘A’ team responsible for the LTTE’s decimation, a daunting task many believed were beyond Sri Lanka’s capacity.

Admiral Karannagoda’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s war victory should be examined against the backdrop of him securing US intelligence to hunt down LTTE floating arsenals on the high seas. The US intervention surely helped Sri Lanka to bring the war to an end sooner. Acting on US advice, Karannagoda’s Navy destroyed four large vessels, in separate operations in 2007 and 2008, to facilitate overall ground operations by depriving continuous supply lines. Goonatilleke sustained a strategic air campaign that caused heavy losses on the LTTE, in addition to operations in support of the ground forces and keeping Jaffna peninsula supplied by air.

The Earl of Wessex couldn’t have been unaware of a desperate bid by the British to throw a lifeline to the LTTE, in late April 2009, as frontline fighting formations had surrounded the remnants of the LTTE on the Vanni east front. The then British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, arrived in Colombo on April 29, 2009, close on the heels of UK International Development Minister Mike Foster’s visit, to broker a ceasefire. The high profile bid was made to appease the Tamil Diaspora engaged in massive protests in their host countries at the behest of the LTTE. The LTTE wanted the Diaspora to force Western powers to intervene in Colombo to halt the offensive.

President Rajapaksa unceremoniously dismissed the joint UK-French initiative. Rajapaksa earned the wrath of the Western powers for not heeding their advice. Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, once the Commanding Officer of the celebrated first battalion of the Gajaba Regiment, threw his weight behind his brother. The younger Rajapaksa ensured the close coordination between the military and the political leadership and virtually gave the overall leadership to the war effort.

Had the LTTE assassination attempts on Lt. Gen. Fonseka and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa succeeded, on April 25, 2006, and Dec 1, 2006, respectively, Sri Lanka would never have been able to secure victory over the LTTE. Unfortunately, post-war political ambitions of Fonseka, and the Rajapaksas crude response, following the war-winning General’s defeat at the Jan. 2010 presidential poll, ripped apart the country.

Nearly 10 months after the conclusion of the war, t then US Ambassador in Colombo Patricia Butenis called the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil, as well as Gen. Fonseka, war criminals in a confidential memo to Washington, subsequently leaked by Wiki Leaks. But that didn’t prevent the US from backing Fonseka’s Jan. 2010 presidential candidature. The US went to the extent of forcing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to vote for Fonseka, in spite of it accusing him of mass murder. The US arranged alliance included strange bed-fellows, the UNP and the JVP. The same trio, UNP, JVP and TNA backed Maithripala Sirisena’s presidential candidature, five years later.

Had President Rajapaksa given into the UN backed UK-French proposal to reach consensus on a ceasefire, the conflict would have taken a different turn. Before Miliband and Kouchner flew in for urgent talks with President Rajapaksa, UNSG’s Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar visited Colombo, in April 2009, also to explore a cease-fire, on the Vanni east front, to save the LTTE.

Top notch combined forces parade

The victorious armed forces parade at Galle Face was led by the Armour, followed by Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Sinha Regiment, Gemunu Watch, Gajaba Regiment, Vijayaba Infantry Regiment, Mechanized Infantry, Commando Regiment, Special Forces, Military Intelligence Corps et al.

The parade was commanded by Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Dharshana Hettiarachchi of Engineers. The parade moved along the road opposite Taj Samdra where the LTTE assassinated Navy Chief Admiral Clancy Fernando on the morning of Nov 16, 1992, a little distance away from the top notch Shangri-La hotel, built after the end of the conflict. To pave the way for the massive Shangri-La investment, wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, on his own, decided to shift the Army Headquarters to Akuregoda, Battaramulla.

The parade was followed by a guard-of-honour comprising eight officers and 96 other rankers representing the Army, Navy and Air Force, commanded by Maj. Duminda Rasika Kumara of the Armoured Corps. Before the Army parade followed by sail and fly past, those present observed a two-minute silence in memory of those Sri Lankans who died in the service of the motherland. The Artillery presented a 21-gun salute, before President Maithripala Sirisena addressed the nation.

His previous address to the nation, delivered on January 3, caused political chaos with Yahapalana partners, the UNP and his own SLFP trading charges and counter charges over waste, corruption and irregularities, with the focus on the Treasury Bond scams involving disgraced primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL). The celebrations took place with the country in political turmoil over the Treasury Bonds scams. The mega fraud has severely damaged the US-backed unholy alliance that ousted twice President Rajapaksa whose excesses, rampant waste, corruption and irregularities surely facilitated the ‘regime change’ project. The previous government sure needed an electoral drubbing though those who campaigned on a platform of accountability and good governance ended up plundering the national economy almost from the start. What a tragedy.

The Earl of Wessex, who had given up a career in the Corps of Royal Marines, was the highest ranking Royal to accept an invitation for the military parade since the Western powers launched a massive attack on Sri Lanka over human rights violations in the wake of the successful conclusion of the war, nine years ago. Prince Edward sought to pursue a career with the Royal Marines soon after leaving University.

The Western powers sustained a high profile diplomatic campaign until the foolish yahapalana administration, in Oct 2015, co-sponsored a US-led resolution against its own armed forces. There had never been a previous instance of a country accepting punitive measures against its own victorious armed forces with open arms.

Throughout the war against the LTTE and other Indian trained terrorist groups (they ceased operations against the armed forces by 1990), the UK steadfastly refused to provide tangible support to Sri Lanka. However, at the commencement of hostilities, the UK allowed former Special Air Services (SAS) personnel employed by KMS Limited to provide training to police commandos as well as other support. Support included access to the British way of handling counter terrorism, way back in early 80s, by way of senior Sri Lankan policemen being invited to the UK.

But the UK refrained from providing support that could have made a real difference on the ground primarily due to its desire not to antagonize India. Commonwealth leader, the UK turned a blind eye to Commonwealth heavyweight India destabilizing Sri Lanka to its heart’s content until the situation was conducive here for the Indian Army deployment right across eight districts in the temporarily merged Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Feb 4 parade comprised formations responsible for decimating the LTTE on the ground. The sail-past comprised Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), SLNS Sayurala, SLNS Sagara and SLNS Suraksha, Fast Missile Vessel SLNS Nandimithra, three gunboats Udara, Ranadeera and Prathapa, and Patrol Boat Ratnadeepa. In addition to OPVs, FMV, gunboats and one patrol boat there were 10 Fast Attack Craft (FACs). It would be pertinent to mention that Patrol Boat Prathapa had been among a pair of vessels gifted by Australia in recognition of the Rajapaksa administration efforts to stop illegal migrants.

The fly-past consisted of Kfir, F7, Mi 17 and transport aircraft AN 32, C 130 and MA 60 et al although since the conclusion of the war the Air Force fleet has depleted considerably with MIG 27s phased out. The SLAF is left with just one Kfir whereas Mi 24 helicopter gunships, too, no longer are available.

Among those who had been present were Canadian representatives. In 2014, Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, Shelley Whiting, in 2014, demanded that Sri Lanka cancel her annual Victory Day parade to help post-war national reconciliation. Although the Rajapaksa administration rejected the Canadian demand, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government quickly gave into the Canadian dictate.

Former colonial power in

despicable project

In the run up to the 70th Independence celebrations, Lord Naseby revealed the despicable British plot in support of Western project to move the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Naseby’s House of Lords revelations on Oct. 12, 2017 showed how Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had suppressed wartime dispatches from its Colombo-based defence attache Lieutenant Colonel Anton Gash, received between January 1, 2009, to May 2009 underscored the urgent need to examine Sri Lanka’s case.

The UK dismissed Lord Naseby’s plea. Much to the disappointment and anger of vast majority of Sri Lankans, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration shamelessly played down Naseby’s assertion. Sri Lanka is yet to request Geneva to look into Naseby’s claim, based on undisputed British High Commission dispatches from here.

The month long Geneva sessions are scheduled to begin later this month. In spite of his repeated efforts and the intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office, wartime dispatches from Colombo in its entirety hadn’t been released to ensure the Geneva Resolution 30/1 remains as it is. Even the dispatches released to Lord Naseby following the Information Commissioner’s intervention were heavily censored to save the original lie. Lord Naseby’s move placed the British in a really embarrassing position with its mission in Colombo seeking to play down the importance of revelations made in the House of Lords.

Sri Lankan armed force can certainly be proud that the British lie had been exposed. Perhaps the acceptance of Sri Lanka’s invitation for the military parade, paving the way for the Earl of Wessex and the Countess of Wessex participation at the Colombo event, revealed a rethinking of British position. Global Tamil News on Dec 6, 2017 posted the following The Island report on its website: The British High Commission has declared that Lord Naseby’s recent statement in the House of Lords pertaining to accountability issues in Sri Lanka doesn’t reflect UK’s stand.

The British HC said so in response to The Island query whether the BHC had discussions with the Foreign Ministry here or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as regards Lord Naseby’s call for reviewing Geneva Resolution 30/1. The following is the text of the BHC statement: "Lord Naseby was not speaking for the British Government when speaking recently in a debate in the House of Lords. As a Member of Parliament he is entitled to express his own views."

"A point that has not been in dispute in all that has been written and said since Lord Naseby spoke is that many thousands of civilians died during the conflict. We continue to encourage the Sri Lankan Government to implement the commitments it gave and which are set out in UNHRC resolution 30/1 and reaffirmed in UNHRC resolution 34/1, including the undertaking to establish a truth-seeking commission. Resolution 30/1 emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past, incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including truth-seeking. The resolution affirms that the commitments given, if implemented fully and credibly, will help to achieve reconciliation. Achieving reconciliation is in the clear interests of every community in Sri Lanka", the BHC statement said

Lord Naseby urged the UK to take up Sri Lanka’s issue with Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Conservative member called for amending the Resolution on the basis that 40,000 hadn’t been killed in the Vanni offensive and of the 7,000-8,000 killed, one fourth were LTTE cadres. Naseby also declared that the then government hadn’t deliberately targeted civilians.

Those who had been propagating lies as regards the massacre of over 40,000 Tamil civilians with some declaring in the House of Commons that as many as 100,000 perished (both LTTE and civilians during the January-May 2009 period) remained mum in the face of Lord Naseby’s challenge. The Geneva process led to international restrictions on those fighting formations and some officers who risked their lives for the country. Majors General Shavendra Silva and Chagi Gallage are two of the victims.

The LTTE devastated the Dalada Maligawa on the morning of January 25, 1998, ahead of Sri Lanka’s 50 Independence Day celebrations in Kandy. However, the LTTE failed to deter Prince Charles from visiting Sri Lanka to attend the event. Sri Lanka should be certainly grateful to the UK for that gesture. An influential section of Tamil political parties, both covertly and overtly, backed terrorism. There is absolutely no doubt about that. They, too, have been placed in a difficult situation due to Lord Naseby’s solid assertions as to what really happened during the final phase of the war. In his address to the House of Lords, Naseby flayed the British system for giving British citizenship to LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, a former employee of the British High Commission in Colombo, who also masqueraded as a holder of a PhD. The British advisor to the terrorist organization lived in the UK with impunity until he died in Dec 2006 at the onset of the eelam war IV. The eelam war IV lasted two years and 10 months.

At the end of the war, Geneva on the basis of lies, prescribed a new Constitutiaon for Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby has disputed lies on the basis of which Western powers want a new Constitution here. Wartime LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA issued a statement ahead of the 70th Independence Day celebrations. Although TNA leader R. Sampanthan didn’t attend the Galle Face event, he used his statement to call for a new Constitution again.

Sampanthan seems sure of Diaspora efforts. Sri Lanka should never forget that Diaspora role in domestic UK politics can influence decision makers. Thanks to Wiki leaks, the US cable on Miliband playing politics with Sri Lanka issue is in public domain.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mangala sounds a dire warning over Mahinda comeback

LG polls 2018


By Shamindra Ferdinando
Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera, MP, has contradicted those who had downplayed the importance of the Feb. 10 local government polls. Samaraweera didn’t mince his words when he acknowledged the growing and formidable challenge posed by the war-winning, twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP-led Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), though his colleagues depicted a different picture. Samaraweera, in a statement issued on January 25, warned the electorate of dire consequences over the Rajapaksa group making significant progress.

Declaring that the Feb. 10 countrywide local government poll is much more than a contest to capture political power in local government authorities, Samaraweera asserted: "It is an old regime’s first real attempt to recapture power and restore an old, corrupt and dictatorial order."

Samaraweera warned that electoral inroads made at the forthcoming poll could be utilized to attempt to recapture national control at future elections. The Minister admitted that the outcome of the poll would have ‘national consequences’ and undermined the yahapalana administration. "With the Rajapaksa regime and its fellow barbarians at the gates once more, Sri Lanka is at crossroads at this election," he claimed

Acknowledging the possibility of the January 8, 2015 constituency wavering, Samaraweera, one of those who had spearheaded the campaign, both here and overseas, against the Rajapaksas, in the run-up to the last presidential poll, said: "Perhaps we are not where we hoped to be by this time."

Having reminded the electorate how the then President had brazenly abused power, shot people who asked for clean drinking water and allowed his incompetent brother-in-law to ruin the national carrier et al, Samaraweera said: "On February 10th the people will have to choose once more - will we continue the march to freedom or herald a return to fear."

Samaraweera referred to white vans, grease yakas, attacks on media, killing of journalists, night races in Kandy, Thajudeen killing, though there was no reference to his earlier charge that Rajapaksas had stashed away billions of US dollars in offshore accounts. Samaraweera, some time ago, estimated the Rajapaksas’ ill-gotten stash at a staggering USD 18.5 bn. Did Samaraweera purposely omit that line against the backdrop of the UNP being accused of massive treasury bond scams involving Perpetual Treasuries (PTL), by no less a person than President Maithripala Sirisena. Had the treasury bond scams not taken place, the veteran politician wouldn’t have had to admit: "Perhaps we are not where we hoped to be by this time."

In fact, Samaraweera wouldn’t have had to admit the possibility of former President Rajapaksa making a rapid comeback, if not for the treasury bond scams, perpetrated in 2015 and 2016. Widely dubbed Sri Lanka’s biggest single financial fraud, the treasury bond scams dominated both print and electronic media, since March 2015. The reportage of the treasury bond scams certainly embarrassed the yahapalana government, both locally and internationally.

Prime Ministers of Malaysia Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak (Dec 17-19, 2017) and Singapore Lee Hsien Loong (January 22-24, 2018) and President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (January 24-25, 2018) visited Colombo amidst massive media attack on the government over the fraud, with former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal mocking the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) whether the issue of former Central Bank Governor Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran was taken up with Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong.

Samaraweera’s statement is revealing. One-time member of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet, Samaraweera obviously realized the risk of Rajapaksa making electoral gains at the Feb. 10 poll ahead of still unscheduled Provincial Council elections.

At the onset of the Eelam war IV, Samaraweera had been Rajapaksa’s Foreign Minister in his first cabinet though he was sacked in early 2007. Having strongly backed Rajapaksa at the Nov. 2005 presidential poll, much to the chargin of the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Samaraweera received the coveted foreign portfolio at the expense of Anura Bandaranaike. Samaraweera relentlessly campaigned against the Rajapaksas until the war-winning leader’s reign was brought to an end, in January 2015. Samaraweera also played a strategic role in the abortive January 2010 attempt to dislodge Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The writer, in a recent live TV 1 ‘Face the Nation’ programme, anchored by Shameer Rasooldeen, explained that the Feb. 10 poll was nothing but a referendum on the three-year-old yahapalana government, whereas election monitors, Keerthi Tennakoon (CAFFE), Asoka Abeysinghe (TISL, Sri Lanka) and Manjula Gajanayake (CMEV) argued the poll under the new electoral system was meant to pave the way for cleaner local level administration and an increase in women representation in local government bodies. The writer asserted that having avoided local government polls for over three years, the government was now facing a crucial test with President Sirisena, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Rajapaksa battling it out. Having campaigned against Rajapaksa, at two national elections, the civil society groups seemed to be blind to ground realities. Can there be anything as hilarious as expecting cleaner local government administration when no less a person than President Sirisena, who is also the leader of the SLFP, alleging existence of an unholy corrupt alliance in parliament.

Thanks to treasury bond scams, the Rajapaksa led group has been able to make significant progress. In a way, the Feb. 2015 bond scam can be described as an own goal at the onset of a soccer match. If not for the treasury bond scams, those who had been responsible for mega corrupt deals, during the previous administration, would have been in serious trouble now.

UNP strategist Samaraweera’s statement is evidence that the coming contest can inflict an irrevocable setback to an already struggling administration, ripped apart by treasury bond scams. With the Supreme Court recently ruling that the next presidential election has to be held within two years, in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the government seems to be in a deepening dilemma. Close on the heels of the unanimous Supreme Court ruling, the UNP declared that its leader, Premier Wickremesinghe, would contest the next presidential poll. The UNP’s declaration should be examined against the backdrop of the UNP fielding war-winning General Sarath Fonseka and SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena at the 2010 and 2015 presidential polls, respectively.

Samaraweera, in spite of not being Foreign Minister, must be really worried about the local government polls fallout causing serious damage to the constitution making process, which the writer believe is Samaraweera’s priority.

It would be pertinent to mention that Samaraweera, as the first Foreign Minister of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, was instrumental in co-sponsoring the Geneva Resolution 30/1 that addressed accountability issues. In spite of losing the foreign ministry portfolio, Samaraweera, obviously plays a critical role in the overall government effort to introduce a new Constitution, subjected to a referendum. In fact, a new Constitution has been prescribed by Geneva as its primary remedy to achieve post-war national reconciliation.

The ongoing local government polls campaign has been dominated by treasury bond scams, so much so it’ll certainly have a significant impact on the outcome of the Feb. 10 result. Electoral gains achieved by the JO/SLPP will certainly weaken both the UNP and the SLFP ahead of momentous efforts to secure parliamentary approval for far reaching constitutional reforms this year.

TNA’s strategy

The financial fraud is having a telling impact on the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) working overtime to achieve its PRIMARY objective, a new Constitution. TNA Chief R. Sampanthan has sought international backing for his efforts. Last week, Sampanthan, in talks with Colombo-based EU official, Paul Godfrey, underscored the need to table the draft Constitution in parliament, immediately after the Feb. 10 poll. TNA spokesperson quoted Sampanthan as having told Godfrey: "Soon after the local government elections, the process must be expedited and the draft Constitution submitted to parliament and eventually approved by the people, in a referendum. The TNA statement was issued on January 23, immediately after Sampanthan met Godfrey.

On the following day, Sampanthan told Singaporean PM Loong he expected President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe to convince the Sinhala community of the need to bring in a new Constitution, before the end of 2018. Plainly, the veteran politician has totally ignored the crisis caused by President Sirisena and the SLFP stepping up attacks on the UNP over treasury bond scams. President Sirisena stunned the UNP on Friday when he alleged an influential section of the UNP helping certain business enterprises at the expense of the government.

On Saturday, addressing a gathering at Ratnapura, President Sirisena offered to form an SLFP government immediately if the Rajapaksa-led rebel group joined him. President Sirisena inadvertently referred to the SLFP-led UPFA having 96 elected and appointed members in parliament. JO/SLPP MP Ranjith Zoysa dismissed President Sirisena’s offer contemptuously. The MP was addressing a meeting at Wellawaya, chaired by former President Rajapaksa. Zoysa, too, referred to the UPFA having 96 members. The UPFA won 95 seats at the Aug. 17, 2015 parliamentary polls with more than 50 throwing their weight behind Rajapaksa. Forming an SLFP government is certainly not realistic as the TNA and the JVP are unlikely to support such an initiative, under any circumstances. On the other hand, the JO/SLPP will not be deceived by such an offer, especially against the backdrop of President Sirisena controversial declaration, on the eve of the Aug. 17, 2015 parliamentary polls, that Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed Prime Minister in the event of a UPFA victory.

A senior journalist, representing the Tamil media, last Thursday, sought President Sirisena’s explanation as to his battle with the UNP having an impact on the constitution making process in parliament. President Sirisena side-stepped the query. The issue was raised when President Sirisena addressed the media at the President’s House. President Sirisena refrained from responding to the writer’s query whether Sampanthan told him, and Premier Wickremesinghe, of the 2018 deadline for the enactment of the new Constitution, before the matter was discussed with the Singaporean Premier Loong.

The writer used the opportunity to remind the gathering that the Geneva Resolution that had been co-sponsored by Sri Lanka was moved on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations with the military accused of massacring over 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front. The gathering was also told how Lord Naseby used confidential wartime dispatches, from the British High Commission in Colombo, to expose a despicable gigantic lie to move Geneva against Sri Lanka. Asked why his government, particularly the Foreign Ministry, turned a Nelsonian eye to the opportunity provided by the respected Britisher Lord at the expense of his own country, President Sirisena said that Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative (Ravinatha Aryasinha) had made representations on behalf of Sri Lanka in the wake of Naseby’s revelations.

As far as The Island is aware, Sri Lanka hasn’t so far officially requested members of the Geneva body to re-examine the case. Sri Lanka even refrained from referring to Naseby’s revelations at the recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in Geneva, whereas the Britisher requested the UN to examine the controversial circumstances under which Resolution 30/1 was adopted, on Oct. 1, 2015.

The President’s House gathering was reminded that Geneva called for a new Constitution on the basis of unverified allegations, propagated by interested parties.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid-Hussein called for a new Constitution. The unprecedented Resolution has paved the way for a new Constitution, in addition to implementing four specific measures meant to address accountability issues, namely (1) a judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law (2) A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence (3) An Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and finally (4) An Office for reparations.

Let me reproduce verbatim what Zeid-Hussein stated in his June 28, 2016, address in Geneva:

= Significant momentum has been achieved in the process of constitutional reform. On 10 March, 2016, Parliament adopted a resolution establishing a constitutional assembly to draft and approve a new constitution, or amendments ,by the end of 2016, which would then be put to a referendum, in 2017. The drafting process has benefited from an inclusive public consultation process, overseen by a Public Representations Committee that received submissions and held district level consultations in the first quarter of 2016.

= From a human rights perspective, the constitutional reform process presents an important opportunity to rectify structural deficiencies that contributed to human rights violations and abuses in the past and reinforce guarantees of non-recurrence. These could include a more comprehensive Bill of Rights, stronger institutional checks and balances, enhanced constitutional review, improved guarantees for the independence of the judiciary, effective individual complaints mechanisms and greater direct enforceability of international human rights treaty. Also, as demonstrated by other countries’ experience, is the strengthening of civilian oversight over the military in the form of multiple oversight and accountability mechanisms over defense policy, discipline and promotion, budgeting and procurement. The new Constitution will also be important in facilitating the establishment of the transitional justice mechanisms envisaged by the Government, for instance the criminalization of international crimes in national law or allowing for the involvement of international judicial personnel. At the same time, the High Commissioner hopes that the political process of adopting constitutional changes will not involve tradeoffs and compromises on core issues of accountability, transitional justice and human rights.

Sampanthan now insists that he wants the Geneva project finalised this year.

The TNA has so far not responded to The Island queries as regards its stance on Naseby’s revelations. Recently, a British parliamentary delegation, comprising Conservative Party members, too, declined to answer its position on the Naseby revelations. However, the next Geneva sessions, scheduled to commence in the last week of February, will take up the Sri Lanka issue. The outgoing Geneva Chief will surely reveal his stand on vis a vis Sri Lanka’s commitment to Resolution 30/1. Sri Lanka has been given two years, beginning March last year, to fully implement the Resolution. The Geneva initiative is likely to suffer further in case the Rajapaksa-led group made headway at the forthcoming local government polls. Rajapaksa will certainly capitalize on the situation and maximize its influence, ahead of the elections to nine provincial councils,, before the next presidential contest, followed by parliamentary polls.

Weerawansa’s move

against PBJ

Minister Samaraweera’s concerns, as regards the Rajapaksas making a comeback, are real though some continue to pretend the Feb. 10 poll posed no danger. The possibility of a situation that had been caused by a member or members of own party can lead to political catastrophe. Let me remind you how National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa fired the first shots at the then Rajapaksa administration, in early 2014, that eventually led to Rajapaksa’s defeat at the January 2015 presidential poll. Weerawansa flayed the then Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera over the way he managed the economy, then he openly clashed with the then ruling SLFP, leading to a split in the run-up to the Uva Provincial Council poll on Sept, 20, 2014. Although the UPFA managed to secure Uva, comprising Badulla and Moneragala districts, it recorded a significant loss of votes. Weerawansa’s party contested one of the two districts on its own. The former JVP firebrand politician’s campaign caused immense damage to the Rajapaksa administration, ahead of the January 2015 presidential poll. Today, even Weerawansa may have forgotten that he was the first ruling party politician to seek the late Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha thero’s intervention, in June 2014, to heal the Rajapaksa administration. Although he quickly distanced himself from Ven Sobitha, the UNP swiftly moved in with the JHU, too, joining the movement. Weerawansa surely kicked an own goal for petty political reasons, months before the then SLFP General Secretary was approached by the UNP, whose yahapalana dream now is in tatters due to the treasury bond scams, with both the UNP and the SLFP in power, deeply implicated.

Whatever President Sirisena says now, he cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for the second far bigger March 29, 2016 scam. The second robbery could have been averted had he acted swiftly and decisively in the aftermath of the Feb. 27, 2015 scam. Instead, he dissolved parliament, in mid 2015, to thwart the presentation of the parliamentary probe on the first scam and then called for general elections, and, on the eve of the poll, dealt a deadly blow to his own party by declaring that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed Prime Minister thereby discouraging a sizable number of supporters from exercising their franchise.

The Feb, 10 poll outcome will influence the electorate as the country heads for elections to nine provincial councils, and presidential poll, within the next two years.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Kadirgamar assassination

Decimation of Lanka’s political leadership



By Shamindra Ferdinando

"Today, terrorism has become the major impediment to development and threatens us all. No cause justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. Yet there are countries that still use it as an instrument of state policy. We must show zero tolerance for State sponsored terrorism. The perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terrorism must be isolated and face action of all societies that cherish freedom.": Indian Law and Justice and Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad declared in Colombo on January 15, 2018.

Prasad said so delivering the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture, titled the evolution of India’s Constitution and democratic polity, at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIRSS), in Colombo.

The Indian minister was here on the invitation of Mrs. Suganthi Kadirgamar who has been organizing the memorial lecture for the past 12 years.

Foreign Minister Tilak Maparana, PC, a former Attorney General, who delivered the introductory remarks, referred to Kadirgamar’s assassination. Let me reproduce the relevant paragraph verbatim: Late Sri Lankabhimanya Lakshman Kadirgamar, in whose memory this lecture is held, is an illustrious son of Sri Lanka. After an extensive practice in Civil Law, as a President’s Counsel, and a number of years service as Head of Asia Pacific Division of the World Intellectual Property Organization, Mr Kadirgamar entered politics as an appointed member of Parliament in 1994, and was appointed as the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, a portfolio that he held twice, from 1994 to 2001, and from April 2004 to August 2005, until his assassination.

On the front row, seated with Mrs Kadirgamar, was the Leader of the Opposition, Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, MP, and Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Taranjit Singh Sandhu. Singh had served as Counsellor (Political) in the High Commission of India, Colombo, from December 2000 to September 2004.

Marapana, who is also the Chairman of LKIRSS, as well as Prasad, a lawyer by profession, hadn’t at least briefly discussed the circumstances under which 73-year-old Kadirgamar was assassinated at his heavily guarded residence at Buller’s Lane, on the night of Aug. 12, 2005. Kadirgamar had just finished a swim and was getting inside his home when he was sniped. The much respected politician was killed in spite of Norway arranged Ceasefire underwritten by the US, Japan and EU in place.

A few hours before he was targeted, Kadirgamar attended a public function to launch the first journal of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, in which the then Indian High Commissioner, Nirupama Rao, participated. The journal was titled ‘International Relations in a Globalised World.’

Prasad, at the onset of his speech, offered warm personal regards to Mrs. Kadirgamar who had visited New Delhi personally to invite him to deliver the Kadirgamar memorial lecture. "I am deeply touched by her extraordinary gesture."

In spite of declaring that no cause justified the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians and there were countries that used it as an instrument of state policy, Prasad lacked the strength to make reference to the murderous Indian intervention here. Had Prasad acknowledged the despicable Indian destabilization project here, he wouldn’t have been able to demand zero tolerance for State-sponsored terrorism. The Indian minister’s declaration that perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terrorism must be isolated and face action of all societies that cherish freedom sounded silly against the backdrop of one-time Indian Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit’s (1991-1994) admission of India’s guilt in his memoirs: ‘Makers of India’s Foreign Policy’, launched in 2004.

India never apologized officially for ruining Sri Lanka, though New Delhi threw its weight behind the US-led Geneva project.

Destabilization of a neighbour

In a chapter, titled An Indo-centric Practitioner of Realpolitik in Makers of India’s Foreign Policy, Dixit, who had been New Delhi’s High Commissioner in Colombo (1985-1989) thoroughly explained how India fomented terrorism in Sri Lanka, primarily for two reasons, to counter the US, in the context of Cold War rivalry, and thwart the emergence of Tamil separatism in India as a result of New Delhi’s refusal to back, what he called, aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.

At the time Dixit launched his memoirs, he was India’s National Security Advisor (2004-2005). Dixit died, in January, 2005.

Dixit faulted the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for sponsoring terrorism in Sri Lanka. In fact, Dixit found fault with Mrs Gandhi for two foreign policy decisions, the other being tacit support for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in Dec 1979.

Perhaps Dixit, in spite of being the one who had been tasked with implementing the lethal Indian policy, leading to the forcible deployment of the Indian Army, in July 1987, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, didn’t really fancy what he had to do. The killings of veteran former TULF MPs, M. Alalasundaram and V. Dharmalingam on the morning of Sept. 3, 1985, shocked Sri Lanka. The LTTE was immediately accused of the killings though it later transpired that the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) carried out the assassinations at the behest of India.

Twelve years after the double murder, in an exclusive interview with the writer, Dharmalingham Siddarthan (Vanni district MP), the only son of Visvanather Dharmalingham, discussed the circumstances under which his father had been killed along with his parliamentary colleague, Alalasundaram (My mother prepared thosai for us; Prabhakaran was a regular visitor to our home––The Island Dec. 7, 1997). Siddarthan didn’t mince his words when he blamed India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for the assassinations. The then Vanni District MP (Democratic People’s Liberation Front) 49-year-old Dharmalingham Siddarthan claimed that Prabhakaran would have had definitely intervened on his father’s behalf if he had been aware of the RAW plot to kill him. Siddarthan said that the LTTE had the wherewithal to thwart the assassination bid if the RAW-TELO project had been brought to Prabhakaran’s notice.

At that time, TELO had been one of those terrorist groups that had been run by the RAW.

Today, Sampanthan-led Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is made up of three groups, Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), TELO and PLOTE. Siddarthan represented the PLOTE. It would be pertinent to keep in mind that at the time, the LTTE assassinated Kadirgamar, the TNA represented the LTTE’s interests in parliament. Having recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, in late 2001, the TNA comfortably won the lion’s share of electoral districts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, at the April 2004 general election with the LTTE stuffing ballot boxes to ensure their victory. The EU Election Observers having witnessed the sordid act accused the TNA of winning the majority of seats in the then temporarily merged Province with the backing of Prabhakaran. The TNA never contradicted the EU allegation. Interestingly, the Election Department, the government, or Western powers, never raised the EU allegation with the TNA.

The LTTE had been the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, at the time the group assassinated Kadirgamar, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency. Having publicly pledged its support to Prabhakaran, in late 2001, the TNA remained loyal to the LTTE until the very end. Even the evil LTTE decision to use the Vanni population, numbering over 300,000 men, women and children, as a ‘strategic human shield’ in the final phase of the Army offensive, couldn’t influence the TNA to denounce the LTTE. But, Trincomalee District MP Sampanthan, in his capacity as the Leader of the Opposition, sat in the front row of LKIRSS auditorium as top Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) member Prasad delivered the Kadirgamar memorial lecture.

Had it not been for the monstrous Indian project here, Prasad wouldn’t have been here to deliver the memorial lecture of Kadirgamar, one among perhaps as many as 40 members, and former members of parliament, assassinated and wounded by terrorist groups, formed by India.

Death warrant

The writer was privileged to receive Kadirgamar’s assessment of political and military situations on many occasions during Kumaratunga’s presidency. Although many believed, asserted and propagated, that Kadirgamar had earned Prabhakaran’s wrath for tirelessly campaigning for the banning of the LTTE, overseas, the possibility of the assassination being purely ‘politically’ motivated cannot be ruled out. Perhaps, the LTTE, and those who had been playing politics with Prabhakaran, felt seriously threatened by the likelihood of Kadirgamar securing the post of Prime Minister, under an SLFP-led government. Although, the issue had never been dealt adequately, in both the Sinhala and English media, the then General Secretary of the SLFP, Maithripala Sirisena, in March 2010, shed light on a JVP initiative to bring in Kadirgamar, an UPFA National List member, to parliament, as Prime Minister, under Kumaratunga’s presidency.

At that time, the SLFP held its regular political briefings at the Mahaweli Center and the writer was one of the few journalists to receive Maithripala Sirisena’s memoirs, titled Aththai Saththai, from him, personally, a few weeks before the April 2004 parliamentary polls. In a chapter, titled ‘Prime Minister’, Sirisena, explained the circumstances under which Kumaratunga had pushed him on the morning of April 11, 2004, to endorse Kadirgamar as the Prime Minister as proposed by the JVP in the run-up to the April 10, 2004, general election. Maithripala Sirisena reproduced a confidential letter, dated April 5, 2010, written by JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva to Kumaratunga.

Sirisena quoted Kumaratunga as having said that the SLFP couldn’t have denied the JVP request as the Marxist party wielded immense political power due to it securing almost 40 seats. The JVP had 36 elected members and three National List members though under the original plan the JVP was to receive five National List seats. The JVP contested that general election on the UPFA ticket.

Silva stressed five points, on the basis of a discussion the JVP had with Kumaratunga, on April 4, 2004: (1) We strongly believe Lakshman Kadirgamar is the most suitable person to be the Prime Minister (2) The UPFA can immensely benefit due to Kadirgamar having international recognition as well as his acceptance locally (3) Kadirgamar has earned the respect of the Sinhala Buddhist community. There is absolutely no basis for claims that Sinhala Buddhists will oppose Kadirgamar’s appointment as Prime Minister (4) We believe you’ll (Kumaratunga) realize the requirement to have a faithful Prime Minister to implement proposed constitutional changes (5) If, only a Sinhala Buddhist is acceptable as Prime Minister, we propose Anura Bandaranaike or Maithripala Sirisena for the post.

Silva warned of dire consequences unless Kumaratunga accepted the JVP’s proposal.

Sirisena revealed how Kumaratunga sent an SLAF chopper, to Polonnaruwa on the morning of the day after the April 2, 2004 general election for Maithripala to join in the discussions at the President’s House, Fort, chaired by her. Among those who had been present, when Maithripala Sirisena walked in, were Kadirgamar and the then presidential secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi. When Kumaratunga had sought Maithripala Sirisena’s opinion as to who should be the Prime Minister, the then SLFP General Secretary retorted; "The people of this country expect Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. An annoyed Kumaratunga said: "How can Mahinda be appointed when the JVP is strongly opposed to him. Maithripala Sirisena: "Madam, we should do what the people expected of us not what the JVP wanted. If, we ignored public concerns, there’ll be serious crisis in the SLFP."

After a disappointed Kadirgamar left the President’s House, Kumaratunga sent Maithripala Sirisena and Balapatabendi to speak to him again and explain the difficulty in carrying out the JVP’s directive. According to Maithripala Sirisena, the JVP had convinced Kadirgamar that he should be the Prime Minister, though Balapatabendi was strongly opposed to the move and finally Kumaratunga agreed to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Maithripala Sirisena told Kumaratunga that it was the most correct decision taken by her.

Maithripala Sirisena later also backed strongly PM Rajapaksa as their presidential candidate, much to the disappointment of Kumaratunga, though the then president wanted her brother Anura. The final decision on the presidential candidate was made in August 2005.

Had President Rajapaksa acknowledged Maitripala Sirisena’s pivotal role in thwarting the JVP-Kumaratunga plot, in 2004, as well as Sirisena’s support for him to secure endorsement as the presidential candidate, at the Nov 2005 polls, perhaps the country wouldn’t have been in current turmoil. When the writer, having perused Maithripala Sirisena’s memoirs, inquired from him, at a SLFP briefing, at Mahaweli Center, whether he felt he should be the next Prime Minister, the SLFP General Secretary smiled and said wait till the conclusion of the general election.

Thamilini on LK assassination

Nearly a decade after Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE, the country is yet to undertake a comprehensive examination of the conflict. Subramaniam Sivakamy, alias ‘Col’ Thamilini, a few years after the conclusion of the war, in May 2009, recalled how Prabhakaran boasted of Kadirgamar’s assassination at a meeting of top commanders, on the day after the killing.

The launch of ‘Thiyunu Asipathaka Sevana Yata’ (In the Shadow of a Sharp Sword) the Sinhala translation of her book ‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’ - life story of high ranking LTTE cadre, took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) on May 13, 2016.

‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’ was launched earlier on March 19, 2016, in Kilinochchi, a one-time LTTE bastion.

Thamilini’s husband, Jeyakumaran Mahadevan, British national of Sri Lankan origin, earned the wrath of an influential section of Tamil politicians, as well as Tamil Diaspora, for releasing the book. They made a desperate bid to thwart the revelations, made by Thamilini, one of those senior personnel who had access to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and top battlefield commanders, throughout the eelam war IV. The book was launched after her death from cancer.

According to Thamilini, Kadirgamar’s assassination was meant to show the LTTE prowess in infiltrating the best guarded targets, as a warning to Colombo.

Kadirgamar, on behalf of Kumaratunga, had been engaged in secret negotiations with the LTTE, since 1999, with the knowledge and support of Norway. In addition to Kadirgamar, Prof. G.L. Peiris, too, had been engaged in secret talks, according to the Norwegians. In spite of talks, the LTTE assassinated TULF lawmaker, Neelan Tiruchelvam, in July 1999, and almost succeed in eliminating Kumaratunga, at the final presidential polls campaign rally, in Colombo, in Dec 1999. An angry Kumaratunga revealed how the LTTE made an attempt to eliminate her amidst Norwegian facilitated talks. Interestingly, at the time of Kadirgamar’s assassination, Norway oversaw Sri Lanka’s peace process.

Had the LTTE succeeded, UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe would have comfortably won the 1999 presidential poll. Kumaratunga won a second term, amidst a massive battlefield defeat on the Vanni front. In April 2000 Sri Lanka suffered its worst battlefield defeat when the LTTE captured Elephant Pass. The LTTE held Elephant Pass till early January 2009.

At the previous presidential poll, the LTTE paved the way for Kumaratunga’s victory by eliminating UNP candidate Gamini Dissanayake in Oct 1994.

The LTTE ensured Kumaratunga’s victory, at the 1994 presidential election, and then unleashed war in April 1995.

At the Nov. 2005 presidential poll, the LTTE/TNA engineered UNP leader Wickremesinghe’s defeat by ordering northern Tamils not to exercise their franchise. Following the LTTE’s eradication, the TNA, voted for war-winning Army Chief the then General Sarath Fonseka and the former SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena, at the 2010 and 2015 presidential polls, respectively, with the second US managed project succeeding to pave the way for a change of administration, resulting in the LTTE proxy, the TNA, named the main Opposition in parliament and its leader invited for the Kadirgamar memorial lecture.

Sri Lanka’s decision to do away with the annual Victory Day parade in 2015 should be studied and examined in the context of efforts to gradually erase the memory of a war, caused by a neighbour, while the victor is being hauled up in Geneva.

Let me reproduce what former Ambassador and one-time head of Peace Secretariat, Jayantha Dhanapala, told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in late 2010: "Now I think it is important for us to expand that concept to bring in the culpability of those members of the international community who have subscribed to the situation that has caused injury to the civilians of a nation. I talk about the way in which terrorist groups are given sanctuary; are harboured; are supplied with arms and training by some countries with regard to their neighbours or with regard to other countries. We know that in our case this happened, and I don’t want to name countries, but even countries who have allowed their financial procedures and systems to be abused in such a way that money can flow from their countries in order to buy the arms and ammunition that cause the deaths, the maiming and the destruction of property in Sri Lanka are to blame and there is therefore a responsibility to protect our civilians and the civilians of other nation States from that kind of behavior on the part of members of the international community, and I think this is something that will echo with many countries in the Non Aligned Movement where Sri Lanka has a very respected position and where I hope we will be able to raise this issue."

Indian Law and Justice and Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad comment on international terrorism seems frivolous when taken with Dhanapala’s assertion. Dhanapala was the Peace Secretariat head at the time the LTTE eliminated Kadirgamar during Norway facilitated talks. The National Peace Council, the major recipient of Norwegian funding, declared immediately after Kadirgamar’s assassination that it was tragic but inevitable.

Mangala Samarawweera, who held the Foreign Ministry portfolio in January 2017, (now he serves as Finance and Media Minister) referred to Kadirgamar, at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, on January 11, 2017, though he refrained from commenting on the circumstances under which Kadirgamar died. Samaraweera said: "Several of my predecessors, too, have spoken here at Chatham House. This includes the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, who spoke at length here, in 1998, about the danger faced by our nation at the time, and democratic societies everywhere, from terrorism."

Thanks to Wikileaks, the world is aware how Norway had talks, in London, with top LTTE representative, Anton Balasingham, to explore ways and means of tackling the fallout of Kadirgamar’s assassination.

Even after Kadirgamar’s assassination, Western powers refused to acknowledge that there couldn’t be a peaceful end to the conflict as long as the LTTE retained conventional military capability. Let me reproduce verbatim statements issued by key players in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination to prove their determination to continue with the Norway-led process whatever the consequences. They never had Sri Lanka’s interests in mind.

The then US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, on behalf of peace Co-Chair said: "We must honour Kadirgamar’s memory by re-dedicating ourselves to peace and ensuring the CFA remains in force."

The then European Union Commissioner, Ferrero-Waldner said on behalf of peace Co-Chair EU: "We must all honour the passing of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar by continuing his work for peace and maintaining the CFA."

Peace Co-Chair Japan issued the following statement, through its Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura: "I strongly hope for calm response by all parties at this moment so that the move towards the peace process will not be hindered."

In the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination, peace facilitator and Co-Chair Norway declared: "… It is now of great importance that both parties to the conflict do their utmost to fully fulfill their obligations according to the CFA."

What a pity, we as a nation had conveniently forgotten the past.