Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A far reaching SLFP-UNP pact Mahinda, Ranil finalized first such pact on Oct 23, 2006




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having thwarted former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s prime ministerial aspirations, President Maithripala Sirisena moved swiftly, and decisively, to consolidate his position, in the SLFP, at the expense of the UPFA.

Within 72 hours after the announcement of the final result, of the Aug. 17 parliamentary polls, President Maithripala Sirisena regained control of the party. Having denied National List slots to those who had been supportive of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to secure premiership, President Maithripala Sirisena issued a dire warning to the UPFA parliamentary group. Fall in line or face the consequences, was the unmistakable message, though some may choose to ignore the presidential warning.

In accordance with his overall strategy, President Maithripala Sirisena finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ruling UNP, last Friday (Aug. 21). UPFA constituents were even deprived of an opportunity to discuss the impending pact. It was meant to protect the UNP - led United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) for a period of two years There is provision for the two parties to extend the pact, which basically dealt with nine major issues.

President Maithripala Sirisena called the top UNP leadership Friday night to his official residence at, Paget road, Colombo 5, to discuss the formation of the government.

Having failed to secure a simple majority in parliament, at the Aug. 17 general election, the UNP needed President Maithripala Sirisena’s support to achieve a simple majority in parliament. President Maithripala Sirisena is now in a position to help the UNP secure even a two-thirds majority in parliament. The UNP obtained 106 including 13 National List slots, whereas the SLFP-led UPFA obtained 95 seats. The UPFA tally included 12 National List slots. President Maithripala Sirisena accommodated several of his defeated loyalists on the National List to strengthen his position.

SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake, and UNP General Secretary, Kabir Hashim, finalised the agreement soon after Ranil Wickremesinghe took oaths, on Friday morning as Prime Minister, before President Maithripala Sirisena. Twice President Rajapaksa had been among those present on the occasion. The SLFP-UNP agreement was the second of its kind, though both parties refrained from making reference to the first MoU. It would be pertinent to examine the first ever formal political pact, between the SLFP and the UNP, finalised at the onset of the Eelam War IV.

Those who had accused President Maithripala Sirisena of entering into a marriage of convenience, with Premier Wickremesinghe, without obtaining a mandate from the electorate, never compared Friday’s MoU with that of President Rajapaksa’s signed on the morning of Oct 23, 2006.

The Oct 23, 2006, agreement had the backing of the Co-Chairs, to Sri Lanka’s peace process, namely the US, EU, Japan, and peace-facilitator, Norway. Rajapaksa finalised the agreement with Wickremesinghe, in spite of strong opposition from the JHU. The JVP, too, opposed the pact as it felt such a development could undermine its position within the ruling outfit. Western powers felt that the SLFP-UNP agreement could facilitate the Norwegian-led peace initiative, even though the LTTE quit the negotiating table, in April, 2003.

UNP Chairman, Malik Samarawickrema, and the then SLFP Gen. Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena, signed the Oct 23, 2006, agreement on behalf of the UNP and the SLFP, respectively. The event took place at Temple Trees, under the auspices of President Rajapaksa and the then Opposition Leader, Wickremesinghe.

The second pact, between the SLFP and the UNP, came into being nine years later. Although Malik Samarawickrema had been present at the finalization of the second agreement, it was inked by UNP General Secretary, Kabir Hashim, and acting SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake.

In his memoirs, launched in the run-up to April, 2010, general election, Maithripala Sirisena recalled the circumstances under which the SLFP and the UNP entered into an agreement, in 2006. Maithripala Sirisena had been in China, on an official visit, when Rajapaksa summoned him to Colombo to finalize an agreement with the UNP. The two parties finalized the agreement, following several rounds of talks between high level delegations. The SLFP delegation comprised Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premjayantha and Dr. Sarath Amunugama. The UNP delegation included Malik Samarawickrema, Tissa Attanayake, Rukman Senanayake and Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The short-lived Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe pact, of Oct, 2006, had been essentially based on an abortive agreement between the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe. It could have lasted much longer if not for some UNPers boasting of forming a government of its own by the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, in 2007.

Incidentally, Kumaratunga skipped Friday’s signing of Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe agreement due to Rajapaksa’s participation. The Oct., 2006, and Aug, 2015, agreements primarily differed on one reason. The SLFP-led coalition had been in power, when Rajapaksa entered into the agreement with the Opposition, the UNP whereas, the second agreement was between the UNP and a President elected with its support. The other major difference is the environment in which Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe entered into an agreement, in Oct, 2006. The LTTE had been preparing for the final onslaught at that time, though the LTTE is no longer an issue, thanks to the resolute leadership given by Rajapaksa (Aug 2006-May 2009).

Kumaratunga initiated a move to reach a consensus with Wickremesinghe, soon after she took over three key portfolios, namely defence, interior and media, and prorogued parliament, on Nov 4, 2003. The Kumaratunga initiative was generally referred as the Mano-Malik talks as they spearheaded negotiations, on behalf of the two major parties.

The Mano-Malik plan envisaged a government of national reconciliation and reconstruction. After giving the go ahead for the finalization of the blueprint, Kumaratunga dissolved parliament, on Feb 7, 2004. She was acting under pressure from the JVP, pursuing an agenda of its own. The JVP project was meant to tighten its grip on the SLFP. The then SLFP heavyweight, Mangala Samaraweera, and the late Anura Bandaranaike, too, brought immense pressure on Kumaratunga to dissolve parliament. Ultimately, Kumaratunga gave in to their demand, though she believed Wickremesinghe should be allowed to continue, till January, 2005.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe, though they had reservations regarding certain matters, acted swiftly to consolidate UNP’s victory at the Aug. 17 general election. The UPFA’s defeat, as well as the UNP’s failure to achieve a simple majority, facilitated President Maithripala Sirisena’s strategy meant to protect the January 8 revolution. Had the UNP-led United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) achieved a simple majority at the Aug. 17 polls, President Maithripala Sirisena would have been placed in an extremely difficult situation. Such a scenario would have prompted the UNP to engineer crossovers from the SLFP.

In accordance with the agreement between President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe, the UNP and the SLFP agreed on a moratorium on crossovers. Although the Mano-Malik agreement envisaged a moratorium on crossovers, Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe dropped that particular clause when they finalised the Oct 23, 2006, agreement.

In the wake of the Oct, 2006 MoU, Wickremesinghe wanted to support the government, while being in the Opposition. However, many UNP members felt that they should accept cabinet portfolios. Within months, the SLFP and UNP quit the agreement, making way for Rajapaksa to engineer crossover of nearly 20 UNPers. The largest single crossover of elected members from one party to another took place in January, 2007.

At the April 2, 2004, general election, the UPFA secured 105 seats, including 13 National List slots. The UNP had 82 seats, including 11 National List slots. The Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (22), JHU (9), SLMC (5), Upcountry People’s Front (1) and EPDP (1) shared the remaining seats. Rajapaksa had no option but either to sustain his MoU with the UNP, or engineer large scale defections in the wake of the JVP sabotage his administration. The JVP could have easily, under Rajapaksa, as its parliamentary team comprised 39 members, including three National List members. As the UPFA’s 105 member parliamentary group included the JVPers, Rajapaksa couldn’t afford to antagonize the Marxist group. The JVP group, in parliament, was led by Wimal Weerawansa.

In his memoirs, the then SLFP General Secretary recalled a secret JVP operation to deprive Mahinda Rajapaksa of premiership. The JVP operation was meant to appoint Lakshman Kadirgamar as the Prime Minister, at Mahinda Rajapaksa’s expense. On behalf of the JVP, its General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, in a letter, dated April 5, 2004, stated that in case Kadirgamar couldn’t be named the Prime Minister because of him not being a Sinhala Buddhist, the SLFP should choose either Anura Bandaranaike or Maithripala Sirisena. There hadn’t been a previous instance of such an unfair demand being made of a political party regarding the appointment of a Prime Minister. Maithripala Sirisena had politely told Kumaratunga that there was no better person than Mahinda Rajapaksa to be the new Prime Minister, hence he was sworn in on April 12, 2004. To Kumaratunga’s credit, she accepted Maithripala Sirisena’s position when told of ground realities.

The JVP project went awry due to Maithripala Sirisena’s objections.

Had Maithripala Sirisena failed in his bid, Mahinda wouldn’t have had the opportunity to give leadership to Sri Lanka’s successive war against terrorism, two years later. Under his resolute The JVP operation was not only meant to deprive Mahinda Rajapaksa of premiership but deny him being the UPFA’s presidential candidate the following year.

At the height of the war, in May, 2008, Rajapaksa engineered crossover of a ten-member group of JVPers, including Weerawansa. Weerawansa had the backing of Nandana Gunatilleke, one-time JVP presidential candidate. Incidentally, Gunatilleke suffered a humiliating defeat at the recently concluded Aug 17 parliamentary polls. Gunatilleke contested on the UNP ticket after having switched allegiance to Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena in the run-up to the last presidential poll.

At the recently concluded poll, the JVP expected to achieve much better results than at the last general election, in April, 2010. The JVP managed to secure just four seats at the last election. That, too, was obtained on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket in the wake of the January 2010 presidential polls. Unsuccessful presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka gave leadership to the DNA.

The JVP seriously believed that it could do much better. Even the writer felt that securing 10 to 12 seats, at the Aug. 17 polls, wasn’t beyond the JVP’s means. But the JVP ended up with just six seats, including two National List slots. The Aug. 17 result crushed new JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s dream of becoming a third political force in the country. The bottom line is that the JVP would never be able to do better than at the April 2, 2004, election when it secured 39 seats, including three National List slots. Their agreement, leading to the April 2, 2004, election, was reached, in January, 2004. The SLFP-JVP agreement had been built on previous PA-JVP parivasa project a few years before. The agreement had been reached in the wake of a group of the then PA members, including SLFP General Secretary, S.B.Dissanayake, Prof. G. L. Peiris et al. Parivasa government lasted for just couple of months. A UNP bid to impeach Kumaratunga, on charges of abuse of power, violation of the Constitution, as well as acting in contravention to financial regulations, went awry due to the Parivasa agreement, finalised on Sept.5, 2001. The UNP couldn’t go ahead with the project without the support of the JVP’s 10-member parliamentary group. The short-lived Parivasa pact paved the way for general election, in Dec, 2001. But the PA-JVP combination couldn’t prevent its defeat in the hands of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Parivasa agreement, and the January, 2004, electoral pact, with the SLFP, could be easily described as key JVP achievements. There couldn’t be any dispute over that. But the party couldn’t sustain progress. The JVP suffered a humiliating defeat when the size of its parliamentary group dropped from 39, in April, 2004, to just four, in April, 2010. The JVP suffered another setback when one of the four members, switched his allegiance to hardliner Kumar Gunaratnam. Gunaratnam made his move public in April 2012. The formation of the Front Line Socialist Party (FSP), further dented the JVP. The FSP suffered humiliation when it transpired Gunaratnam had obtained Australian citizenship. Both Gunaratnam and Australian High Commission here acknowledged that the JVPer carried an Australian passport, bearing the name Noel Mudalige. The FSP never explain its leader having to obtain an Australian passport and change his ethnicity. Although the FSP contested the Aug. 17 polls, it couldn’t even poll 100,000 votes countrywide.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake succeeded JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe in early February 2014. At the time of the leadership change, the JVP parliamentary group comprised just three members, namely Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath and Sunil Handunetti.

In April, 2015, Somawansa Amarasinghe quit the party. Although, he formed his own political outfit, he couldn’t make progress. Amarasinghe outfit is likely to suffer a natural death. No major political party is likely to find Somawansa Amarasinghe useful. The JVP’s fate, too, is likely to be the same in the event of President Maithripala Sirisena ensuring the implementation of the second SLFP-UNP agreement.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

A debilitating post Jan. prez-poll defeat




by Shamindra Ferdinando

The UNP-led United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) emerged victorious at Monday’s general election.

The UNFGG received a tremendous boost through President Maithripala Sirisena’s merciless assault on his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who earned the former SLFP General Secretary’s wrath for seeking premiership in the next government. Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called for a continuation of the status quo, whereas the Rajapaksa’s Camp wanted an administration of its own.

Those who had spearheaded Rajapaksa’s campaign wrongly believed that the former President’s return to parliament, as the next Prime Minister, could be guaranteed, primary on the alleged Central Bank bond scam. The UPFA campaign had been largely based on the unprecedented Central Bank scam. The UPFA also propagated the return of the LTTE in case the UNP regained power.

President Maithripala Sirisena caused irreparable damage to Rajapaksa’s campaign by leaking a damaging letter meant to bring the former President into disrepute. The combined propaganda blitz, undertaken by the UNP, President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga undermined the UPFA strategy. Had President Maithripala remained really neutral, the outcome could have been either different or extremely narrow.

However, the UPFA’s defeat will facilitate President Maithripala Sirisena’s strategy to rein in the party.

The UPFA missed an opportunity to regain power, just eight months after losing both the presidential poll and the government due to former President ill-advised decision to call for early presidential poll. None of those who vociferously campaigned to bring him back to parliament, dared to discourage him from taking a foolish decision.

Throughout the parliamentary polls campaign the caretaker government worked overtime to deprive twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa of credit for Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism.

The UNP - led campaign was meant to tarnish UPFA prime ministerial candidate Rajapaksa’s image. The government accused Rajapaksa of dealing secretly with the then LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, over a period of time and securing his support to win the Nov. 17 2005, presidential election.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe alleged that Rajapaksa deprived him of victory at the Nov. 17 2005 presidential poll by bribing the LTTE. The allegation was repeated by Power and Energy Minister, Patali Champika Ranawaka, and Health Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, on several occasions, during the campaign. Ranawaka lambasted Rajapaksa over what he called the Mahinda-Prabhakaran deal. The issue dominated the campaign. The government also targeted Rajapaksa over waste, corruption and irregularities in the public sector, alleged killing of national rugger player and Havelock SC captain, Wasim Thajudeen, as well as foreign policy issues.

The JVP, too, repeated the allegations, much to the delight of the UNP.

It would be pertinent to mention that Ranawaka (JHU), as well as the JVP, had been solidly with Rajapaksa, during the 2005 campaign.

The UNP and the JVP warned that Rajapaksa faced the prospect of losing his civic rights if he was found guilty of bribing the LTTE. The government alleged that Rajapaksa made available funds to the tune of Rs. 800 mn, through Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), established in the wake of the tsunami. The matter is now under investigation. Among those implicated, in the probe, on the RADA, is UPFA National List nominee, Tiran Alles, formerly National List MP of General Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance (DNA). There cannot be any dispute over punitive legal action, in case of transferring funds to the LTTE, or misappropriation of funds.

Addressing the UNP’s final media conference, at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI), late last week, Minister Senaratne declared that Rajapaksa made multiple payments to the LTTE, until a suicide cadre targeted the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Those who had been opposed to Rajapaksa’s return to parliament couldn’t convince the electorate of the former President’s treachery. Rajapaksa kept the offensive on track for nearly three years, until war-winning Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka’s troops finished off the LTTE leadership, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, in May 2009. Rajapaksa resisted the combined pressure of Western powers, and India, meant to throw a lifeline to the LTTE.

Rajapaksa’s triumph over the LTTE paved the way for ex-LTTE cadres to field two groups of independent candidates, in the Vanni and Jaffna electoral districts, at the recently concluded polls. They went ahead on their own after the TNA declined an electoral pact with them. The ex-LTTEers declined an invitation from TULF great, V. Anandasangaree, to contest on the TULF ticket. Rajapaksa’s victory obviously freed the fighting cadre of the LTTE, as well as the TNA. Unfortunately, some of those who had been saved from the LTTE were reluctant to acknowledge Rajapaksa’s fearless leadership during the war. Instead of thanking the former President for facilitating the TNA take over of the Northern Provincial Council, at the September, 2011 polls, the four-party alliance wanted Rajapaksa hauled up before an international war crimes tribunal.

The bottom line is that the then US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Ms. Patricia Butenis, wouldn’t have called the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil as well as Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka war criminals if Rajapaksa called off the offensive. Thanks to whistle blowing website, Wikileaks, a confidential diplomatic cable, sent from Colombo to Washington, is in the public domain. Had Rajapaksa given in, the Sampanthans would have been still taking orders from Prabhakaran.

Unfortunately, the UPFA pathetically failed to counter the UNP - led project, to tarnish Rajapaksa’s image, on the basis of alleged payments made to the LTTE. Those who had accused Rajapaksa of giving money to the LTTE never alleged Prabhakaran accepted the money. In fact, the writer raised the issue with TNA politician, R. Sampanthan, at a media conference in the run up to the January presidential poll. The veteran politician side-stepped the issue. Sampanthan couldn’t explain Prabhakaran being bribed to give up his struggle. In fact, none of those who had been accusing Rajapaksa of treachery were strangely silent on Prabhakaran accepting money.

* Did Prabhakaran prevent the Tamil - speaking people from exercising their franchise at the Nov. 2005 presidential poll after receiving money from the Rajapaksas?

* Did Prabhakaran inform the TNA of his arrangement with Rajapaksa?

* Why did the TNA, on behalf of the LTTE, order the Tamil - speaking people not to exercise their franchise?

After having consultations with the LTTE, in Kilinochchi, during the second week of November, 2005, the TNA announced the boycott. Veteran politician and Nuwara Eliya District UNP candidate, R. Yogarajan, and CWC leader, Arumugam Thondaman, can shed light on the last minute bid, by the UNP, to persuade the LTTE and the TNA not to deprive Wickremesinghe of a sure victory.

The LTTE/TNA combine was so confident of its strategy, the TNA made a public statement regarding the polls boycott order. The Tamilnet released pictures of TNA leaders meeting with senior LTTE representatives, in Kilinochshi, prior to the controversial statement. Had there been a secret deal between Rajapaksa and Prabhakaran, Prabhakaran would never have made his directive public, through the TNA. Instead, he would have ensured the boycott message reached the entire electorate without him being implicated.

After the conclusion of the war, in May, 2009, the Norwegian government, too, inquired into the LTTE action to engineer Wickremesinghe’s defeat, though Oslo was silent on the TNA’s complicity in the project. No less a person than John Cushnahan, head of the EU polls monitoring mission, following the April, 2004, general election, declared that the TNA had benefited from the violence unleashed by the LTTE. The TNA never responded to the EU’s allegation.

The new government should conduct a thorough investigation to establish whether Prabhakaran had received money from Rajapaksa, as well as the TNA’s complicity in Prabhakaran’s project. Although, allegations against Rajapaksa had never been proved so far, the LTTE receiving arms, ammunition, as well as funds, from the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, as well as tax concessions, from the UNP-led UNF government was a fact.

One-time EPDP MP, Dr. K. Vigneswaran, in August last year, discussed the LTTE project to facilitate Rajapaksa’s victory at the Nov, 2005 presidential poll.

Dr. K. Vigneswaran alleged that Prabhakaran had facilitated the then Premier, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory as he believed the new president would create a situation conducive for him to speedily achieve Eelam.

One-time Chief Secretary of the Indian - backed EPRLF administration, in the then temporarily merged North-Eastern Province, Dr. Vigneswaran asserted that the LTTE had probably felt it could take advantage of a crisis caused by the new president.

Dr. Vigneswaran was addressing a colloquium on ‘3rd Narrative’ Issues of Truth and Accountability (The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka) at the BMICH.

Dr. Vigneswaran opined that it was a major blunder on the part of the LTTE leadership.

Dr. Vigneswaran is the chairman of the Akhila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha (AITM), formerly the Akhila Ilankai Tamil United Front, which secured recognition by the Election Secretariat, in February, 2006. The Election Secretariat also recognized the revised name on September 13, 2013.

The then UNP Chairman, Malik Samarawickrema, told The Island that the LTTE-TNA move deprived UNP presidential candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, of approximately 450,000 votes, hence missing an opportunity to become the president.

The panel included Dr. Godfrey Gunatileke (one of the authors of ‘3rd Narrative), UPFA National List MP, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Dr. K. Vigneswaran, Sri Lanka’s one-time top diplomat in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke, Chandra Jayaratne and Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe. Dr. Jayatilleke’s successor in Geneva, Ms. Tamara Kunanayakam, didn’t turn up, though she was scheduled to address the gathering. The other panelists didn’t challenge Dr. Vigneswaran’s assertion.

Dr. Rupesinghe confided in the writer how he, on behalf of Rajapaksa, met a senior LTTE leader in the Vanni, in late 2006, to explore ways and means of securing an agreement with Prabhakaran. The LTTE rejected the offer, claiming that it had the wherewithal to defeat the military. Rupesinghe earned the wrath of his sponsors, particularly the Norwegians, for representing Rajapaksa. Norway swiftly cut him off from the list of privileged recipients of funds. Subsequently, Norway announced Dr. Rupesinghe received $ 6 mn during a three-year period for promoting peace.

Those who had been alleging a secret deal, between Rajapaksa and Prabhakaran, had conveniently forgotten that the LTTE resumed claymore mine attacks, within three weeks after the new President’s swearing in. In January, 2006, the LTTE blew up an SLN Fast Attack Craft (FAC), off Trincomalee.

Had there been a clandestine pact, between the LTTE and Rajapaksa, Prabhakaran would never have launched Eelam war IV, in August, 2006. In fact, the LTTE acted arrogantly believing it had the wherewithal to overwhelm the military. The LTTE delegations looked down on Rajapaksa’s representatives when they met in Geneva, under Norwegian auspices, twice, during 2006. The LTTE never wanted a negotiated settlement. Had Prabhakaran seriously believed in a negotiated settlement, he wouldn’t have quit the negotiating table, in April, 2003, at the expense of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who went out of his way to secure an agreement. Wickremesinghe, in fact, took a political risk no other Sri Lankan leader was prepared to take. The UNPer finalized the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), in February, 2002, though it was essentially a Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga-Norway project. Prabhakaran had to pay a very heavy price for engineering the downfall of the UNP-led UNP government. TNA constituents remained silent as the LTTE pursued a destructive policy. They remained mum, believing the LTTE was on the right track.

The assassination of the then Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, in August, 2005, and an attempt on the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s life, in April, 2006, reflected the LTTE’s thinking. The TNA silently endorsed the LTTE strategy. The LTTE and its followers believed in removing those who stood in its way.

Interestingly, at the January, 2010, presidential poll, those who had been opposed to Rajapaksa credited the then common candidate Lt. Gen. Fonseka with the war victory. The UNP-led grouping had the backing of the TNA, though it blamed Fonseka’s army of committing mass scale murder during the Vanni offensive. But the UNP and its allies never wanted to discuss Sri Lanka’s triumph at the just concluded parliamentary polls due to Fonseka going it alone. Fonseka’s recently formed Democratic Party experienced a heavy defeat.

In the run-up to the polls, President Maithripala Sirisena caused massive turmoil in the SLFP-led UPFA by strongly condemning Rajapaksa’s candidature, much to the disappointment of a vast majority of supporters. Stripping SLFP General Secretary, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, and UPFA General Secretary, Susil Premjayantha, of powers, sent shock waves through the party. President Maithripala Sirisena’s bid to seize control of the party, in an obvious bid to pave the way for a national government, as envisaged in the 19 Amendment to the Constitution, angered die hard supporters. However, President Maithripala Sirisena’s well written letter, to his predecessor, Rajapaksa, highlighted the latter’s failures as well as weaknesses. Nothing could be further from the truth than Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Thero’s claim that the particular letter had been prepared at Sirikotha and President Maithripala Sirisena only placed his signature. Had Rajapaksa bothered to read Maithripala Sirisena’s memoirs, launched in early, 2010, he would realize how his failure to appreciate Maihripala Sirisena’s crucial support to him, during Mrs. Kumaratunga’s presidency, led to an unfortunate situation. Maithripala Sirisena thwarted the JVP project to deprive Rajapaksa of the premiership, following the April, 2004, parliamentary polls. Maithripala Sirisena also stood by Rajapaksa when Kumaratunga sought to deny him presidential nominations for the Nov. 2005, presidential polls. Both Mrs Kumaratunga and her brother, Anura, backed Wickremesinghe at that poll. Obviously, they didn’t know of the LTTE strategy to help Rajapaksa win and then deliver a knock out blow on the northern battlefields.

Rajapaksa paid a very heavy price for his lapse.

In fact, Maithripala Sirisena’s controversial letter set the record straight.

The war - winning President could have avoided heartache had he listened to veteran Communist Party leader Dew Gunasekera’s advice, last October. Gunasekera and his colleagues, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Tissa Vitharana, made a strong effort to discourage Rajapaksa from calling early presidential polls. Gunasekera went to the extent of going public on this matter.

The rest is history.

General Election 2015: Unitary status, re-merger of EP with NP and other critical matters

Issues beyond depriving tainted candidates from entering parliament




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former SLN radioman, Wijitha Rohana Wijemuni is in the fray in the Colombo District at the August 17 parliamentary polls, on the Janasetha Peramuna ticket. Wijemuni contested the Oct. 2000 general election on the Sihala Urumaya ticket. Wijemuni, who had been punished by a military court for swinging his rifle at the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in July, 1987, polled the third highest number of preferences received by the Sihala Urumaya in Colombo. Champika Ranawaka topped the Sihala Urumaya list in Colombo. Unfortunately, the Sihala Urumaya split over the appointment of a sole National List nominee to parliament. Sihala Urumaya President and leading lawyer, S.L. Gunasekera quit the party over him being deprived of the National List slot in favour of Tilak Karunaratne, the General Secretary of the Party.

Fifteen years later, Wijemuni is seeking political recognition, primarily on the basis of his unprecedented attack on Gandhi. Wijemuni placed advertisements in national newspapers reminding the electorate of the incident at the President’s House. Champika Ranawaka is in the fray in Colombo on the UNP ticket.

Wijemuni told this writer that he couldn’t bear the reluctance of the major parties to represent the interests of the majority community for fear of losing the minority support. The armed forces’ triumph over the separatist terrorist movement shouldn’t be squandered for petty political gain. The Janasetha Peramuna may not even secure enough votes, at least to obtain a solitary National List slot, like the Sihala Urumaya, but Wijemuni’s concerns couldn’t be ignored. Wijemuni asserted that the forthcoming poll had been depicted as a contest between good and evil meant to choose worthy candidates for the next parliament.

With the parliamentary election less than a week away, it would be pertinent to discuss issues relating to the August 17 polls.

* Unitary status of Sri Lanka’s Constitution should be protected. Unitary status shouldn’t be compromised, under any circumstances, while ensuring maximum possible devolution to the provinces. The proposed brand new Constitution should retain the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution introduced by the then JRJ government.

* National security, particularly the deployment of armed forces in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to meet any eventuality. Positioning of troops and assets shouldn’t be influenced by political considerations or external factors.

* Foreign policy. Sri Lanka shouldn’t forget those countries which steadfastly supported her war on terrorism as well as at various international form, particularly the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Any bid to enhance relations with Western powers, India, Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE rump shouldn’t be at the expense of those who had backed the successful military campaign.

* Consolidating post-war national economy should be high on the priority list of the next government. In spite of the conclusion of the war, in May 2009, the country is still struggling on the economic front, with both the SLFP and the UNP - led coalitions making a plethora of untenable promises meant to deceive the electorate.

* Swift implementation of far reaching reforms, recommended by the W.D. Lakshman Tax Commission, to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in 2010. The former President couldn’t absolve himself of his unpardonable failure to implement the Tax Commission’s recommendations. Those who had been around him never bothered to push him to implement proposals. Had the former SLFP leader, who also held the finance portfolio, adopted Prof. Lakshman’s recommendations, he could have transformed the country before seeking a third presidential term. The bottom line is that the national economy would have been in a much better shape if Prof. Lakshman’s proposals received approval. At a recent forum, held to discuss manifestos of the UPFA and the UNP, Brigadier Ranjan de Silva warned that Sri Lanka could end up like Greece unless stringent financial policy was adopted.

* Previous government lacked the foresight to meet counter malicious propaganda campaign paving the way for an external investigation into accountability issues on the basis of the US - moved resolution, at the March, 2014, sessions of the UNHRC. The victor, at the August 17 poll, will face the daunting task of responding to a report prepared by a team, headed by Ms Sandra Beidas, under the auspices of three international experts, namely former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, Silvia Cartwright, and former President of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, Asma Jahangir. The previous government hired costly foreign PR firms to improve Sri Lanka’s image, instead of countering false propaganda. The previous government didn’t even realize that the case against the country had been based on claims made by some 2,300 persons whose statements cannot be verified, until 2031.

* The next government should also examine the post-war role of the LTTE. With a group of ex-LTTE cadres joining the fray, the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) status is in question. They call themselves Crusaders for Democracy. The former LTTE personnel submitted nomination lists as independent groups for the Jaffna and Vanni electoral districts. ‘Puli Muga Silanthi’, a poisonous spider, is their election symbol. The Tamil electorate face difficult task in choosing those who had really fought for the LTTE, at the risk of their lives, and Prabhakaran’s long time proxies. Those who had appreciated the LTTE’s struggle, I’m sure, are flabbergasted by the TNA’s refusal to accommodate ex-LTTE cadres, and major Tamil Diaspora groups remaining silent on this issue. The LTTE outfit can cause debilitating damage to the TNA’s project. In case, the LTTE group made inroads into the TNA vote bank, at the forthcoming election, it can make the ground situation difficult for the TNA. Way back, in Dec. 1989, Prabhakaran registered the People’s Front of Liberation Tigers (PFLT) as a political party with the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s blessings though it never had an opportunity to contest an election, due to the LTTE resuming hostilities, in June, 1990.

With the entry of Crusaders for Democracy into the political mainstream the Tamil speaking voters will have an opportunity to exercise their franchise for those who fought for a separate homeland. The fate of the LTTE group can be interpreted in many ways. The formation of Crusaders for Democracy is a significant victory for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The eradication of the LTTE’s conventional military capability, in May, 2009, led to the establishment of the first Northern Provincial Council, in September, 2013. Less than two years later, ex-LTTEers, including a member of the elite bodyguard of Prabhakaran, are in the fray.

* India’s proposal for a road link, between South India and northern Sri Lanka, is another contentious issue. In fact, the India-Sri Lanka road link, some believe, is even worse than the proposed CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement). Major political parties should explain their position on both CEPA and the road link ahead of the election. Union Minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, in June, this year, revealed India exploring the possibility of establishing a road link. The announcement was made in the wake of the inauguration of the Agartala-Dhaka bus service, and signing of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal motor vehicle agreement

The road connectivity, built across Palk Strait, could possibly be a combination of a sea-bridge and underwater tunnel. The underwater tunnel will also allow movement of ships through it.

Gadkari is on record as having said that the project would cost Rs 23,000 crore and that a proposal has already been submitted to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to conduct a pre-feasibility study.

Gadkari’s comments were subsequently confirmed by the Union Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Pon Radhakrishna.

Interestingly, New Delhi is opposed to CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), a mega $ 46 bn project.

* Sri Lanka will have to decide on its policy, vis a vis China. The caretaker government recently launched a major Chinese - funded Colombo-Kandy highway project, though the $1.4 bn Colombo Port City project remains on hold. The government, as well as the main Opposition, remain silent over former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s explosive revelation that India demanded an end to the Port City Project, claiming it undermined India’s security interests.

The former Defence Secretary told a seminar, organized in support of the UPFA parliamentary polls campaign, at the National Library, that the request to stop the project was made to him personally by India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.

"His primary request was to stop the Colombo Port City project. The reason he gave was that the Port City was a threat to the security of India. I don’t know if the present government is facing such demands," the war veteran said.

"I assured the Indian National Security Advisor that the project posed no threat to India."

The mega project was halted immediately after Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the January presidential poll.

The flagship Chinese project is in limbo.

* The TNA call for re-merger of the Eastern Province with the Northern Province is a matter of serious concern. Major political parties should state their position on the TNA’s stand. With ex-LTTE personnel, entering the fray, the TNA is likely to further harden its position, in accordance with its overall strategy. The TNA included its call for re-merger of the two provinces in its manifesto for the forthcoming polls. The TNA move should be examined in the backdrop of the Supreme Court, in Oct. 2006, ruling the merger of the two provinces, in accordance with the Indo-Lanka Accord of July, 1987, invalid.

* The next government will have to decide on a tangible course of action to deal with the Tamil Diaspora, particularly the influential Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Sri Lanka cannot afford to abandon talks, initiated by the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, with the GTF, to explore ways and means of reaching consensus on national reconciliation.

* Future of Access and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the US. Former Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, signed the ACSA, on behalf of President Rajapaksa’s government, to pave the way for closer cooperation between the US and the Sri Lanka armed forces. In line with the agreement, US military can use Sri Lankan territory for transfer of men and material.

* Implementation of the capital punishment. Democratic Party (DP) leader, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, declared, during the campaign, that capital punishment would be implemented in the case of those found guilty of rape and murder of women. Major political parties should state their stand on resumption of judicial executions.

* Finally, the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, perhaps one of the most important matters which had to be addressed by the new government. Crossovers should be constitutionally prohibited to ensure that politicians do not switch sides at the expense of political parties which fielded them or nominated on the National List.

Apropos General Election 2015: ‘Switching allegiance easy’ in Midweek last week, UPFA National List nominee, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, has sent the following response: "I saw in Shamindra Ferdinando’s article the statement ‘Former Chief Justice, Sarath Nanda Silva, Sri Lanka’s former envoy in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke, as well as former UPFA National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, who caused heavy damage to the Rajapaksas, in the run-up to the presidential election, are spearheading Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election bid as the Prime Minister.’

"While I am involved actively in the election campaign of the UPFA, my small contribution does not merit being described as ‘spearheading’. More seriously, the reference occurs in an article entitled ‘Switching allegiance easy...’ which suggests that I am moving up and down between camps.

"This is misleading. I did not support Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his early bid for re-election, but this was for reasons I had made clear in a letter I sent him in October last year. The last para of that letter stated ‘It would be tragic if the tremendous achievement of 2009 were to be squandered…’

"I have no regrets about supporting President Sirisena in January, because I believe he was also sincere about the need for reform. However, it rapidly became clear that the current government was not concerned about reform, and is quite prepared to squander the achievements of 2009.

"I believe President Sirisena, too, has realized this, and is increasingly worried about shady dealings by some elements in the government. That seems to me a principle reason for his decision to ensure that his party, the SLFP, remains strong, which entailed not only giving former President Rajapaksa nomination, but having him lead the campaign. This was the only rational response to the determination of the current leadership of the UNP to weaken the SLFP.

"At its simplest, there was no effort to build up consensus for Good Governance. The Manifesto pledged

Monday January 12

In order to strengthen democracy, a National Advisory Council will be set up inclusive of representatives of parties, represented in Parliament, as well as Civil Society organizations.

"But the SLFP Parliamentary Group was not represented on the National Advisory Council.

"Then the leadership was not consulted when members of the party were put into the Cabinet. Instead of including senior members of the SLFP, Ranil and Chandrika selected individuals with few claims to leadership in the party. Given their own insecurities, they chose only those they thought they could control.

"Sadly too, the President is not given full credit for completely changing the image of the state. Given Ranil Wickremesinghe’s previous track record, and also his institution of what seems private police working directly to him, there would have been grave worries about continuing authoritarianism had it not been for the personality and the patent sincerity of the President.

"The President’s determination that the SLFP not be destroyed if we are to continue as a functioning democracy, is understandable. He was right to be wary of what has been described as ‘Wickremasinghe’s strategy of splitting the SLFP into two camps’. So his decision to protect the SLFP was also a decision to ‘protect democracy and good governance in Sri Lanka’. That is why I stand foursquare behind his strategy of having a united SLFP/ UPFA contest this election."

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

General Election 2015: Switching allegiance easy...




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Asanga, son of slain UNP loyalist, Ossie Abeygoonasekera, had been the executive director of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) during the previous administration.

Asanga Abeygoonasekera held several other state sector appointments, during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as the president (2005-2014).

Rajapaksa’s defeat, at the January 8, 2015 presidential election, deprived Asanga of his LKIIRSS appointment. Had the then president secured a third term, Asanga wouldn’t have had to switch allegiance to the UNP-led caretaker government. A member of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka, Asanga received the UNP ticket to contest the August 17 parliamentary polls. He is now in the fray in the Gampaha District to secure a place among 18 successful candidates.

Having contested the 1988 presidential election under the Mahajana Party ticket, Ossie, joined the UNP. Abeygoonasekera campaigned for UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, at the 1994 poll. An LTTE suicide attack, on a UNP propaganda rally, at Thotalanga, Kotahena, on the night of October 24, 1994, claimed the lives of over 50 persons. Ossie was among the dead.

The UNP candidate’s assassination facilitated the then PA candidate Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s sweeping victory over Dissanayake’s widow, Srima.

During the tail end of the Rajapaksa’s presidency, Asanga earned the wrath of the External Affairs Ministry for expressing opinion which the ministry considered contrary to the then state policy.

With the electorate, largely being divided into two groups, led by war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa (Kurunegala District UPFA candidate) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (Colombo District UNP candidate) the outcome of the August 17 parliamentary polls will decide the fate of the much touted ‘January 8 revolution.’

Maithripala Sirisena has thrown his ‘presidential weight’ behind the UNP by urging the electorate to choose those who are sure to support the ‘January 8 revolution’, whereas the Rajapaksa Camp was vowing a counter revolution. Twice-President Rajapaksa has declared, in no uncertain terms, that he would recommence the development drive suspended by the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.

Asanga Abeygoonasekera has chosen the UNP to make his first bid to enter parliament, thereby pledging support to the ‘January 8’ revolution.

UPFA’s declaration that Mahinda Rajapaksa is its prime ministerial candidate, regardless of President Maithripala Sirisena’s strong opposition, has facilitated Premier Wickremesinghe’s efforts to form a broad coalition meant to rally around those who contributed to Maithripala Sirisena’s victory.

In spite of UNPers expressing confidence of a comfortable victory, at the forthcoming polls, in the wake of civil society organizations pledging their support to Premier Wickremesinghe, the UPFA is confident of retaining a staggering 5.8 mn votes received by Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January 8 presidential poll.

With the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the JVP as well as Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party (DP) going it alone, at the August 17 general election, after having contributed significantly to Maithripala Sirisena’s 6.2 mn votes, the UNP will need a post-August 17 understanding with them to protect the ‘January 8 revolution.’ The JHU is contesting on the UNP ticket, whereas the SLMC is fielding candidates, also on UNP nomination lists. However, the SLMC is going it alone, in the Vanni and Batticaloa electoral districts. The SLMC and the JHU fielded 10 and 8 candidates, on the UNP ticket, respectively.

Whatever the circumstances, the Rajapaksa Camp is supremely confident of securing 14 electoral districts and more parliamentary seats than the UNP.

The much divided JVP is likely to emerge as the third force though the TNA will definitely obtain more seats than the Marxist party.

At the last parliamentary polls, in April 2010, the JVP contested on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA-symbol trophy) ticket. The DNA was in the fray, in the wake of General Sarath Fonseka’s heavy defeat at the January 2010 presidential poll. Under Fonseka’s leadership, the DNA managed to win just seven seats. The parliamentary group comprised Sarath Fonseka, Arjuna Ranatunga, businessman Tiran Alles and four JVPers, namely Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath, Sunil Handunetti and Ajith Kumara. The previous government deprived Fonseka of his seat, in early Oct 2010, consequent to him being found guilty by a Court Martial, while Ranatunga and Alles quit over differences with Fonseka. Ajith Kumara deserted the JVP to join the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), one of the many factions of the JVP.

Jayantha Ketagoda, who filled Fonseka’s vacancy in the last parliament, as he contested the April 2010 general election on the DNA ticket, is in the fray, in Colombo, courtesy the UPFA. Ketagoda deprived Fonseka of an opportunity to re-enter parliament before its dissolution by refusing to give up his seat. Had he resigned, Fonseka could have returned to parliament soon after the presidential election in January.

Having accepted the SLFP Attanagalle organizer’s post, recently, on the invitation of twice-president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Ranatunga switched his allegiance to Premier Wickremesinghe, thereby earning a place in the UNP Gampaha District list, alongside Asanga Abeygoonasekera. Ranatunga’s move raised many an eyebrow due to the despicable UNP treatment of the Ranatungas in the 70s.

Tiran Alles, now battling the government, in court, over alleged misappropriation of funds, allocated to the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), during the previous government, is on the UPFA National List. Alles patched up with the Rajapaksas after having played a critical role in General Fonseka’s failed January 2010 presidential bid. In January, 2010, Alles’ Nawala residence came under an attack, prompting the businessman to allege he was targeted by the government. The then Opposition alleged that the Rajapaksas ordered the attack following the release of photographs of Namal Rajapaksa with an LTTE operative, identified as Emil Kanthan. Alles resolutely worked for the DNA campaign for the April, 2010 general election. Alles also negotiated, on behalf of Fonseka, ultimately leading to the war-winning Army Chief’s release, from Welikada.

Former DNA MP, Ajith Kumara, is in the fray, with the FSP headed by one-time JVP heavyweight, Premkumar Gunaratnam, a fugitive Australian passport holder. The writer exposed how Gunaratnam had secretly arrived, in Sri Lanka, in September, 2011, after having obtained an Australian passport (N 1016123) bearing the name, Noel Mudalige. Gunaratnam is on the National List of the FSP at the August 17 election.

The FSP fielded Duminda Nagamuwa at the last presidential election. The FSPer couldn’t even obtain 10,000 votes.

The main JVP breakaway faction, the National Freedom Front, is contesting on the UPFA ticket, while discarded JVPer, Anuruddha Polgampola, of the Alternative Group of the JVP, is working overtime for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign. After being in the wildness, for several years, Polgampola campaigned for Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January presidential poll. The JVP expelled him from the party, in September, 2008, on a charge of human smuggling. It was the only instance, a political party here sacked a member of parliament on disciplinary grounds. The SLFP and the UNP lacked the will to take punitive action against wrongdoers, though many were found to have violated laws, much more serious than human smuggling.

During the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (2002-2004), the UNP leadership forced Ali Zahir Moulana to quit his National List seat for facilitating then top LTTE commander, Karuna Amman, to flee Batticaloa. Moulana risked his life to save Karuna’s. The UPFA unceremoniously dropped Karuna, from its National List for the 2015 general election, after he ruled out joining the fray in the eastern Batticaloa district, once his stronghold. The Karuna affair caused irreparable damage to Moulana’s political career. However, the SLMC has accommodated Moulana as its chief candidate in the Batticaloa electoral district. Having first contested parliamentary election, on the SLFP ticket, way back in late 80s, Moulana contested the next poll, on the UNP ticket, and stayed with the party until kicked out in 2004. At the last presidential election, Moulana worked for Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with Batticaloa-based Arun Tambimuttu. The UPFA deprived Tambimuttu of an opportunity to contest the forthcoming election much, to the shock and anger of the community.

Former JVP leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe, leaving the party recently, is unlikely to affect Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s strategy. Amarasinghe’s pro-Maithripala Sirisena stance has isolated him with the JVP, dismissing him as a nuisance. One-time JVP presidential candidate, Mestiyage Don Nandana Gunatilleke, too, has ended up in the Kalutara District UNP list.

In spite of Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Nandana Gunatilleke (UNP), Premkumar Gunaratnam/Noel Mudalige (Front line Socialist Party), Somawansa Amarasinghe (Janatha Seveka Party) and Anuruddha Polgampola (Alternative Group of the JVP) either going it alone, or backing some other party, the JVP has consolidated its position. The JVP has cleverly exploited the mega Central Bank bond scam to win over the electorate at the expense of the UNP. The UNP’s shocking reaction to the bond scam caused severe damage to its strategy, meant to portray former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a corrupt leader. If not for the bond scam, the UNP would have been in a much better position. The UPFA is responsible for a spate of controversial transactions, ranging from the hedging deal to investments in loss - making Greek Government bonds. The UPFA demanding accountability on the part of the UNP seems ridiculous in the backdrop of its irresponsible approach towards transparency and accountability.

Although the JVP is certain to improve its tally, compared with the April, 2010, general election (just four seats on the DNA ticket), the party lacked the wherewithal to even come close to its superlative performance, in April 2004. The JVP secured 36 seats plus three National List slots, though it could have demanded five nominated slots in accordance with an agreement with the then SLFP leader, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The JVP willingly gave up two slots to pave the way for SLFPers. The JVP will never be able to match its April 2004 feat.

Although Rishard Bathiudeen’s All Ceylon Muslim Congress (ACMC) hadn’t received much coverage in the Colombo media, he has fielded a strong team, on the UNP ticket. The ACMC has fielded six in the Vanni, four in Batticaloa, one each in Trincomalee, Puttalam, Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. The ACMC is going it alone in the Digamadulla electoral district.

Both the SLMC and the ACMC deserted Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the run-up to the last presidential election. They justified their action on the President’s failure to protest their interests, especially in the wake of the Aluthgama mayhem, caused by Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), in June 2014. The former President simply refused to rein in the BBS thus creating a platform for the Muslim community.

But in politics, there are no permanent friends, or enemies, but permanent interests. J. Sri Ranga securing a place among the 29-member UPFA National List is a case in point. General Secretary of the Citizens Front, Ranga contested the last parliamentary election, in April, 2010, on the UNP ticket. Having gained entry into parliament, the politician worked closely with the UPFA, much to the anger of the top UNP leadership. In the run-up to the January, 2015 presidential poll, ACMC leader Rishard Bathiudeen pounced on Ranga, in parliament, in a midnight fracas that brought out sordid operations going on in Temple Trees. While Ranga fielded an all-women team, in Nuwara Eliya, he himself secured a place in the UPFA list.

Among those who had been deprived of a UPFA National List slot was retired Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most successful navy chief. During the then Vice Admiral Karannagoda’s command, the navy achieved the unbeatable feat of sinking a record eight LTTE floating warehouses on the high seas. The US provided much needed vital intelligence, leading to the destruction of four vessels, including the largest of the eight operated by the LTTE, at that time. The navy shortened the war by depriving the LTTE of its long standing supply route which ensured continuous movement of arms, ammunition and equipment to northern Sri Lanka. In fact, Karannagoda is suitable to be accommodated in the National List of any major political party or fielded in any district. It’s a pity, such a retired officer whose distinguished post-war service in Tokyo did much to enhance relations between the two countries, cannot find a place in the UPFA National List. Perhaps, Karannagoda, having survived the LTTE, is lucky not to enter the ‘den of corruption.’

Former Chief Justice, Sarath Nanda Silva, Sri Lanka’s former envoy in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke, as well as former UPFA National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, who caused heavy damage to the Rajapaksas in the run-up to the presidential election, are spearheading Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election bid as the Prime Minister. They caused immense damage to former President’s image, thereby undermining his presidential campaign. However, their return to the Rajapaksa’s Camp had greatly strengthened the project to bring-back-Mahinda, as Premier, for a second time. During the tail end of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term, former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda asked why the writer backed the Rajapaksas murderous war effort. Sarath Nanda Silva was reacting when he met the writer at a supermarket in Negombo.

With the next parliamentary election, less than two weeks away, political parties, as well as various individuals, must be readying for the next round of cross overs and post-election alignment. With no constitutional bar in place, to thwart crossovers, the electorate should be ready to witness some sordid happenings, both in and outside the next parliament.

Sri Lankans have perfected the art of switching allegiance for personal benefits. They’ll justify such appalling conduct, claiming they only wanted to strengthen the incumbent leader.