Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A threat to quit unholy alliance



By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader and Chief Opposition Whip, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, on Feb. 19, 2018 declared that those who had joined forces to oust the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the Jan.8, 2015 presidential election would never get together again.

An irate Dissanayake warned SLFP leader President Sirisena not to entertain the hopes of securing a second five-year term. The JVPer also warned UNP leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that he would never be the President. Wickremesinghe unsuccessfully contested the Nov. 1999 presidential election.

A dejected JVPer said so at the first parliamentary session, following the humiliating defeat suffered by the UNP, the SLFP and the JVP at the Feb. 10 local government polls. Dissanayake acknowledged that the Marxist party couldn’t secure anticipated polls result, though some progress was made. Dissanayake asserted that some gains had been made in the predominately Tamil northern region.

It would be pertinent to examine Dissanayake’s assertion that those who had been involved in the high profile 2015 political project wouldn’t join forces again.

Having assumed JVP leadership on Feb. 2, 2014, Dissanayake paved the way for the party to join the UNP-led alliance. Dissanayake replaced Somawansa Amarasinghe, who assumed the party leadership about six years after the extra-judicial execution of party founder Rohana Wijeweera in government custody. The UNP executed Wijeweera on Nov. 13, 1989, in Colombo. Amarasinghe passed away, in June 2016, following a brief illness.

Under Dissanayake’s leadership, the JVP threw its weight behind the UNP-TNA (Tamil National Alliance) combine to help Maithripala Sirisena thwart twice-president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to secure a third term. Dissanayake took over a much weakened JVP due to heavyweight Weerawansa switching allegiance to Rajapaksa during his first presidential term. Subsequently, Dissanayake suffered another setback due to Kumar Gunaratnam forming his own outfit, the Front-line Socialist Party (FSP).

In the wake of the recent drubbing, at the countrywide polls, three years after the Jan. 8, 2015 presidential election, the JVP has declared its intention not to continue with the UNP-led political alliance against Rajapaksa. The JVP announced its decision after having blamed Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for the debilitating defeat suffered in the hands of Rajapaksa, whose re-emergence as the most influential political leader obviously stunned the Marxist party.

The JVP also joined forces with the Joint Opposition to question the validity of the UNP-SLFP arrangement, alleging that their pact lapsed in Sept. last year, therefore the continuation of the National Unity Government cannot be accepted. The JVP didn’t find fault with the yahapalana partners failure to extend the agreement until they were routed at the Feb. 10 polls. The JVP cannot be unaware that the UNP-SLFP agreement had lapsed four months ago. The SLFP purposely refrained from extending the agreement as it felt it could be severely disadvantageous due to the UNP being implicated in the Treasury Bond scams that had been perpetrated in 2015 and 2016.

However, Dissanayake made no reference to the origins of the UNP-led political alliance that ousted Rajapaksa, three years ago.

An unprecedented alliance

The alliance that successfully challenged the Rajapaksas came into being in late 2009 in the run-up to the Jan. 26, 2010 presidential polls. The alliance backed war-winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka. After having alleged Fonseka as well as the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil, had committed war crimes, the US Embassy, in Colombo, played a critical role in the formation of the alliance. The US succeeded in its efforts though, at the onset, minority parties, particularly the then four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), was skeptical about the project. The US also brought the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) into the project meant to defeat Rajapaksa. The US compelled the TNA to back Fonseka, while the JVP, too, played a significant role in the campaign.

Somawansa Amarasinghe had been in command of the party, with Dissanayake being a member of the parliamentary group, at the time the JVP joined the original US-led project to elect Fonseka president. The project went awry. The JVP ended up alleging that the Rajapaksas of perpetrating what was then called computer jillmart (manipulating computers to fix the polls result).

The US role in a despicable bid to change the government in Sri Lanka (as it has done in many countries world wide) wouldn’t have come to light if not for the secret revealing WikiLeaks. Thanks to WikiLeaks, the electorate is aware how the US Embassy ran a political project to defeat the war-winning president. Disclosure of classified diplomatic cables, pertaining to the then SLMC Chairman and Opposition Leader of the Eastern Provincial Council, Basheer Segudawood, as well as TNA leader R. Sampanthan, sent shock waves through political parties. However, the electorate hadn’t been largely unaware of the political parties here being used by the US Embassy to implement its strategies.

After the 2010 project to instal Fonseka as the president went awry, the UNP quit the alliance to contest parliamentary polls on its own. A disappointed Fonseka had no option but to team up with the JVP to contest on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket. The grouping managed to secure just seven seats, including two National List slots. Among the five elected were Fonseka and World Cup winning cricket captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, from Colombo and Kalutara districts, respectively. The Rajapaksas angered especially by Fonseka’s foul mouthing used the existing system to punish him by depriving him of his parliamentary seat. Later Fonseka registered his own, Democratic Party and contested the parliamentary polls in Aug. 2015 at which he suffered a terrible defeat with many of his close supporters having abandoned him along the way. Fonseka couldn’t even retain his seat. The UNP accommodated him on its National List in spite of him not being a member of the party and hadn’t been on its lists at the last parliamentary polls.

The JVP has now distanced itself from both Fonseka and Sirisena and obviously in a quandary.

The JVP had been deeply involved in the both the 2010 and 2015 projects. Interestingly, on both occasions, so called common candidates, Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena, though being backed by the UNP, contested on the New Democratic Front (NDF) ticket, an offshoot of the Democratic United National Front (DUNF). Chairman of the outfit, N.M. Shalila Moonesinghe, was arrested in Oct. 2017 for having transferred more than a million USD illegally from the Far Eastern International Bank of Taiwan, to his personal bank account at the Bank of Ceylon. At the time of his arrest, Moonesinghe, a British national of Sri Lankan origin, functioned as Chairman of LITRO Gas, a state-owned enterprise.

None of those political parties, including the JVP, had ever commented on the case involving the NDF chairman. The National Election Commission (NEC) is yet to initiate action in respect of Moonesinghe registering a political party through some devious means, way back in 2009. Now that Dissanayake has declared that the 2015 group would never get back together to back a presidential candidate at the next presidential poll, in 20 months time, the JVP’s position would certainly have a bearing on the overall political situation and is likely to be advantageous to the Rajapaksas.

The NDF, with its swan symbol, is unlikely to receive an opportunity again to participate in a high profile campaign again though incumbent president Sirisena remains its man.

JVP’s dilemma

The JVP managed to secure six seats at the last parliamentary polls, in Aug. 2015 The JVP parliamentary group comprised two National List members. In spite of promising to introduce a new political culture, the JVP, too, accommodated two defeated candidates, Sunil Handunetti and Bimal Ratnayake on its National List slots.

In the run-up to the Feb. 10 local government polls, the JVP really believed that it could comfortably gain sizable electoral gains at the expense of the UNP and the SLFP. The JVP asserted that the situation couldn’t have been better for the party to register its best performance, at national level, especially in the wake of the UNP being humiliated over Treasury Bond scams, involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), and Sirisena accused of shielding some of those facing corruption and alleged murder charges. A confident JVP went to the extent of declaring intentions to achieve kingmaker status at the next presidential and parliamentary polls. Instead, the electorate has delivered a humiliating snub to the JVP, perhaps for its perceived role in backing the government at crucial junctures, especially in helping to get certain anti-democratic legislations passed with 2/3 majoprity, at the commencement of a crucial period with provincial councils polls for nine regions, followed by presidential and parliamentary polls.

In fact, the JVP has been compelled to acknowledge, in parliament, that those who had believed in the SLFP policies voted for the rebel SLFP group thereby strengthening the hands of the former president. Obviously, the JVP ended up with egg on its face due to its failure to achieve noticeable progress in urban areas or provinces.

The JVP like all other political parties and civil society organizations that campaigned for Sirisena at the 2015 presidential poll, repeatedly stressed that Rajapaksa couldn’t secure 50 per cent of the vote. They pointed out that for those who had called the Feb. 10 polls a sort of national referendum on the performance of the three-year yahapalana government suffered a debilitating setback. The overtly pro-government civil society outfit ‘Purawesi Balaya’ that briefed media twice and Government National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne underscored that Rajapaksa couldn’t secure the required 50 per cent of the votes cast to claim victory. In fact a pathetic attempt was made to portray Rajapaksa’s failure to achieve 50 per cent as defeat for the Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the next parliamentary and presidential polls.

Crisis faced by anti-Mahinda elements

The SLPP polled 44.69 per cent of the votes cast at the LG election. The UNP obtained 32.61 per cent. The UPFA polled 8.90 per cent. The SLFP polled 4.48 per cent. The two governing parties secured together 45.99 per cent, almost 46 per cent. Rajapaksa led SLPP polled 44.69 per cent, nearly 2 per cent less than the other three parties put together.

But those wanting to use these figures to depict a defeat for the SLPP at a referendum, had conveniently forgotten that the vote received by the SLFP and the UPFA couldn’t be under any circumstances counted as anti-Mahinda vote. The majority of those who had exercised their franchise in support of Sirisena are likely to switch their allegiance to the SLPP at the forthcoming PC polls, followed by presidential polls and parliamentary polls.

The JVP secured 6.26 per cent and the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi polled 3.06 per cent. Let me reproduce the relevant section from a statement issued by TNA leader R. Sampanthan following local government polls drubbing: "If one was to add the percentage of votes polled by those two parties together with the percentage of votes polled by the UNP, the UPFA and the SLFP, the total would be 55.31 per cent. So, in other words, parties opposed to the SLPP have polled 55.31 per cent and the SLPP has polled only 44.69 per cent. This is indisputable.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the Presidential Election, held in 2015, polled 47.58 per cent. The votes he polled at the Presidential Election, in January, 2015, were more than the votes he polled at the LG election. There have been three elections in recent times; the Presidential Election in 2015, the Parliamentary Election in 2015 and the Local Government Election held this month. In none of these elections has former President Mahinda Rajapaksa been able to obtain more than 50 per cent.

His vote has always been below 50 per cent at the Presidential Election, at the Parliamentary Election and at the Local Authority Election. So, there is nothing to get excited about: elections are held; parties win; parties lose. The Local Authority Elections have been held and you have won. One does not dispute that fact, but the fact of the matter is that you have polled only 44.69 per cent as opposed to 55.31 per cent cast against you. So, what is there to get excited about? Nothing at all. Parliament is not constituted on the basis of votes cast at the Local Authority Elections. Parliament is constituted, - the President is elected, on the basis of votes cast at the Presidential Election – at a Parliamentary Election held for that purpose in keeping with the Constitution and the laws of this country."

Why worry?

Those who had claimed that Rajapaksa lacked electoral support to achieve 50 per cent of vote cast at 2015 national elections and the 2018 countrywide local government polls, in spite of rhetoric, seemed to be seriously concerned about the rapid reemergence of Rajapaksa.

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera in the run-up to the Feb. 10 polls warned that the yahapalana project could be in jeopardy in case Rajapaksa led the SLPP to victory. Samaraweera’s fears have now been realized and an unexampled threat emerged at a time the government is struggling to come to terms with the TNA demand for a new Constitution. The TNA itself is under heavy pressure in the north with the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) making progress in the north at the recently concluded polls.

Sampanthan cannot ignore Rajapaksa himself declaring that he wanted the post of the Opposition Leader. Rajapaksa has challenged Sampanthan’s right to remain the Opposition Leader in the wake of the JO/SLPP consolidating its position in areas outside the Northern and Eastern provinces. Sampanthan must be really worried over the situation developing in the Northern Province, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula where the stage is set for a virulent political battle at the forthcoming second Northern Province Provincial Council polls. The TNA-held council will be automatically dissolved in Oct. this year. The TNA faces the challenging task of dropping incumbent Northern Chief Minister, retired Supreme Court judge C.V. Wigneswaran, from its list of candidates. Wigneswaran’s next move can cause turmoil in the Northern Province and undermine the TNA hold, especially in the wake of the TNPF taking a harder stand on the accountability issue. Having made electoral gains in the Jaffna peninsula at the recently concluded polls, the TNPF, ahead of the next Geneva sessions, is now campaigning for the Sri Lanka issue to be moved from Geneva to the UN Security Council. The TNA alleges that the Security Council should now move in as Colombo hasn’t adhered with Geneva Resolution 30/1. The TNPF leadership recently asserted that in case the matter cannot be taken up in New York, the UN should consider the setting up of an international war crimes tribunal.

Wigneswaran is likely to come under pressure to throw his weight behind the TNPF at the coming PC polls campaign. The possibility of the outspoken politician, who is now at loggerheads with the top TNA leadership, joining the fray, too, cannot be ruled out.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Bid to bring in New Constitution in the balance

In the wake of UNP-SLFP rift



The then Gen. Sarath Fonseka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya at an event in Colombo before the breakup of the team that spearheaded the war against the LTTE.

By Shamindra Ferdianndo

Yahapalana leaders as well as those who had furiously campaigned to thwart war-winning president Mahinda Rajapaksa securing a third term at the Jan. 2015 presidential polls, attributed the humiliating defeat suffered by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition at Feb. 10, 2018 countrywide local government polls, to its failure to honour pledges made at the 2015 presidential and parliamentary polls.

 Addressing the media, at the Center for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana, on Feb. 13,     co-convenor of the Purawesi Balaya, Gamini Viyangoda, flanked by former Ravaya editor K.W. Janarangana and Saman Ratnapriya asserted that the ruling coalition lost because of its failure to enact a new Constitution, subject to a countrywide referendum, and robust police-judicial action against corrupt and murderous Rajapaksas and their henchmen. The briefing at CSR was their first response to the LG polls outcome.

Two days later, Ven. Dambara Amila of the same outfit and at the same venue, called for the immediate appointment of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka at the expense of Wickremesinghe loyalist, Sagala Ratnayake to carry out a special operation against the robber barons and murderous Rajapaksa clan. Interestingly, among those who had participated at the media briefing, under the ‘Purawesi Balaya’ banner, were executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, and Nimalka Fernando at the forefront at a campaign to inquire into accountability issues during the conflict, with the focus on Eelam War IV (Aug 2006-May 2009). The first briefing at CSR too had been held under the banner of ‘Purawesi Peramuna’, with Viyangoda and Janaranjana attacking the administration’s failure to enact the new Constitution, though progress was made in parliament to a certain extent.

Janaranjana also pointed out how the inordinate delay in enacting the much-touted National Audit Bill and taking action against the bond scams, involving the Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), influenced the electorate.

An influential section of the UNP blamed party leader and Premier Wickremesinghe for the latest electoral drubbing, while President Sirisena, whose SLFP too experienced a shameful defeat, exploited the opportunity to oust his partner.

 Sirisena’s so far failed plan was meant to pave the way for some sort of a political arrangement with his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa whose Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna/Joint Opposition dealt a massive blow to both the UNP and the SLFP.

Yahapalana proponent, the JVP, and the much troubled Tamil National Alliance (TNA) too suffered significant setbacks in the South and the North, respectively.

The JVP’s situation is far worse than that of the TNA with the electorate in no uncertain terms rejecting its efforts to attract voters on the basis of corruption charges levelled against the UNP, the SLFP and the Joint Opposition.

 A spate of issues influenced the electorate with cost of living, waste, corruption, mismanagement, treasury bond scams, garbage mountains, breakdown in fertilizer supply, problems in school uniform material distribution, foolish move to lift existing restrictions on women buying alcohol and unemployment. The electorate dismissed as ridiculous a promise on the eve of the election to provide free Wi-Fi with disdain.

Both winners and losers obviously ignored perhaps one of the major influencing factors in respect of the Sinhala electorate in their post-poll analysis.

Hostility caused by a failed bid by President Sirisena to oust Premier Wickremesinghe will certainly undermine the project to enact a new Constitution, by end of this year, as demanded by the TNA.

LG polls outcome could have been worse for govt...

 Had the UNP – UNP coalition tried to enact a new Constitution, on the basis of Geneva directives the ruling coalition would have had suffered a far bigger defeat. Geneva prescribed a new Constitution, in accordance with overall remedial measures to address accountability issues. Although two years later Lord Naseby produced irrefutable evidence, in the House of Lords, to justify reexamination of the Geneva Resolution 30/1, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government steadfastly refused to act. For nearly five months, the government ignored nationalist group and JO/SLPP calls to back Lord Naseby, much to the anger and disappointment of a vast majority of people. There had never been an instance of a government refusing to defend its own armed forces at an international forum.

Lord Naseby delivered a stunning blow to the conspiracy involving Western powers, foreign NGOs, civil society groups here, the TNA, LTTE rump and the incumbent regime against Sri Lanka by proving in no uncertain terms that 40,000 Tamil civilians hadn’t been killed during the Vanni offensive.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to act on Lord Naseby’s revelation made on the basis of confidential wartime (Jan-May 2009) British High Commission dispatches from the Office of the Defence Attaché. Reexamination of Geneva Resolution would have derailed the project to introduce a new Constitution.

Outgoing UNHRC chief, Zeid-Hussein, at the 32 Geneva sessions, on June 28, 2016, dealt extensively with Sri Lanka. The former Jordanian career diplomat, in a statement headlined ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, explained, in no uncertain terms, what Geneva expected Sri Lanka to do.

The project to introduce a new Constitution should be examined along with Zeid-Hussein’s statement on June 28, 2016 and the findings and conclusion of the so-called comprehensive investigation undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Zeid-Hussein wanted Sri Lanka to implement recommendations contained therein. The Jordanian also wanted other countries to abide by the recommendations, in line with his request. Australia, last year, denied a visa to Maj. Gen. Chagi Gallage, Director General of Infantry. They found fault with the Gajaba Regiment veteran for commanding a fighting formation on the Vanni east front, during the last phase of the offensive.

Although President Sirisena assured the Army that he would look into foreign governments causing embarrassment to senior military officers, the government did absolutely nothing. Among those who had been present at the time the assurance was given were Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne and Army Chief Lt.Gen. Mahesh Senanayake. 

The bottom line is that Zeid-Hussein unveiled a despicable political agenda meant to transform Sri Lanka at the expense of its unitary status.

 Western powers and India, at the onset of 2015, caused the change of government to enable the intended transformation. Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism in May 2009 had been used as a rallying point twice; against the war-winning President on the basis his armed forces committed war crimes. Although the first project, in which they used General Sarath Fonseka failed in January 2010, the second attempt succeeded. Maithripala Sirisena’s election was meant to ensure political transformation. The handing over of the Interim Report of the Steering Committee, tasked with framing a new Constitution, to the Constitutional Assembly, by Premier Wickremesinghe last year, marked an important step towards achieving that overall political objective, namely a brand new Constitution.

Delayed new Constitution project lessens impact

 Although, the Geneva project has been delayed, it has been on track until the electorate inflicted a heavy defeat on those pushing for a new Constitution. Although, they hadn’t commented on how the project to introduce a new Constitution could have had caused/contributed to debilitating polls setback, they cannot ignore the Geneva factor with the next sessions scheduled to commence next week. Before discussing the matter further, let me reproduce verbatim what Zeid-Hussein stated in respect of the proposed new Constitution being pushed by them 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.

 For some strange reason, the previous Rajapaksa government steadfastly refused to make representations on behalf of Sri Lanka. In fact, their refusal facilitated the UN project. The previous government’s foolish response to war crimes allegations certainly facilitated the UN project in which the US played a significant role in forming a UNP-led alliance that involved the TNA, the JVP the SLMC and well paid civil society groupings.

Unholy alliance intact

 Having suffered an LG polls debacle, an influential section of the government and those civil society groups repeatedly claimed that President Sirisena’s 2015 mandate was still intact therefore the government should go ahead with the project to introduce a new Constitution. They insisted that the anti-Mahinda vote comprising the UNP, SLFP, JVP, TNA and the SLMC among others still amounted to nearly 55 per cent, whereas the former president received approximately 44 per cent.  They convincingly refrained from mentioning the so-called anti-Mahinda vote comprised the grouping that had received instructions from the US to bring Rajapaksa rule to an end in January 2010. The same grouping succeeded five years later. And in spite of the LG polls defeat, leading proponents of the yahapalana government seemed to be confident that even if President Sirisena quit his alliance with the UNP, the grouping can continue.

False, malicious and still unproven war crimes allegations remained intact and needed to be challenged in Geneva without further delay.

With crucial elections to nine Provincial Councils, including the Northern PC, now scheduled to be held in 2018 and 2019, in addition to presidential polls, in one year and 8 months, and parliamentary polls in two and half years, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe cannot continue to ignore the need to review their joint stand on the Geneva Resolution.

 Yahapalana partners certainly paid a very heavy price for not addressing human rights issue in a professional manner. Instead of defending the country, they allowed the UN to pursue a high profile campaign against it on the basis of unproved allegations.

Foreign Ministry co-sponsored Geneva Resolution 30/1 just over a week after outgoing Sri Lankan’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, rejected the original draft alleging it didn’t help post-war reconciliation process. Aryasinha will return to Colombo later this month.

The Foreign Ministry that had virtually turned a blind eye to Lord Naseby’s explosive revelations which could have been comfortably used in Sri Lanka’s defence, pounced on military attaché Brigadier Priyankara Fernando, attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission, in London, in the wake of his ‘throat slitting’ gesture during a protest outside the mission by British nationals of Sri Lankan origin. The Gemunu Watch officer is on record as having said that he only signalled the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE. The writer, in the run up to the Feb. 10 polls, had an opportunity to present an alternative opinion regarding war crimes issue to authoritative British representatives. They reminded how former British HC translator Anton Balasingham, after having had received British nationality, ended up in the UK as LTTE theoretician ‘Dr Balasingham’ (although in actual fact he had no doctorate) and was allowed to operate with impunity, even after the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug. 2005.

A dismal past

 The UNP hasn’t been able to stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE contrary to predictions of many pundits, in May 2009. In fact, the UNP pursued its strategy on the basis that the LTTE cannot be defeated, militarily, under any circumstances. Throughout the combined security forces campaign, beginning with the seizure of Sampur, in early Sept. 2006, close on the heels of Mavil-aru battle, the UNP, Colombo based diplomatic community, so-called civil society, as well as an influential section of the media, believed it was only a matter of time before the LTTE inflicted an irrevocable defeat on the Army. They believed the LTTE had the wherewithal to crush the Army on the Vanni west. They were certain that the Jaffna-based fighting Divisions couldn’t break through the Vanni front-line in the peninsula extending from Kilali across Muhamalai-Eluththumaduval to Nagarkovil.

The LTTE strategy could have succeeded had its assassination attempts on the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came through in late April and early Dec. 2006.

Soon after the armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009, the UNP reached an understanding with the TNA and the JVP to field Fonseka against Rajapaksa. The UNP ignored that the TNA, until the very end of the war, stood by the LTTE after having declared it as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in late 2001. The parliament never responded to the TNA endorsement of both locally and internationally proscribed terrorist organization. The parliament also conveniently ignored the EU Election Observation Mission report that dealt with the April 2004 parliamentary polls. The EU accused the TNA of being the direct beneficiary of violence directed by the LTTE at those who contested the parliamentary polls in the then temporarily merged northern and eastern province. It even accused Tigers of stuffing ballot boxes to help the LTTE to secure victory.

The Kumaratunga-Rajapaksa administrations are accountable for not taking action against the TNA until the grouping ended up in the UNP-led group. All major political parties and the Elections Commission cannot be excused for not taking up with the TNA its part accountability in the Eelam War IV. The electorate never pardoned the UNP for belittling the war effort and post-war treatment of the armed forces. Sirisena’s SLFP too cannot absolve itself of its failure to defend the armed forces during the past three years, though the writer firmly believes a comprehensive judicial inquiry with full participation of foreign judges and other experts is mandatory to clear bogus charges. Stepping up on the earlier accusation against Sri Lanka of massacring over 40,000 civilians within five months, a British MP told UK parliament in Sept, 2015 that the SLA massacred 100,000 Tamils, including 60,000 LTTE cadres in 2009. Western powers and the UN should have presented all available information/data for verification. They refused to do so for obvious reasons. Thanks to Lord Naseby, the world now knows what the British government refused to divulge officially so far. In fact, Lord Naseby’s assertion tallied with wartime UN report that estimated the number of dead, including LTTE combatants at 7,721, between Aug. 2008 and May 13, 2009.

 Wickremesinghe’s UNP never appreciated the Rajapaksa’s strategy. Addressing a public rally in Galle in mid-2007, the then Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe questioned the importance of the Army capturing strategically vital Thoppigala in the eastern theater of operations. Wickremesinghe belittled the army’s success and queried why the government felt regaining Thoppigala was so important. Wickremesinghe declared: Thoppigala is a big jungle. What is so important about Thoppigala? When we implemented the Mahaweli project, we left Thoppigala. How many times Thoppigala was captured? It was nothing but a massive forest, comprising 700 square kms. Thoppigala is bigger than the Colombo district."

Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who had been a member of the Rajapaksa’s cabinet responded to Wickremesinghe: "Clearing of LTTE bases in Thoppigala region marked the liberation of the entire Eastern Province. All Sri Lankans are happy about the armed forces victory over terrorism." Referring to Wickremesinghe’s declaration that clearing of Thoppigala jungles didn’t matter and wasn’t militarily important, Dr. Senaratne said Wickremesinghe always made such blunders. Wickremesinghe had paid a heavy price for disparaging statements on the armed forces. Wickremesinghe hadn’t been able to achieve political victories for want of a sensible approach towards the armed forces, Dr. Senaratne said. Senaratne said that no sensible person could be unhappy over the LTTE’s defeat in the east. The outspoken politician declared that those who couldn’t appreciate the armed forces triumph over terrorism were traitors.

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.