Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Peacetime sinking of a ship We Ling affair




By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Navy, on the morning of March 26, 2018, sank We Ling (aka 522) in the Western seas. The vessel had been taken in soon after its crew abandoned it off Pottuvil, Battticaloa, at the height of eelam war IV (Aug 2006-May 2009).

The foreign crew had abandoned the vessel due to the undue delay on the part of the owners in providing required assistance, following a serious engine trouble. Fearing the Sea Tigers could make an attempt to seize We Ling, the Navy had towed the vessel to the Colombo port and subsequently made an abortive bid to hand it over back to the Singaporean management.

In late Dec, 2006, the Sea Tigers seized Jordanian ship MV Farah III, off Mullaitivu, and subsequently used it as a ‘heavy gun point’ until the very end of the conflict, three years later.

Having failed to convince the owners of We Ling to pay for the cost of towing the vessel away from the Eastern seas and later repairing the ship, the Navy used it. The Navy called it 522.

The Navy took charge of We Ling during the tenure of the then Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda as the Commander of the Navy (Sept. 1, 2005 to July 15, 2009).

The sinking of the vessel wouldn’t have captured the front pages of most national newspapers, on March 27, 2018, if the Navy didn’t claim the vessel belonged to the LTTE. A section of the media wrongly claimed We Ling had been brought from Malaysia, where Prabhakaran’s successor, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias "KP’ was arrested, in August 2009, and brought to Colombo. The writer had an opportunity to interview Pathmanathan, exclusively.

The sinking of the vessel received heavy television coverage, as well, with both print and electronic media reporting the circumstances under which the Navy had seized the vessel. The coverage was entirely based on Navy statements in Sinhala, Tamil and English, posted on its website on the morning of March 26, 2018, and other comments.

A section of the media went onto claim that the vessel that had been sunk, in the Western seas, along with several bullet proof vehicles used by former VVIPs, was the one captured on information received from Pathmanathan, who now lives quietly in one-time LTTE stronghold Kilinochchi.

Malaysia handed over Pathmanathan to Sri Lanka, in early August 2009, several months after combined security forces brought the nearly three-year-old offensive to a successful conclusion.

The Army killed Prabhakaran on the morning of May 19, 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

The Island, in a report, on page 2 on March 27, 2018, edition, pointed out that We Ling had been found off Pottuvil, Batticaloa, during eelam war IV, hence there was absolutely no connection between the ship and Pathmanathan.

Joint DMI-Navy operation

Of course, the media was erroneously referring to the LTTE ship, Princess Cristina, that had been taken over in foreign waters, in Dec 2009, and brought to the Colombo port during the third week of Dec, 2009. That vessel was seized by the Navy during a clandestine operation, the first of its kind, conducted during the tenure of Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe (July 15, 2009 to January 14, 2011) as the Commander of the Navy. The Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) played an important role in the operation leading to the Navy taking over the vessel. The writer was among those scribes invited on-board the LTTE vessel when Navy Chief Samarasinghe welcomed the Navy crew led by the then Captain (now Commodore) D.K.P. Dassanayake – responsible for the LTTE vessel’s capture.

Princess Cristina was the only LTTE vessel captured by the Navy during the entire conflict.

As the only captured LTTE vessel had been later sold for scrap metal, years before current Navy Chief Vice Admiral Sirimevan Ranasinghe succeeded Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah, in late Oct 2017, the vessel sunk in the Western seas was certainly not an LTTE vessel. Of course, Sinniah has been credited with leading the Navy Task Force, assigned to hunt down LTTE vessels during Karannagoda’s leadership.

It would be pertinent to mention that on the day the Navy sank We Ling, the second Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV), acquired from India, arrived at the Colombo harbour at. 9.40 am. The AOPV built at the Goa Shipyard Limited was ordered during the previous SLFP-led UPFA administration.

Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Sirimevan Ranasinghe, Deputy Chief of Staff and Director General Operations of the Navy, Rear Admiral Piyal De Silva, Commander Western Naval Area, Rear Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Naval Secretary and Secretary to the Commander of the Navy, Rear Admiral Vijitha Meddegoda, Director Naval Operations, Commodore Sanjeewa were among those who had been present at the Colombo port at the time of the vessel reaching Colombo. Sri Lanka took delivery of the first AOPV last year.

Subsequently, the Navy removed the web report that had been originally posted on March 27, along with two other reports – one dealt with the arrival of the second AOPV at the Colombo harbour and the other with the disaster management stimulation exercise, conducted at Kalpitiya.

Instead of trying to hush up the We Ling affair, the Navy should have at least corrected its website report. The failure on the part of the media, too, to essentially verify an important story, is shocking. Various websites, too, attributed the sinking of the LTTE ship to Navy statements. The following are some of the headlines on May 27, 2018, national newspapers and websites: * VIP bullet proof vehicles, LTTE ship dumped in the sea by Navy * Sri Lanka Navy sinks captured LTTE vessel *Sri Lanka Navy sinks ship used by LTTE *Navy sinks damaged LTTE vessel et al.

In spite of several attempts, the writer couldn’t obtain a plausible explanation from those responsible for the original claim of the LTTE vessel being sunk as Sri Lanka couldn’t find a scrap metal buyer.

Nearly a decade after Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE, the country is still struggling to present its case here and abroad. The War-winning Rajapaksa administration neglected its duty to counter wrong, misleading claims and misinterpretation of facts for the benefit of those working overtime to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government co-sponsored a resolution at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), on Oct 2015, to pave the way for a hybrid court, comprising local and foreign judges, including those representing the Commonwealth.

Erroneous reportage of the We Ling affair should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s shameless and disappointing failure to counter propaganda.

Sri Lanka pays heavy price

No less a person than President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Maithripala Sirisena, was reminded of Sri Lanka’s unpardonable failure, by Lord Naseby, when the latter visited him at the hotel where the Sri Lankan delegation, participating at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018, was staying. Lord Naseby hadn’t minced its words when he said the UNHRC and Europe hadn’t been told of the situation in Sri Lanka during the war and after. In other words, Lord Naseby pointed out that Sri Lanka hadn’t made use of disclosure made by him in the House of Lords, in Oct. 2017, pertaining to the situation on the Vanni front on the basis of wartime British HC dispatches. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government should be ashamed of its failure.

President Sirisena was assisted by Senior SLFP Vice President and Transport and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala and our Acting High Commissioner Sugeeswara Gunaratne. The Sri Lankan delegation had nothing to say regarding Lord Naseby’s disclosures. The government shouldn’t hoodwink those who contributed to Sri Lanka’s magnificent victory over the LTTE. The Sri Lankan delegation hadn’t commented on Lord Naseby disclosures as it didn’t even refer to them at the recently concluded 37 Sessions of the UNHRC.

The previous administration and the current dispensation owed explanations to the people as to why they had neglected their responsibilities for nearly a decade. Our parliament had failed to take tangible measures to have Lord Naseby’s revelations examined even seven months after British High Commission dispatches were placed before the House of Lords.

Sri Lanka’s failure facilitated Tamil Diaspora-TNA-Western powers project to call for a new Constitution, subjected to a Referendum, to meet the aspirations of the Tamil community. Strangely, their battle-field defeat has made the project possible due to the support extended by some sections in parliament.

For want of a cohesive strategy on Sri Lanka’s part, the LTTE rump continued with its highly publicized protest campaign targeting the country. A day after meeting Lord Naseby, President Sirisena faced protests by supporters of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) against his visit at the Commonwealth Summit premises, near Buckingham Palace.

The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) said that it launched a campaign titled "#GoBackMY3" against Sirisena’s participation at the CHOGM.

The TGTE urged the CHOGM to suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth, until Sri Lanka fully implemented the recommendations made by the UNHRC.

Depending on Sri Lanka’s response, the TGTE said that Sri Lanka should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a UN conducted Referendum for the Tamils to decide their future and to ensure a peaceful, permanent political solution.

The British government turned a blind eye to TGTE displaying LTTE flags. Sri Lanka lacked courage at least to point out the illegality of the UK allowing terrorist organization’s flags before Commonwealth leaders. Banners declared Sri Lanka President wanted for genocide, Tamil Eelam is the only solution, UK stop protecting genocidal Sri Lanka, Let Tamils decide referendum now, Justice delayed justice denied, Tamils want action not words, We don’t want a Constitution, final solution is Tamil Eelam, where are the surrendered?

Sirisena faced similar protests in May 2016 when he visited London to attend anti corruption summit.

However, last week’s protest was the first instance where LTTE flags were displayed, since the UK forced Sri Lanka, in Feb. 2018, to recall Brigadier Priyanka Fernando Minister Counsellor (Defence) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, over a gesture the Gemunu Watch officer made in response to LTTE supporters provocative actions, outside Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK.

Thanks to Wiki Leaks disclosure of confidential US embassy dispatches from London, the world knows how British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, played politics with Sri Lanka’s conflict. The revelation of US cables, in Dec. 2010, never moved the previous government that acted as if they didn’t exist. The Rajapaksa administration shirked its responsibility.

A leaked May 2009 cable, from the US embassy, in London, quoted the official, Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, as having explained Miliband’s intense focus on the plight of the country’s Tamils in terms of the UK electoral geography.

"Waite said that much of [Her Majesty’s government] and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the ‘very vocal’ Tamil diaspora in the UK, numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of parliament, since 6 April," Richard Mills, a political officer at the US embassy, reported.

"He said that with the UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60% of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka."

When Lord Naseby visited the writer and Prabath Sahabandu, the Editor-in-Chief of The Island, during the previous administration, the Conservative politician explained the Tamil Diaspora manipulations at the expense of Sri Lanka.

The Navy played a significant role in bringing the LTTE to its knees in May 2009. Had the Navy failed during the eelam War IV, the likes of Miliband wouldn’t have had to shed crocodile tears for the Tamil community. The British always mollycoddled the Diaspora for obvious reasons. The British, of course, valued their vote.

Theaters owned by Cineworld, Odeon and Vue, in August 2013, were forced to cancel screening of Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe that dealt with India’s intervention in Sri Lanka leading to the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a teenage female suicide cadre of the LTTE. The UK gave into threats by UK citizens of Sri Lankan origin for domestic political reasons.

Obviously, the British didn’t want to upset the trouble makers.

Crippling LTTE supply lines

Against the backdrop of the Me Ling affair, let me remind the readers of the LTTE vessels sunk, beginning with MV Ahat (Yahata) on January 16, 1993. Having intercepted the LTTE vessel, on January 13, 1993, far from the Indian coast, Coast Guard Ship Vivek, backed by INS Kirpan, had forced the LTTE crew to bring it to a point, eight nautical miles off Ennore, north of Madras, to facilitate an inspection. The LTTE blew up the vessel to avoid capture of top LTTE cadres, Kittu and Kuttisri. However, the ill-fated vessel hadn’t been involved in a supply mission but Kitu was widely believed to be bringing in some peace proposals from Europe.

MV Horizon, sunk off Nayaru, on Feb. 14, 1996

MV Fratzescom, suck off Mullaitivu, on Nov 2, 1997

MV Mariamma, sunk 190 nm west of Nocobar, on March 11, 1998

MV Koimer, sunk off Mullaitivu, on March 10, 2003

MV Shoshin, sunk off Mullaitivu, on June 14, 2003

The last two above-mentioned vessels, destroyed during the tenure of Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, threatened the Norway-led peace initiative. The Navy action triggered a fierce battle between the then PM Wickremesinghe and President Kumaratunga.

Having succeeded Sandagiri in early Sept. 2005, following a bruising battle, Karannagoda called off the longest running naval operation, called Waruna Kirana, meant to intercept LTTE sea supply routes heading towards Chalai and Mullaitivu. Launched in May 2001, the operation failed to meet its expectations. The Navy launched specific operations on the basis of intelligence made available by the DMI and foreign sources, particularly the US. Karannagoda, personally was involved in securing US intelligence support.

A vessel, without a name, was destroyed 120 nautical miles off Kalmunai on Sept 17, 2006. The SLAF carried out an attack in support of the Navy.

MV Kiyoi was destroyed 365 nautical miles south of Dondra on Feb 28, 2007

MV Seiyoo and another unidentified vessel were destroyed 825 nautical miles south east of Arugambay on March 18, 2007

MV Manyoshi and MV Seishin were destroyed 2200 km south east of Dondra on Sept 10, 2007

MV Koshia was destroyed south east of Dondra on Sept 11, 2007

MV Matsushima was destroyed 2600 south east of Dondra on Oct 7, 2007

An unknown vessel north east of Mullaitivu on Dec 20, 2008

By late Dec 2008, the LTTE lost its wherewithal to sustain sea supply routes to Chalai-Mullaitivu, as well as between north of Mannar and Tamil Nadu. Armed forces brought Paranthan under government control on Dec 31, 2008. Within 24 hours, armed forces secured Kilinochchi. In the wake of liberation of Kilinochchi, the Navy mounted massive operation involving over 100 vessels and smaller craft to thwart LTTE leader Prabhakaran fleeing the country. The SLAF stationed a pair of jets at the China Bay air base, Trincomalee to engage foreign vessels in case the LTTE mounted an operation to evacuate Prabhakaran. That rescue operation never materialized. The rest is history.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Role of civil society - II

Post-war Sri Lanka:



Wickremesinghe exchanging Memorandum of Understanding with Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha thera in 2015 for cooperation between the UNP and the NMSJ (National Movement for Social Justice)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM), headed by attorney-at-law Manori Muttetuwegama, in January 2017 recommended that the proposed Judicial Mechanism (JM) to try cases of war crimes have at least one foreign judge in every bench. But, the CTFRM made it a point to stress that the majority of the judges will be Sri Lankan.

The CTFRM released the report on the eve of the third anniversary of President Maithripala Sirisena’s victory over his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The CTFRM consisted of Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Gamini Viyangoda, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, Dr Farzana Haniffa, Mirak Raheem, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Visaka Dharmadasa, Shantha Abhimanasingham, PC, K.W. Janaranjana and Prof. Daya Somasundaram. Among the CTFRM members are some prominent civil society activists, including literally translator Gamini Viyangoda and attorney-at-law Janaranjana, key speakers at events organized by Purawesi Balaya, the leading civil society grouping.

The writer last week dealt with the role of the civil society and the one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in shaping the political landscape with the focus on the latter’s deplorable relationship with the LTTE.

The CTFRM essentially comprised civil society activists. Inclusion of civil society activists in the CTFRM, established in accordance with Geneva based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) strategy, underscored the pivotal importance of their role.

The called for full participation of foreign judges, and other personnel, including defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, in transitional justice mechanism to address accountability issues.

The 11-member CTFRM stressed that foreign participation was required as those who had suffered during the conflict had no faith in local judiciary, which lacked expertise to undertake such a task. They endorsed Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein declaration in Colombo, in February, 2016, that the judiciary here was incapable of undertaking the process. The Jordanian questioned the integrity of the local judiciary.

The writer, on numerous occasions, including on the live TV programme, Face the Nation, hosted by Shameer Rasooldeen, strongly defended the CTFRM proposals. Among those on the Face the Nation panel on that day were Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and Dr. Jehan Perera, who had accompanied the government delegation to Geneva in 2017. The writer is of the opinion that full participation of foreign judges and other experts will help Sri Lanka to reveal the truth and establish the accountability of those now shedding crocodile tears.

NGO funding for media

In the wake of Janaranjana’s resignation as the editor of Ravaya, in late January this year, the attorney-at-law has revealed NGO funding received by Ravaya during his tenure as the editor. In a piece published in Feb 11, 2018, the edition of Ravaya, Janaranjana explained the circumstances leading him to quit, unceremoniously. Janaranjana was responding to founder editor of Ravaya, Victor Ivan, essay that justified the senior colleague’s departure. Janaranjana’s battle with Ivan is certainly not relevant to the examination of the civil society’s involvement in the current political crisis.

The inordinate delay in holding scheduled local government polls finally transformed countrywide the Feb 10 polls to a referendum on the performance of the UNP and the SLFP. Having suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, President Maithripala Sirisena’s SLFP caused chaos by making an abortive bid to oust UNP leader and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. An embarrassed Sirisena has been forced to accept Wickremesinghe as PM and explore ways and means, jointly, to solve the crisis triggered by the SLFP’s ill-fated strategy.

Sirisena and those now remaining after 16 out of 41 UPFA parliamentary group loyal to him had deserted him in the wake of the April 4 vote on the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) are desperately trying to stabilize the SLFP. In a desperate bid to find time and space to address the deteriorating situation, Sirisena last Friday prorogued parliament.

Director General of Government Information attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardana issued the following statement to the media: "By Gazette notification (Gazette Extraordinary 2066/43 of April 12, 2018), with effect from Thursday 12th April 2018, the Parliament was prorogued. The next Parliament session will commence on 8th May 2018. The prorogation is the period between the end of a Parliament session and the opening of the next Parliament session. Under Article 70(4) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka "All matters which, having being brought before Parliament, have not been disposed of at the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next session" Therefore, the prorogation of Parliament has no negative impact on the functioning and operation of the Government."

Of course, Gunawardana, whom the writer associated with for some time, was performing his duties. No one can find fault with Gunawardana for doing his job. However, the writer felt in wake of Gunawardana’s new responsibilities, Janaranjana’s revealing comment on his (Gunawardana’s) NGO ‘Rights Now’ should be examined. Thanks to Janaranjana, those interested in studying NGO/civil society ‘operations’ can examine the arrangement between Rights Now and Ravaya. The writer does not consider for a moment that the arrangement is inappropriate or illegal. The right of an NGO/civil society to acquire space in print media shouldn’t be a matter for concern. All print media, including Upali publications, accept advertisements from NGOs/civil society, hence there cannot be any issue as regards Rights Now having a long term arrangement with Ravaya.

‘Rights Now’ project

Denying Victor Ivan’s claim that he hadn’t been aware of Janaranjana’s involvement with Rights Now, the former Ravaya editor claimed that Ivan was informed in 2008 of him being the Chief Executive and Director of the NGO. According to Janaranjana, Victor Ivan was told of his relationship with Rights Now when he accepted the post of Acting editor, Ravaya in 2008, after having served the weekly as a page lay-out artist and cartoonist.

Janaranjana revealed that at the inception of Rights Now, on his recommendation, the NGO bought one full page of Ravaya to promote its ideals. Substantial foreign NGO funds were made available to Ravaya via Rights Now and the arrangement is continuing, Janaranjana said, disclosing another project that received foreign NGO funding.

Janaranjana admitted that him being involved in these projects either as a senior member of Rights Now or as editor of Ravaya. In the run up to the last presidential polls, the writer participated in a live TV debate, on Derana, hosted by Chatura Alwis, featuring Sudarshana Gunawardana and Ven. Dambara Amila.

Responding to Victor Ivan’s criticism that his political activity had caused debilitating damage to Ravaya, Janaranjana explained the formation of Purawesi Balaya in late 2014 against the authoritarian Rajapaksa administration. Purawesi Balaya project was meant to mobilize the public against the then administration. According to Janaranjana, Victor Ivan had been one of those aware of the planned formation of the civil society group and spoke to the then Colombo Mayor UNPer A.J.M. Muzammil to secure Hyde Park for its inaugural meeting on Dec 2, 2014. Their primary objective was to bring all political elements opposed to the Rajapaksas onto a common platform. Except for JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, all other invitees, including twice president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had joined the Dec 2 rally.

Janaranjana revealed discussions he along with other Purawesi Balaya representatives had with President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe from time to time to stress the implementation of the 2015 mandates, received in January and August.

Like his colleagues, Viyangoda and Saman Ratnapriya, Janaranjana strongly believes the responsibility on the part of Purawesi Balaya to constantly remind President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe of their obligations towards the electorate.

Although, Purawesi Balaya has sought to depict itself apolitical, no less a person than Janaranjana, who had been instrumental in forming the grouping is on record as having said that their effort was meant to thwart Rajapaksa’s bid to secure a third term.

Janaranjana, in his bid to defend his position vis a vis accusations directed at him, referred to an attempt made by Milinda Moragoda, one-time UNP Minister, who subsequently switched his allegiance to President Rajapaksa, to acquire Ravaya for a sum of Rs 20 mn. The agreement between Ravaya and Moragoda had been negotiated at a time the publication was experiencing dire financial crisis though Ravaya managed to overcome the difficulties with the help of a group of people represented in the Ravaya board of directors. Viyangoda has been one of the two directors with the other been Udan Fernando. Sale of Ravaya to Moragoda could be thwarted due to those who loved the paper making available funds to the tune of Rs 20 mn. Had the Ravaya-Moragoda agreement went through, it could have surely dealt a blow to the grouping that took on the Rajapaksas.

Civil society objectives

Civil society grouping’s primary objectives remain the enactment of a new Constitution in accordance with the Geneva understanding and maximum possible punitive action against those who had been responsible for corruption, war crimes and alleged killings. In the run-up to the Feb. 10 local government polls and after, civil society groups reiterated their call for speedier implementation of the much-touted promises. In addition to Purawesi Balaya and the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thera’s National Movement for Just Society (NMSJ), several other groups propagate similar views. Platform for Freedom aka Nidahase Wedikawa, strongly campaigns for new Constitution, accountability process and justice for families of those allegedly killed by the government.

Civil society owed an explanation to the country as to why Sri Lanka should follow Geneva Resolution 30/1 as the very basis of the document co-sponsored by Sri Lanka in 2015 Oct has been challenged in the UK House of Lords. In accordance with the Geneva Resolution, in addition to the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), Sri Lanka has agreed to establish a truth seeking commission, an office for reparations, and a hybrid judicial mechanism with a special counsel. Civil society and the NGO cannot under any circumstances ignore evidence that had been placed before the House of Lords because the CTFRM included key members. Purawesi Balaya alone had two key members on the CTFRM panel.

Senior representative of Families of the Disappeared Britto Fernando recently faulted President Maithripala Sirisena for the inordinate delay in the implementation of the Geneva pledges. Addressing the media at the Center for Society and Religion, Maradana, Fernando pointed out that the failure to establish OMP for so long after the passage of the relevant law couldn’t be justified under any circumstances. The government should be ashamed of its failure, Fernando said, blaming the President for easily giving in to those Buddhist monks and the likes of Joint Opposition parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena opposed to the Geneva initiative.

Fernando flayed President Sirisena for twice putting off the debate and vote on the Enforced Disappearances Bill scheduled to be taken up on July 5 and Sept. 9 last year due to political pressure.

Alleging that President Sirisena lacked strength to overcome the JO challenge, Fernando warned of dire consequences unless the government addressed accountability issues in accordance with the Geneva Resolution. Fernando recalled how former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had to pay a heavy price for not heeding the international community.

Fernando strongly condemned Minister John Seneviratne (SLFP) and UNP MP Kavinda Jayawardana for being recently critical of the OMP. Alleging that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa had exploited the situation to his political advantage, Fernando said that the likes of Seneviratne and Jayawardana playing politics with such a sensitive issue couldn’t be justified under any circumstances.

Interestingly, key civil society/NGO activists have been accommodated in the OMP.

Yahapalana dilemma

Having benefited from civil society and NGO efforts, President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe cannot ignore their concerns. Whether the SLFP and the UNP accept tolerable interference, civil society and NGOs are determined to pursue their post-war strategies. During the conflict NGOs and civil society groups played a different role. It must be stressed that during the war and the immediate aftermath of it, Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ weren’t in existence. Those who executive a particular strategy here or in any other part of the world cannot be expected to be wholly independent. They have no option but to pursue the dictates of their sponsors who like any other investor expected the beneficiary to its bidding regardless of consequences.

Obviously, current course of action adopted by the UNP is certainly not to the liking of Purawesi Balaya and others with similar objectives. Purawesi Balaya asserted that in case Wickremesinghe emerged victorious at the vote on NCM, he should immediately end association with Sirisena. Ven. Amila, at a hastily arranged media briefing called by Purawesi Balaya declared Wickremesinghe should abandoned Sirisena and proceed flat out to meet the 2015 mandate. But, Wikremesinghe, much to the disappointment to his allies is in the process of working out a common agenda that can be implemented in spite of the SLFP being further weakened due to 16 members breaking ranks at a crucial point as the three major political parties, namely the UNP, the SLFP and the JO/SLPP battle for control. Both the UNP and the SLFP are heavily influenced by civil society/NGOs with both parties constantly reminded of their obligations to the 2015 mandate.

Yahapalana leaders as well as civil society activists have conveniently failed to recognize that the 2015 mandates would never have been a reality if the Rajapaksas and their ‘A’ team comprising Gen. Fonseka, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Air Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke, STF Commandant DIG Nimal Lewke and the intelligence services chiefs did not lose their nerve. Sorry, the writer is unable to mention those officers and men who had made victory possible over the separatist LTTE.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The role of civil society

Prez polls 2015 and beyond



Purawesi Balaya and a Collective of Civil Society Organizations called a public meeting at the Mahaweli Center on Monday (April 9) to discuss the failure of yahapalana leaders to deliver their promises and remedial measures in the wake of the abortive bid to oust PM Wickremesinghe. From left: Saman Ratnapriya, Gamini Viyangoda, Vikramabahu Karunarathe and Ven. Dambara Amila at the head table. (pic by Saman Abesiriwardena)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

A Collective of Civil Society organizations played a significant role in the UNP-led campaign that brought an end to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, in January 2015.

In spite of some differences among those who had been involved in the high profile exercise, the grouping vigorously campaigned to thwart war-winning twice President Rajapaksa’s bid to secure a third term. Whatever the differences, they were united in ousting the Rajapaksas.

The group also played a critical role in introducing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to rescind provision for a person to seek a third presidential term. The Amendment also barred Sri Lankans, having dual citizenship, from contesting presidential and parliamentary polls.

Rajapaksa assumed presidency in late November 2005 at the expense of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Had the LTTE and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) allowed the Tamil electorate to exercise their franchise in the Northern Province, Wickremesinghe would have comfortably secured the presidency.

Rajapaksa secured a second term in January 2010 beating war-winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka. The TNA backed Fonseka.

Rajapaksa lost his bid to extend his rule in January 2015 when longstanding SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena defeated him. The TNA made Sirisena’s victory possible.

Political parties debated the TNA role in the run-up to No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Wickremesinghe debated and voted on April 4. The discussion is continuing with the Joint Opposition (JO) alleging Wickremesinghe-TNA agreement to defeat the NCM. The entire 16-member TNA parliamentary group voted against the NCM.

The National Movement for a Just Society (NMJS) led by the late Maduluwawe Sobitha thera, Purawesi Balaya, Left Center affiliated to the LSSP, Chamara Nakandala’s Parapuraka Balaya and Akalanka Hettiarachchi’s Aluth Parapura campaigned against the previous government and after the change of administration in January 2015. Although, various civil society groups had been engaged in politics, Sri Lanka never experienced what can be described as the collective power and influence of the civil society grouping until the late Sobitha, chief incumbent of the Kotte Naga Viharaya, took on the Rajapaksas.

In fact, the UNP couldn’t have carried out the political project without the support of the civil society grouping that mercilessly attacked the previous government. In spite of Ven. Sobitha’s demise in November 2015, within weeks after the parliamentary polls, the NMSJ, under Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, continues to play a role. However, Wijesooriya hadn’t been able to sustain the operation at the late Sobitha’s level though, as an individual, the academic took up contentious issues, efficiently.

However, Purawesi Balaya has come to the forefront in the wake of the recent JO-led bid to oust UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe through a NCM moved with the tacit understanding of President Sirisena. Purawesi Balaya tirelessly campaigned to save Wickremesinghe and the UNP-led administration though it, too, is also really disturbed by the UNP’s conduct. The civil society has been compelled to take a stand to prevent former President Rajapaksa gaining ground.

Actually, other civil society groups had been largely silent on the high profile political project to throw out the UNP leader. The role played by Purawesi Balaya should be examined against the backdrop of the other groups being largely silent in the run up to vote on the NCM on April 4. Purawesi Balaya Co Convenors, veteran literally translator Gamini Viyangoda and health worker Saman Ratnapriya as well as former Ravaya editor K.W. Janaranjana attacked the JO project.

Ven. Dambara Amila, who had been originally with the late Ven. Sobitha, too, addressed some media briefings organized by Purawesi Balaya at the Center for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana, where he strongly defended Wickremesinghe and the UNP. Ven. Amila also addressed media briefing organized by Buddhist clergy supportive of the UNP, also at the same venue, where he blamed Sirisena 99 per cent for the failure on the part of the administration to fulfill its obligations. That assertion was made in response to a query posed by the writer. Evidently, Ven. Amila and Purawesi Balaya are not on the same page on all matters though they fully cooperate on strategy to keep the former President out of Temple Trees and the President’s House.

Purawesi Balaya on TNA’s role

In the run-up to the vote on the NCM, Viyangoda flayed Sirisena for being harshly critical of Wickremesinghe for seeking the TNA support to defeat the move in parliament against him. Viyangoda emphasized that Sirisena had absolutely no right to be critical of Wickremesinghe’s strategy as the TNA played a significant role in the 2015 operation to change Rajapaksa’s government. Recollecting how the LTTE boycott of the 2005 presidential polls enabled Rajapaksa to defeat Wickremesinghe by less than 200,000 votes, Viyangoda reminded Sirisena hat he was the BIGGEST BENEFICIARY IN THE 2015 TNA INVOLVED PROJECT.

The writer was present on that occasion. Viyangoda missed two critical points - the TNA’s role in the polls boycott ordered by the LTTE and the TNA’s role in Fonseka’s presidential bid. Many an eyebrow was raised when the TNA declared its support for Fonseka in the wake of war crimes allegations directed at the Sri Lanka Army.

Viyangoda strongly defended the TNA right to reach consensus with major political parties on whatever issues it desired. Viyangoda is quite right that Sirisena shouldn’t play politics with the issue after having received the TNA support to defeat Rajapaksa.

The role played by the US embassy, since 2009, in the overall plan to bring an end to the Rajapaksas rule in now in the public domain. The TNA, in June 2016, revealed in Washington the US role in a controversial agreement on foreign judges in war crimes court. The revelation was made several months after Sri Lanka co-sponsored Geneva Resolution 30/1 in October 2015.

A tripartite agreement

In spite of Sirisena repeatedly assuring foreign intervention will not be allowed, there is still a tripartite agreement on the inclusion of foreign judges and other international experts in the proposed war crimes court.

Addressing the Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, on June 14, 2016, Jaffna District MP and TNA spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran named the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), the US and the TNA as parties to the agreement. The parties to the agreement also agreed that the proposed arrangement is in line with the Constitution.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government never contradicted Sumanthiran’s statement made in the presence of the then Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington Prasad Kariyawasam. Kariyawasam is now back in Colombo as the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sumanthiran’s statement should be examined against the backdrop of the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s call for the participation of foreign judges and other experts in the proposed domestic inquiry. Hussein has repeated the call for foreign judges.

Sumanthiran declared that Geneva adopted a watered-down resolution in respect of accountability issues on the basis of the tripartite understanding.

Declaring that the Geneva Resolution had been adopted on Oct 1, 2015, following tripartite negotiations involving the Sri Lankan government, the US and the TNA, MP Sumanthiran declared that they had agreed for a hybrid court with foreign judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and investigators.

The Washington event was moderated by Sadhanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank. The Caucus is an initiative launched by the United States House Representatives Bill Johnson of Ohio and Danny Davis of Illinois, in November, 2013.

The writer had an opportunity to raise Sumanthiran’s statement with Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, in August 2017, at the Foreign Ministry when he succeed disgraced Ravi Karunanayake. With Kariyawasam standing by his side, former Attorney General assured that foreign judges couldn’t be accommodated under any circumstances, in accordance with Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

Sumanthiran verbatim

Let me reproduce the relevant section of Sumanthiran’s statement in Washington verbatim which the writer received from TNA leader R. Sampanthan’s Office. Had Sampanthan didn’t release it, the country would have been in the dark as to the existence of the agreement. The Sri Lankan Embassy conveniently refrained from referring to Sumanthiran’s bombshell, in its statement.

The TNA, in a statement, issued on June 16, 2016, quoted MP Sumanthiran as having told the congressional hearing: "I was personally involved in the negotiations, with the United States of America also participating in that particular process. There were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they can and that is how that phraseology was agreed upon. And so, to us having negotiated and compromised and agreed that there would be a hybrid tribunal to try these mass atrocities, it is not open for the government now to shift its stance and say "well, international involvement yes, but it’s in a different form, now...’. That is not acceptable to us all."

Rajapaksa’s failure

Strangely, the Rajapaksa administration never made an attempt to inquire into the conduct of the TNA during the war and the period the Norway-managed Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was in operation. Having recognized the LTTE, in late 2001, as the sole representative of Tamils and worked closely with the LTTE throughout the war, the TNA emerged unscathed in the wake of Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism.

Actually, the previous government surely owed an explanation to the country as regards its unpardonable failure to inquire into the TNA. Today, the TNA leads high profile campaign overseas and here to pressure Sri Lanka. The writer recently (April 6) raised the TNA warning to current dispensation over what he described as delay in implementing the Geneva accord with President Sirisena as well as his failure to robustly defend Sri Lanka at the UN body. Sirisena side-stepped the issue. Failure on the part of successive governments to examine the TNA wretched past has allowed Sampanthan or Sumanthiran for that matter to act as if he is paragon of virtue.

The TNA-LTTE relationship, partnership or whatever one may use to describe the destructive alliance, is a fact even pointed out by the European Union, way back in June 2004 in the wake of the April 2004 general election. Unfortunately, successive governments, the Election Commissioner/National Election Commission and foreign-funded election monitoring bodies never took up the issue.

The EU blamed the TNA for securing the lion’s share of the electoral seats in the northern and eastern districts with the backing of the LTTE. The EU directly blamed the LTTE for unleashing violence on candidates challenging those who had been fielded by the LTTE. All TNA candidates had been cleared by the LTTE at that time. Successive governments never bothered at least to comment on the EU report. Shame on spineless and useless politicians and the Election Commissioner who failed to act on the EU report.

They did nothing when the TNA, on behalf of the LTTE, ordered Tamils not to exercise their franchise at the Nov. 17, 2005 presidential polls. The LTTE-TNA move which was meant to deprive Wickremesinghe of certain victory at the presidential poll, helped Rajapaksa to win and to set the stage for an all out war. It was to be their final war. Those who claim that Rajapaksa bribed the LTTE to ban northern Tamils voting for presidential candidates should ask Sampanthan, MP, whether he was aware of the clandestine transaction.

So far, those who had accused Rajapaksa of bribing the LTTE are yet to ask Sampanthan and his parliamentary group whether they were aware of the transaction.

Parliament should consider appointing a committee to inquire into the complicity of the TNA in the LTTE’s November 2005 presidential polls boycott. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) never examined the TNA’s complicity in mayhem.

My friend Viyangoda, probably forgot to mention how in the run-up to the January 2015, presidential polls, UNP turncoat Tissa Attanayake alleged that Sirisena reached a secret agreement with the UNP that encompassed the TNA’s demands. Having switched allegiance to Rajapaksa, soon after Sirisena declared his presidential candidature, Attanayake released the alleged agreement. Now the matter is before courts.

A comprehensive examination of political alliances is necessary to establish the truth and the circumstances leading to Sumanthiran’s declaration in Washington. That statement cannot be compared with any other alleged agreement between the onetime mouth piece of the LTTE and registered political parties. The JO never bothered to raise Sumanthiran’s statement in parliament though the writer personally brought it to the notice of the top leadership. Either the JO didn’t care or lacked interest to pursue the matter. Over one and half years after Sumanthiran’s statement in Washington, the country remains in the dark as to the negotiations leading to the tripartite understanding involving Sri Lanka, the US and the TNA. The US Embassy never disputed The Island reportage of this matter.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Who will have egg on face?

Vote today on NCM against PM over treasury bond scams



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The elite Special Task Force (STF) had to be deployed last Wednesday (March 28) morning at Maskeliya in support of the local police, struggling to quell clashes following the appointment of Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) local heavyweight, G. Sembalawalli, as the chairperson of the Maskeliya Pradeshiya Sabha.

There had never been an instance of the police para-military arm being summoned to reign in political parties ‘battling’ for control of local government bodies. Following call for assistance, the STF headquarters directed its bases at Maskeliya and Thalawakelle to intervene.

Nearly a decade after the successful conclusion of the war, the country is in deep turmoil with recognized political parties in ‘destabilization mode’ much to the disappointment of the people.

The Maskeliya violence reflected a new crisis Sri Lanka is experiencing in the wake of massive electoral defeats suffered by yahapalana partners, the UNP and the SLFP/UPFA at the Feb. 10 local government polls.

While Maskeliya ‘battle’ was on, Home Affairs Minister and staunch Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalist Vajira Abeywardena declared, at Sirikotha, that the introduction of a new local government system that had doubled the number of members and caused unprecedented political unrest, was a national crime.

The new system pushed the number from over 4,000 to well over 8,000.

Asserting that the new system had cast an evil spell on the country, Abeywardena recalled the JVP led violence, directed at the UNP for introducing Provincial Councils, at the behest of New Delhi. Abeywardena stopped short of encouraging violence against newly elected councillors though he expressed surprise at the irate public for not attacking new councillors on streets.

Abeywardena had never publicly opposed the new system until the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) brazenly betrayed the UNP at the recent election of Chairman of the Galle Municipal Council (GMC) to enable Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to secure the top post. Abeywardena tore into Rauff Hakeem’s party demanding that punitive action be taken against the coalition member. The writer was among the scribes at the media briefing, called by the UNP, to issue a dire warning to President Maithripala Sirisena. The UNP retaliated immediately after Minister S.B. Dissanayake, on behalf of President Sirisena, declared the SLFP’s support for the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against PM Wickremesinghe on the basis of his culpability for treasury bond scams. When the writer raised the culpability of President Sirisena and the SLFP in treasury bond scams from Dissanayake, the minister struggled to explain their role. But he ended up admitting the SLFP couldn’t interfere with the UNP project. A damning admission, indeed.

On the other hand, Wickremesinghe loyalist Abeywardena made a foolish attempt to play down revelations made by the media regarding bond scams. In fact, the Galle District MP went to the extent of declaring Wickremesinghe’s innocence on the basis of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P-CoI) findings.

The massive defeat suffered by the UNP and the SLFP at the Feb. 10 polls should be examined against the backdrop of treasury bond scams. In spite of expensive propaganda, the UNP failed, pathetically, to explain the circumstances under which the treasury bond scams took place whereas the SLFP sought to deny its responsibility. Had the yahapalana partners managed to avoid a humiliating defeat at the recent polls, they wouldn’t have felt the need for far reaching reforms. The SLFP, too, is responsible for the treasury bond scams. In fact, the far bigger second treasury bond scam, perpetrated in 2016, couldn’t have taken place without the SLFP’s tacit support, though the party pretended otherwise.

Unfortunately, P-CoI didn’t inquire into the culpability of the SLFP, thereby depriving the public of knowing the circumstances under which the second bond scam took place over a year after the first.

President Sirisena’s decision to remove the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission from Wickremesinghe’s purview last Thursday ((March 28) was meant to deceive the public. A gazette extraordinary, announcing the President’s decision, was issued a week before the NCM. The two institutions have been brought under the Ministry of Finance. In other words, the SLFP leader, in no uncertain terms, declared Wickremesinghe’s responsibility for treasury bond scams.

Now that a vote on the NCM, primarily based on Wickremesinghe’s role in treasury bond scams, is scheduled to take place today (April 4) let me recollect the circumstances leading to the showdown in parliament. MP Prof. G.L. Peiris moved a NCM against Mahendran a few weeks before the dissolution. Of the charges mentioned, two were directed at Wickremesinghe over his alleged role in the Feb 27, 2017, issuance of treasury bonds.

The ‘Great’ Central Bank robbery

Jan. 8, 2015: Presidential election

Jan.9, 2015: Maithripala Sirisena sworn in as President

Jan.9, 2015: Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as Prime Minister

Jan.23, 2015: Then Finance Minister Ravi K recommended Arjuna Mahendan as Governor, CBSL

Jan. 26, 2015: President Sirisena appointed Singaporean Mahendran as Governor, CBSL.

Feb. 26, 2015: Mahendran met ministers, Ravi K, Kabir H and UNP Chairman Malik S at CBSL, allegedly to discuss a massive fund requirement of Rs 18 bn

Feb 27, 2015: First bond scam perpetrated. Within hours, the top financial sector knew how Primary Dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) had carried out the operation in connivance with Mahendran, father-in-law of Arjun Aloysius, owner of PTL. The PTL is a fully owned subsidiary of Perpetual Capital (Pvt) Limited, owned by Geoffrey Joseph Aloysius and Arjun Joseph Aloysius.

Massive media coverage of the bond scam sent shock waves through the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.

March 10, 2015. Wickremesinghe, following consultations with Sirisena, appointed a three-member committee to probe the issuance of treasury bonds. The committee comprised attorney-at-law Gamini Pitipana, attorney-at-law Mahesh Kalugampitiya and attorney-at-law Chandimal Mendis.

May 21, 2015: The Joint Opposition made representations to Speaker Chamal R demanding a special debate on the bond scam.

May 22, 2015: Special Sub Committee of CoPE appointed to probe the Feb 29, 2015 issuance of treasury bonds. The 13-member Sub Committee had its inaugural meeting on the same day under the chairmanship of Dew Gunasekera.

The committee comprised Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and General Secretary of the Communist Party, D. E.W. Gunasekera, UPFA MP Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine Rajitha Senaratne, UPFA MP Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Democratic National Alliance MP Sunil Handunetti, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga, UPFA MP Hassan Ali, Deputy Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion Eran Wickramaratna, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Deputy Minister of Justice Sujeewa Senasinghe, UPFA MP Weerakumara Dissanyake, Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) MP E. Saravanapavan and State Minister of Child Development Rosy Senanayake.

Parliament had never before appointed a special committee comprising members of COPE to investigate a specific allegation against a senior state official.

May 26, 2015: Probe commenced with Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga and Director General, Department of Treasury M.S.D. Ranasiri being questioned.

June 18, 23, 2015: CoPE questioned Mahendran. The Singaporean was the last to appear before the committee.

June 25, 2015: Wickremesinghe alleged CoPE denied him of an opportunity to appear before the watchdog.

June 26, 2015: Sirisena dissolved parliament to thwart CoPE presenting its report on treasury bond scam. General election set for Aug. 17, 2015.

The dissolution prevented the CoPE Chairman Dew Gunasekera from presenting his report on the first treasury bond scam. In a related action, UNP Deputy Justice Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe moved court to bar Gunasekera from releasing his report to the media.

The writer sought an explanation from Gunasekera, in January this year, at a media briefing, as to the responsibility of Sirisena and the SLFP in the second bond scam, perpetrated in March 2016. Asked whether, far bigger second treasury bond scam could have been prevented if not for the dissolution of parliament in June 2015, Gunasekera said that question should be posed to President Sirisena as he had done so.

Much respected veteran politician Gunasekera explained the unacceptable growth achieved by PTL at the briefing held at the Communist Party headquarters, Borella. "Let me explain the phenomenal growth of PTL since its establishment in 2013 during the previous administration. Having launched operations with Rs. 300 mn as capital, how could PTL manage to obtain Rs. 11 bn in profits within five months?"

June 28, 2015: The writer in an exclusive story based on Dew Gunasekera’s suppressed report headlined ‘COPE inquiry finds Mahendran had intervened in bond issue’ in June 28 edition of The Sunday Island dealt with Mahendran’s clear complicity in the first scam.

The report drew an angry reaction from the UNP in the wake of Sirasa giving heavy coverage to The Sunday Island report. The ruling party insisted that it be given immediate opportunity to counter The Sunday Island report. Senasinghe and Mahendran told the writer there was no basis for the Dew Gunasekera report. Senasinghe flayed Dew Gunasekera for playing politics and making a despicable bid to undermine the UNP for the advantage of a section of the SLFP (Bond scam: UNP rejects COPE report as biased with strap line ‘Govt. MPs did not endorse the document’-The Island, June 29, 2015).

July 3, 2015: Dew Gunasekera declared that Sirisena could take tangible action on what he called ‘dossier of evidence’ produced by his committee. Gunasekera asserted that Sirisena could call for a copy of the 447-page report from the Secretary General of parliament W.B.D. Dissanayake. The writer covered the briefing at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute where the Communist Party chief explained how those responsible for the worst financial scam here could be dealt with (COPE bond scam probe: Prez can act on evidence-The Island, July 4, 2015).

Aug. 17, 2015: parliamentary polls.

Sept. 4, 2015: Karunanayake re-appointed Finance Minister. Malik Samawickrema appointed Development Strategies and International Trade Minister.

Nov. 27, 2016: COPE reconstituted with JVP MP Sunil Handunetti as its Chairman.

March 31, 2016: Second far bigger bond scam perpetrated.

June 29, 2016: Sirisena visited the CBSL much to the discomfort of Wickremesinghe and Mahendran.

July 2, 2016: Renowned economist Dr Indrajith Coomaraswamy succeed Mahendran as Governor, CBSL. Wickremesinghe made an abortive bid with the support of Karunanayake to secure Sirisena’s approval for Charitha Ratwatte. But disgraced Mahendran remained in Wickremesinghe’s entourage.

January 27, 2017: Sirisena appoints P-CoI consisting of Supreme Court Judges Kankanithanthri T. Chitrasiri and Prasanna Sujeewa Jayawardena and former Senior Deputy Auditor General Kandasamy Velupillai to probe treasury bond scams.

Aug. 2, 2017: Karunanayake humiliated at P-CoI over the lease of a fifth-floor super luxury condominium apartment at the Monarch residencies, that was allegedly paid for by Arjun Aloysius.

Aug. 10, 2017: Foreign Minister Karunanayake resigned over corruption charges that transpired at the P-CoI. Earlier Karunanayake received foreign ministry portfolio on May 25, 2017. Karunanayake switched portfolios with Mangala Samaraweera.

Nov 16, 2017: Evidence at the Bond Commission revealed how Arjun Aloysius had been in touch with some members of the Parliamentary watchdog Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) during COPE hearings.

Aloysius had spoken a total of 227 times to Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, 18 times with Dayasiri Jayasekara, 176 times with Harshana Rajakaruna and 73 times of Hector Appuhamy during periods commencing January 2015.

Nov 20, 2017: Wickremesinghe received kid glove treatment at P-CoI with AG Jayantha Jayasuriya assigned to question him. But Wickremesinghe’s affidavits received by P-CoI in response to questions sent to him by the P-CoI and the AG’s department and PM’s responses to AG Jayasuriya established the UNP’s leader’s complicity and failure to thwart scams beyond doubt. P-CoI concluded.

Dec 30, 2017: P-CoI report handed over to Sirisena.

Jan. 4, 2018: Sirisena addressed the nation regarding the P-CoI report. Sirisena mounted a devastating attack on the UNP over treasury bond scams in the run-up to the Feb. 10 local government polls. Sirisena’s strategy caused heavy damage to the UNP at the Feb. 10 polls. Sirisena’s relationship with Wickremesinghe suffered irreparable damage due to Sirisena’s verbal attacks.

Feb. 10, 2018: UNP and SLFP suffered debilitating setbacks. Their sidekick JVP devastated.

Feb. 19, 2018: Constitutional expert Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne on behalf of the United Left Front (ULF) called Wickremesinghe role in treasury bond scams the third primary reason for the humiliating defeat suffered at the Feb. 10 polls.

March 28, 2018: Sirisena removed Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission from Wickremesinghe’s purview-1,125 days after the first bond scam and 727 days after the second bond scam.

Strangely throughout this period, Western powers conveniently refrained from publicly commenting on the treasury bond scam though they worked overtime to discredit the previous Rajapaksa administration with the US pledging to help Sri Lanka recover stolen funds. India also pledged to assist yahapalana efforts.

In fact, the current political leadership certainly owed an explanation to the public as to how Mahendran, Aloysius and PTL CEO Kasun Palisena had committed the second bond scam 13 months after the first controversial issuance. Obviously, they had been sure nothing could go wrong. Most probably, they believed Mahendran was going to have his own term as the government after having completed the period allocated to his predecessor Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Cabraal quit immediately after the Jan 2015 presidential polls.

The public should be grateful to former CBSL Senior Deputy Governor Dr W. A. Wijewardena, and the media for relentlessly pursuing the treasury bond scams. Primary dealer PTL receiving prior information as regards the CBSL’s last minute decision to issue treasury bonds to the value of Rs. 20 bn in spite of its initial call for bids for only Rs 1 bn worth of 30-year treasury bonds had been established beyond doubt now.

In spite of being mauled by a section of the media, Wickremesinghe, somehow had managed to convince the majority of the parliamentary group to vote against the JO’s NCM today. Those UNPers who had initially believed Wickremesinghe could be removed in the wake of the Feb. 10 debacle are in a dilemma in the wake of the UNP leader consolidating his position at the Working Group meeting last Thursday. Although Sirisena’s faction, comprising 44 members of parliament, last Friday (March 30) pledged its support to the NCM, the possibility of some of them switching their allegiance to Wickremesinghe today cannot be ruled out.

Similarly, the JO, too, should be certainly worried about the UNP trying to secure the support of its members. In the run-up to the Feb. 10 polls, Sriyani Wijewickrema (Ampara District/SLFP) and Weerakumara Dissanayake (Anuradhapura District/National Freedom Front) switched their allegiance to Sirisena’s SLFP. JHU’s Ven Atureliye Rathana thera (UNP National List) deserted the UNP some time back. Ven Rathana is unlikely to come to Wickremesinghe’s rescue though his JHU colleagues, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Karunaratne Paranavithana are certain to stand by Wickremesinghe. Still, the UNP seems confident of defeating the NCM on April 4. Perhaps, Wickremesinghe and his key advisors believe none in the UNP parliamentary group wants to be tainted with being a part of a JO operation directed at incumbent UNP leader whatever the leader’s flaws are.