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SRI LANKA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2015

Both main candidates need to do more


Courtesy: The Island
article_image

By Don Wijewardana

 

With less than a month to go to the polls there seems to be many outstanding issues that either candidate needs to address to convince the 11 million voters that he is the better man for the job. There are of course the diehards on either side who will not change but it is the swing voter who could make the difference that needs to be convinced. In this, President Rajapaksa is at an advantage with established credentials while the common candidate is yet to prove his. In case he wins it will mark a watershed in Sri Lankan politics. If President Rajapaksa wins, it offers him a longer reign allowing the opportunity to establish how he wants history to remember him. Leading up to the elections there are some key issues both candidates need to address.

The common candidate

More we look closely at the common candidate, his credentials, the programme and the MOU recently signed, the more we find that things won’t gel.

Maithripala Sirisena seems a nice guy. Apart from that there is nothing that distinguishes him to be the candidate to replace charismatic Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sarath Fonseka as the commander who led the army that defeated the ‘invincible’ LTTE had much better appeal for the task. Sirisena has been a Minister of course. But he has not done anything spectacular or out of the ordinary that sets him apart from the many other Ministers and ex-ministers. If he had got the premiership that he had been yearning for it could have made some difference but that did not come to pass.

The US has tried to remedy this deficit by facilitating the Harvard University’s Health Leadership Award. But within the country no one is raving about his performance in that area. So in the end the only qualification he seems to have is the acceptability to all parties opposing Rajapaksa, over the host of names that had been floating around including Ranil, Chandrika, Sajith, Karu and Maduluwawe Sobitha thera. But being acceptable to parties with diverse interests alone does not help win elections as Fonseka learned during the previous election. Sirisena has to work hard to offer himself as a credible alternative to Rajapaksa.

More bewildering to the average voter are the two key pronouncements Sirisena made: to abolish executive presidency within 100 days and appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister. Apart from the difficulty associated with achieving these aims within the short time frame the pronouncements leave much confusion for the elector. If Sirisena is going to be a ‘100-day wonder’ it is a ruse to get Ranil voted in as Prime Minister who will have the reins of power end of the three months. The question is if so, why not Ranil front up without adopting this devious means? Perhaps, the rationale for the stance may have been that it would be win: win with Sirisena attracting both SLFP and UNP votes. But that is a big ask and terrible risk. If both SLFP and UNP voters move away, especially with Sirisena committed to self-destruct in 100 days and adopting an entirely different symbol from the well-used hand or elephant, it could be a lose-lose situation.

More to the point, can Sirisena deliver on the two promises? To start with the executive presidency cannot be abolished by a Presidential decree. It has to be done through an amendment to the constitution that requires a two third majority in parliament. Within the current composition it would require 80 members from the UPFA crossing over to join the 65 in the opposition. Such mass move is unlikely and even if it does then it is the UPFA that maintains the majority. On the other hand if a parliamentary election is to be held (which would be difficult within three months of the Presidential election) there is no guarantee that they will get the required numbers.

Further complicating the issue is the need to have an alternative constitution ready if a bill to remove existing instrument of government is to be deleted. Such a bill will not only take time for drafting apart from the considerable period required to get through parliament and with a two-thirds majority.

With regard to appointment of Mr. Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister it is not that straightforward since the constitution requires it be the leader of the party that commands a majority in the house.

Besides all these the MOUs signed between different political parties and the common candidate seem more like a wish list rather than an arrangement to meet selected aims within a given time frame. For instance once the immediate tasks of constitutional matters related to abolishing executive presidency, repeal of 18th Amendment and the preferential voting system as well as higher salaries are implemented the new President will prevent large scale corruption, guarantee the primacy of the rule of law, restore democracy on a sustainable foundation of good governance, further develop the right to live in human dignity through re-establishment of the welfare state, empower youth to successfully meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world, guarantee dignity and equal opportunity for all citizen and create a civilized and moral society and in particular reform the political culture of the country.

They are all things to all men intended to appeal to the voter with the promise of heaven on earth. But on close examination one finds they are nothing but ‘motherhood and apple pie’ stuff that sound nice but hard to pin down. Everyone who governed the country so far will claim they had been already doing them for there is no way to verify. Was the MOU intended to hoodwink the voters than to achieve meaningful objectives?

In their haste to ordain the common candidate parties in the coalition overlooked the practical difficulties associated with implementing some of Sirisena’s fundamental claims. But as time went by this realisation seem to have crept in. The latest pronouncements seem to add on the missing bits though sometimes they raise more questions than answers. For instance the idea of forming a national government to ensure the two-thirds majority is a recent pronouncement by Sirisena. But this is also pie in the sky. All these politicians could not come together when the whole country was clamouring for it, to address a more pressing national issue – the LTTE on the brink of capturing one third of the country. And the war dragged on for 30 years amidst the bickering. The very same leaders spearheading the present coalition, in particular Chandrika and Ranil, at different stages offered the administration of the north entirely to the LTTE rather than form a national government to fight it. And now they have returned to make the same claim. They all seem blinded by the desire to oust Rajapaksa and gain power before they are banished to the wilderness for at least another eight yeas. Are they honest? Will the people believe them?

Somewhat surprising is that JHU, which had earned a healthy respect as an honest and principled party has also joined the fray signing a MOU with Sirisena. It is more specific than the other, yet it may prove unworthy of the paper written on as Sirisena’s term ends at the end of three months. A central idea of the MOU is the formation of a national government. Sirisena is in no position to offer any enduring commitment. Perhaps the agreement should have been with Ranil as Fonseka has done. Most principled stand was taken by the JVP, which is staying on the sidelines.

Former JHU Minister Ranawaka also extols the virtues of a situation where President being from one party and the Prime Minister from another as bringing about the right balance. He is either naïve (which is not likely) or deliberately underplaying the risk associated with such a situation. He very well knows of the hiatus during the period when Chandrika was President and Ranil PM that ended with the dissolution of parliament. He should also be aware that Obama has become a lame duck President because Republicans control the legislature. The second term is an ineffective period for the US President anyway. We would never have been able to rid the country of the LTTE menace if Rajapaksa had been in a similar position. Even with such powers all previous Presidents failed.

 

Problem is not with executive presidency

Although the coalition, excluding JHU, has come together to abolish the executive presidency (EP) the problem is not with the EP. There are many successful governments that are executive presidencies. For example, as Dayan Jayatillake has pointed out, of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, four (the US, Russia, China, France) have executive presidential systems. Only the UK does not. Of the members of the emerging/pivotal powers represented in the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) all except India have presidential systems. In fact it was the executive presidency, to a very large extent, that enabled not only to win the war but also to usher an era of rapid economic growth for Sri Lanka since it ended.

Also the abolition of EP will have other implications. One of those relates to the hounding by the West of the commander in chief and the armed force personnel who saved the country. They have been pining for a regime change ever since Rajapaksa won the war ignoring their advice to negotiate with the LTTE. Belatedly, probably at JHU urging, Sirisena has announced he will protect the President and the armed forces but it is not a united voice from coalition partners.

Clarification will also be needed from the common candidate (and backers) on some further burning issues such as the 13th amendment and armed forces in the north. Even as Sirisena commits himself there could be attempts by the West to buy over decision makers as Resettlement Minister Gunaratna Weerakoon divulged recently. The situation is further complicated by Sirisena’s commitment to hand over power to Wickremesinghe within 100 days. It raises the question whether the MoUs signed with him are worth the paper they are written on. If the common candidate is to attract the floating vote he has a lot of explaining to do on these issues within the next few weeks.

 

President Rajapaksa

The current incumbent is not immune from the need to explain his policies for the next period although he has well-established credentials for the job. The foremost among these is the defeat of the LTTE. The kudos he has gained from the victory has served him well for the past five years as reflected in the results of the last Presidential election and several regional elections. But that lustre is gradually fading. Here he has to heed Machiavelli’s advice to the prince that people have short memories. Ironically memories of negative deeds tend to linger longer, like a bad odour, than positive achievements.

The monumental victory over terrorism also created several enemies. Foremost among them are some western powers incensed by Rajapksa’s refusal to accept their advice to negotiate without fighting. With the defeat the west also lost the leverage it had on the government. The Diaspora pressure was to add fuel to the fire. So the pressure for regime change continues through every possible means. And an election is the closest they get to oust Rajapaksa from his perch.

Leaders who make statements that they would protect the President once in power will not be unhappy to do everything possible to see his back. That is the reason Rajapaksa has to work hard to ensure he remains the preferred candidate at this election.

Victory is also an opportunity for him to determine what legacy he wants to leave behind. If he wins Rajapaksa would be the only leader in modern Sri Lankan history to have had such a long reign, and could probably be the only person for many generations to come. That is a golden opportunity to etch his name in the history of Sri Lanka alongside greats like Dutugemunu. He is already on the way to that with the enduring peace he has brought to the country. But, that could be only the beginning if he utilises the long spell to change the lives of the 20 million people and their descendents.

Maintaining a majority in a volatile parliament where MPs change sides not on principles but on various other considerations is a difficult task. Rajapaksa seems to have mastered the art even to the extent of maintaining a two-thirds majority. Obviously that has come at a price.

There are widespread accusations of corruption and blatant lack of good governance. These may be true or may be not. But when the claims are so pervasive the President needs to assure the public that addressing them is a top priority for his next term. Having achieved a historic peace for the country he will not want to contaminate his record with such accusations. A government free of corruption and good governance are pillars of democracy. Under his watch Sri Lanka has made major strides as shown by many national and international indicators of success. What the President needs to do build on them is to commit to address accusations in his next term, not necessarily in the first 100 days.

There are several other key issues the two candidates need to address in the next few weeks to convince the voters.

( The writer is an economist.donwijewardana@gmail.com

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27 October 2014

 

SUBMISSION TO OISL (UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ENQUIRY ON SRI LANKA)

INTRODUCTION

 

Since the war in Sri Lanka against the Tamil terrorist group LTTE ended, and particularly since the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report (Darusman Report) was published in 2011, there has been a spate of accusations of genocide against GOSL. They have been from a range of NGOs such as Amnesty International, a number of western governments, some authors such as Gordon Weiss and Frances Harrison[1] as well as parts of the United Nations itself, mainly the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In these allegations the number of civilian deaths during the last stages of the war range from 40,000 in the Darusman Report to 150,000 in Harrison’s study.

 

GOSL has vehemently and persistently protested at these claims. At the same time a range of new independent research and surveys has emerged which cast severe doubts on the veracity of the death toll calculations and have presented more plausible alternative estimates. These studies include two reports by University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR (J) a group of Tamil teachers based in the Jaffna University[2], Independent Diaspora Analysis Group’s The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice[3], and Marga Institute and Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies publication, Issues and Accountability relating to the Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka: Narrative iii[4]. These are in addition to the report of a Presidential Commission, of eminent jurists,- Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report (LLRC)[5], produced following widespread consultations in different parts of the country. There were also a number of other well-researched articles, as well as a Sri Lankan Census Department’s Enumeration of Vital Events[6].

But the main interlocutors completely ignored these inconvenient reports. Furthermore, when the LLRC invited the INGOs, who were claiming massive HR breaches by GOSL, to give evidence, they refused en masse. The rejection was inexcusable but understandable. None of the critics was paid to find the truth or the fairness of accusations: they were paid to achieve an objective, which was to pursue human rights violators among the weaker nations. Also, the information met all their needs. So why look a gift horse in the mouth? Sadly, the position taken by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was no different from that of other critics. With that bitter five year experience the position taken by GOSL not to support the investigation is understandable.

We are making this submission in the belief that the expert panel which consists of two world renowned jurists and a Nobel Peace Prize winner will not wish to associate their names with yet another biased and unfounded litany of allegations to reinforce predetermined positions, while turning a blind eye to the mass of evidence that contradicts the long held stance of the powerful lobby. Instead, we hope, the experts take a more judicious and impartial position to evaluate the evidence on both sides of the argument in undertaking the investigation, as professed, “to be guided at all times by the principles of independence, impartiality, objectivity, transparency, integrity and “do no harm”. Such an impartial enquiry only will restore the faith of smaller nations in the UN system.

……..

[Continued in section on  ARTICLES]

[1] Still Counting the Dead. Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, London: Portobello Books, 2012.

[2] http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm, and

http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.rp34.htm

[3] The Numbers Game Politics of Retributive Justice: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/TheNG.pdf

[4] http://margasrilanka.org/blog/issues-of-truth-and-accountability-the-last-stages-of-the-war-in-sri-lanka-narrative-iii-marga-a-private-sector-perspective-chandra/

[5]http://www.presidentsoffice.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54:llrc-report&catid=53&Itemid=290

[6] http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/VitalStatistics/EVE2011_FinalReport.pdf

 

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CAMERON CLEAN BOWLED BY MURALI

[Posted 23 November 2013]

By Don Wijewardana*

 

David Cameron came to Colombo for the CHOGM more to read the riot act to President  Rajapaksa than to participate in the Commonwealth meeting. To publicise his feat at home he had an entourage of reporters from the British media. But the well-laid plan came to naught when he was clean bowled by an innocent bystander Murali.

Cameron looked a troubled man right through the entire visit. It was written all over his tense face, which hardly ever yielded a smile. This was while 52 other leaders attending CHOGM were relaxed attending to their business in the peace and tranquility that had returned to the island nation after 30 troubled years.  But Cameron’s behavior was not surprising.  Labour Party is chewing away at his vote base that put him in power and Tory membership numbers had declined by half during his leadership. These were ominous signs with an election looming in just over a year.

Complicating the picture was the Tamil factor. The Diaspora wields influence in a number of marginal seats. It was the same issue that dogged Labour at the last election when David Milliband confessed he spent 60 per cent of his time wooing the Tamil vote. It also took him to Sri Lanka on a fruitless mission to push President Rajapaksa to stop the war. Perhaps Cameron should have stayed home just like the Canadian and Indian Prime Ministers who pandered to the Tamil electorate in their own countries.

To do better than Milliband, Cameron decided to consult with the Tamil Diaspora who managed the Tamil vote in marginal constituencies. That was to  make sure he was on the same page with the three UK based Tamil organisations – Global Tamil Forum (GTF), British Tamil Forum (BTF) and Tamils against Genocide.  They were the ones that promised the Tamil vote. The meeting also detailed that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) back home would plan Cameron’s itinerary in the north. On the way to Sri Lanka Cameron met with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was in the same boat. Singh was instrumental in persuading TNA to choose the current Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.

Cameron was priming the British media long before leaving home. He wanted every detail of his performance in Sri Lanka reported back. He proclaimed he was going to “shine a light on the appalling human rights record of the government”.  Surprisingly no other representative from the 53-nation organization displayed this belligerence. They sympathized with Sri Lanka for the suffering it underwent during 30 years of terrorism when the LTTE killed 100,000 innocent civilians. They recognised action was in train to address issues but the country needed time and space for reconciliation. Many leaders clearly stated it was a domestic matter and the country had the mechanisms to deal with them.

It was very clear Cameron was playing to a well-planned script for a UK audience. To add drama to his actions Cameron left the first day’s deliberations at CHOGM immediately after the opening ceremony to fly to the northern capital. There he declared, that he was the first leader ever to visit Jaffna after Sri Lanka gained independence 65 years ago, comparing it to a feat similar to Sir Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Mt Everest.  The declaration was intended to score brownie points with the Tamil Diaspora. And he repeated it over and over. Perhaps he should also have acknowledged that it was made possible only by President Rajapaksa defeating the Tamil Tigers.

The visit to the north of the country planned by the TNA made sure he saw and discussed things they wanted him to. That included avoiding any reference to the developmental work, reconstruction, new housing, jobs creation etc undertaken by the government. They also organized demonstrations by people apparently who had lost a loved one. But it was not clear when it had occurred – under the LTTE rule when thousands of Tamils were eliminated, or later. Nor could they say whether the losses had been reported to authorities. The visits and meetings were all geared to reinforce what the Diaspora had already fed before Cameron left for CHOGM. Following the visit Cameron came fired up for the meeting with the Sri Lankan President. That was the final act in the drama before the press conference.

At the press conference following the meeting Cameron reiterated the problems of the north: lack of jobs, poor housing, unemployment and people who had lost loved ones. Rajapaksa would have been hurting to hear this account of neglect after spending three full years rebuilding the northern economy including building new houses, repairing the infrastructure destroyed by the LTTE, and new investments to create jobs. All that had led to the northern province reaching 22 and 27 per cent growth rates in the two previous years. And he would have been irritated to hear the rant from a former colonial master who had sucked the lifeblood of the nation for one and half centuries. Furthermore, when the country was going through 30 years of agony they were not to be seen.

Cameron reached the climax of his trip when he went on to tell the press conference,  “Let me be very clear, if an investigation is not completed by March, then I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to work with the UN Human Rights Commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.”

But Cameron’s plan to shine as a human rights crusader with these harsh words to Rajapaksa was ruined by a major slip-up.  In a move to earn more brownie points with the Diaspora, cricket enthusiast Cameron asked the British High Commissioner in Colombo to arrange to face a few balls from the legendary Muthiah Muralidharan, the world’s greatest wicket taker. Cameron opened up to Murali to relate what he had learnt from the trip to Jaffna, to hopefully a sympathetic ear, for Murali himself is a Tamil.  Cameron related in detail the appalling plight of Tamils in the north that he had learnt from the conducted tour by TNA. Murali who is a cricketer to the core and who has been promoting ‘reconciliation through cricket’ ever since the war ended was appalled at what he heard. Without mincing his words he told Cameron , “Mr Prime Minister, you have been badly misled. The situation with people in Jaffna is not anywhere near what you have been told. It has improved 1000 per cent since the war ended.  The army is not an oppressor there. They are the ones who built the schools, the infrastructure  and cricket grounds”. Murali also went on to ask whether Cameron was certain that the twenty odd mothers who talked of their lost children were telling the truth.

Cameron had no reason to doubt Murali for he had no axe to grind. But he could not accept them either because it was counter to the position he was promoting.  So Cameron dismissed the comments.

The trouble is when you take the press around to report on your achievements they also pick up things you don’t want them to hear. During the press interview a wayward young reporter asked Cameron what he thought of Murali’s comment. He was somewhat taken aback by the resurfacing of Murai’s remark but once again, he dismissed it.

With that chink in armour Cameron was in damage control mode. From then on he took questions only from the sympathetic media organisations, BBC, Channel 4 and ITN. He called them by name and the organisation they represented. And all local reporters were excluded without allowing a single question.  At the end he called one local reporter for a question. But after listening to it he just walked away without answering, to vociferous protests by the reporters. That was another difficult question. This was in sharp contrast to President Rajapaksa who was very relaxed during his press briefing and responded to all questions.

Some discerning reporters in the UK  followed up as they promised the protesting local journalists. But Rajapaksa had the last laugh when he said “those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others”.


*  donwijewardana@gmail.com.

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[Courtsey: Ceylon Daily News 4 June 2013]

QUO VADIS, NORTH?

Don Wijewardana Wellington, New Zealand

When the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed in July 1987 it was hailed as “New Delhi’s biggest diplomatic coup, which had immense strategic value”. Indeed. The conditions imposed on Sri Lanka were intended to end the freedom it enjoyed in having independent defence, foreign affairs and regional administration policies.

A significant outcome of the Accord was the establishment of the provincial council for North and East. Crouched as a means for nurturing the distinct cultural and linguistic identity in the Northern and Eastern provinces, which were “areas of historical habitation of Tamil speaking people”, it was Rajiv Gandhi’s answer to the separation demanded by the LTTE……..

[To read the complete article please go to page on “Articles”]

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From the Dominion Post – Wellington Newspaper 7 May 2013:

Chogm should be held in Sri Lanka

OPINION: The (New Zealand) Government has taken the right decision to attend the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka, because that country, in the process of reconciliation and rapid reconstruction of the war-ravaged north, needs the support and encouragement of the international community.
From 54 Commonwealth countries, only Canada has decided not to attend. It’s sad that Canada, which has much to contribute to the organisation, painted itself into a corner early on in wooing the large Tamil migrant community there.
New Zealand’s decision shows that it can take mature and well- considered decisions without being swayed by the false propaganda of the remnants of the Tamils’ terrorist group or simply following the ill-informed actions of an ally or being influenced by some powerful non-government organisations that sing for their supper.
DON WIJEWARDANA
Brooklyn

–      © Fairfax NZ News 

COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES- BEYOND THE GREENER PASTURES

Posted on 8 March 2013.

A collection of my short stories is now published on Amazon Kindle. You can preview it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BOGLLQG

This is a collection of four short stories by author. They are wholesome stories based largely in Sri Lanka and may have greater appeal to adult readers. Through them the reader will gain valuable insights into the culture and values of Sri Lanka, Some of them also raise wider philosophical issues to ponder on long after the stories have been read.Yet they are all written in simple and very readable language.

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Gota’s War – a review
Posted on November 26th, 2012

By Don Wijewardana

 It was only recently that I had the opportunity to read C.A Chandraprema’s Gota’s War.  Mahinda Rajapaksa successfully confronted the LTTE when all his predecessors failed miserably. One major factor that set him apart from the rest, was the pivotal role played by Gotbhaya Rajapaksa as the Defence Secretary.  As such it was a well-deserved recognition to write an account around the part he played in the war.  Like many others I was waiting to learn the background, what went on behind the scenes that helped in the victory. This book, to a certain extent, met my expectations.

Chandraprema often provides a detailed account of the progress of the war as well as offers useful background related to some of the contenders such as the Tamil Nadu, development of politics of the north and the LTTE itself.  In this respect it has a wealth of background information.

 Don Wijewardana is an economist and freelance journalist. He can be contacted at donwijewardana@gmail.com

[To read the complete article go to page on “Articles”.]

The Resolution Against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council: Did the U.S. Go Too Far?

by Don Wijewardana

April 25, 2012

 (courtesy: Foreign Policy Journal)

Download this article (PDF)

In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a United States-sponsored resolution pressing the Sri Lankan government to investigate alleged human rights violations during the final stages of the war with the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement immediately after, “the United States and the international community had sent a strong signal that Sri Lanka will only achieve lasting peace through real reconciliation and accountability.”

Sri Lanka, which rescued 300,000 hostages held by the LTTE as a human shield, by defeating the terrorist group, has continued to protest at the allegations of human rights violations. Special envoy on human rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, condemned the resolution as “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed”, and potentially harmful to the progress being made within the country.

The LTTE, in its brutal reign of three decades killed an estimated 100,000 and brought ruin to the once resilient economy.  Western governments warned President Mahinda Rajapaksa not to even attempt to fight the invincible terrorist group, which had mastered the use of female suicide bombers to cause widespread damage. But following a four-year grueling war, the LTTE was defeated in May 2009. It was the first time in recent history that a terrorist group had been so comprehensively beaten by a government. But not a single western government moved to congratulate Sri Lanka for the unparalleled feat.

As one Indian commentator noted

If such an outcome were to be secured in Iraq or Afghanistan or even in Pakistan, it would be embraced by the West as an unadulterated and righteous triumph. In Sri Lanka, however, it appears to have provoked … a seething and barely concealed outrage.… There is a sense, not of a dreaded terrorist organization having been defeated and destroyed, but of collaborators, comrades, and fellows at arms, lost to the enemy.[1]

The U.S. position seems ironic since it provided considerable help for the government to defeat the terrorists. The U.S. was one of the first countries to ban the LTTE and the FBI described it as the world’s deadliest extremist organization surpassing Al Qaeda or HAMAS. Many Tamils convicted for attempting to buy sophisticated arms and equipment in the US are currently languishing in jails mostly as a result of FBI sting operations.

 For complete article please go to Articles.

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DEVOLUTION TALKS SHOULD FOCUS ON LONG TERM GOALS AND NOT GET TANGLED IN IRRELEVANT ISSUES
Posted on October 29th, 2011

Don Wijewardana[i]

There have been protracted discussions between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to seek a mutually acceptable political solution to issues related to the Tamil community.  But these talks have been beset by problems. Demands of TNA have been to return to the premises of LTTE three decades ago although the political and demographic landscapes have changed dramatically since. Nevertheless, to buttress their claims and exert pressure on the government these leaders have sought external intervention with emotive claims of wrongful conduct by the government.

 SHORT TERM FOCUS

The tenor of the pronouncement of Tamil political leaders is evident in a statement issued by V. Anadasangaree, D. Siddhartha and T. Sritharan following a recent meeting with the new Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.  It noted that the government was trying to implement its own agenda of settling people of one ethnic group amidst another ethnic group, deliberately to change the demographic pattern of the area while the armed forces were building minicamps in the midst of settlements. The statement intended to raise emotions when it stated, “The people who had very bitter experiences extending to a period of over 30 years are panicked that they are in for further subjugation, for an indefinite period”[ii].  The wording has obviously been used to arouse emotions rather than to work out a solution.

To add more pressure a TNA delegation is currently in the US meeting with State Department at the behest of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake. In a statement fro Washington the delegation insisted, “The international community, including US, Europe and India, had to exert pressure on Sri Lanka to address the humanitarian concerns and for political reforms”[iii]. These moves have been preceded by an ultimatum by the Alliance to the government to respond to their demands within ten days.

Such pronouncements and maneuverings may be based on misunderstanding or mistrust or are a deliberate attempt to mislead the international community. They do not help in progressing negotiations in good faith. ..[continued..]

[For complete article please go to page on ARTICLES].

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RISE AND FALL OF WORLD’S DEADLIEST TERRORIST GROUP – TAMIL TIGERS

51IGckBpIuL._SS500_.jpg

Sri Lanka is the first country in recent histroy to beat terrorism after Malaya defeated the Malayan National Liberation Army – a Communist terrorist group, 50 years ealier. But the Tamil Tigers were an entirely different kettle of fish with modern arms and equipment and a global network of fund raising, arms procuring as well as promoting their cause to the rest of the world.

The book recounts the growth of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), its rise to parallel the Sri Lankan armed forces, and eventual demise. Their surprise defeat by the Sri Lankan armed forces has important lessons for rest of the world.

SEE THE PAGE ON BOOKS FOR DETAILS.

Reduction of parliamentary seats in North justifiable

Island

August 1, 2011, 7:07 pm

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=31465

I was surprised to read Sumanasiri Liyanage’s article on ‘Reducing political issues into technicalities’ conclude that it was premature to reduce the number of seats in Jaffna from 10 to 6.

By the time the census is taken later in the year and the data processed and applied it would be a few years. Sorting out demography related issues as a basis for future planning cannot wait since that is the most critical variable in decision making. We have reliable data of population in the North on account of a detailed enumeration of Grama Niladhari Divisions, done in 2007. (See the figure). As the accompanying notes show it has been a thorough exercise. Isn’t that sufficient evidence?

Don Wijewardana

Webpage: https://donwije.wordpress.com

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LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS

Posted on June 14th, 2011

Courtesy: Lankaweb

By Don Wijewardana

This term popularised by Mark Twain applies more potently today than when he wrote it early last century. In fact lying and concocting statistics to prove it have become a major industry today around the globe.

Two news items appearing in the international media last weeks clearly demonstrate this. One of these related to the war between two internet giants exploding into the open after it emerged Facebook paid a leading public relations firm to run a dirty tricks campaign against Google[1]. The social networking site admitted hiring global agency Burson-Marsteller to place negative stories about Google in newspapers, magazines and online. The PR company had told some selected bloggers that it could help write opinion pieces criticising Google’s system, and then help to place the stories with the media, including The Washington Post, Politico.com and The Huffington Post. It also emerged two former reporters, Jim Goldman and John Mercurio, who now work for Burson-Marsteller, pitched anti-Google stories to American newspapers such as USA Today.

The other aspect of misinformation was ‘creating’ news. Martin Fletcher, Associate editor of the Times, who spent six hours in detention in Homs, Syria recently wrote “The protesters have an agenda of their own – a vested interest in portraying the Government in the blackest possible light. One ‘‘witness’’ cited as a source for reports this week claimed that the regime had shut off supplies of water and electricity to parts of the city, and was refusing to let  residents enter or leave – but I saw no evidence of that”[2]. And he went on to say “but there is a tendency by the media outside to accept without question the claims of opposition activists, to treat them as facts”. Furthermore, every time the rebels kill a government soldier they portray it as a killing by the army for desertion. But the BBC pointed out this is often not true.

For us in Sri Lanka these are nothing surprising for we have suffered through decades on account of a litany of lies that the LTTE continued to spread. In fact the LTTE had mastered the art Goebbels had invented that if you keep on repeating a lie it will eventually stick.

[See page on ARTICLES for the complete document] 

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US suspicions of credibility of LTTE surrender offer make sense
Posted on June 6th, 2011

Courtesy: Lankaweb

Don Wijewardana

 US Defence Advisor Lieutenant Col. Lawrence Smith questioned the very basis of the allegation of war crimes levelled against the Sri Lanka Army, especially the ‘killing of a group of LTTE personnel and their families carrying white flags’ on the Vanni east front. He made this comment at the symposium on the Sri Lankan combined military campaign that defeated terrorism.

Lieutenant Col. Lawrence Smith is not a new comer to Sri Lanka. He had been the Defence Attaché at the US Embassy in Colombo since June 2008 – at the height of the Eelam War IV. While those who allege human rights violations do this from thousands of miles away Lieutenant Col.  Smith was following the actual events on an hour to hour basis from within the country. He went on to say “Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict — from what I was privileged to hear and to see, the offers to surrender that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE — Nadesan, KP — people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE.

So their offers were a bit suspect anyway and they tended to vary in content, hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers, before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.

[See page on ARTICLES for the complete posting].

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Walk to the troops’: SMS sent Tamils to their death”. The other side of the story.
[Courtesy: Lankaweb. Posted on May 14th, 2011]

Don Wijewardana

 Ben Doherty’s sensational article “Walk to the troops’: SMS sent Tamils to their death’ appearing in The Age of 14 May is one sided. At the time the war ended Palitha Kohona was Secretary of Foreign Affairs. As such he did not have any operational responsibilities relating to the war. All what he did was to provide information on how to surrender to anyone who enquired including Ban ki Moon’s Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar. The story should have ended there. But the LTTE rump desperately searching for someone to pin responsibility for the defeat of the terrorist group is clutching straws pursuing Kohona.

Besides this there is another fundamental aspect of the incident Doherty has failed to examine. That is that if Nadesan and Pulidevan indeed were intent in surrendering to the armed forces they were killed by the LTTE. There is considerable evidence to support this view, than the conjecture that the army killed them.

On 15 May 2009, three days before the war ended, President Rajapaksa had reiterated an earlier appeal he had made to the LTTE to surrender to armed forces unconditionally. B. Muralidhar Reddy, reporter for the Indian Frontline who was embedded with the security forces in Mullathivu noted “Frontline learnt from impeccable sources that from Jordan Rajapaksa sent a message (on 15 May) to the ICRC that his government was ready even at that late stage to accept the surrender of the Tiger leaders if it was unconditional. The message was duly conveyed but the initiative failed because the Tigers were ready to surrender only to a third party and not to the military”.

See page on ARTICLES for the complete posting

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THE NUMBERS GAME
Posted on May 5th, 2011

By Don Wijewardana

There is a familiar story in Sri Lankan folklore of a man vomiting seven crows. In fact what he had done was only throw up on a crow’s feather but as the story spread it got magnified over and over. A close parallel to this is currently being played out in the international arena. That is the account of numbers killed during the last days of the Eelam War IV.

Immediately after the end of the war the UN had suggested a death toll of possibly 7000. The source of this number was the LTTE’s Tamil Net. By that time the Tigers had given the world not only the suicide vest but also the art of perpetuating a lie until it became accepted as the truth. The West, reeling from Mahinda Rajapaksa’s refusal to heed their call for a ceasefire to rescue Prabhakaran, cottoned on to the number. But the U.N. Under-Secretary-General Sir John Holmes, who was responsible for its humanitarian operations, was uncomfortable using the figure. He underlined that it was an “estimate based on the best evidence that we had, but that wasn’t very good evidence because we weren’t really present in the (battle zone) in any systematic way. That’s why we didn’t publish them.”

Then a few days later the London Times reported that evidence gathered by it has revealed that at least 20,000 Tamils were killed mostly by army shelling on the beach as the army closed in on the Tigers. The paper blamed the UN for underestimating the death toll.

See section on ARTICLES for the complete paper.

CRICKET WORLD CUP

At the finals held in Mumbai between two friendly nations India and Sri Lanka India deservedly won. Congratulations India!. I know a lot of Sri Lankans will be sad and depressed. But it need not be so. Here’s a piece I wrote in the Island of 4 April 2011:

Why we should rejoice in defeat

April 3, 2011, 8:20 pm

Most Sri Lankans are likely to take the defeat in Mumbai badly and would be sad and depressed. But it should not be so. We should indeed be happy for the loss to India.  You see if Sri Lanka won it would have made 20 million people happy while bringing misery to 1.2 billion Indians. In other words India’s win has made 50 times more people happy than if Sri Lanka grabbed the golden globe. Economic theory of course discards such a concept comparing happiness of individuals since it is not measurable quantitatively. It may be true. But disregarding those complications in this instance it is very clear we have brought happiness to a vastly more number. We don’t get opportunities like that every day. So let’s rejoice in our defeat.

Don Wijewardana

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HOT OFF THE PRESS!!!!!!

RISE AND FALL OF WORLD’S DEADLIEST TERRORIST GROUP – TAMIL TIGERS

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Sri Lanka is the first country in recent histroy to beat terrorism after Malaya defeated the Malayan National Liberation Army – a Communist terrorist group, 50 years ealier. But the Tamil Tigers were an entirely different kettle of fish with modern arms and equipment and a global network of fund raising, arms procuring as well as promoting their cause to the rest of the world.

The book recounts the growth of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), its rise to parallel the Sri Lankan armed forces, and eventual demise. Their surprise defeat by the Sri Lankan armed forces has important lessons for rest of the world.

SEE THE PAGE ON BOOKS FOR DETAILS.

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LAND SETTLEMENT AND COLONISATION

In a democracy people should have the right to live where they choose to. But in Sri Lanka some political groups seek restrictions on some of the communities exercising this right. I am opposed to this. My thinking is in the latest article I wrote on the “Need for an objective policy on land settlement and colonization”.

Visit the Page on ARTICLES for details.

SRI LANKA: THE ONLY COUNTRY IN RECENT HISTORY THAT HAS DEFEATED TERRORISM

I spent much of last year writing a book about an amazing historic development in Sri Lanka.

For over 30 years the country was ravaged by the Tamil Tiger terrorists (LTTE) described by  FBI as the ‘world’s deadliest’. They were responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths which included mainly innocent men, women and children of Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil communities. They also included two heads of government, several ministers, human rights activists and academics. Among them were Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka. All attempts to negotiate a peace agreement failed with the the terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran demanding nothing less than a separate state, or Eelam, carved out of Sri Lanka.

In 2005 he was ready to wage the final war to establish Eelam. His opponent was a little internationally  known Mahinda Rajapaksa, newly elected President of Sri Lanka, who pleaded with Prabhakaran for a two-week respite until he settled down in the new job. With Prabhakaran rejecting the request outright Rajapaksa was reluctantly forced into war. With systematically attacking the LTTE, who at that time held one third of the country within its control, he completely eliminated the terrorist group by 18 May 2009.

How did Rajapaksa succeed when all previous political leaders failed? My search for an answer to this question I found so interesting. It culminated in writing my  new book HOW LTTE LOST THE EELAM WAR. There are important lessons in Sri Lanka’s experience for countries still embroiled in terrorism and for those wishing to rid the world of this scourge.  For more information see page on Books.

OTHER WRITING

Sometimes when I want to use my nervous energy writing on current affairs I dabble in creative writing or writing a letter or an article to the newspapers or penning a short story.You will find some of them in these blog pages. If you have nothing more important to do please read them and give me your comments.

5 thoughts on “Recent writing

  1. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one today.

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