drowns in Mavil Aru
- Dilan attacks Weerawansa as 'cardboard wansa'
- President orders probe
That water or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) blockade of the Mavil Aru anicut was the cause of a spike
in fighting with Government troops and saw the birth of Eelam War
IV is now well known.
But last week there was one man who thought he
had worked a magic formula to let the water flow and thus bring
down tensions between the warring parties. That was Norway's Special
Envoy to the peace process, Jon Hanssen-Bauer.
|Villagers gather at the Kallaru Anicut to
watch the water flowing after the Mavil Aru anicut was opened.
Pic by A.T.M. Gunananda
It seemed that even before he set foot on Sri
Lankan soil, diplomatic soundings had been made with the LTTE leadership
When he arrived there for talks with LTTE political
wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan, in the company of Norwegian Ambassador
Hans Brattskar, he was elated. Like a magic wand, Thamilselvan waved
his walking stick to say the LTTE would lift the embargo and allow
water from the Mavil Aru anicut to flow to the starved paddy fields
in the Batticaloa district. That would ease the travails of the
15,000 farmers and wash away the troubles for the Government, or
Unlike other occasions when Bauer or Brattskar
visited Kilinochchi, the LTTE top-notchers were not that chirpy.
The pictures told a tale. They looked glum and worried, the whole
lot including Thamilselvan, Pulithevan, Nadesan and George the translator
whose English renditions are reminiscent of the Georgian era. That
was understandable. Guerrilla cadres had taken a thorough beating
in battles with the Security Forces in Mutur and adjoining areas.
With a large number dead and a larger number wounded, the guerrillas
wanted to take two steps backwards. That was to buy time so later
on they could move four steps forward. Thamilselvan declared the
LTTE would open the Mavil Aru sluice gates without any conditions
on humanitarian grounds. What he did not tell Bauer was why they
chose to blockade it with no consideration but contempt for humanitarian
Special envoy Bauer was elated he had pulled off
a diplomatic coup. It seemed everything had been precisely planned.
They were only waiting for Thamilselvan to give the nod. Bauer used
the satellite phone to tell the good news to leading dignitaries
in the Government. That was last Sunday. Most had switched off their
telephones. That included President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga,
Secretary General of the Secretariat Co-ordinating the Peace Process
(SCOPP) Palitha Kohona and Basil Rajapaksa, President's senior advisor
and indisputably the successful trouble shooter on any issue, be
it politics, defence or humanitarian matters.
Bauer rang Erik Solheim to give the good news.
Solheim took it upon himself to track down someone in authority.
After many attempts, he reached Basil Rajapaksa. He could not talk.
He was engaged in humanitarian work in Mutur and had to duck for
cover from occasional mortar fire. He told Solheim he could not
speak since the LTTE was still continuing sporadic attacks.
Bauer had by then got in touch with Foreign Minister
Mangala Samaraweera. He gave Samaraweera the news that the LTTE
had agreed to unilaterally open the sluice gates. He said that the
SLMM Head retired Swedish Major General Ulf Henriccson would go
along to the area with LTTE's Political Wing leader for Trincomalee
district, S. Elilan. It seemed Henriccson was in Trincomalee waiting
for a call from Bauer to do just that. Samaraweera reportedly agreed
to pass the information down to those concerned.
It is not clear what followed thereafter. But
Government leaders were not too pleased that the LTTE, which had
placed the water blockade on their own, were now trying to become
"do-gooders" and lift it. That was by giving kudos to
Norwegian diplomatic efforts aided and abetted by the Sri Lanka
"We never asked them to close it down. So
if they wanted to open it, why tell us that now. Let them open it
first," a senior Government minister concerned with the issue
said. "This is all part of a propaganda coup in collusion with
the Norwegians," he said speaking on grounds of anonymity.
In fact the Government was displeased that the SLMM's big boss,
the tall talking Henriccson had joined the LTTE band- wagon to travel
to Mavil Aru to ceremonially open the sluice gate. He expected the
security forces to observe a temporary ceasefire during this time.
The SCOPP declared in a statement on Sunday evening
(April 6) that "the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) had
entered this area unannounced. The SLMM informed the Secretariat
Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) regarding their intended
visit to Mavil Aru. SCOPP informed the SLMM Headquarters in Colombo
and sought the withdrawal of SLMM from this operational area in
order to prevent endangering the lives of SLMM monitors."
There ended the latest diplomacy drive of Norway's
Special Envoy. This time he failed to bring credit to himself, Norway
and the LTTE. The best choice would have been for him to tell the
LTTE to open the gate on their own and come back to talk on the
rest. But, sometimes all the backroom planning for diplomatic melodramas
can backfire. That brouhaha apart, the sluice gates at Mavil Aru
were opened. On the opposite page our Defence Correspondent gives
details of how it happened.
Bauer's meetings ended with Foreign Minister Samaraweera.
He complained bitterly about the fighting. Samaraweera only listened
and did not offer any comments. At the end of the talks, he told
Bauer that he would convey to President Mahinda Rajapaksa the outcome.
When Bauer wanted to return to Oslo via London, he found the Heathrow
airport was closed. He later re-routed his ticket to fly via Paris.
President Rajapaksa was in Kandy until late last
evening. However, every now and then he telephoned Colombo to talk
to officials about the security situation. Rajapaksa was also disturbed
about a complaint he received.
A local Non Governmental Orgnaisation was in the
process of organizing an Anti-War rally. As a prelude, they had
invited representatives of various political parties. UNP's loquacious
Rajitha Senaratna waxed eloquent criticizing Rajapaksa for leaning
towards war. Government's deputy minister Dilan Perera was on hand
but had not reportedly defended Rajapaksa. Later in his speech,
Dilan was to criticize the JVP in particular for egging the Government
to go to war. He described JVP's Wimal Weerawansa as "Cardboard
Video footage and recordings of the speech have
now reached President Rajapaksa. He has now referred them to the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena to
determine whether disciplinary action should be taken against Dilan
A critical issue in the country's political firmament,
the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna joining the Government will be determined
in the coming week or two. Today, the JVP is expecting to receive
the Government's response to its twenty demands that it says should
form the common programme. Some five points are being contested
by Government leaders who say it would be inimical to national interests.
That includes a call to dismiss Norway from playing the role of
peace facilitator, abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement and demerge
the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
A JVP source told The Sunday Times “we decided
to join the Government but at this point we cannot say we will positively
join the Government or not. It will now depend on the Government.
However, we feel this is the time our support is a lot more needed
for the Government. There is a war under way."
Hulugalle, check your facts
Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General, Media
Centre for National Security has sent The Sunday Times a letter
titled 'CORRECTION OF A STATEMENT IN THE 14TH PARAGRAPH OF
THE ARTICLE TITLED 'JVP PUTS FORWARD TOUGH DEMANDS' IN THE
SUNDAY TIMES OF AUGUST 6, 2006.
His letter, in his own English, is reproduced in full below:
"I wish to draw your kind attention to the above article
by the Sunday Times Political Editor in paragraph 14 of August
6, 2006 given below.
"Instead of asking a high ranking officer to brief
the political party representatives a junior major from the
Media Centre for National Security was asked to give a briefing.
He did not appear to be conversant with the task given to
him. In his introductory remarks he declared that the Mavil
Aru Anicut was within LTTE Controlled areas for a briefing
of representatives of political parties and Government leaders
usually a senior Defence Ministry official would have taken
part. But, if they are not up to that task, it is done by
a senior officer of the Armed forces who is conversant with
"President Rajapakse politely explained that the Mavil
Aru Anicut was very much in the government controlled areas.
"The Media Centre for National Security denied the
contents of the above statement.
"No officer was invited nor represented at the above
All Party Meeting.
"We kindly request you to rectify the error, and give
the time publicity as for your article.
NOTE BY THE POLITICAL EDITOR:
It is shocking, that Mr. Lakshman Hulugalle, who calls himself
Diector General of the Media Centre for National Security,
is unaware of what is going on under his own organization,
or under his very nose.
It was Major Upali Rajapaksa, who is now acting as Spokesman
in the Media Centre for National Security (in the absence
of Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe) who spoke to representatives
of political parties at a meeting on Friday August 4 and the
Presidential Secretariat. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was
present on this occasion.
It is not surprising that the credibility of the Media Centre
itself is in question over many matters. And now, of all things,
its head does not seem to know what is going on in his own
organisation. A little checking would have saved him all the
embarrassment. Who cares when they believe anything they say
is gospel, the truth and nothing but the whole truth.
Mr. Hulugalle, please get your facts right. You are holding
public office where vast amounts of tax payer's money are
being spent to earn credibility for the Government, the security
forces and the police. Trying to economise on the truth can
cause irreparable harm to all of them.