NSC meetings not so urgent now
It is perhaps an indication that national security threat levels have receded considerably.
The National Security Council (NSC) chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa will not meet every week. Instead, NSC meetings are now to be held fortnightly. It is not clear whether it will revert to weekly meetings after the Presidential Elections in January.
Blue heiress brings TNA ace
At the height of the separatist war, if they were travelling overseas, members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are now the most sought after political quantity.
Its leader is being wooed both by the UPFA and the main opposition parties.
This week, the heiress of an advertising group, chaperoned to "Temple Trees," TNA leader, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, for talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Even if she does not come from a political family, her parents perhaps had a premonition that their sibling would learn the art of politics.
Perhaps that was why she was given the name blue, the colour of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
What measure for threat level?
On the eve of his retirement Gen. Fonseka complained that he was given only a contingent of 25 soldiers. It is only after his protest that the numbers were increased.
However, the retired Chief of Defence Staff feels even that is inadequate and has gone to the Supreme Court to seek redress. His case comes up before the SC on Thursday.
When Gen. Fonseka was first given 25 soldiers, who were the others who were receiving the same, a little less or higher level of protection from Army?
Here are a few names: Douglas Devananda, Minister and leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) one officer and 42 men, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias "Col. Karuna," the former Tiger guerrilla Eastern Province leader and now SLFP minister one officer and 30 men, Arumugam Thondaman, Minister and Leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress 27 soldiers, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, Chief Minister, Eastern Province one officer and 53 soldiers, V. Anandasangaree, leader of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) one officer and 31 men, Sivageetha Prabaharan, Mayor, Batticaloa Municipal Council one officer and 20 soldiers and Wimal Weerawansa, leader National Freedom Front (NFF) one officer an 15 soldiers.
In the case of the Ministers, this Army protection is in addition to security provided by the Ministerial Security Division (MSD).
Unlike in all other countries, personal protection in Sri Lanka is not always accompanied by threat perceptions. It is rather by how well those protected favour the Government. Naturally, for those who are different, the threat levels increase.
Fonseka ADC at dead end
Army Headquarters has sent out an RTU (Return to Unit) order to the Aide de Camp (ADC) of the former Chief of Defence Staff to return to his post immediately.
Though Gen. Fonseka has retired, the ADC still remains attached to him. The Military Secretary's office this week directed that the pay of the ADC be stopped immediately. A source said if the officer from the Sinha Regiment does not return, he would be treated as absent.
The ADC had come first in a course at the Defence Academy in Batalanda and had thus qualified for a foreign course. Thus, he will not only lose his pay but also a stint abroad, if he does not return.
Teasers, twists and turns in campaign battle
It was not surprising that a UPFA stalwart grudgingly declared, "this man has brilliant streak in him."
He was referring to Mangala Samaraweera, the all-in-one politician who is leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) and its only MP. Even if Gen. (retd.) Sarath Fonseka reached out to the United National Party (UNP) leadership after serious differences developed with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Mr. Samaraweera played the role of modern day Henry Kissinger to get major opposition parties to back him. He was the loner involved in behind-the-scene talks.
This week the UPFA was running full-page teaser advertisements in English and Sinhala. A full-page three-deck headline in blue background declared, "What does our youth ask for?" The campaigners wanted to let it run and then come up with the answer later. That was "a prosperous future," the one-liner President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In between, Mr. Samaraweera, media handler (together with JVP's Anura Kumara Dissanayake) for Gen. Fonseksa's polls campaign, staged what is referred to in business parlance as "ambush marketing".
He had a full-page advertisement inserted in some newspapers with what seemed a response to UPFA's teaser ad. This is what it said: "Our nation waits for an end to the corrupt military rule, the re-establishment of democracy, good governance, human rights, media freedom, law and order and relief from the skyrocketing cost of living."
That naturally caused confusion. Some thought the two advertisements came from the opposition parties. A few UPFA campaigners complained their efforts have been "hijacked".
There was more on the campaign. UPFA posters had pasted two different posters in walls and buildings in the City of Colombo. One said "Janathawa balaporuththu venney kumakda?" (What does the nation expect?) The other declared, "Daru deriyan apeshaka karanney kumakda? ( What do children expect?)
Posted across them was a strip printed by the JVP. It gave the answers. It said "Vibhaga Prathipala, Prashna Pattara Avul Nokarana Palanayak. (Examination results and an administration that does not cause chaos over examination papers).
There is also a lesser-known story about Mr. Samaraweera. Just two months ago President Rajapaksa made exploratory moves to ascertain whether Mr. Samaraweera wished to return to the UPFA fold and if so, what his terms would be.
It came after news reached Mr. Rajapaksa that Mr. Samaraweera and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga were entertained by officials of a social club. It is located only a few hundred metres away from "Temple Trees". The tip-off had gone to him from a state-run TV boss. Men from a personal protection group had soon visited the club to ascertain the reasons for the meeting. It was just a social after Mr. Samaraweera and Ms. Kumaratunga, who were at a Gandhi Memorial oration (she delivered it) were asked by the officials for a drink at the club.
The next thing to happen was a call from Mr. Rajapaksa to a club official, a raconteur among others. The latter had even entertained the President when he was only Minister of Fisheries in the Kumaratunga administration. "Api Kaluda (are we black)," Mr. Rajapaksa had asked when he began the conversation. Moments later, he had posed the question "what are Mangala's terms to return."
Mr. Samaraweera had been told about the offer. He had replied, "I am happy where I am. The last thing I want to do is to go back." However, some websites got it wrong and declared SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena had invited Mr. Samaraweera.
Questions on Fonseka's trip to Mumbai
If Sri Lankans were curious, UPFA leaders were even more curious about Gen. Fonseka's sudden visit to Mumbai (Bombay) last week.
Most Sri Lankans sought to know why he rushed unannounced. Did it have anything to do with matters celestial or beyond?
However, the anger for UPFA leaders was over other issues. One was that the retired General had used the diplomatic passport, issued to him when he was holding office, first as Commander of the Army and later as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), had been utilised for the trip.
Legal opinion has been sought whether retired military officers are entitled to use diplomatic passports for foreign travel.
Another reason for anger was over the person who accompanied Gen. Fonseka. Media reports touted he was an IT (Information Technology) expert.
However, intelligence records have come up with a different story. The chaperon was a retired lieutenant from the 3rd Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI). His recruitment number is 0/60363.
These records speak of an alleged incident on September 1, 1989 when he together with another from the Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME) was involved in an alleged heist of five million rupees from a wealthy Muslim businessman in Wellawatte.
New faces in General's camp
After Thursday's nominations for the Presidential polls, the already over charged campaign in the media will reach newer levels.
In an interesting turn of events, there are also new faces in Gen. Fonseka's campaign team.
Among the latest additions are Janadasa Peiris, a former Presidential Press Secretary (to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga) and Chrisantha Cooray, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nation newspaper after it was launched.
He quit this position after the abduction and brutal assault of the Associate Editor, Keith Noyahr.
A posse of Military Policemen sprung a surprise "raid" on the General's House at Bullers Road where Gen. Fonseka was staying.
If their failed mission last time was to seize a fleet of vehicles, this time it was to arrest 12 members of their unit. They were assigned to the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as motorcycle out riders.
The team of outriders had been withdrawn but the men had said they would return with their personal belongings. However, they did not show up. Hence the "raid," with both television and print media converging near "General's House."
To their surprise, the Military Police found the gates of General's House locked.
Earlier that day Gen. Fonseka has moved to a private house in Kollupitiya. The men who were outriders are still at large.
Come, come old boy
Last week's account in these columns titled "Dharmasoka takes neutral line" has drawn a response from G. Sarath Srilal de Silva, Secretary of the Dharmasoka College Old Boys Association.
First to what he says:
"Dharmasoka College Old Boys Association wishes to inform you that the above mentioned news item is false and factually incorrect. It has been given to you by a mischief maker who cannot be one of our past pupils. Our Association never received any request either written or verbal from our past pupil General Sarath Fonseka to back him at the forthcoming Presidential Election and wishes to inform you that our Association has not discussed such a request at any of our meeting as evident from the minutes of our meetings.
"Also our illustrious former Manager late Mr. L.C.de Silva did not contest the 1953 General Elections. Bolshevik Leninist Party candidate for Ambalangoda - Balapitiya multi member constituency at the Election was late Mr. P.H. William de Silva who was not an Old Sokian.
"The above mentioned news item has caused displeasure and outrage among our members and I shall be thankful if you will provide same publicity to this letter in your next edition of the Sunday Times."
Note: Strange indeed Mr. Sarath Srilal De Silva!! Either you are unaware of the facts or pretend not to know them.
A Committee meeting of the Old Boys Association of Dharmasoka College was held on November 27 at the OBA office in Ambalangoda. It was chaired by the former Secretary, Janaka Wimalasuriya.
At this meeting, there were varied views expressed. Some participants wanted the OBA to support Gen. (retd.) Fonseka's candidature whilst others opposed it. Among those who held the view that the OBA should maintain its long standing tradition of neutrality and not get involved in politics was the day's chairman Mr. Wimalasuriya.
It was decided not to include any reference of this discussion in the minutes. The reason - they did not want to place on record that the OBA had ever discussed political matters. It was borne out of the necessity to remain neutral.
It would be worthwhile for Mr. Sarath Srilal De Silva to inquire who went on questioning Committee members on who gave the story to the Sunday Times. They say some were even threatened. Surely, there is no need for "displeasure and outrage" when the OBA chooses to remain neutral? How would a non OBA member, who De Silva calls is a "mischief maker," give a story when they are not present at the meeting? The slip is showing, showing so badly De Silva.
Thank you for pointing out an unintentional error. It was the late P.H. William de Silva (of Sugatha Sasanodaya Society, the managers then of the College), an old boy, who contested the 1953 Parliamentary Elections on the Bolshevik Leninist Party. He was the father of the late L.C. de Silva. The Sunday Times stands corrected on this.