Being upto the
minute for peace
Our Political Editor
What's in a Cabinet minute? A lot,
if we are to go by the spat that followed the President saying that
she wants the July 9th Cabinet minutes re-done.
it noted in the said Cabinet minute that the Minister of Constitutional
Affairs Professor G. L. Peiris did no want the Interim Administration
proposals sent to the LTTE discussed.
office say now: "It is now clear the Note tabled by the President
at the Cabinet meeting on the 9th of July has not been correctly
recorded by the Cabinet Secretary. In the Draft Minutes of that
meeting it has merely been recorded that 'its contents were noted''
referring to the President's Note to Cabinet.
has now written to the Cabinet Secretary reminding him of the discussion
that ensued after the said Note was tabled by her at the 9th July
Cabinet Meeting. She has directed the Cabinet Secretary to record
the relevant discussion as follows:
to the recommendation made in this Note by Her Excellency the President,
the Hon. Prime Minister and Hon. (Prof) G. L. Peiris, Minister of
Constitutional Affairs, stated that the proposal on the interim
administration will be only a general framework and that it was
not possible to discuss this at the Cabinet. They were awaiting
the LTTE response to the proposal after which, a detailed proposal
will be worked out. At that point, they agreed to discuss this with
the President and the Cabinet. Her Excellency requested that even
the general framework be discussed at the Cabinet. Hon. Peiris said
that this was not possible."
has directed the Cabinet Secretary to correct the relevant portion
of the Minutes and submit it to her for signature."
What the President
basically says now is that her suggestion made at the Cabinet meeting
on the 9th of July that the General Framework of the Interim Administration
proposals be discussed, was rejected by Professor Peiris saying
it is "not possible.'' Now, on the 29th of July, she says that
these Cabinet minutes must be re-written, for her to place her signature,
and re-written to say specifically that Hon Peiris said it was "not
possible'' to discuss the framework for the Interim Administration
Peiris says that the President agreed last week to a compromise
to alter the minutes to say that Minister Peiris said (on the 9th
of July) that "it will not be useful to discuss the Interim
administration proposals.'' "It will not be useful' of course
is different from saying ''I refuse to discuss the Interim administration
office at the time of going to press still says that the President
wanted the minutes changed to say 'the Minister refused to discuss''
as in dark type above.
G. L. Peiris says there indeed was a softening of the President's
attitude wherein she finally agreed to alter the minutes to say
"the Minister said it will not be useful to discuss the Interim
Administration proposals.'' How exactly the Cabinet Secretary will
alter the minutes, of course, remains to be seen.
Of course there
are some questions lingering, even ignoring the technicality of
what is sought to be changed. Why did the President for instance
procrastinate over a month to alter the minutes of July 9th?
It is the President's
Cabinet Affairs Advisor former Cabinet Secretary Dharmasiri Wijesinghe
who pointed out to the President that the Cabinet minutes should
be changed, so that they should bear out the correct position regarding
her stand at the July 9th Cabinet briefing. It is obvious that he
made the new draft note asking for the change, because the President
refers to herself as 'Her Excellency 'in this new directive to the
Cabinet Secretary, Would she refer to herself as 'Her Excellency?'
Not likely, unless somebody else drafted the letter and she put
her signature to it.
Of course it
doesn't matter who drafted it as long as she agreed with the content
of it. Professor Peiris however thinks that the matter is not confrontational
- - and that the President agreed to say (this week) that Professor
Peiris has thought it 'not useful'' to discuss the Interim Administration
matter. How the Cabinet Secretary finally alters the minutes is
the million dollar question.
In the matter
of Cabinet minutes, the President is almost in the nick of time,
because there is time to change the Cabinet minutes even though
its long since the date the minutes were recorded.
But all this
according to Minister Peiris is not indicative of the new attitude,
in Track 2 of the peace process.
He says for example that athletes from all provinces including
the North and the East participated when he gave away awards at
a ceremony last week held after an event at which national athletes
were to be picked to compete internationally. He says also for instance
that the presence of PA Provincial Council Minister H. G. Sirisena
at a ceremony in Galle to launch a cement company indicates that
there is a new political rapprochement - a new politics that's not
confrontational. He says H. G. Sirisena in his speech endorsed his
sentiments, indicating that whatever happens in the peace process
and the Track 1 negotiations, the Track 2 of forging cordial relations
between all parties and stakeholders in the peace process is progressing
What is the
picture, however for Track 1 itself?
LTTE is considering the government proposals, and a team of lawyers
that include Dr Sonrajah of the Singapore National University, Mr
Ramaswamy of the Kuala Lampur University, Mr Rudrakumaran, Attorney
at Law based in the US (who was part of the LTTE delegation for
the talks) and Mr V. T. Thamilmaran of the Colombo University Law
Faculty will meet in a European capital to discuss the legal aspects
of the government's Interim (provisional) administration proposals
made to the LTTE.
1 and Track 2 are seen to be undergoing this period of resolving
itself, the government seems to have resolved to attend to some
other matters in the process.
The Prime Minister
for instance hosted two dinners for his parliamentary group, and
for his Ministers (of Cabinet and non cabinet rank) at Temple Trees
were with a view to resolving any intra party differences, and ironing
out any rough edges in relationships between his parliamentary flock.
He attended to some pressing issues that are distinctly non-peace
process issues. For instance he told Ministers Rajitha Senaratne
to expedite the issuing of deeds for land grants, and this, according
to the speculation, is in view of a possible election for which
the party needs to be in readiness.
But also, Finance
Minister Choksy said at this dinner that the "Treasury is a
problem'', and that the Treasury cannot be allowed to stand in the
way of the government's best intentioned economic efforts.
This came in
for instant applause from the likes of Rajitha Senratne and Ravi
Karunanayake - - the latter saying that for a Minister who didn't
have a direct financial background to acknowledge this reality 'was
a sign of real encouragement.''
also came up for discussion at a meeting which followed the Cabinet
meeting which was held at Minister Ravi Karunanayake's Kotte residence.
Ministers S B Dissanayake, Ravi Karunanayake of course, and Rajitha
Senaratne were present along with UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickreme,
and it was decided, after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe joined
this pow-wow that progress needs to be made on the Treasury issue,
with a view to ensuring that the Treasury is an asset to government
policy and not a hindrance.
In the light of all this the issue to be considered is perhaps
whether there is some kind of real and genuine political softening
of positions (rapprochement or détente) between the two major
political formations in the South, the UNF and the PA?
issues and the fact that the Cabinet rejected the President's call
for a repeal of contemplated Tax legislation and Intellectual Property
Legislation does not indicate that the UNF is not trying for consensual
politics, according to insiders. A political analyst with his ears
to the ground says that it is upto the ruling party (the ruling
class he said ) to try and to try again and again to bring about
this kind of political cooperation. "The Sri Lankan ruling
class had been unable to do so,'' he says, and adds that this inability
of the ruling class to grasp these realities has always stood in
the way of a solution to the national question.But rhetoric apart,
the UNF has made according to the best of information at hand, at
least some attempt to secure the cooperation of the President and
her party. Despite the Cabinet flap and the so called 'refusal to
discuss the Interim Administration initiatives'' the Prime Minister
for instance suggested at this Cabinet meeting that the President
should suggest her alternatives to the Interim Administration proposals
which will then be included in the officials draft of proposals.
acting the goat
Do actors have to act and act the goat too, and do television
people have to act out their fantasies?
country, there is a thin line between acting and politics,
and politicking and hogging the screen - whether it is the
large screen or the small.
writer was present at a reception hosted last week by the
President when Sri Lankan cinema icon Lester James Peiris
was feted by the President for winning the Fredrico Fellini
UNESCO gold medal for his contribution to the Arts. It was
all cosy, though rather star-studded, and the President was
circulating about, talking to the Leader of the Opposition
and other potentates.
sipping some wine and listening to the music provided by the
excellent band made available for the occasion, this writer
heard a mini commotion, and some ladies saying ''minissu ketha
weda karanawa.'' ("People do the dirty on others, no?'')
of the commotion, it was later learnt, was when the President
asked Jayantha Dharmadasa, the current Chairman of the Film
corporation about arrangements for a certain cinema occasion
to be held in April. Sanath Gunatilleke former Presidential
Media Advisor, and movie star with a vengeance, butted in
to say that 'by April the film Corporation will not exist.''
the exchange between Gunatilleke and Dharmadasa escalated
into a shouting match, and almost came to an exchange of blows
before Gunatilleke said he is ordering Dharmadasa "to
get out.'' Not being the host, he must have been entertaining
fantasies that he is in fact the President.
government potentates are also doing their number in the small
screen. Rupavahini aired a programme in which persons dressed-up
to look like the President and the JVP leader Tilvin Silva
sat together for a ''peduru party.''
'peduru party'' is to the accompaniment of various racy Sinhala
numbers of a suggestive nature.
is a sequel to the Rupavahini episode which made LTTE leader
Prabhakaran look like a folk hero.
should not be averse to satire or to a suggestive skit, but
when it could be construed to canonise Prabhakaran, or for
purposes of placing the leader of one party in a poor light,
(while sparing leaders of the government party) it shows the
sort of cockiness that actors and others display. The President's
office has decided to ask Rupavahini for the tapes of the