last stand by the political establishment?
By Our Political Editor
The President is playing her cards very close to her chest, you
could say, after her party the SLFP signed a pact with the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna last week. She confounded almost everybody by
launching an attack on "racist elements'' within her party,
and just the day before the signing of the MoU she let it be known
that she will not tolerate any racially inflammatory speeches being
made by her MPs on any political platform.
she confounded all political watchers further, by attending the
first Cabinet meeting since she took over three Ministries from
the UNF government last November. Not one note of discord was struck
at this Cabinet meeting on the heels of the JVP-SLFP accord, and
in the opinion of at least some sections of the UNF it was all too
good to be true.
others said she had reason to play cautious maiden. The LTTE promptly
rejected the JVP-SLFP accord and said there will be no negotiations
with a racist Sinhala chauvinist outfit, and Anton Balasingham said
the "formation of the alliance might create the objective conditions
for war.'' One senior figure in the President's own power combine,
the People's Alliance, Dew Goonesekera told the President bluntly
that she had irreparably damaged her image as a moderate leader
who enjoyed the confidence of the minorities by signing this accord
with the JVP.
appeared to sting the President. She pleaded with Mr. Goonesekera
to stay on with the SLFP, and then she launched on this almost self-pitying
tirade against the elements in her party who she said had within
the last few months undermined her position as a leader with global
reach and national recognition among all communities. She was reminded
by Mr. Gooneseekera that one JVP leader -- a callow young upstart
he called him -- had made a venomously anti-Tamil oration in Trincomalee
President, soon after at a meeting with her party men said that
she had tried her best to create an atmosphere of racial harmony
on Thai Pongal day, organising a cultural festival and making a
speech in Tamil. But then, her own party men go for meetings at
which the Tamil community is being mercilessly lambasted, and all
they do is clap and listen, she thundered.
the President's guilt conscience it was or otherwise, that prompted
her to contact the Prime Minister's office through her key functionaries,
to revive the Mano-Malik talks between the UNF and the PA. Her call
to revive such talks immediately put a stop to some efforts being
made by many senior UNF Ministers to call for an impeachment motion
against the President.
fear was that the President was making use of the publicity generated
by the immediate formation of the Alliance to call for a snap election.
The only way to stop her from deriving unfair electoral advantage
from this move - they theorised -- was to table an impeachment motion
in parliament which prevents her from dissolving parliament and
calling for elections as per the provisions of the constitution.
things considered, at the end of the week, the insecurity and uncertainty
generated by the formation of the JVP alliance seemed to dissipate.
Even up North, the LTTE's Thamilchelvan, soon after meeting Japanese
envoy Yasushi Akashi in Kilinochchi said that the LTTE hopes to
continue with talks no matter the circumstances in the future, which
seemed to belie the previous assertion made by the talkative Anton
Balasingham that no talks will be held at all in the event of a
JVP-SLFP government being in power in the South.
there can be no certainty about a general election in the near future,
it appeared last week that the President was clearly veering away
from a direct electoral confrontation. There are pressures on that
from all quarters and one of them is India. The Indians are playing
a behind the scenes role in attempting some kind of rapprochement
between the Kumaratunga- Wickremesinghe factions in Sri Lankan politics.
efforts acquired a renewed sense of urgency last week, due to the
white heat that is being generated in the political firmament due
to the new JVP-SLFP combine. The Indians felt that this attempt
at a throwback to Sinhala majoritarian chauvinism in the South,
will in fact strengthen the hand of the LTTE which will seek to
call all the shots in a future minority dominated government, if
all minorities can be got together to oppose the new JVP-SLFP combine.
if the President wants to keep whatever is left of her moderate
image, she is going to have to do some fighting with her own party
faithful, who were last week spoiling for a showdown with the UNF
that they hope will culminate in the formation of a UPFA (SLFP-JVP)
government. ITN for instance, was carrying the fight right into
UNF territory last week - carrying a show that was purported to
be an exposure of corruption in the CWE and some other establishments
coming under the stewardship of Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Karunanayake has sent letters of demand all around, to ITN as well
as the Lakbima newspaper, and says he is challenging his accusers
to meet him in the glare of the public spotlight for a debate on
all the allegations made.
some ways, last week saw a rear-guard reaction of the political
establishment. Chandrika Kumaratunga does not want to be remembered
as the chauvinist witch of Sri Lankan politics, and this in spite
of the fact that she has some split personality about it because
she also sees herself as the inheritor of the Bandaranaike legacy
of looking after the interests of the SLFP "core constituency''
the Sinhala peasants and the "sanga veda guru govi kamkaru''
it might be a little too late to salvage her image. In the South,
she is able to convince the UNF that she is still amenable -- and
she is also most of the time able to maintain some of her moral
authority at least by taking the moral high ground on incidental
issues. For instance, through the Mano - Malik committee, the issue
of getting the embattled Thilanga Sumathipala to resign from the
Chairmanship of the Sri Lanka Telecom was discussed - and the Mano
Malik committee continues to do its bit for the political establishment
--- meeting next Tuesday.
what she seems unable to do is to keep the larger issues from moving
beyond her grasp. From November, her image has been coming unstuck
among the international community, a fact that she alluded to when
she met her party faithful last week and gave them that pep-talk
referred to earlier. Among the minorities, her image of a rampaging
loose-canon is almost going beyond repair which is why at week's
end it was being said on authority that she is making her own overtures
to talk to Prabhakaran. Whatever she may do in terms of damage control,
the forces she unleashed seem to be acquiring a life of their own.
chicks before alliance eggs are hatched
By Harinda Ranura Vidanage
The red blue project is still to roll out into the political arena
after being launched in a grand fashion. These are tense days for
the architects of the venture and are hoping that it will not face
the same fate as that of the UK Mars expedition which after much
hype delivered nothing. The red planet gulped the Beagle explorer
SLFP faction who spearheaded the endeavor was in for a shock the
night before it was to be signed. President Chandrika Kumaratunga
who gave the official thumbs up for the project looked a totally
different person during the group meeting. "We will win the
next election she thundered but in the election after wards SLFP
will be limited to its sign board." she said.
you all must stop relying only on me, go back to your seats and
start working and start up own financing for election expenditure
and don't ask for my help" she kept saying. Volley after volley
the verbal barrage hit pro-JVP, pro-SLFP camp alike. Incapable of
decoding the Presidential fervor the MPs kept listening. Suddenly
the guns were redirected to a more sensitive target. "If any
one goes without my consent to Desha Hiteshi rallies I will take
care of it personally."
Kumaratunga never says anything lightly especially in a verbal harangue
she wants maximum damage. The Desha Hiteshi Janata Viyaparaya (DJV)
is another political front opened by the JVP fearing an alliance
with the SLFP was not possible sometime back. Many SLFP and PA MPs
had used the platform of the DJV. Anura Bandaranaike was the most
frequent of them all.
hidden factor behind the President's outburst was that it is not
an emotional free fall but a culmination of both internal and external
influences on her decision to go ahead with the alliance. The internal
pressure comes from people most close to her. The external pressure
came from our immediate neighbour India.
stakeholders in this new joint venture were looking towards India
as a patron and provider of a unilateral safety net. But in two
separate instances India gave strong indications of their views
on a snap general elections and destability of Sri Lanka. This may
be the reason why the President is deliberately trying to push back
general elections while advancing the provincial council elections.
message first went to Dr. Sarath Amunugama who was briefed by Prime
Minister Vajpayee’s Principal Secretary Brijesh Mishra. The
Indian Intelligence unit RAW directly reports to Mishra and he has
been worried about their reports on Sri Lanka. The Indians do not
want a strong LTTE caucus having access to the Sri Lankan parliament
and multiple dysfunctions at their doorstep. This message was reiterated
to President Kumaratunga by Prime Minister Vajpayee at the recent
SAARC summit and also by Foreign Minister Jaswant Sinha.
signing of the SLFP JVP alliance had a mixed reaction from the general
public and academics of all disciplines. Some said that this was
the much-needed United Front the country needed while others perceived
it as a "recipe for disaster". A leading political analyst
in Sri Lanka Dayan Jayatileke had made an interesting observation
says, "The Sandhaanaya platform is profoundly insensitive to
Tamil identity and deeply insulting to Tamil aspirations. For the
first time in 20 years, since the 1984 All Party Conference and
Parthasarathy's Annexure C which introduced devolution of power,
there is no alternative to separatism presented in the form of either
a negotiation process or a package of reforms. Instead we have so-called
"fair conditions" for talks, a blanket denunciation of
the Norwegian facilitation with no acceptable alternative facilitator
mentioned, no prospect of resumption of talks, and no specific autonomy
package on offer for the Tamils of even the anti-Tiger parties!
is arrogant unilateralism and creates a dangerous politico-diplomatic
vacuum, which puts the clock back to the early '80s. It imbecilically
gives the Tigers justification for invoking external self-determination
and launching pre-emptive war". In a much lighter vein he responded
to Mangala Samaraweera identifying the alliance as a radical left
of Sri Lanka as equivalent to saying "Kolus" drag similar
to Jennifer Lopez.
most talked about issue in the ceremonial signing of the MoU was
the notable absence of the Christian clergy. The story behind this
unfortunate but organizational blunder has been the lack of common
sense in processing an invitation. Susil Premajayantha and Jeevan
Kumaratunga were assigned the task of inviting the Christian representative.
Mr Premajayantha has rung Rev Bishop Oswald Gomis and invited him
to the ceremony over the phone. The Bishop has said that he was
unable to attend but had requested for a written invitation. Mr.
Premajayantha has responded saying that there was none and he will
send somebody over and that had been end of the process. If the
SLFP authority had followed through this process this significant
absenteeism could have been averted.
Balasingham was the most senior LTTE representative to respond to
the SLFP- JVP pact but amazingly President Kumaratunga is yet to
make any statement on it. Though she gave the green light, she is
yet to come in public to endorse the alliance or otherwise. This
is the state of uncertainty in political decision making that has
gripped the leadership of the country- a type of paralysis of will.
If its post purchases dissonance for Chandrika Kumaratunga already
what would her citizens be feeling.?