Nittambuwa claymores targetted Maithri Sirisena?
( December 18, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Opposition party central figures have voiced concern that Common Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena could have been the target of two claymore mines found in a cemetery in Nittambuwa as he was to address an election rally at the Gampaha Urban Council ground on Wednesday.
Following the discovery of the explosives it has been decided to increase Maithripala's security.
The two claymore mines were found by police on a tip off by a member of the public who takes his cows to the cemetery area to graze.
The bombs were defused by the Bomb Disposal Squad.
The following article is based on a media interview given by the author recently
| by Nilantha Ilangamuwa
( December 18, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Well… Elections are not new for us. In fact most of elections were turned into a type of carnival where supporters of the each parties enjoy their political blindness out of the social disorder which was deliberately created by neo-feudalistic clan in the Island nation. This is an entertaining tragic drama of distorted political culture.
What I find very interesting is that despite holding more elections in Sri Lanka we are losing more space to enjoy basic norms of the democracy. In other words, more elections mean less democracy. Therefore the election has become a tool of the ruler to ensure his power. It is not merely a real exercise of the legitimacy and the desire of the people in this country but rather distorted democracy. Most of the time people who have rights to change the power become rats in a laboratory. But this time, there is a different mood in general.
The Common Candidate is ready to issue his election manifesto tomorrow (December 19). It has to address not only the crisis we faced but also the solutions to the social disorder. His manifesto may not be the panacea but it should be a new dawn of the political culture in the country. Then the people will decides.
It is clear the majority of people are asking for a government which can ensure the basic rights of the people. Sri Lanka needs the new political culture which can enable the basic ethics of politics.
What we have very often ignoring here is what has happened to the main opposition in Sri Lankan politics. True, there are many political parties, but the real role of the opposition was played by the LTTE ( Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) also known as the Tamil Tigers. At least since mid-70S to 2009 the Tigers played the very role of the opposition in this country. But Tamil Tigers were vanquished in 2009 therefore the main frame of the politics has been broken while creating a vacuum. Unfortunately, none of political parties were able to read this correctly for necessary replacement. So the vacuum is still prevailing. This vacuum gifted the President to do his wish list such as 18th amendment to the constitution and further demolish the independence of state institutions.
True, now there is an anger and deep revolt against the President and his art of politics. But, I have certain fear that this golden opportunity to re-engineer the social order and the nation may be lost over the superficial political debate the country is engaged at the moment. Also, the role playing by the neighbourhoods is very important.
After 10 years later, President Rajapaksa is facing the similar kind of deadly problem what the late-LTTE leadership faced decade ago over the LTTE’s eastern commander. However, the crisis facing by the President Rajapaksa is much deeper than the LTTE as an isolated militant group on the ground faced at that time.
The general secretary of the SLFP and a political architect of the winning the war, Maithripala Sirisena have come forward to contest against the President. It was a result of one of smartest political games played in recent years in Sri Lanka by the opposition parties as well as the former President Mrs. Bandaranayake also radical groups in the government. It has thundered not only the President’s politics but also dreams over his kith and kin.
Maithripala who narrowly escaped twice in the LTTE human bombs, is well aware of the political tricks of the President. Therefore the President has entered the real game for the first time in this election after 2005.
Once again there is no surprise here. Those most of politicians who are greedy in power and wealth are facing the same scenario. There is a larger group within the government and most of Sinhalese political parties who strongly believe they must get rid of Rajapaksa by defeating him democratically to secure their own political space. Otherwise not only the country in general but also role of those politicians is in danger.
True. The country has passed five years of ending the long term civil war. This period is more than enough to people to think and support to create the system they want. Most of the people within the so called majority have chance to regain their political liberty. But I’m doubt about the other communities as most of them are still living with old wounds of savage schism.
After decade of time, the public has general acceptance the incumbent president is unable to achieve what the people need. Also his political theme like, “Tamil Diaspora”, “Western Conspiracy”, “Patriotism” and so forth created the laughing factory. In fact, three key players of the government including his two brothers are US citizens. So, he is not capable of making new political themes other than misusing the state resources. The situation in the country is similar to what Marcos faced in the Philippines in his last years.
Meanwhile, the Common Candidate is ready to issue his election manifesto tomorrow (December 19). It has to address not only the crisis we faced but also the solutions to the social disorder. His manifesto may not be the panacea but it should be a new dawn of the political culture in the country. Then the people will decides.
True; most of people are aware, and they do disagree what is going on in this country. But who can free them to make their own choice.
| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“German history teaches us that…. nothing in the public realm is inevitable.”
Fritz Stein (Leo Baeck Lecture)
( December 18, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Before commencing his official election campaign, Candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa flew to Andra Pradesh with an entourage of 56 (including soon-to-be Health Minister Tissa Attanayake), for a special pooja in the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple. In his eagerness to win divine backing for his election campaign, not only did he become a temporary-vegetarian; he reportedly ordered the entire Sri Lanka flight to follow suit: “There were strict orders to the Sri Lanka Airlines special flight….to serve only vegetarian food on board” .
The Rajapaksas will try to steal the election, if they have to. But stealing an election is not quite an easy thing, especially at the national level.
The absolute majority of Lankan politicians are superstitious. Many of them, including most of President Rajapaksa’s predecessors, would have visited various religious establishments, seeking divine support for their political ventures. But however devout, none would have even thought of ordering an entire flight to go vegetarian to suit his/her needs. These leaders may have been corrupted by power – but not to the point of regarding the state as their private property. The Rajapaksas do, which is why a commercial flight was forced to go vegetarian. It is a telling indication of the future awaiting us if they win.
Since the Rajapaksas equate themselves with the country, their electoral needs become national needs; consequently the use of state power/resources in their election campaign becomes the normal and obvious thing to do, from their perspective.
Last week Gotabhaya Rajapaksa claimed that retired military officers have a right to participate in his brother’s election campaign. He is right. Retired military officials have a right to engage in electioneering. But serving senior public officials, particularly permanent secretaries to government ministries, do not. This week Gotabhaya Rajapaksa claimed that previous presidents did things contrary to good governance. He is right. Quite a few of the problems we face today are the accumulated results of decades of wrong-doing. But where did Mr. Rajapaksa make this statement? In Homagama, while opening an election-campaign office for his brother!
Mr. Rajapaksa is probably the second-most powerful man in Sri Lanka. But officially he is just another ministry secretary. When he engages in election activities to promote his brother, he is violating the Establishment Code and the Election Law. Such blatantly illegal conduct is another Lankan first, for which the Rajapaksa family can take complete credit. But, then, for a Family which chased away the legal Chief Justice and replaced her with an acolyte, what is the law worth? (Hopefully some members of the legal fraternity will file action against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, for breaking election laws so openly.)
It is now beyond doubt that 1,000+ CTB buses, from all over the country, were used to transport crowds to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s inaugural meeting in Anuradhapura. It is logical to assume that similar gimmicks are being used to create optical illusions of success at other meetings. Once again the huge cost – and the inconvenience, especially to OL students dependent on public transport – will have to be borne by the Lankan people.
Election violence is obviously on the rise. During a twenty-four hour period, three opposition meetings were attacked. Some of the attackers had come in defender jeeps, the trademark vehicle of regime-mandated thugs during the Uva campaign. President Rajapaksa has ordered an immediate investigation - his favourite ploy, to deflect blame and evade responsibility.
Another disturbing first is the reported use of the military to promote Candidate Rajapaksa. In Galle, the Army had been carrying out programmes in tuition classes to ‘inform students about the war-victory’. A Deputy Election Commissioner has ordered this practice to be stopped. According to the report in Lankadeepa, the army officer in charge had claimed that the programme is not electioneering but part of an army recruitment drive .
The country is not at war. Why does the army need to go into tuition classes to recruit youngsters? Is it even legal? What will the army do next? Go to schools? Isn’t this a part of the larger Rajapaksa programme of psychological and societal militarization, the militarization of hearts, minds and morals? (Incidentally, this is what the Tigers used to do – go to schools and show propaganda movies to persuade students to join their ranks.)
If guns, goons and gods do not suffice, the Rajapaksas will turn to racism.
This week the President himself accused the Opposition of having a deal with the TNA. “We are watching these things carefully. These things need to be revealed.” Why cannot the Opposition – or the UPFA for that matter – have an election pact with the TNA? The TNA is not an illegal entity or a clandestine terror outfit. It is a legal political party functioning openly and peacefully in the democratic mainstream. But then, for the President every Tamil is somehow a Tiger, unless they support him, in which case they become miraculously transformed into patriots. So Jeyakumari Balendran is still under arrest for trying to discover the fate of her vanished son while Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s handpicked-successor, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP is a totally free man.
There are also indications that the Rajapaksas may be readying to use their Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist proxies to incite Muslim-phobia in the South. The BBS is once again talking about Jihadists in the East; at a recent media conference Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera claimed that “the government is in part ignoring some of the concerns as a result of attempts to win the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the Presidential elections” . There are unconfirmed reports about a possible link up between Udaya Gammanpila and the BBS . Inciting racist fires or staging ‘terrorist attacks’, can well become election-winning gimmicks of last resort.
The Rajapaksas will try to steal the election, if they have to. But stealing an election is not quite an easy thing, especially at the national level.
For instance, actual or paid supporters can be transported from place to place, to provide the illusion of hugely successful mass-meetings. But come election-day, supporters in sufficient numbers cannot be transported all over the country to engage in malpractices. A properly organised opposition, with polling agents and counting agents in place at every polling/counting centre, can do much to downsize rigging to negligible levels.
There are some positive-firsts too, in the campaign.
In an unprecedented development, several top-level Finance Ministry officials have reportedly protested against the use of state resources to promote Candidate Rajapaksa. At a recent meeting, reportedly chaired by the Treasury Secretary himself, these officials had complained about the misuse of financial and other resources and warned Dr. PB Jayasundara that they may be “compelled to refuse to carry out such orders or slow down the process in a work-to-rule scenario.”
Perhaps in another first, in Dambulla, President Rajapaksa had to stop his speech and leave the stage in high-dudgeon, due to persistent heckling from some members of the crowd .
Nothing in human history is inevitable.
In Weimer Germany’s last democratic election, despite a campaign choking with violence and malpractices, the Nazis could win only 43.9% of the vote. Had the anti-Nazi parties contested as a united front, Hitler could have been defeated electorally.
It is a lesson we must remember and learn from.
- Lankadeepa – 16.12.2014
| by Helasingha Bandara
( December 17, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mahinda Rajapaksha is accused of perverting the accepted cultural and social norms in the country for grooming and protecting individuals who are corrupt, uneducated, unciviilsed and capable of committing any crime without hesitation or remorse. Only in Sri Lanka, particularly under MR administration, SB Dissanayake can get away having made such a distasteful comment regarding the former President Chandrika Kumaranathunga. It has come from none other than the Minister of Higher Education who has been given the authority, responsibility and resources to develop younger generations of this country to be good citizens.
Ada Derana reported that Rosy Senanayake has stated SBD should apologise to the whole female population of Sri Lanka for the malicious remarks that he had made against a woman. “She has pointed out that the Minister had said Chandrika should be “put down in the ground, trampled, stripped naked and made to run along the streets.” He should not have made such a remark against any woman at all, famous or otherwise. Such behavior raises serious questions as to whether this person is suitable to hold public office. In the crony protection culture of Rajapaksha, it is unlikely that MR would force SBD to resign his Ministerial post or would condemn SBD in public. MR has duty by the nation to be exemplary. He should make SBD resign all government positions and expel him from the party and declare in public that he would not be taken back to government ranks under any circumstances.
Indeed SBD must have imagined putting Chandrika down, ripping her cloths off, making her run along the streets after raping her and finally killing her. If this is not believed to be the mindset of a person who personifies evil, then Sri Lanka may not be a place that humans inhabit. The despicable comment brings back the sad memories of what befell Premawatie Manmperi, the twenty year old beauty queen of the south in 1971. She was tortured, stripped naked, raped, shot and buried alive by Lt.Wijesooriya and his henchmen of the army and the police. Irrespective of her alleged political affiliation to the JVP, the brutal punishment meted out to the young girl was beyond all accepted norms of human civilization. (Ahasa Polawa nousulana aparadhayak). If I attempt to translate the Sinhala adage, it may read like a crime of such magnitude of which the burden,even the sky and earth cannot bear. A similar fate befell the LTTE TV presenter Isaipriya. Beautiful women have always been the target of depraved killers.
Translating his hatred towards chandrika into words SBD has unveiled the evil face of this government. His comment also implies what they would do to the opponents if MR wins this election. This is not the first time this Minister has drawn attention of the people of this country. He was alleged to have harassed Susanthika Jayasinghe, the most famous athlete Sri Lanka has ever seen, for rejecting his sexual advances.
Jayasinghe's achievement in the field of athletics is incomparable. At international level she has won nine golds, 4 silvers and a bronze. Jayasinghe is the first and the only Asian to win an Olympic or world championship medal in any of 100 m, 200 m or 400 m sprint events. This is one in a four billion people. In 2000 she became the nation's first Olympic medalist since 1948, when she finished behind Marion Jones and Pauline Davis-Thompson in the Women's 200 meters. On the 5th of October 2007 Marion Jones admitted to have taken performance enhancing drugs prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics, and Jayasinghe was later awarded the silver medal. The shoddy treatment that was meted out to her by this Minister and his ministry officials has to be condemned with contempt. A reader may wonder why SBD has developed hatred towards women-kind. A fair guess of a reason for that is that his sexual advances may have been repulsed by many females for his not very complementary physical appearance.
This government is full of individuals and families that commit heinous crimes against women. SBD’s son drew attention of the media as a women beater and he is also known for his violent behavior in night clubs. Malaka Silva has assaulted a foreign woman in a night club who refused his advances. Vidana Pathirana of this government raped another foreigner and murdered her boyfriend. One provincial councilor of this party has made a female teacher keel down. The List is endless because the MR regime tolerates them and in turn they are encouraged to commit more crimes on people with impunity. Even recently at a public meeting MR has said lads are lads regarding his own children in relation to the accusations that he misappropriates state funds to buy horses and helicopters for his children. Lads are forgiven for everything they do. The truth is that his children or the children of his colleagues are no longer lads but grown up men.
This government is full of criminals who hold very important positions. MR administration turns a blind eye and perverts the course of justice to protect those murderers, rapists, plunderers and criminals. Where is this country heading under the current regime?
| by Nicola Nasser*
( December 17, Birzeit, West Bank, Sri Lanka Guardian) Overtly, the Israeli superpower of the Middle East has been keen to posture as having no role whatsoever in the four-year old devastating conflict in Syria, where all major regional and international powers are politically and militarily deeply involved and settling scores by Syrian blood.
In his geopolitical weekly analysis, entitled “The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East,” on November 25 Stratfor’s George Friedman raised eyebrows when he reviewed the effects which the terrorist group had on all regional powers, but seemed unaware of the existence of the Israeli regional superpower.
It was an instructive omission that says a lot about the no more discreet role Israel is playing to maintain what the Israeli commentator Amos Harel described as the “stable instability” in Syria and the region, from the Israeli perspective of course.
Friedman in fact was reflecting a similar official omission by the US administration. When President Barak Obama appealed for a “broad international coalition” to fight the Islamic State (IS), Israel -- the strongest military power in the region and the well - positioned logistically to fight it -- was not asked to join. The Obama administration explained later that Israel’s contribution would reflect negatively on the Arab partners in the coalition.
“Highlighting Israel’s contributions could be problematic in terms of complicating efforts to enlist Muslim allies” in the coalition, said Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at AIPAC’s arm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Covertly however Israel is a key player in prolonging the depleting war on Syria and the major beneficiary of neutralizing the military of the only immediate Arab neighbor that has so far eluded yielding to the terms dictated by the U.S. - backed Israeli regional force majeure for making peace with the Hebrew state.
Several recent developments however have brought the Israeli role into the open.
First the latest bombing of Syrian targets near the Damascus international civilian airport on December 7 was the seventh major unprovoked air strike of its kind since 2011 and the fifth in the past 18 months on Syrian defenses. Syrian Scientific research centers, missile depots, air defense sites, radar and electronic monitoring stations and the Republican Guards were targeted by Israel.
Facilitating the Israeli mission and complementing it, the terrorist organizations operating in the country tried several times to hit the same targets. They succeeded in killing several military pilots and experts whom Israeli intelligence services would have paid dearly to hunt down.
Foreign Policy on last June 14 quoted a report by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki – moon as saying that the “battle – hardened Syrian rebels ... once in Israel, they receive medical treatment in a field clinic before being sent back to Syria,” describing the arrangement as a “gentleman’s agreement.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in February this year visited this “military field hospital” and shook hands with some of the more than 1000 rebels treated in Israeli hospitals, according to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
Foreign Policy quoted also Ehud Yaari, an Israeli fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as saying that Israel was supplying the rebel – controlled Syrian villages with medicines, heaters, and other humanitarian supplies. The assistance, he said, has benefited civilians and “insurgents.” Yaari ignored the reports about the Israeli intelligence services to those “insurgents.”
Israel facilitates war on UNDOF
Second, the latest quarterly report by the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on December 1 confirmed what eight previous similar reports had stated about the “interaction … across the (Syrian – Israeli) ceasefire line” between the IOF and the “armed members of the (Syrian) opposition,” in the words of Ki-moon’s report to the Council on December 4.
Third, Ki-moon in his report confirmed that the UNDOF “was forced to relocate its troops” to the Israeli side of the ceasefire line, leaving the Syrian side a safe haven zone for the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, which the UNSC had designated a “terrorist group.”
UNDOF’s commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha told the UNSC on October 9 that his troops were “under fire, been abducted, hijacked, had weapons snatched and offices vandalized.” Australia was the latest among the troop contributing countries to pull out its forces from UNDOF.
UNDOF and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) operate in the buffer zone of about 80 km long and between 0.5 to 10 km wide, forming an area of 235 km². The zone borders the Lebanon Blue Line to the north and forms a border of less than 1 km with Jordan to the south. It straddles the Purple Line which separates the Israeli – occupied Golan Heights from Syria. The west Israeli side of this line is known as "Alpha", and the east Syrian side as "Bravo."
Speaking at the U.S. military base Fort Dix on Monday, President Obama warned those who “threaten America” that they “will have no safe haven,” but that is exactly what Israel is providing them.
Israeli “interaction” has practically helped the UNDOF “to relocate” from Bravo to Alpha and to hand Bravo as a safe haven over to an al-Nusra Front – led coalition of terrorist groups.
Al-Nusra Front is officially the al – Qaeda affiliate in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Committee on Foreign relations on this December 9 that his administration considers the IS to be a branch of al – Qaeda operating under a different name. Both terrorist groups were one under the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and only recently separated. Whoever accommodates either one is in fact courting the other.
“The 1,200-strong UN force is now mostly huddled inside Camp Ziouani, a drab base just inside the Israeli - controlled side of the Golan Heights. Its patrols along the de facto border have all but ceased,” the Associated Press (AP) reported on last September 18.
Israeli air force and artillery intervened several times to protect the al-Nusra Front’s “safe haven” against fire power from Syria, which is still committed to its ceasefire agreement of 1974 with Israel. Last September for example, Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that was bombing the Front’s positions, only three weeks after shooting down a Syrian drone over the area.
Israel is not violating the Syrian sovereignty only, but violating also the UN – sponsored ceasefire agreement and the UNSC anti-terror resolutions. More important, Israel is in fact undermining the UNDOF mandate on the Israeli – occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
This situation could only be interpreted as an Israeli premeditated war by proxy on the UN presence on the Golan Heights.
“Israel is the most interested in having (UN) peacekeepers evacuated from the occupied Golan so as to be left without international monitoring,” Syria’s permanent envoy to the UN, Bashar al- Jaafari, told reporters on September 17.
The UNSC seems helpless or uninterested in defending the UNDOF mandate on the Golan against Israeli violations, which risk the collapse of the 1974 ceasefire arrangements.
Syrian Foreign Ministry was on record to condemn these violations as a “declaration of war,” asserting that Syria reserves its right to retaliate “at the right moment and the right place.” Obviously a regional outbreak is at stake here without the UN presence as a buffer.
Upgrading unanimously Israel’s status from a “major non – NATO ally” to a “major strategic partner” of the United States by the U.S. Congress on December 3 could explain the UNSC inaction.
The undeclared understanding between the Syrian government and the U.S. – led coalition against the self – declared “Islamic State” (IS) not to target the latter’s forces seems to have left this mission to Israel who could not join the coalition publicly for subjective as well as objective reasons.
The AP on September 18 did not hesitate to announce that the “collapse of UN peacekeeping mission on Golan Heights marks new era on Israel – Syria front.” Aron Heller, the writer of the AP report, quoted the former Israeli military liaison officer with UNDOF, Stephane Cohen, as saying: “Their mandate is just not relevant anymore.” Heller concluded that this situation “endangers” the “status quo,” which indeed has become a status quo ante.
Israeli strategic gains
The emerging fait accompli seems very convenient to Israel, creating positive strategic benefits for the Hebrew state and arming it with a pretext not to withdraw the IOF from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and Palestinian territories.
In an analysis paper published by The Saban Center at Brookings in November 2012, Itamar Rabinovich wrote that, “Clearly, the uncertainty in Syria has put the question of the Golan Heights on hold indefinitely. It may be a long time until Israel can readdress the prospect of giving the Golan back to Damascus.”
Moreover, according to Rabinovich, “the Syrian conflict has the potential to bring the damaged Israeli – Turkish relationship closer to normalcy … they can find common ground in seeking to foster a stable post – Assad government in Syria.”
The hostile Turkish insistence on toppling the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, the concentration of the IS and other rebel forces in the north of the country and in central, eastern and southern Syria are diverting the potential and focus of the Syrian Arab Army northward and inward, away from the western front with the Israeli occupying power on the Golan Heights.
The protracted war on the Syrian government is depleting its army in manpower and materially. Rebuilding the Syrian army and the devastated Syrian infrastructure will preoccupy the country for a long time to come and defuse any military threat to Israel for an extended time span.
On the Palestinian front, the rise of the IS has made fighting it the top U.S. priority in the Middle East, which led Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to several U.S. administrations on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, to warn in Foreign Policy early in September that the rise of the IS would pose “a serious setback to Palestinian hopes of statehood.”
The expected fallback internally of the post – war Syria would “hopefully” relieve Israel of the Syrian historical support for the Palestinian anti – Israeli occupation movements, at least temporarily.
Netanyahu on Sunday opened a cabinet meeting by explicitly using the IS as a pretext to evade the prerequisites of making peace. Israel “stands … as a solitary island against the waves of Islamic extremism washing over the entire Middle East,” he said, adding: “To force upon us” a timeframe for a withdrawal from the Israeli – occupied Palestinian territories, as proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN Security Council, “will bring the radical Islamic elements to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem. We will not allow this.”
Israel is also capitalising on the war on the IS to misleadingly portray it as identical with the Palestinian “Islamic” resistance movements because of their Islamic credentials. “When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly on September 29.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (email@example.com).
| by Pramod Kumar
|CBI told to quiz Manmohan Singh in coal scam case (Photo: PTI/File)|
( December 17, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) In a move which is bound to have long-term political repercussions, a special CBI court Tuesday directed the investigative agency to examine former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over its probe into the allocation of the Talabira-II coal block to Hindalco in 2005 that involved top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. Dr Singh held the coal portfolio in 2005. Besides Dr Singh, the court also said it would be appropriate if the investigating officer examines B.V.R. Subramanyam, who was PS to the then Prime Minister, and T.K.A. Nair, who was then working as principal secretary in the PMO, in connection with the case.
Sending the matter back to the CBI for a further probe after it had filed a closure report in the case, special judge Bharat Parashar said it would be “appropriate” the then coal minister be “first examined” on various aspects of the matter. “I am of the considered opinion that before the matter is examined further as to what offence, if any, stands committed or by whom the same has been committed, it will be appropriate that the then minister of coal (Manmohan Singh) be first examined qua various aspects of the matter,” the judge said in a 50-page order, directing the agency to file a progress report January 27. A senior CBI official said it would soon comply, and question Dr Singh and the two former officials.
| by Upul Joseph Fernando
"If Sirisena wins poll, President and his brothers may try to retain power by resorting to compliant Court or military..." – International Crisis Group
( December 17, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
Mahinda's fears must be doubled and trebled in his march towards the Presidential Election. The reason is that Chandrika is behind Maithri. Mahinda having won the 2005 Presidential Election ousted Chandrika from the SLFP leadership on her birthday. Hence, Mahinda fears that Chandrika will not only destroy his political future but also of his kith and kin. That was why even international organizations predict that Mahinda will not give up power even if he is defeated
Last week it was revealed that Mahinda Rajapaksa had met the Bishops' Conference and assured that he would step down gracefully if he was defeated at the 8 January Presidential Poll in view of the Pope's visit. However, this assurance looked to have been given at a time the International Crisis Group report was released. The Bishops' Conference stressed the need to have a peaceful atmosphere in the country for the Pope's visit.
Mahinda is not new to understand the pains of defeat. He lost his parliamentary seat and the government in 1977. He re-entered Parliament in 1989. In 2001 he lost his ministerial portfolio. However, losing a presidency and the SLFP leadership cannot be equaled to his past pains. When the SLFP won in 1994, former President J.R. Jayewardene who was in retirement feared the SLFP in office as Ms.Sirima Bandaranaike would take revenge on him as he deprived her of her civic rights when he was President. When President D.B. Wijetunga attempted to appoint Ms.Bandaranaike as the Prime Minister, JR instructed DBW to call on Chandrika Kumaratunga to be appointed Prime Minister to overcome the fear of Ms.Bandaranaike trying to take revenge from him.
Mahinda's fears must be doubled and trebled in his march towards the Presidential Election. The reason is that Chandrika is behind Maithri. Mahinda having won the 2005 Presidential Election ousted Chandrika from the SLFP leadership on her birthday. Hence, Mahinda fears that Chandrika will not only destroy his political future but also of his kith and kin. That was why even international organizations predict that Mahinda will not give up power even if he is defeated. Be that as it may, the South Asian region 'Big Brother' India will not permit a military administration in her neighbourhood. If that happens, India will not hesitate to mediate. Indian Security Advisor of Indian Premier Narendra Modi who was in Colombo recently stressed that the Indian Ocean should be a Zone of Peace adding that nothing harmful should happen in the region. India indirectly hinted that a military rule in Sri Lanka would be detrimental to the region.
When Sarath Fonseka won the LTTE, intelligence services reported of a possible military coup in the country. In that backdrop, India came to the assistance of Mahinda. The then Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Alok Prasad met Mahinda late night and informed him that India was ready send ships to Colombo to help combat such coup and that was reported in the media. If Mahinda is defeated, he is not ignorant to establish a military rule to run the country. What Mahinda fears is that he could be taken before an international tribunal to try him for war crimes. But India will not allow that to happen. India supported Sri Lanka at the UNHRC against the American sponsored resolution on human rights with the view that if she favoured the resolution, she too could be accused of committing such crimes in Kashmir. So, even if Mahinda is defeated, India will not allow the international tribunals to touch him.
An incumbent President in Sri Lanka had never lost an election. In that backdrop, chances for Mahinda to lose look less. Similarly no other President has ever gone before an election after completing four years of his second term in office when his popularity is on the decline.
| by D.S.Rajan
( December 16, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is no doubt that the policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Xi Jinping , is to further accelerate economic reforms; and at the same time, like the earlier regimes, firmly against political liberalization in the country.
Xi with an eye on consolidating his political power is accommodating both conservative and liberal opinions in making decisions. His carrying out of a crackdown on human rights lawyers, media outlets, academics, and independent thinkers in the country, may placate the former; his reform and opening up push may satisfy the latter.
Confirming the policy has been the CCP Fourth Plenum (October 2014) ‘Decision’ document which, while giving approval to the ‘socialist rule of law’ in the country, first time to happen in such sessions, did not fail to reiterate the party’s supremacy in the Chinese political system. This being so, there is evidence to point out that the CCP has come under pressure to fight against liberal voices increasingly emanating from circles close to the party itself as well as the society at large; this has led to its launch of an ideological debate with the liberals, which is progressing intermittently. Interestingly, some of the arguments from the party side to counter the liberal ideas are being made on the basis of orthodox Marxist class positions which are irrelevant to reforms, thus exposing the existence of ideological hardliners within the CCP. Who are the liberals being targeted by the party in the debate? They include influential and outspoken media representatives, some even working for CCP affiliates and academicians who have come out in favor of full economic liberalization and genuine political reforms.
A prominent subject of the ongoing debate is the concept of ‘constitutionalism’, which provides for every institution in the country including the CCP being accountable to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In essence, the party considers it as a Western inspired one and unsuitable for China. Among the CCP documents on the subject, is one issued by its General Office (No.9/2013), which was made public in the foreign media in June 2013. It chose ‘constitutionalism’ for attack and asked the cadres to guard against seven political “perils”- constitutionalism, civil society, universal values, media independence, criticizing errors in party history i.e. historical nihilism, questioning the policy of opening up reforms and opposing socialist nature of China’s development. It called on Party members to strengthen their resistance to infiltration by outside ideas.
Catching attention is also a pre-Plenum document of the CCP’s central party school itself which raised (October 2014) eight fundamental ideological questions; important among them concerned the CCP’s role in market economy, core socialist values, theory of class struggle and the collapse of the former Soviet Union. These questions have not been fully addressed in the plenum the main agenda of which was ‘rule of law’, not ideological matters; a full answer to them is therefore yet to come and a more lively debate can be in the offing.
Lastly, the already mentioned Plenum’s ‘Decision’ document has made party’s official position in clearest terms– “governance according to law requires that the CCP governs the country on the basis of the constitution and laws and that the party leadership and socialist rule of law are identical. Party leadership is the most fundamental guarantee for comprehensively advancing the rule of law and building country under socialist rule of law”. Not to be missed is the fact that in the Decision, there has been no mention of “constitutionalism”, a pet word for the liberals, while the term “constitution” appears 38 times. It did not say anything about strengthening the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the power of the NPC standing committee for interpreting or applying the constitution.
Echoing the view that the CCP is the supreme political force in China, are also the party and state-controlled media. They have specifically accused some of indulging in the ‘secret mission of constitutionalism talk’, of attempting to “abrogate the party leadership and to overthrow the socialist regime” (Party Construction journal, 29 May 2013), while asserting that constitutionalist systems “only belong to capitalism and bourgeois dictatorship and not to socialist people’s democracy” (Red Flag Manuscript, affiliated to the CCP theoretical organ ‘Qiu Shi’, June 2013). The party newspaper Global Times (June 2013) denounced proponents of ‘constitutionalism’ for indirectly negating China’s path of development, adding that the concept is a new way to force China to adopt Western political systems.
A Xinhua commentary political (Chinese, 23 October 2014) stated that the Plenum’s Decision “clearly and thoroughly promoted the overall objective of ruling the nation in accord with the constitution setting major tasks and making a series of new judgments and new deployments for achieving this objective. In handling Chinas matters well, the crux lies with the party and in promoting the rule of the nation; the most fundamental guarantee is the party”. Red Flag Manuscript (26 November 20114) attacked those who want to split the party leadership and ‘governance of the country in accordance with law’. It added that they “even contrast the two, as if any talk about party leadership means there will not be real law. The party leadership and socialist rule of law are identical. Socialist rule of law must maintain party leadership and party leadership must rely on socialist rule of law”. A People’s Daily editorial (4 December 2014) asserted that the fact of revolution, construction and reform having been achieved by people under the party guidance, establishes the CCP’s leading status.
Appearing important of late is another ‘Red flag Manuscript’ strongly worded write-up (26 November 2014) contributed by Zhang Quanjing, former chief of CCP Organization Department. It alleged that in China, international hostile forces are trying for peaceful evolution, color evolution, setting up of a democratic constitutional government and spread of ideas on new liberalism and democratic socialism; these forces have their agents within China. The article accused some in China of wanting to negate the CCP leadership and socialist system; they in the main attack Mao thought. “We should carry out active resolute ideological struggle against them, strengthen ‘red culture’ propaganda, like what Xi Jinping said, establish supervision over news organizations, internet and TV stations, and bring Marxists to lead the ideological sphere”. It charged some people of slandering party leaders, saying that the harm caused is greater than corruption and asked expulsion of those from the party who do not change through education. On 12 December 2014, the same journal alleged that some in China paint the party black, propagate the view points of negating the party leadership and the socialist system and create all kinds of fallacies, demanding utmost vigil against such ideas. Academicians opposing ‘constitutionalism’ concept included Professor Yang Xiaoqing of the Renmin University who argued that the concept would knock China off its path of socialist development (Red Flag Manuscript, 2013).
At the other end of the debate on “constitutionalism” is the liberal group. It consists of prominent journals, scholars and intellectuals. The Southern Weekend journal (January 2013) through its front page article titled ‘’ Dream of China, Dream of Constitutionalism’’ stressed the need for ‘constitutionalism’ in China, which was ultimately withdrawn by the party authorities. The liberal magazine Yan Huang Chun Qiu (known outside as ‘China through the Ages’), the website of which was closed down by the authorities once and now believed to be having Hu Deping, son of late Chinese leader Hu Yaobang as President, said (2 January 2013) that China’s “constitution is a consensus for political reform”.
Among liberal intellectuals, the group which brought out “Charter 2008” in October 2008 is worth mentioning. It was in essence a manifesto for human rights in China calling for deepening of reforms and recasting the present constitution. Among its signatories was the Nobel Laurette Liu Xiaobo, who is still in jail in China. Professor Yang Xiaoqing of Renmin University attacked (May 2013) liberal concepts; for him, ‘Peoples Democracy’, not ‘constitutionalism’, is a must for the country. Professor Hu Angang of Qinghua university defended “People’s Society” against ‘constitutionalism’ (July 2013).On 25 August 2013, Zhang Xuezhong, a constitutional expert of East China University of Political Science and Law, was suspended from teaching after he called the government to honour the 1982 constitution , demanding that China requires to build a real rule of law, one to which even the party is accountable. Around the same time, a scholar of the same university Tong Zhiwei demanded a fuller implementation of China’s constitution and a way to “prescribe a limit to the party’s power” and Professor He Weifang of the same university said that “constitutionalism” and the rule of law are best safeguards of liberty and the foundation of good governance in China. In the same category comes Professor Xu Zhiyong of the Peking University School of Law, who is leading a citizen right movement.
The debate is also around themes like the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘class struggle’ and relevance of Mao Zedong thought, taken up in some articles in the CCP theoretical organ, ‘Qiu Shi’, ‘Red Flag Manuscript’ and the party newspaper People’s Daily. Qiu Shi (14 October 2014) glorified the Marxist idea of “People’s Democratic Dictatorship”. Global Times of the same day took care to point out that it was only a theoretical signal and not a political signal. Both People’s Daily and ‘Red Flag Manuscript’ carried in October 2014 an article of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) President Wang Weiguang which said that class struggle would never disappear in China and questioned whether the role of workers and peasants against capitalists was incompatible with the rule of law. The Red Flag Manuscript article by Zhang Quanjing already quoted above, endorsing the view of Prof Wang, said that in Socialist countries, class struggle exists and emphasized that “we must recognize the long term serious nature of the struggle between the two lines”. The CCP-run Global Times (7 October 20 14) , even doubted whether the CASS has become conservative.
Going by data available so far, one finds difficulty in deciphering whether the CCP chief Xi Jinping is a conservative or one with liberal leanings. He is in fact being seen accommodating both conservative and liberal view points. On the subject of ‘çonstitutionalism’ in the country, Xi originally appeared catering to the liberal opinion, but taking care to use only the term ‘constitution’. An instance has been his speech at the 30th anniversary of promulgation and implementation of China’s constitution (4 December 2012); quoting Article 5 of Chinese constitution on the occasion, Xi said that no organization or individual has the privilege to overstep the constitution and law. He remarked that “Rule of nation by law means first and foremost ruling the nation in accord with constitution ( yi xian zhi guo); the crux in governing by laws is to govern in accord with constitution ( yi xian zhi zheng)”. For some time, the remarks did not find mention in any of the party official documents. A primer of important speeches of Xi JInping released in June 2014 did not include them. The remarks however reappeared after a long delay; it was repeated in Xi’s address at the function organized to mark the 60th anniversary of China’s National People’s Congress (September 2014) and in the latest Plenum. The speculation is that the Party’s debate with liberals on the subject and lack of leadership consensus contributed to the delay.
At the same time, not to be ignored are signs that Xi Jinping is not totally ignoring conservative viewpoints. During his speech at the 90th anniversary function held to mark the CCP’s foundation (2011), he formulated the idea that 30 years of Mao Zedong thought and 30 years of reforms were of equal importance and value. This came to be known as the theory of “two irrefutables”. It clearly marked a departure from the 1981 evaluation of Mao. Xi’s call for party purity (March 2012) at his central party school address, also indicated his conservative bias. Under his leadership, party leading subgroups (LSGs) on deepening reforms, National Security Commission and a body for protecting internet security, were formed all directly reporting to the CCP Central Committee; these steps ran counter to the liberal demands for separation of the party from state in policy making. Xi’s ‘mass line ‘ campaign based on Mao model had a conservative character ; so is the case with the book “Collection of Xi Jinping Writings”, published in September 2014, in which Xi connected the party’s survival with Mao thought and reiterated that China’s constitution establishes the leading status of the CCP. Coming under the same category was Xi’s statement (15 October 2014) that arts must embody socialist core values and serve the people and that artists should avoid becoming slaves of the market, close to what Mao had spoken in the past on art and literature in Yanan.
An analysis of the contents of the debate reveals certain important trends.
Firstly, the ongoing discourse on ideological issues, if not properly handled, may lead to permanent intra-party divisions posing a challenge to the CCP leader Xi JInping who has declared party unity as his goal.
Secondly, Xi with an eye on consolidating his political power is accommodating both conservative and liberal opinions in making decisions. His carrying out of a crackdown on human rights lawyers, media outlets, academics, and independent thinkers in the country, may placate the former; his reform and opening up push may satisfy the latter. Whether such tight rope walking, will turn out to be a constraint on Xi in future, remains to be seen.
Lastly, prospects for future legal reforms in the country seem to have risen now, considering the Party Plenum’s focus on ‘governance of the country in accordance with constitution’.
(The writer, D.S.Rajan, is Distinguished Fellow, Chennai Centre for China Studies. Chennai, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
| by Col. R. Hariharan
( December 16, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) After President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his surprise challenger Maithripala Sirisena, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), who quit his office as Minister, filed their nominations for the Presidential election on January 8, 2015 the contest has become exciting.
Rajapaksa dirty tricks department is already in action. There are reports of misuse of government machinery to support the President. A number of complaints against the ruling coalition for attacking opposition candidates and leaders have been reported.
Maithripala’s move came as a boon to the opposition parties who were struggling to find a common strategy to stop the Rajapaksa juggernaut rolling for a third term in office. The opposition United National Party (UNP) and a few other SLFP leaders and Bandaranaike family loyalists led by former President Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga quickly got together to name Sirisena (full name: Palle Watte Gamaralalage Maithreepala Yapa Sirisena) as the common opposition candidate of the National Democratic Front.
Undoubtedly, Sirisena’s “betrayal” has queered Rajapaksa’s calculated strategy to get elected for a third term as President. Ever since he got reelected as President in 2009 he made his move with an eye on a third term. First he gained two thirds majority the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition in Parliament in the 2010 election. He managed to get the constitution amended to lift the restriction on holding the office of the president for more than two terms. He also managed to enlarge the Executive President’s powers to appoint the head of judiciary and the election commissioner by getting the constitution amended.
While this was as planned, his popularity rapidly declined after the Rajapaksa family firmly ensconced itself in positions of power to control finances and dispense favours. The Party took a backseat, leading to widespread corruption, lawlessness and cronyism. Opposition and critical media were hounded and xenophobia nurtured. To cut down his losses the President advanced the presidential election by two years.
All of sudden Rajapaksa finds Sirisena, the long-term party loyalist turned “renegade,” is threatening to derail the Rajapaksa gravy train. He has gathered not only the support within the Party but also managed to get the support of the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Democratic Party (DP) Leader Sarath Fonseka, subsuming their personal ambitions.
With “defeat Rajapaksa” becoming the political flavour of the day, the right wing Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) parted company with the UPFA, its long term ally and signed a MoU with Sirisena to affirm its solidarity.
Sirisena’s allies are no models of clean political conduct. Sirisena’s agenda evolved with them for his campaign include the abolition of executive presidency “within 100 days of his election as President and Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister”, reintroduction of the 17th amendment and abolition of the 18th amendment to the Constitution that has enabled Rajapaksa to seek more than two terms, cleaning up government corruption and full implementation of LLRC recommendations as suggested by the UN Human Rights Commission.
Caught off guard, the President in his initial reaction held a veiled threat to the defectors. He thundered “I have their files and documents which will be very detrimental to their well being. I will not use them against those who had left betraying the party, but I warn them not to throw stones from inside glass houses.” Though later he toned down his remark, it seemed to have worked with many potential defectors of the SLFP lying low for the time being.
The President, after deliberating with his cabinet and advisors, seems to have evolved his tactics to handle Sirisena. Talking to media editors at a breakfast meeting Rajapaksa identified former President Chandrika Kumaratunga as “the main contender in the race” and she was “using Maithripala Sirisena.” This was to trivialize Sirisena’s challenge by attributing it to Mrs Kumaratunga’s machinations and not to the shortcomings of his rule.
More devious was Rajapaksa’s tongue in cheek remark at the editor’s meeting that Ranil Wickremesinghe was “the best candidate out of the three because only he has a party machinery.” This was probably made to sow doubts among some of the UNP leaders locked in internal squabble to dissipate the UNP support to Sirisena.
‘Foreign conspiracy’ to destabilise Sri Lanka is a perennial ploy in Rajapaksa’s political strategy to whip up nationalist sentiments. This time also the UNP has become the target of such allegations by UPFA leaders. Resettlement Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon alleged the outgoing US ambassador Michaele Cison offered him a green card and a house in the US to induce him to defect from the government.
Another well worn Sri Lanka political strategy is to induce defection of leaders on the eve of elections. Both sides have adopted it. Rajapaksa has the money and muscle power and the instrument of government to do a better job of it. In spite of this, not only Sirisena but a few other ministers have quit their office to join the opposition ranks. One of them, Minister Navin Dissanayake, son of the late Minister Gamini Dissanayake, who crossed over to the opposition said he was offered Rs 10 million to stay in the SLFP.
But Rajapksa is a past-master in the defection game. So it was not surprising to see some prominent political personalities - UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake cutting his two decades of association with UNP and the JHU Deputy General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila - to cross over to Rajapaksa’s ranks.
Sirisena would need the whole hearted support of traditional UNP voters if he has to put up a strong fight which is not going to be an easy exercise if we go by the experience of Sarath Fonseka, the common opposition candidate in the last presidential election. The UNP leaders would need to work hard to ensure its loyal votes go in favour of Sirisena.
In addition, Sirisena needs to charm the fence-sitting opposition parties like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the reluctant Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Though the JVP is keen on defeating Rajapaksa and abolishing executive presidency abolished, it has not shown keenness in supporting Sirisena. So Sirisena may not be to get most of the JVP votes.
The TNA have a track record of getting most of the Tamil votes. Their support is important in any close contest. TNA still retains the strength to persuade Tamils to vote for Sirisena. But the TNA is still undecided on its stand. In a Daily Mirror report TNA leader Suresh Premachandran has articulated the dilemma saying:“There is no solution offered to the problems of the Tamil people. There is no plan to resettle displaced Tamils. It seems that the common candidate is endorsing the views of Sinhala extremist forces backing him. Let alone a political solution, there is no approach even to address day to day problems.” But Sirisena probably offers a better option as has promised to clip the wings of executive president to make him more accountable and the TNA may veer round to support him.
Muslim parties as usual are split in their support to Rajapaksa. The decision of Minister Bathiuddin’s Muslim Congress to support Rajapaksa was not unexpected. The SLMC, which commands more Muslim votes, had been peeved with Rajapaksa over his inaction to curb the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS)’s violent hate-Muslim campaign that resulted in loss of lives and property. The SLMC parted with the UPFA on the same issue. This would make the SLMC uncomfortable to go with Sirisena particularly after he signed the MoU with JHU as it had been providing political support to the BBS’s anti-Muslim campaign.
With such a line up of support, can Sirisena defeat President Rajapaksa? If we go by the upbeat mood in the opposition ranks it would seem so. Sirisena, with his comparatively clean image (unlike Rajapaksas) and established party credentials, does have chance to win if he can swing at least 15 percent of SLFP loyalist votes in his favour. And that might not be enough unless Sirisena can make a dent in the strong South Sinhala support for Rajapaksa.
Despite all the complaints of misrule and corruption against Rajapaksa, can Sirisena a comparatively less known figure, compete with Rajapaksa hailed as a national hero for defeating the LTTE and eliminating Prabhakaran? That is the moot question.
The bottom line is the opposition cannot afford to underestimate Rajapaksa’s strengths.
Moreover, the politically savvier Rajapaksa has been preparing for the election well in advance. In the Budget for 2015 a hefty hike for all government servants and freebies including heavily subsidised offer of motorcycles to government field staff have been announced. Similarly interest rates for senior citizens’ deposits have been hiked to 12 percent.
The government’s allocation of Rs 450 million to each of the select parliamentarians (including to those who cross over from the opposition) as development fund to fund over 150 special development projects is yet another instance of how government funds are ‘used’ to garner support for Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa dirty tricks department is already in action. There are reports of misuse of government machinery to support the President. A number of complaints against the ruling coalition for attacking opposition candidates and leaders have been reported.
For instance Western Provincial Council SLFP member Hirunika Premachandra fled the country with her mother after she received threats to her life after she decided to back Sirisena. Of course, she is back now to campaign for him.
One redeeming feature is India, the favourite whipping boy always accused of meddling in Sri Lankan elections, seems to have taken a backseat. Probably China will replace it soon as scams involving the Chinese are surfacing now. But the Chinese are clever, they never dirty their hands in politics; they prefer to use money.
There is yet another important factor in Sri Lanka politics – astrology. President can probably relax as his astrologer seems to have predicted that he would be re-elected for the third time and a fourth time as well! We don’t know what Sirisena’s birth chart says; I suppose January 8 will decide his future regardless of his astral predictions.
(Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: email@example.com )
| by Vickramabahu Karunaratne
( December 16, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is no doubt, since many parties including the main opposition party, UNP, and civil society organizations have already campaigning for Maithripala, he has now emerged as the main contender to the incumbent president. What is significant is that the parties of old left led by VASU, DEW AND TISSA lost almost all their rank and file who decided to support NSSP position: critical support to Maithree. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Sinhala petty bourgeoisie party that supported and led the war campaign against the Tamil uprising has turned around and announced that it will campaign against Mahinda thus indirectly supporting Maithree. It is in this context marked by the anti MNCs corrupt destruction of life and environment in the island, the breakaway group of the JVP, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) decided to field a candidate to cut across the united oppositional campaign. This cowardly attempt of this racist party is seen as a sabotage attempt by all left groups including the civil society organizations. Their racist stand was amply exposed in a media debates held last week.
FSP made a bogus attempt to unite all left parties, groups and individuals to field a common candidate of the social left with a minimum socialist program. After fooling those who participated in the discussion, they have put foreword a candidate who publicly announced that Mahinda’s war is a victory to the people of this country! Well FSP does not claim that the left front it had initiated is Syriza in Sri Lanka; obviously they cannot; but it appears to every right thinking leftist they are sabotaging the anti global capitalist mass struggle launched by Maithree campaign. Fortunately because of the stand taken by the NSSP their folly will have little effect to the common struggle. Masses can see a mark difference between the two major campaigns. on one hand fascist styled dictatorial leader Mahinda who is funded and supported by MNCs , both western and eastern; on the other hand anti MNC and pro environment, pro worker peasant and fishers movement where the candidate appeal to the people to prepare for an all island mass struggle if the dictator violates the democratic election process. Latter campaign can be classified as a Syriza in the making. FSP with its racist manifesto, in order to keep its loosing identity has to fight with two other socialist candidates, both Trotskyites, who have raised so many important questions. Two contenders have refused so far to stop their attack on FSP on the national issue. Most importantly, when FSP maintains that both bourgeoisie fronts are ideologically dominated Sinhala-Buddhists, (UPFA by Bodu Bala Sena and Maithree front by Jathaka Hela Urumaya) elements, FSP appears to be the biggest farce and no way appear as a secular political formation in this election. Hence, it is idiotic to submit that the FSP is the real opposition to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime both in its program and in its practice.
NSSP always said that Sri Lanka needs a strong social movement to counter the fascist styled trend in its recent history, namely, towards authoritarianism, towards economic policy framework that is based on IMF WB and WTO with the hegemony of MNC system that secures the interests of the upper classes and ruling layers of the society, and towards majoritarianism. Although these three trends emerged prior to MR coming to power, they have consolidated and strengthened under his regime due to the genocidal war conducted by the regime. It is relevant today to look at the question of what social movements were actively engaged against the MR regime and its policies and actions. It is easy to recognize two forces that question policies and actions of the MR regime. The first group, primarily rooted among radical urban bourgeoisie, posed the issue of democracy, rule of law and good governance in their orthodox meanings. The most important group in this category was the Sri Lanka Lawyers’ Association under the pro UNP leadership that came forward strongly against the removal of the Chief justice, Dr Shirani Bandaranayke. It organized many fora to discuss the matters that fell within its purview. Later, Citizen Forum also raised similar issues with strong political orientation. These views had been finally crystallized in the movement for Just Society led by Rev Maduluwave Sobitha raising two main demands, (1) abolition of the executive presidential system and (2) reactivation of the 17th Amendment by repealing 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Bahu was one of the founder members of this movement, but he resigned when Rev Sobitha abandoned the third demand of implementation of the 13th amendment. The protests by these groupings received so much attention by the media partly because of their elitist character.
The second opposition against the MR regime came from subaltern movements. There are four groups, (1) student movement; (2) trade unions and workers’ movements; (3) protests by peasants, fishers and rural masses; and (4) movements by numerically small nations and ethnic groups. Second movements were scattered and sporadic mainly because of opportunistic leaders who supported the government. The same cannot be applied to the third and fourth movement, because after militarily defeating the LTTE in 2009, several human rights groups and mass organizations intervened continuously in arousing the mass consciousness. The PROTEST OF THE OPPOSITION and UNITY WITH POWER SHARING are two powerful organizations that had series mass protests through out the country including May Day in the NORTH, and mass actions in the east and UPCOUNTRY estate areas. Hence the consistent opposition to the government, especially against its policies on development, national problem and education, has been guided by the Protest of the Opposition. It is true that Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF) helped by the Protest of the Opposition launched many a struggle in the recent past against cuts of student subsidies, educational reforms, commoditization of education and so on. It is interesting and encouraging to note that IUSF was able to defeat government plans to reform education by encouraging private investments to enter into the field of education with the motive of profit. In the last year or so, it won almost all its struggles. In all these struggles Protest of the Opposition helped to organize massive solidarity marches. The IUSF while struggling for free education also widened the democratic space that the elitist groupings failed to achieve. When the march in Colombo city by the IUSF was banned by a court order at the request of the Police, Najith Indika, IUSF President decided to defy the order and continue the march. It proved to be a great victory. The following week, a district judge warned the police not to come forward with such requests. This was a most significant victory for the democratic movement in Sri Lanka and all credit should go to IUSF and the Protest of the Opposition.
The other subaltern movements that were capable of forcing the MR government to retreat include the anti-pension scheme by private sector employees in Free Trade Zone, peoples’ movement against water problem at Rathupaswela, protests by slum people against forcible eviction from their houses, peasants’ opposition to seed and water bills and micro opposition by villagers on their problems. In all these struggles it is the Protest of the Opposition was the power that mobilized the masses.
Maithripala Sirisena announcing his candidacy as a common opposition candidate informed the Protest of the Opposition that his program is limited to the abolition of the executive presidency and the reactivation of the 17th Amendment. In this sense his electoral program is based on the demands put forward by the elitist movement. There is no doubts that these are demands are important; but the programs built on these demands are necessary but not sufficient, when compared with the programme of the Protest of the Opposition. Hence at first there was a conflict of interest and after series of discussion where TNA played a major role, then he was established as the common candidate. Most important development is the inclusion of a campaign against MNC system that dominates the present development scheme. Also, included in the campaign a call to rebellion in case Mahinda manipulates and rig the election to face or counter three major trends in Sri Lankans polity mentioned above.
In contrast, FSP’s program is a sectarian and racist programme that talks of mythical struggles. Most significantly, the program includes swayan paalana by numerically small nations and protection of whatever the rights they have won, like 13th Amendment only under a proletarian power! Even that, they have informed that they are not happy about. Led by students, the attempt of FSP to put forward a student leader as a candidate clearly indicates the lack of understanding of the workers movement or any other section such as peasants and fishers who gave their life in the struggle against the regime. On the other hand the campaign of the opposition has become an active struggle against MNC system. Maithree has put forward the slogan against ‘power of capital and power of weapons build the power of people’. There are social organizations building peoples council through out the country and there are running battles between such organizations and fascist styled thugs of the government. Obviously we have taken this continued formation of peoples committees as a serious development for the future.
| by A Special Correspondent
( December 16, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former Minister Champika Ranawaka argues that Mahinda Rajapaksa ( MR) has already greatly damaged the economy of Sri Lanka than that of Prabakaran’s war for the thirty years. This is the hypothesis of minister who worked with MR until recent time. You do not need to have a degree in economics to know how the economy of this nation has been destroyed within the last 9 years by MR and family. It is no secret that entire government apparatus and departments are controlled by MR and family. Ministers do not have any power to make their own decisions. In the name of development and mega projects, billions of dollars are borrowed with a huge interest rate. According to JVP’s political analysis it would take more 30 years to pay back all these loans with interests. Most of so called mega projects are unsustainable or not timely needed projects. For Instance, Port projects in Oluvil and Hambanthota are not sustainable at all. It is reported that more 50% workers at Oluvil are getting salaries without any work done or without reporting to work at all. It is reported that port at Hambanthota is not sustainable in a long run. What more is that Mattala Airport project is a clear cut- disaster? Likewise most of MR development projects are clear cut disaster for the economy of this nation. It is argued that more money has been wasted by MR and family for the last ten years than that of the money spent in the entire thirty years of war with LTTE. No president has wasted public money as this president has done. This president along with his extended family circle has wasted a huge amount of money that is unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka. What is more is that MPs are making a big fortune out of these mega projects and it is not a secret that MRs are getting a huge amount of money as commission. This is the political culture that has been created by MR and co family in the country today. Is it not fair to object this injustice and waste of public money? I think that each and every Lankan with little bit of patriotism in the heart would vehemently object the attitudes of MR and co.
It is not my primary purpose to outline all those statistics how MR has wasted public money. Yet, today the corruption is vividly apparent in all government departments. While poor Lankans are suffering from economic hardship and even some people are literally starving to death in some part of the country MR and his cohorts are jolly riding in luxurious life: It is reported that his siblings have already got some asserts and houses in Europe and USA, It is no secret that racing cars are brought at the expenses of public money by sons of MR. It is no secret that that extended families of MR have accumulated a huge amount of wealth and assets within Sri Lanka and outside Sri Lanka as well. To be honest each and every Lankan should ask this simple question? Where did they get all this money and wealth?
Ten years back some of these MR family members were ordinary Sri Lankans without any significant wealth or assets and yet, today some of them are millionaires in Sri Lanka. It is very simple to know how they accumulated this huge of amount of money and wealth. It is the public money that they have looted from 20 million Sri Lankans. They used so called executive power vested on MR to accumulate this wealth. Otherwise did they win lotteries or did they inherit a fortune from their parents? Or did they own companies to make such huge amount of money within last 9 years. It is very much obvious that they have twisted Lankan constitution and executive power to make this fortune in a broad day light.
Now they have made enough money and fortune. The next step is how to preserve this wealth and how to pass on this wealth to his children. For that MR wants to win next election. To win forthcoming election MR spends a huge amount of money and even money bags are handed over to some people to buy votes. He managed to force some opposition MRs to cross over to his side with a huge amount of money. Today in Sri Lanka politics is not about political ideologies or principles rather it is money and wealth. With money and power MR could manage to buy many people. It is shame that MR has destroyed a decent political culture of this nation. It is shame to see some people with solid political ideologies and principle are still blindly supporting MR and his family domination for the greed of power and position.
Much has been said about the current political climate in Sri Lanka. There is no doubt in my mind that this time we will see a real change. I’m sure that if there is a genuine election without any corruption or inference from government the majority of people want to see a change in politics. They have had enough of MR’s family ruing in Sri Lanka. Why did many of his own cabinet members leave him? why do they take some risky steps in their life? They know well that this Man is a most corrupted political figure in Sri Lankan history. He manipulated constitution, bribed many people, and perverted the course of justice in many cases. Finally people who left him know well that MR wants to stay in power until he dies or one of his sons inherits him. This is the crafty plan of MR and family. This is very much obvious and even openly he asserts in public.
People with solid principles cannot work with such political dictators. They want to bring the country back to a full-fledged democracy. They are true patriotic who put national interest above personal interest. What we see in the politics of MR and co is that they put their personal interests over national interest. Today people in opposition take great risk for standing up against this political dictator and man of nepotism. They know well that if they fail they will be facing a difficult life ahead of them and yet, they stand for their policies. They stand for the national interest of this nation and they stand for democracy. They take all this risk for the people of this nation.
MR ha destroyed our political culture and Sri Lanka has a long democratic political tradition. In the past qualified people came forward to contest in election. Look at the people in parliament today and Look at the qualifications of some those who are behind MR and co. What basic qualifications do they have? Some of the MPs in parliament even do not have GCSE qualifications. Most of them are taken by MR into his fold. Drug dealers, robbers and killers are in this parliament today’. What sort of legislation these thugs can propose for people? Do not we have qualified people in Sri Lanka? What crime public have done to be ruled over by these thugs? Do not we need to have some sort of political reforms in this country?
What qualifications Basil and Goata, Namal and others have to do politics? They have USS citizenship and if they failed to win this election for their Big brother they wound run away to UAS? How can they trust them?
Do not we need some constructive political reformation in this country? Do not we need some academic and professional qualifications for the MPs we send into this parliament? Sri Lanka is one of best countries with rich human resources and highly educated people. Sri-Lankans are intelligent people they do not deserved to be treated like this by some political thugs. Let people choose their representatives as they like. Let qualified people come forward and do some constructive politics in the interest of nation, people and country not in the interest of family dynasty.
Look at people around MR. what can they do for the country. Have a cursory look at some of people around MR. Most of MPs around him are unqualified or do not have visionary thinking. I think in the interest of our nation more that 50% of people in parliament should be removed from their post and they should be sacked or sent home: most of them are useless or a burden to this country. They lead a luxury life with public money. A new generation of politicians from all communities should come forward to lead this nation. They can give a good leadership for this country in our modern age.
People with international exposure, with shrewd diplomatic and academic background should be nominated into parliament or elected. Look people like Aswer, Fouzi. Ataullah, Mervin Silva, Hezbollah, Abdul Kader, Karuna, Davanantha, and to name a few . People like these are a burden to our nation. They do not have basic qualifications to be legislators in this parliament. They do not have any professional or academic or legal backgrounds to serve this nation. They do no have skills and ability to debate and discuss a point in this parliament and why do we need to keep them in their post? Do not we have qualified people to replace them?
They’re so many people like this in our parliament. To be honest they should not be in parliament rather they should be doing their own business rather than damaging public interest of this nation. A political reform is a timely needed issue in Sri Lanka today Let us all Sinhalese., Tamils and Muslims as one family do something in this election and we all vote for M. Sirisena to see a change in politics and let the change starts with him. I do not have any ill feeling about any one and yet why should unqualified people go to parliament? What crime Sri Lanka people have done to be ruled by these unqualified people? I hope that MS will do some political reformation and people who are elected from national list should have some qualifications such as academic qualifications or diplomatic qualifications. Or professional qualifications. Our people need a good, vibrant, honest, intelligent, charismatic and patriotic leadership at all levels. Today politics in Sri Lanka is not communal issue rather it is a national issue and all community should think twice before they vote this time.
We all know that MR will do all his dirty tricks to win this election and yet, people should have determination and courage to bring about a political change and they should vote for their national interest not for the interest of one family at the expense of public interest.