It was a relief to many that the Northern Provincial Council representatives for whom the people of the North had voted overwhelmingly, had reached a settlement today over their infighting over the sacking of their own four ministers for alleged corruption.
R. Sampanthan had made a trip for talks with Chief Minister C. Wigneswaran. Working round the clock, Sampanthan first met with his team and CVW with his. Ultimately a deal was sealed. The motion of no confidence by the Federal Party section of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against the Chief Minister will be withdrawn by the FP. For Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s part, the two Ministers cleared by the Inquiry, namely Balasubramaniam Deniswaran (Minister of Fisheries, Transport, Trade and Commerce, Rural Development, Road Development and Motor Traffic) and Pathmanathan Sathiyalingam (Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine) will remain in office.
Although the latter two were cleared, CVW insists that files have gone missing and the clearance was because witnesses did not show up. He had insisted that they should go on leave so that new inquiries are not interfered with. Now after the deal, however, he has relented saying they may stay on but without interfering in any new inquiry. Initially Sampanthan had said he had no authority to give such an undertaking but that disagreement appears to have been ironed out.
Hatchets are buried for now, but for how long? Analysts say there are really no grounds for unity when the Tamil Congress’ Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam only wants vengeance against his grandfather’s nemesis, the Federal Party. Said a Federal Party Central Committee member, “Although the Federal Party is the only party negotiating for devolution and getting at least some army occupied lands released, Gajendrakumar is shouting against the FP claiming it has no principles. Suresh Premachandran of the EPRLF is resentful that he lost at the last elections and his brother Sarveswaran was not made a Minister in the NPC. PLOTE’s Tharmalingam Siddharthan should be grateful to us that we moved him from the Vanni where he had no chance of winning to Jaffna where he won by getting his father’s FP vote. But he is ungrateful.”
The next disagreement will be over whom CVW will replace the two sacked ministers with. Analysts say the FP would like trustworthy FP members while the Chief Minister will want Suresh Premachandran’s brother Kandiah Sarveswaran and Ananthy Sasitharan, both of whom stood by the Chief Minister in this mêlée.
Another bump on the road ahead is the allegation from the Chief Minister’s supporters that the two who were cleared are really guilty and got away because witnesses did not turn up. Tenders for Italian equipment for which a commission of 30% was asked for and declined, it is claimed by supporters of the CM, was paid when the dealer agreed to supply Chinese equipment with Italian labels for the tendered price. The rub from the FP’s point of view is that any new inquiry with new witnesses may lack credibility and be seen as a witch-hunt. One can go on holding inquiries until there is a guilty verdict, argued a Federalist.
A group of nonpartisan Tamil professionals met in Jaffna to discuss their concerns that this disunity would be bad for the Tamils as it is the time to negotiate with the government in strength. But at the same time, some felt that the problem is festering with likely bumps all along the road with no end in sight because of the inherent personality and policy differences masked only by the TNA label. It is therefore better, they argue, to be rid of the chief minister and the three partners of the FP, and move on alone even if with reduced strength. They underscore their point citing a group of 20 who went to discuss matters with the CM only to be told that he plans to form a new party on the framework of the Tamil Makkal Peravai. Recall that the TMP demonstrated on Friday (16th) for the CM, protesting the no-confidence motion him and causing untold misery to the public.
The CM has done further harm to his cause by holding talks last week with Douglas Devananda for support when it seemed that the no-confidence motion was likely to be moved. It was an anticlimax for someone trying to be V. Prabhakaran’s successor, praising him during the PC elections at a time when the TNA was trying to make-over from its radical past.
Prof. R. Sivachandran, once a member of the Federal Party Central Committee, points to the lack of principles in the CM and disclaiming any support for him. Prof. Sivachandrn says the basic problem is lack of democracy in the FP where nothing is done by the constitution. Nominations are handed out arbitrarily. He says he has been removed from the Central Committee while he was the Chief Organizer for Velanai where he braved Douglas Devananda’s thugs, but has never been told he has been removed and if so why and under what articles of the FP constitution. It is this lack of democracy, he asserts, that has led to all this turmoil including bringing CVW into the party without consultation. He recalls that at the last parliamentary elections, CVW refused to campaign for the FP.
Adds Prof. Sivachandrn, “I am sad that after all our struggles, our deaths, and our ongoing problems over occupied lands and Sinhalese settlements in our homelands paid for by the government, we are engaged in a prestige issue and making our youth tend towards extremism once again.”
Countered a retired Jaffna Tamil, “The only extremism is from the CVW side. But certainly when the corruption started with the Chunnakam ‘Oil in the Ground Water’ business, no one took a stand, not the Chief Minister, not Mavai Senathirajah. The CM’s office even helped arrange for the experts who gave false reports claiming the water to be pure. These basically gave former Minister Ainkaranesan a free hand. Now both sides are pretending to be stalwarts against corruption!”
Since Colombo Telegraph published Mr. R. Sampanthan’s letter to CM C.V. Wignesawaran yesterday, for balance we give the latter’s reply of 17th as well as all exchanges between them:
Leader of Opposition and Leader, TNA
My dear Sam,
I acknowledge with thanks your email of 16.06.2017
I had already informed you of the sequence of events. The point you are making is a defense available for the person to be charged.
Double jeopardy is a procedural defense available (non bis in idem).
But here we are not dealing with Court cases. We are trying to find out whether any conduct prejudicial to our public has been committed and if so what steps need to be taken.
The earlier inquiry discharged those charged due to absence of the complainants. Not that the complainants did not want to come for the Inquiry, but the Committee could not accommodate their free dates.
One of the complainants made an open statement in the Council on 07.06.2017 that if given an opportunity the charges could be proved.
Even if the earlier charges were to come under the Double Jeopardy doctrine there are new charges made by members of the public which were handed over only a few days before 14.06.2017, the day I made my submissions to Council. The need to have an inquiry is therefore clear. I am glad you have accepted in your last sentence holding that further inquiry should not be hampered.
Re – Mavai he did not say that no action should be taken against the Ministers. He promised to discuss and come back to me but he did not.
I was informed there is a fear among the officers and staff that if they come out with the truth at an Inquiry they would be physically dealt with. Hence there was a need to prevent access to the Ministers and their Staff to their respective offices. Without withdrawing their salary nor perks, I forbade their entry to their working places pending inquiry in the best interests of Natural Justice and good governance principles.
Re – remedial action you and I discussed the way out. I informed you that I have no objections to the two Ministers making a request in writing to allow them to continue to function as Ministers undertaking not to disturb the course of justice during the new Inquiry to be set in motion. But there seems to be some hesitance on the part of the Ministers in making such a request in writing. Today the three leaders of TELO, EPRLF and PLOTE met me. They said if you could give an assurance that the two Ministers during the fresh inquiry to be held would not in any way disturb the course of Justice nor interfere with nor threaten the witnesses nor tamper with evidence they would also support you in view of your request to take remedial action and due to your concern to avoid disunity and disturbance in the functioning of the NPC. I am prepared to accept your assurance buttressed by the three leaders of the constituent parties of the TNA and agree to the Ministers being allowed to function. I might mention that there is a need on your good self’s part to prevent unwarranted action on the part of the ITAK including the recent release to the electronic media apart from the document presented to the Governor.
As far as I am concerned all action taken by me was in the best interests of our people. But it appears the ITAK is functioning independent of you which is most unfortunate.
The state of the document said to have been given to the Hon’ Governor has not been communicated to me by you yet.
I look forward to meeting to you tomorrow in Jaffna to discuss above and resolve issues in the best interest of our communities and NPC.
Sampanthan’s letter to Wigneswaran:
Justice C.V. Wigneswaran
Chief Minister – Northern Province
My Dear Wignes,
Thank you for your letter dated 17.06.2017.
I shall only deal with the issue before us, whether any punitive action is justified at present against the two Ministers who have not been found guilty by the Board of Inquiry appointed by you. It is this punitive action taken by you against the said two Ministers, despite their not having been found guilty by the board of inquiry, which is the cause of the present crisis.
You have suggested, as per a proposal of the Leaders of the other three constituent parties of the Tamil National Alliance who met you, that I give an assurance on behalf of the two Ministers in regard to their conduct pertaining to any inquiry and that if I did so they would support my view that remedial action should be taken in regard to the said two ministers.
I do not understand how it can be suggested that I guarantee the conduct of these two Ministers pertaining to the inquiry, and I certainly will not give any such guarantee. I am only trying to be helpful to resolve a crisis in the Northern Provincial Council consequent to action taken by you which I have already stated is in violation of the principles of natural justice. I will however certainly advise the said two Ministers that they should not impede an independent legal inquiry.
I do not think that this matter should be delayed any longer and that you should act very early.
You have referred to the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) and the need for me to influence the functioning of that party. The current President of the ITAK is Mr. Mavai Senathirajah and the current Secretary General is Mr. K. Thurairajasingham. The Central Committee of the ITAK meets regularly.
I am a senior member of the ITAK and its one time President.
The ITAK and the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) led by Thanthai Chelvanayakam, are the only political organizations to which I have ever belonged.
When it was decided by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that you would be the Chief Ministerial Candidate for the Northern Province, and when this was conveyed to you, you told Mr. Mavai Senathirajah in the presence of all the Leaders of the TNA that you would need his political advice and guidance in the administration of the Northern Provincial Council. You may perhaps ask yourself whether this was fulfilled. Mr. Mavai Senathirajah is a Leader who has experienced much suffering and, made several sacrifices on behalf of the party and our people. People of this worth cannot be sidelined.
You can however have my assurance that I will always endeavor to be a positive influence on the functioning of the ITAK.
The remedial action you need to take, needs to be taken without delay.
Leader of Tamil National Alliance
Wigneswaran’s letter to Sampanthan:
Leader of Opposition and Leader, TNA
My dear Sam,
Yours of even date in reply to mine of 17.06.2017 to hand. Thanks. I am also in receipt of a note given by Bishop Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam and Srila Sri Somasundra Thesika Gnana Sambanda Paramachchariyar Swamy this morning. Let me first explain a few matters in your letter.
There was no punitive action taken against the two Ministers concerned. They are entitled to draw their salary and use their vehicles etc.
It is in order to give protection to the Witnesses that it was said that they should take leave while the Inquiring Committee sat. There are new charges too against them.
I understand your inability to give guarantees with regard to the conduct of the two Ministers. But I am glad you have undertaken to advise them that they should not impede an independent legal inquiry. It is to ensure the independent legal inquiry and to commit the two Ministers that I designed the formula of taking leave for one month.
You are a Senior Member of the ITAK. You are the leader of the TNA. You have undertaken to advise the two Ministers not to impede an independent legal inquiry. The two Religious Dignitaries have insisted that the two Ministers must co-operate by not interfering with the course of justice.
Added to these Hon’ Selvam Adaikalanathan, Hon’ Dharmalingam Sidharthan and Hon’ Suresh Premachandran have also undertaken last night in the best interests of the Tamils to speak to the Hon’ Ministers, to make sure they will not interfere with the course of justice nor interfere with nor threaten witnesses nor tamper with evidence etc. In the light of these undertakings, I will not insist on the conditions relating to leave.
Rev. Srila Sri Somasundra Thesika Gnana Sambanda Paramachchariyar
Swamy Peedathipathy Nallai Aatheenam
Rev. Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam, Bishop
Hon’ Mavai Senathirajah, Leader ITAK
Hon’ Selvam Adaikalanathan, Leader, TELO
Hon’ Dharmalingam Sidharthan, Leader, PLOTE
Hon’ Suresh Premachandran, Leader, EPRLF
Mr. K. Kanag Iswaran, President’s Counsel