26 September, 2020

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Powerful President Dithering In The South, Powerless Provincial Council Resolving In The North

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Last Sunday I alluded to Geneva anxieties. Since then things have got sillier and more complicated at the same time.  On Monday, the Northern Provincial Council, that has not been enabled to do anything worthwhile after its election in September, passed a resolution calling for international investigation into the last stages of the war, and for erecting a memorial at Mullivaikal to honour the civilians killed there during the war’s final phase.  The Council also decided to send Councillor Ananthi Sasitharan as its representative to Geneva to speak on the question of the missing persons.  The resolution seems to have come out of the blue for most observers, and certainly for the UPFA government (which lately has been losing its original SLFP blueness).

The government has not provided a response to the resolution for nearly a week.  The usually truculent government spokespersons haven’t said anything, and the President appears to be too busy for serious politics given his ceremonial duties as Head of State and the urgency of picking fair candidates from film-star and night-star contenders for the forthcoming PC elections in the Western and the Southern Provinces.  On the matter of the Northern Provincial Council, even after a much publicized and reportedly cordial meeting with Chief Minister Wigneswaran, the all-powerful President, I must say, has been quite simply dithering.  The President did not even follow up on his reported agreement with the Chief Minister to replace the currently contentious Chief Secretary of the Province with a new appointment acceptable to both the President and the Chief Minister.

Chief Justice and Chief Secretary

That the President could not do so because of some threatened opposition by the SLAS Union is nonsense.  Chief Minister Wigneswaran has already exposed the absurdity of this excuse from the legal and administrative standpoints.  Politically, it is laughable that a government that got rid of the country’s Chief Justice without any fuss cannot replace a Secretary in Jaffna, even though she seems to be capable of more fuss than Chief Justice Shiranee Bandaranayake.  Rotations and replacements of senior civil servants are routine affairs after elections and change of governments and these are not subject to trade union rights.  No one is calling for the Secretary’s dismissal or punishment, but only an administrative change following the first ever Provincial Council elections in the North, with due compensation to the Secretary as per her terms of employment.

According to Wigneswaran, it is the frustration of powerlessness that precipitated the NPC resolution calling for international intervention.  It was a rather hotheaded response to a frustrating situation that also had a lot to do with the internal politics of the TNA Councillors.  It may have been an attempt to put Wigneswaran on the spot while embarrassing the government.  The resolution reportedly required a lot of debate and much persuasion by Wigneswaran to avoid the inflammatory reference to ‘genocide’ in the resolution. For the amateurish TamilNet theoreticians, the exclusion of the term ‘genocide’ has inexcusably diluted the resolution.  For pro-Rajapaksa, anti-Rajapaksa-advisers commentator Dayan Jayatilleka, the resolution is a “dangerous escalation” that will only weaken the hand of the President and strengthen the chorus of anti-devolutionists in the South.  The fact of the matter is that the President’s hand needs no strengthening.  He has the strongest political hand ever among all of Sri Lanka’s Prime Ministers and Presidents, but he also has the least willingness to use it to resolve the Sinhala-Tamil problem in our lifetime.

The hand that has been weakened is the hand of Chief Minister Wigneswaran.  And the history of Sinhala-Tamil politics is being repeated now in more ways than one.  It was the earlier failures to honour the agreements with parliamentary Tamil leaders that gave rise to the rise of Tamil political violence and the rejection of non-violent parliamentary politics.  Wigneswaran is already beginning to experience the disappointments that befell Tamil leaders like Ponnambalam, Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam.  Rather than working with Wigneswaran and enabling the new Northern Provincial Council to carry out its mandated business, the President is duplicitously promising to work with him and then doing nothing about it.

Those of us who were associated with the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE) in the late 1970s and chronicled “Emergency ‘79” can see another connection.  Just a month before imposing Emergency Rule in Jaffna, after which Jaffna would never be the same again, the Jayewardene government transferred out of Jaffna its then Government Agent, Lionel Fernando, a Sinhalese Civil Servant and one of the more popular GAs ever to serve in Jaffna, and replaced him with Yogendra Duraiswamy, a retiree from foreign service and a Tamil political busybody, who was also a defeated pro-government candidate in the 1977 election.  Lionel Fernando was a fearless civilian interface between the security forces and the people of Jaffna.  In contrast, when the army descended on Jaffna to enforce Emergency Rule, the new GA, Duraiswamy, went ingloriously missing in action until he was finally removed.  It has been reported that that the present contentious Chief Secretary in Jaffna is a niece of Yogendra Duraiswamy.  For those interested in family trees, they are respectively the grand daughter and the elder son of Sir Waittilingam Duraiswamy, a Jaffna notable and former Speaker of the State Council.

Preparation for Geneva

After its two botched attempts in diplomacy and communication, sending all and sundry of its myriads of hangers on, to the UNHRC sessions in 2012 and 2013, the government has sent Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga as its public face to Geneva to prepare the ground for the March sessions this year.  From Geneva, Mr. Weeratunga has gone on to canvas the Americans in Washington, where the government (rather the Central Bank) is already investing almost US$ 200,000 annually in a Public Relations firm to spruce up Lanka’s image for the Americans.  Keeping him in check is Sajin de Vass Gunawardena (Monitoring MP for the Ministry of External Affairs – whatever it means in the Rajapaksa lexicon of cabinet government), who apparently has been given the responsibility for handling UNHRC matters for 2014.  But making power point presentations is Mr. Weeratunga’s forte.  In Geneva and in Washington, Mr. Weeratunga has been just doing that dutifully.

In a selectively axe-grinding commentary, Dayan Jayatilleka has all but called Weeratunga’s salutary professional efforts  a waste of time given the government’s utter lack of progress in regard to an internally agreed-upon strategy, in April 2011, to trade-off devolution for accountability to quieten the West, and the Presidential directive to start working with the TNA immediately. Dr. Jayatilleka rightfully lambastes the impertinence of Sajin de Vass Gunawardena in provoking the TNA leader R. Sambanthan into a public fury a few months later and virtually freezing all communications between the TNA and the government.  More months later, the LLRC Report recommended the same trade-off loud and clear, but between lines.

Dayan Jayatilleka also pokes fun at the government’s apparent new strategy to emulate Israel’s obduracy in international forums.  This is a new development following a little reported aspect of the recent multi-purpose visit of the multi-hued Presidential entourage to the Holy Land.  Reportedly, President Rajapaksa sought out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advice about influencing Washington to appreciate the Sri Lankan government’s no less obdurate position.  We do not know whether any notes were compared in this strange meeting about creating offensive human settlements in unwanted places.  Mr. Netanyahu can give ample advice on that.  But what happens then to the Rajapaksa government’s Non-Aligned Middle East policy?

While the Sri Lankan government was focusing on Washington to prepare for Geneva, Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal of the US State Department has been visiting Jaffna and London, as part of the US preparation for Geneva.  On Sunday, January 26, before the NPC Resolution in Jaffna, the TNA leader issued a public statement in Trincomalee following the Central Committee meeting of the old Federal Party (ITAK).  It seemed to be a point-by-point response to the government’s power point presentation in Geneva, and covered the yet unfinished, or yet to be started, business in six critical areas: Land, Missing Persons, Military Presence, Independent and Impartial Investigation, Government’s failure to implement previous agreements with the TNA, and the continued disabling of the newly elected Northern Provincial Council. The next day, the disabled Northern Council bestirred itself into a passing a resolution. All of which the government could have easily avoided.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Rajan
    You are not going anywhere but keep beating the same drum,
    First you have educate yourself before you preach to others
    That’s all. I rest my case

    • 0
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      Mr.Ranjan Philips.It is true that the Chief Minister of the NCP had requested for the transfer of the Chief secretary.Under the present dispensation he may be justified in his stand.
      Changes of the Chief Ex is a characteristic of the private sector after a new management takes over.In that sense what the CM had requested may be justifiable.The Chief Minister will require a complete change after the election because the type of administration had changed and not because he had won the election.

      However I do not believe that the Public Servants should be moved about at the beck and call of the politicians.This was a joke introduced by the 1972 constitution.This how the public service, the country’s economy, good governance and many other aspects were neutered.

      However, what is important is not the perpetuation of the politician but of the administration.By extension are you going to justify that the IGP,The Army Commander, The Commander of the Navy and the Air Force, the Director General of the Excise,Customs,the IR and the head of the Central bank should be changed with every change of the people forming the Govt. This had been the bane of our country.With every tin pot appointed as the Minister of Education, they have brought about changes forcing the students and the teachers ( yes of the Universities too) to spend time fighting their foolish schemes and not concentrating on the main job, studying or teaching.And they have the audacity to accuse the students for not concentrating on their studies and indulging in politics.It is the tin pot jokers, the politicians who had brought about this situation, that after the Great Colvin enunciated his constitution.Today our Universities – a plethora of them- are at the bottom of the grading.Our Universities are unable even to register new work done by them as patents acceptable all over the world.

      Look at the CISIR, it was a well recognized institution.Another of your member of your group changed it’s name and today it is less recognized than an tea kisock available at the corner. What has CISIR achieved since the name was changed. they have submitted reports to satisfy the politicians and lost their credibility.

      Incidentally, what is your view on the other odious aspect of Colvin’s constitution – the removal of the limits of legislation, which prevented legislation being introduced pin pointing specific groups of people and not for the country as a whole – the so called section 29.

      Eagerly awaiting your response Sir!

  • 3
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    Does it mean you won’t comment again?

    Kind regards,
    OTC

    • 0
      1

      I rest my. Case with this guy

  • 1
    1

    What is TNA doing in Trincomalee?

    Trinco is now a Muslim are NOT a bloody Tamil area.

    Get OUT of Trinco!

    • 0
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      Fukushima
      Do you know what you are talking , you need to grow up and learn the history
      May be Nuclear waste damage your thinking ability

  • 0
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    Dear Pasel,

    Don’t worry, the Lady(?) Fukushima has grown up little bit in accepting that whole Sri Lanaka is not the property of Sinhalese. Thus soon she’ll accept that Tamils are also Sri Lanka citizens. And if the GoSL doesn’t behave fairly and reasonably then we may see them not as Sri Lankans but Ealamists, as she thinks now what they are. She can’t have the cake and eat it. Let her either have it or eat it.

  • 0
    0

    All this advise, analysis, strategies is like playing music to deaf elephants.

    MR will continue with his village kopi kade style thug approach for all matters. MR was successful with that thug rule locally. He thinks he can do same internationally.

    Until learn his lesson himself, he is not going to listen any of these advises.

  • 0
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    This resolution is the thin end of the wedge by the hardliners headed by certain half baked lumpen elements in the TNA who are envious for the CM post.They do not know their limitations but have an ally in the SLG and are directed by the LTTE diaspora.

  • 0
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    Dear Rajan,

    While I thank you for the mention, I must insist that I am not ‘pro-Rajapaksa, anti-Rajapaksa advisors’, but rather (and at the risk of oversimplification) ‘pro-Mahinda, anti-Rajapaksa clan’, or ‘pro-Rajapaksa (singular), anti-Rajapaksas (plural)’.

    As for the ‘advisers’, either there aren’t any apart from the siblings, or there are, and they are ‘pro-ruling clan’ rather than ‘pro-President’/’pro-MR’.

    I am also ‘pro-MR’ in a relative and qualified sense, firstly because I support him rather than those in the West and the Diaspora who oppose him on ‘war crimes’ charges, and secondly because I am unconvinced that the currently available alternatives are better than he is. If that second factor were to change, I would remain ‘pro-MR’ in a historical sense, but not necessarily in a current or future sense.

    • 1
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      This man Dayan accepts that he is Pro-Mahinda in a relative and a qualified sense, because he supports MR, rather than the West and the Diaspora who are pushing for War Crimes Charges. In other words, Dayan does not deny War Crimes, but only want to safeguard MR because he is the only alternate available at the moment. What a bloody Hypocrite this Bugger is? He has no Principles to stand by the Truth, but want to defend the War Criminal from being exposed. So is it any wonder these Sycophants bargain the best for them, for their services, as they are willing to compromise for cover ups, provided they are looked after in return.

      Therefore in similar vein if the Diaspora can agree on a price with Dayan, better than what MR might offer him, there is nothing to prevent him offering his services to the Diaspora. Tamils Food for thought eh?

    • 1
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      It is good to know that Mahinda is a better criminal than any other Sinhala Sri Lankans. He is better because he killed more civilians than any other leaders including Srima, 1970 (more than 10,000 ), Premadasa (more than 60,000). Most of the unlawful disappearances, abductions and murders are under his leadership. Most of the attacks on religious places were under him. Number of journalists killed by him much more than under Other leaders. A massive number of large scale mass graves are under his leadership. What else you need to have a better place like Blood free Sinhala Sri Lanka?

    • 0
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      This means: you dont mind the country is being ruined by Rajapksha. No matter that they would not bring Amd 17, you should just go on supporting him ?
      What an idiotic view, Mr Pundit ? How will you clarrify to your students at the University ?

      What would be the answer as to why the Rajapaske keeps away from implementing Amd 18 so that the people ´s rights can better be safegaurded by introducing Police commission and other commissions as well ?

      “5 Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution
      Provision is made, such person shall be removed
      by the President only with the prior approval of
      the Council.
      Schedule
      (a) The Election Commission.
      (b) the Public Service Commission
      (c) The National Police Commission
      (d) The Human Rights Commission of Sri
      Lanka
      (e) The Permanent Commission to
      Investigate Allegations of Bribery or
      Corruption
      (f) The Finance Commission
      (g) The Delimitation Commission

  • 2
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    Waithilingam Duraisamy.Yogendra Duraisamy,the present Chief secretary belong to the same family of UNTOUCHABLES. They have NEVER been accepted by the JAFFNA PEOPLE, BECAUSE OF THEIR BAD behavior.They have anti Tamil sentiments.

  • 0
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    Rajan
    As usual, an entertaining contribution stuffed full of titbits of information, recent and past. And delivered with wry humour, albeit marred occasionally by an inapt or inelegant turn of phrase or slightly heavy handed sarcasm. There is of course some commentary attached to the amassed facts, but where is the in-depth analysis?

    As an example, you have listed a long succession of Sri Lankan leaders of varying party, class, and cultural backgrounds who have been unable to honour agreements that they had made with Tamil leaders. Is there something deep and long standing in the national psyche that has stood, and will continue to stand, in the way? And is that not worth talking about? As another example, you pile up, in this contribution and elsewhere, the innumerable acts, and the deliberate failures to act, that are anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian and anti-republican. What is it in our society that allows the prominent men and women who perpetrate these acts and deliberate omissions to get away with it so easily and for so long?

    Is the piling up and exposure of sordid facts, and the associated poking fun and sarcasm, all that one can and need to do? The notion of causation as applied to History is of course problematic, but surely it is worthwhile attempting to see how these facts can help us to identify and illuminate the underlying historical and societal undercurrents that have shaped and are shaping our island’s recent history.

  • 0
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    Dayan, Mahinda Rajapaksa (the part) is a part of the Rajapaksa clan (the whole); the part is in the whole and vice versa.

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