|Hains plea in vain
The involvement of Norway and Britain directly in the internal conflict of Sri Lanka is viewed in different ways by sections here and abroad. Some believe that the LTTE which is said to be battle weary was trying to buy time for another build up. This view is endorsed by many who are experienced in Tiger tactics. These so called mediators in peace from Britain and Norway have failed to label the LTTE as a terrorist organisation when there was enough evidence to justify that position. This was amply demonstrated when the visiting British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Peter Hain was pointedly asked this question by the media on Thursday and he ducked saying, "They have clearly been involved in brutal activity".
Hain, an experienced diplomat, must remember that the LTTE murdered two South Asian leaders, Rajiv Gandhi and Ranasinghe Premadasa who had cordial relations with Britain. This is enough evidence for Hain to call the LTTE a terrorist organisation as both these leaders were victims of terror. "Isnt this the brutality that Hain mentioned in his reply", asked a senior politician from the government ranks.
While the United States have branded the LTTE as a terrorist organisation and banned it, the LTTE is active in that country under a different name. The British government being well aware of the activities of this terrorist group is yet to ban it on their soil. In reply to a question Hain said on Thursday that Britain has given serious thought to banning the LTTE but it may not happen immediately. He added that it could happen next year.
The LTTE has been operating in Britain for years and may use the same tactic as they do in the US to operate under a different name. The responsibility that lies with the British government is to close down offices of the LTTE in Britain once it is banned and deport all LTTE leaders and cadres as soon as it is effective.
Hain said Britain was fully supportive of the Norwegian involvement in the peace process. This indicates that Britain is here to back Norway which is yet to get a positive response on its role by the PA government. President Kumaratunga has not committed herself to Norway but had insisted that her government was not ready for any conditions by the LTTE. Hain claimed that LTTEs objective was autonomy. The LTTE is yet to officially announce that position and Prabhakaran is still on record saying that he would not agree to anything short of his dream a separate state. Hain believes that shooting must stop to start talks on autonomy. He should first tell Prabhakaran to stop shooting as it is he who fires the first shot to end negotiations. Prabhakarans undemocratic actions during talks made discussions end abruptly and the governments of the day should not be blamed for that. A legally elected government has a right to defend itself and the people when the enemy launches an offensive while being at the table to find a solution.
Hain says that a war of this nature could not be won by either side militarily and if a conflict needs resolution elected leaders will have to sit with people who may well be responsible for barbarous assassinations. This has been practiced by two Presidents of this country. They were Premadasa and Kumaratunga.
Premadasa who came down sit with such murderers to find a solution was finally brutally murdered by these murderers themselves. Kumaratunga had a miraculous escape and lost one eye. As Hain says, these leaders have performed their duty and it was Prabhakaran who played them out while his community eagerly awaited a peaceful resolution on those two occasions. If Hain backs the Oslos effort in the peace process, he should get the Norwegians to ask these murderers to give up brutality once and for all if they are keen on a solution based on negotiations.
Governments which have been taken for rides on two occasions have to exercise caution when dealing with such groups who have been untrustworthy in the past. The international community can say anything but those at the receiving end and their legally elected leaders must be prudent. Hain should first get his government to close the door on those who believe in brutality to force them to the conference table to make them accept democratic politics to resolve disputes.
Time and again Sri Lanka has witnessed figures of the calibre of Hain preaching to the people here and the governments on what should be done without actually preaching to those who engage in terror and kill at will, soldier or civilian, woman or child.
Hain met Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Constitutional and Industrial Development Minister G. L. Peiris and Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake who deputised for the President. Wickramanayake during the visit of Norwegian negotiator Erik Solhiem denied any knowledge about Norways role in Sri Lanka saying that these matters were only known by the President and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Prime Minister said that when the LTTE was weak efforts were made to talk peace and call for ceasefires. Wickramanayake being forced to play this role in the peace process in the absence of Kumaratunga is keener to hit the LTTE as promised during the elections.
Handling security matters in the absence of a deputy defence minister, Wickramanayake recorded a series of victories by the armed forces in the North during the past few weeks. It is learnt that he has ordered the Jaffna Commanders to continue with operations vigorously leaving the problem of the political solution in the hands of the government. Since Wickramanayake took over the deputy defence ministry unofficially the LTTE has suffered several setbacks in the North which would certainly have been the reason for its desire to talk peace.
The home coming of sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe at the Hilton Hotel this week paved the way for some opposition and government MPs to meet and discuss political issues. Ministers Lakshman Kiriella, Jeevan Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapakse were seen in conversation with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Karu Jayasuriya, Ravi Karunanayake, Gamini Athukorale, Daham Wimalasena and JVPs Wimal Weerawansa and Nandana Gunetilleke. The UNP leader on seeing Kiriella asked, "Lakshman where is S.B.?" Kiriella moved to ask Ravi how he was to evade the sensitive question as S. B. Dissanayake was not invited for the ceremony. Susanthika conveniently left out S.B., Damayanthi Dharsha and Sunil Gunawardene from the invitation list. Some athletes present told Wickremesinghe they were prepared to give up due to the conduct of another sports official. Wickremesinghe asked Ravi Karunanayake to look into the matter and take it up in parliament.
Wickremesinghe while moving to another table met former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and asked what Ranatunga was doing in retirement. "I am busy going behind lawyers", was the reply of Ranatunga facing match fixing allegations. "Dont take those seriously. You can see the way mud is slung at us because we are politicians", Wickremesinghe joked. Kiriella and Karu Jayasuriya who were in conversation turned to Ranatunga to assure him of their support if the need arose. Mahinda Rajapakse quipped, "Arjuna we know these are bogus allegations so dont worry yourself. The truth will emerge soon".
The Ranatunga brothers, engulfed in many a problem in politics and sports, this week made Prasanna, a member of the Western Provincial Council, decide to retire from politics. He, being a former PC minister and acting chief minister was not considered for a ministerial post this time by the government. A dejected Prasanna decided to quit politics.
On Monday when President Kumaratunga summoned the WPC members for a meeting, Prasanna too was present. Kumaratunga told the members that they should be present when the Council budget would be moved at the next meeting as the opposition may try to capitalise on the hung council. At the conclusion of the meeting, Prasanna told the President of his decision to quit politics. Kumaratunga was taken aback and urged him to reconsider. But he stood firm and the President finally said she would discuss the matter with his father, Minister Reggie Ranatunga.
The United National Party seem to be engulfed in many problems with several party seniors and backbenchers unhappy over the lethargic attitude adopted by the party which has left room for the government to go ahead despite burdens being placed on the people. These sections in the party have pointed out that the recent price hikes which affected the people should be taken to the streets to attack the government. They say that news releases issued by Karunasena Kodituwakku had no effect on the government which totally ignored these statements. Partymen question as to why a new party chairman, general secretary and a treasurer was yet to be appointed officially with the annual convention just one week away. The information that Charitha Ratwatte is to be next Chairman and Senarath Kapukotuwa as General Secretary has met with stiff opposition from the grassroots partymen who say that these two persons hardly know party activities at grassroots.
The silence maintained by the party on the arrests of supporters too is criticised by many in the party. Already, Mohamed Maharoof, Milinda Moragoda, Bodhi Ranasinghe and Rohitha Bogollagama have been at the recieving end. Partymen say the PA has now started the offensive on the Premadasa family with the arrest of Premadasas son-in-law, Rohan Jayakody, on Wednesday night. Jayakody was arrested on charges of theft of the Mulkirigala painting at Presidents House and taken to the Fort Magistrates bungalow at Bullers Road and remanded at the prison hospital. He was later moved to the General Hospital as he developed a heart condition and blood pressure. On Thursday only his wife, Dulanjali was allowed to visit him to bring his meals.
The UNPers say that the party should be reorganised with immediate effect as local elections are due in April next year. There are some electorates where the UNP is yet to appoint organisers and many of them were lost at the general election due to this factor. MPs have urged deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya to apprise the leader of this position to rectify and remedy the situation before the annual convention. As things are in the party, the UNP will have to wake up early if it thinks of toppling the government in the hung parliament. It has a chance to do so if it can get the help of at least eight PA MPs to defeat the Vote on Account due in parliament next month. The question that is being asked in UNP circles is whether or not the party would make that effort.
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