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Chanaka Amaratunga with Minister Gamini Dissanayake.

Amongst the many sticks used to beat me and the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka now is the claim that we have abandoned our commitment to the abolition of the Executive Presidency. Martin Lee, the Hongkong Lawyer who allowed himself to be used by Basil Fernando, the strange Sri Lankan who in effect runs the Asian Human Rights Commission, talks about the 2005 manifesto of President Rajapakse, forgetting that, while the Liberal Party felt that that manifesto was infinitely better than any alternative, we ourselves were not committed to it. He ignores the fact that the latest manifesto, with which we are proud to be associated, makes it clear that the Executive Presidency will continue, though it will be modified.

Interestingly, Rohan Edrisinha, the Centre for Policy Alternative’s distinguished constitutional expert who left the Liberal Party in 1991, claimed that his reason for supporting Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy was that the main question for Sri Lankans was the abolition of the Executive Presidency. His support however continued even when General Fonseka made it clear that he had no intention of abolishing that position straight away, were he to be elected to it.

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Guy Rhodes - Coordinator of the Solidar Consortium in Sri Lanka, chair of the Solidar Steering Committee composed of the Country Representatives of NPA, SAH and ASB and is a focal point for Solidar activities in the country.

 Amongst the shadowy figures dominating the Coffee Club, the gossip circle of international NGO personnel that propelled one of the early petitions against Sri Lanka presented to the UN Secretary General, was a man called Guy Rhodes. He headed a conglomerate of European NGOs called Solidar, which seemed to have swept up a great deal of the funding described as humanitarian assistance to the Sri Lankan people.

I first noticed Mr Rhodes when he spoke passionately against international agencies continuing, after they had been asked to leave LTTE dominated areas, to use the funds they had collected for the benefit of the people left behind. His argument was that, unless the agencies had continuing access, they would be in breach of the conditions their donors had laid down in granting them funding for humanitarian purposes. This seemed very odd, firstly because the other agencies did not seem to suffer from this constraint, and secondly because it was obviously wrong that donors should have inserted clauses into their funding agreements without the knowledge, let alone the approval, of the concerned government.

 Guy Rhodes did not seem inclined to let us look at the agreements he cited so confidently. We had previously pointed out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that many agencies, contrary to the blanket agreements they had signed, with that Ministry or others, simply did not bother to consult government, let alone get its approval, in gathering funding unto themselves to use in Sri Lanka. Of course it was partly our fault for not having set solid systems in place and demanding accountability, but in mitigation it should be noted that the UN had imperceptibly slipped into the role of coordinator of funding.

I believe this began with the Ceasefire Agreement, when the LTTE made it clear that there had to be mechanisms to control the two parties to the Agreement, which they kept insisting were on an equal level. Unfortunately the government of the day seemed to grant that, and so the idea spread that the UN was intended to hold the balance.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2010
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