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by Shamindra Ferdinando
Today, the electorate is at a crossroad with twice-president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, launching a new movement to form a government, at the Aug 17 parliamentary polls. A confident Rajapaksa launched his parliamentary polls campaign at Anuradhapura where he vowed to overcome the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combination. The pledge was made at the largest ever gathering in the historic city, where Rajapaksa recalled ancient kings had defeated foreign invaders. The war-winning leader alleged that the present Yahapalana government had destroyed, within six months, what his administration had achieved since the conclusion of the war in May, 2009. The former President asked what would have happened if the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration had continued for five years. Since the change of government, in January consequent to Rajapaksa’s defeat, some of those, who had switched their allegiance to the then common presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena deserted the new administration. Having joined Yahapalana project, late last November, Liberal Party Leader and State Education, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, quit the administration in March. The UPFA included Prof. Wijesinha, in its National List submitted to the Elections Secretariat on July 13, hence making him a key element in Rajapaksa’s team.
Full text of an interview with Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
I have long had a soft corner for Charles Havilland, the local BBC Correspondent. Indeed, as Marlow said of Lord Jim, have I not stood up for him, when Sri Lankans to whom one white reporter is just like another thought the BBC and Channel 4 were identical? I have argued, quite often recently, that the BBC (though not its rather strange Sinhala Service, with its conglomeration of old fashioned leftists) tries to be objective in its coverage of Sri Lanka, without succumbing to the temptation to stereotype.
I was saddened therefore to find in a report on the verdict on the Sarath Fonseka case that the BBC referred to him as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ‘Ideological soulmate’. This was stereotyping with a vengeance, whereas the Voice of America, which I have always thought more simplistic, actually referred to Fonseka falling out with the President over differences as to political ideology.
Anyone looking at the evidence, not least that provided by Fonseka himself, in his letter of resignation, would realize that the latter was a more plausible interpretation. Fonseka referred to the President’s rejection of his proposal to expand the army, and also criticized him for too swift resettlement of the displaced. To assume then that one Sri Lankan nationalist is identical with another seemed totally unworthy of the BBC.
I suppose it is a mark of how little interest there is really in Sri Lanka that no one has bothered to explore the implications of the differences between the two, and more particularly the divergence between what Fonseka was advocating for a few months after the war ended, and the position he took up later. Not only his interview with Federica Jansz (whether or not one believes him or her as to what he actually said with regard to the White Flag Case), but also the persona Patricia Butenis seemed optimistic about according to Wikileaks, suggests a 180 degree turn from the chauvinist rather than nationalist ideologue who fell out with the President.
More surprisingly, no one drew attention to the elephant in the room, which somehow never found its way into the Courthouse either, namely Sarath Fonseka’s claim in Ambalangoda just a couple of months after the war ended that he had resisted instructions to accept the surrender of people carrying white flags. This was to my mind the most worrying allegation that was recorded in the State Department Report that was conveyed to us around October 2009. I suggested then that we answer that report promptly, as had very politely been requested by the Americans, and I believe we would have saved ourselves a great deal of trouble had that been done. But the panel the President appointed delayed meeting, and the report was overtaken by events, not least Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy and his very different interpretation, according to Frederica, of what happened in the White Flag case. Read the rest of this entry »
The BBC this afternoon requested a response to some questions arising from the latest report on Sri Lanka issued by the International Crisis Group. This had to be produced on a blackberry, since I was traveling, but given the reptilian viciousness of Nagini Keenan, who covers Sri Lanka for ICG (and the fact that he now twitters), it seemed best to provide some answers, however hastily. The three queries are each followed, in quotation marks, by the passage in the ICG report to which they refer, and then my responses. At the end I make a brief comment about another passage from the Report.
Rajiva Wijesinha, MP
Adviser on Reconciliation to the President
BBC – The ICG report says the SL govt has destroyed the LTTE by “adopting the insurgents’ brutality and intolerance of dissent”. Please respond/comment.
‘The regime destroyed the Tigers by rejecting the more conciliatory approach of prior governments and adopting the insurgents’ brutality and intolerance of dissent.’
A most nonsensical statement. The more conciliatory approach of previous governments was traduced by the Tigers, who used this to build up their strength and broke agreements arbitrarily with exceptional brutality – the killing of policemen who surrendered and the massacre of Muslims in the East and ethnic cleansing of them from the North.
Sri Lanka is a parliamentary democracy which saw massive criticism of the government throughout the conflict in Parliament (including by LTTE surrogates the main Tamil political party finally parted company with after the destruction of the LTTE) and forceful attacks on government policies as well as practices by many media groups, some of which had nothing positive to say. This approach continues. Clearly Alan Keenan, who has been responsible for Sri Lanka throughout, and wrote the speech in which Gareth Evans had to confess he did not know the reasons for the generalizations he made, has no idea as to what totalitarian brutality means.
BBC – The report accuses the govt of making reconciliation more difficult by manipulating elections and silencing civil society. Please comment. Read the rest of this entry »