You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Jaffna’ tag.

CaptureSome years back, when I thought Ranil was honest, I said he would have been an admirable politician had he entered politics under Dudley Senanayake rather than J R Jayewardene. Though I had welcomed Jayewardene’s opening up of the economy, I was increasingly worried about the authoritarianism he sought to entrench, using violence for the purpose.

The treatment of the July 1980 strikers, the violence in Jaffna and then countrywide in connection with District Council elections, the suppression of opposition during the 1982 referendum (as to which Chandrika has obviously forgotten her husband’s suffereing and also Ranil’s role in collecting the undated letters of resignation from MPs that J R demanded) the pogrom of July 1983, were mounting evidence of his contempt for decency, let alone democratic norms.

I had begun to understand Ranil’s role in all this through a remark of Henry Gunasekera, an old style UNP stalwart, unlike his younger brother D E W, the last representative of the old upper class commitment to social justice exemplified by the original pillars of the Communist Party, S A Wickremesinghe and Pieter Keuneman. The parallel with my oldest and youngest maternal uncles, Esmond who was for a long time J R’s intellectual right hand while Cyril Mathew was his coercive left, and Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, struck me after I came to know and appreciate D E W’s idealistic sincerity.

But Henry too was sincere and, unlike Esmond, was not willing to go along with the shenanigans of his party when it changed course. He told me, way back in 1980, that there were only two honest Ministers in the UNP. Rather naively I thought he was referring to my two relations in Cabinet, Ranjith Atapattu and Ranil Wickremesinghe. But his response was no: though Ranjith was one of them, the other being Gamini Jayasuriya, he said Ranil, though financially above board, was not honest in that he used thugs.

How true this was became clear as evidence emerged of his connections with individuals such as Gonawala Sunil and Kalu Lucky, who led demonstrations against Supreme Court judges who had found against the government in a fundamental rights case – which I recalled when Ranil’s cohorts decided to demonstrate against the bond commission. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The escapade on boats and bikes in the Moluccas was the final episode in the hectic travel that I had engaged in during 2013. With much less that I could productively do in Sri Lanka, I had gone as noted previously to Karnataka and Bhutan and Brunei and Tunisia. In between I had gone to England, as I tried now to do once a year.

This time the main reason was the 70th birthday of my former Dean, who had been infinitely kind and helpful to me during my 8 years in Oxford. He had remained a fast friend, arranging for the College to give me membership of the Senior Common Room and Dining Rights when I went back for any length of time, booking me guest rooms for short stays, and when that became expensive allowing me to stay in his rooms. He had long moved out of College himself by then, but he had continued till he retired to entertain generation after generation of undergraduates with the ebullience of his twenties, when we had first met.

But early in the new millennium he decided to take early retirement, for he said the College was changing beyond recognition. He was stunned when one of the new history tutors asked what it was to do with him, when Leslie suggested he visit one of his students who was in hospital. The old pastoral system seemed to have died away, with the Chaplain abdicating responsibility so that dealing with students with problems fell on the shoulders of the former College Secretary, who had been eased out of that position when the new Senior Tutor banned morning coffee in the College Office. That was the time at which dons met informally to compare notes, under the eagle eye of the College Secretary who had run the administration practically single handed for years, with the support of very glamourous assistants. But the practice, which lasted for a decade after she went, was resented by the supposedly professional administrators the new Master had brought in, and a dull bureaucracy took over.

Ironically, the Senior Tutor who had thought Morning Office Coffee and all that frivolous, presided over the worst years the College experienced with regard to examination results. She finally had to leave when it was clear the place would not recover on her watch. She was Belgian, which perhaps explains my Dean’s determination to vote for Britain to leave the Common Market, though just before the note he did note that it was clear, from a trip he made to the North, that the country at large was completely at odds with the elite on this issue. The fact that every single region of England except for London voted to leave seemed ample proof of this. Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.30761940In the second section of chapter 8 of my book on this subject, I look at how the initially peaceful agitation for devolution turned to violence. This was despite a measure of autonomy finally being granted to elected bodies at local levels during the eighties.

District Development Councils and their Shortcomings

In the 1970s, the various Tamil parties came together to form a Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). They fought the next election by asserting the right of Tamil-speaking people to self-determination, with reference in particular to the northern and eastern provinces.  Initially, the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the party of the Indian Tamils who worked on the plantations in the centre of the country, was also part of the TULF. The TULF won an overwhelming majority of seats in the north and the east in the 1977 election, and emerged as the major opposition party. The constituent parties of the USA, having parted company in 1975, were decimated.

Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.30602779I am writing in response to the letter from Mr Kamal Nissanka which appeared in the columns of the Sunday Island on July 26th. He claims in an email sent to other party members that this was in response to an article that appeared on the 19th. In fact the Island rang me up with regard to a press release he had issued, which makes it clear that bringing this matter into the public domain was a strategy employed by Mr Nissanka for reasons that should be obvious.

His latest letter is replete with inaccuracies and half truths. It is possible that his memory is faulty, but fortunately there is email evidence to the contrary with regard to his claims.

1. Mr Nissanka said that ‘I handed over Dr Rajiva Wijesinha’s nomination application to Mr Susil Premajayanha at the Ministry of Education at Battaramulla’. However, though the party had suggested my name be put forward, Mr Nissanka had also put forward his own name. When I met the President I asked him about a candidacy for the Liberal Party, at which point he said ‘Who is this Nissanka whose name has been given? We want you on the List.’ I did not mention this to Mr Nissanka at the time, but I discussed this with him later, and he did not deny this.

2. Contrary to what Mr Nissanka is now claiming, there was no great discussion in the Party about the 18th Amendment. There was no need for pressure from the party for me not to vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, since my reasons for not doing so have been explained by me very clearly. I should note that, in discussion, there were a couple of lawyers from Kurunagala whom Mr Nissanka had introduced to the party, who were in favour of the impeachment.

3. He claims that ‘My political relationship with Dr Wijesinha began to sink as he resigned from the state minister post without informing the party.’ On the contrary it began to sink because I did not appoint him to a position in the Ministry. The several emails he sent in this regard make the position clear.

The first was sent on the very day I assumed duties, with another immediately after.

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Jan 13

to Ananda, me

They expect me to have some position in the Rajiva ministry. I think in political type positions priority should be given to me and Stephen. Our ultimate goal is to go to parliament through NL or district contest. Party expenses are also vital. If we have political type positions we can contribute to the party.

There should be a dividend to the great sacrifice for the party.

On 15 Jan, 2015, at 7:50 pm, Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com> wrote:

Considering all these development I suggest that when positions are offered in Rajiva ministry priority should be given to me and Ananda Stephen. I have no opposition giving to other members of the committee thereafter.

In fact Mr Palitha Lihinikumara requested me tio get the “Post of Adviser- Student Affairs”. He said somebody who has an understanding  in present day radical student politics should be in charge on that.

I suggest Ananda Stephen be given “post of coordinating Secretary”. If not we cannot face our support base. I hope all of you agree with this parameter and suggestions. Fruits should be tasted by those who planted the trees.  

I explained at the Committee meeting we had a few days later that I would be happy to make appointments to cadre positions at my disposal for those able to work full time. Mr Stephen, the Deputy Secretary General, said he was willing to work full time but none of the others was able to do this.

I also explained that the post of Student Advisor had been created by a special Cabinet Paper prepared by my predecessor. With the change of government that had lapsed. I said I was not like my predecessor and did not think it proper to create new positions. I do not think it a legitimate use of government funds to help the party.

Despite this the claim was reiterated in an email of January 25th –

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Jan 25

to me, Ananda, Shalini

I have emphasized that I should be given suitable position at least for the next six months until the next parliament comes and depending on how we face elections. I thought the “Student Area” is the best for me where I could develop new relations. If possible I think Peradeniya, Rajarata, Wayamba Jaffna, Eastern, could be one area {plus or minus Sabaragamuwa and Uva) or any different arrangement. 

It should be noted that numerous ex-party members and our recent political friends are also expecting various favors through me from you and. In some cases not jobs but maybe a letter or other help. (This is the nature of Sri Lankan politics).

My view is that those who worked for the regime at the last election should not be given any position in the ministry and that would discourage us and will create an ongoing conflict. (I am not going to interfere with existing members)

And then attacks on my leadership began after what can only be described as a bitter sign off.

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Mar 27

to Ananda, me, shalini, Roshan, ravindra.abeyw., rkottageapo, Sarath, drnewtonpeiris, dunstan53, Upali, Adikari, Dr, Romesh

Some of the active members of  Rev Sobitha group pushed me to get “Student Advisor” postfrom Rajiva. I also being a mad guy eating (sic) the dead rope suggested (to) Rajiva that I should be given “student advisor”. What was Rajiva’s response? “I am not going to act like SB in appointment(s). That is the end of LPSL secretary asking favours and position from Rajiva ministry. I don’t want to be the leader o the party at this juncture. So there is no leadership struggle but I am dead sure that Rajiva can’t lead the party. For the betterment of the party he should not be the leader, we need an alternative. I thought this would be “leadership council”

4. He is talking nonsense with regard to the attempt to dismiss me, because that happened in December, and my case was very ably handled by Mr Harsha Amerasekera with no input whatsoever from the Party.

5. Finally, with regard to the vexed question of an MoU, the party decided at its January meeting to write to the UPFA about an MoU. Mr Nissanka took some time over this but he finally did so. Towards the end of March Mr Susil Premjayanth sent an MoU and wanted it signed and sent back urgently. I signed it but before I could send it, Mr Nissanka and the Deputy Secretary General said that Mr Nissanka should sign it. I had no problems with this but did worry about the delay in him getting to Colombo to sign it. Mr Nissanka had not attended the Committee meeting in February and we did not have one in March.

However he did sign the MoU finally at the meeting held on April 11th. I gave this to Mr Premjayanth, but he has not as yet given me back a copy of the document signed also by him.

It is odd that Mr Nissanka does not mention that he signed an MoU

Ananda Stephen

Jun 30

to Kamal, me, Roshans, Shalini, Sarath, dunstan53, Upali, Newton, Romesh, Adikari, tilak, Dr, ravindra.abeyw., bakmeewatta, Anura

Dear Kamal, 

Thanks, what happened to the MOU which we signed few months back ?????? initially Rajiva was planning to signed  and subsequently you signed .I strongly feel that we should ask for a meeting within next couple of days with UPFA to discuss this issue. If they don’t give us nominations the only other option is UNP, no other, we have to act fast.

6. Subsequently both Mr Nissanka and Mr Stephen, following correspondence with HE the President, sent in applications to Mr Premjayanth for nomination to District lists. They were not called for interview, and then declared, at the meeting of our Committee on July 7th that they did not wish for nomination. However the minutes as written by Mr Nissanka noted that ‘committee did not want to sabotage if any member of the party further negotiate with President regarding nominations. Dr Rajiva volunteered to discuss with President Maithreepala Sirisena regarding a national seat nomination and a district nomination for Kurunegala’. In fact I asked for a mandate from the party for this. The district nomination was a reference to the application of one of our Pradeshiya Sabha Members who had also sent in an application, and who perhaps tactlessly I had said was potentially our best candidate since he had already proved himself.

It should be noted that he had supported the candidacy of President Rajapaksa in January, and I believe the reference to not giving positions to those ‘who worked for the regime at the last election’ in the January 25th email was to him, even though he had been unanimously co-opted to the Committee at the previous meeting.

7. I should add that I am astonished that the Secretary General, without any authorization from the Committee that met on July 7th, put forward four lists off his own bat for the election. The leader of the Colombo list told me that he had found us on a website, and that he had previously contested with Dr Wickramabahu Karunaratne – whose political stances have been light years away from those of our Founder, Dr Chanaka Amaratunga.

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=129279

CA

Chanaka Amaratunga died 19 years ago, on the 1st of August 1996. He died a disappointed man, for he had not entered Parliament, which had been his dream. Only Chanaka, imbued in the Westminster style of Liberal Democratic politics, could have written an article entitled ‘In Praise of Parliament’ at a time when the Executive Presidency was well entrenched in Sri Lanka, and the tradition of the independent Parliamentarian long lost.

qrcode.30571558He had hoped to enter Parliament in 1988, when he was on the SLFP National List, but the defeat of the SLFP then had led to the sidelining of Anura Bandaranaike, who had been his great friend. He told me that, when he went to Rosmead Place on the day after the election, Sunethra had met him with the claim that the only hope for the party now was to bring Chandrika back. He had said this was nonsense, and that perhaps put paid to his chances. After her defeat, Mrs Bandaranaike too felt that the policies Anura had promoted had been a mistake, and moved back to the left.

Anura still had residual support, but he was soft-hearted to a fault, and gave up the Secretaryship of the party when he was appointed to the post on a split decision. The newspapers at the time reported that his mother had stormed out of the room, and he had followed her, and agreed to a compromise whereby Dharmasiri Senanayake became Secretary. The latter worked for Chandrika, and as we know she came back and took over. By then, though, it should be noted that Sunethra was supportive of her brother and when, forgetting the change that had taken place, I asked her what her sister was up to, she told me that she was trying to throw ‘my darling brother’ out of the party.

Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.30341177In this 8th Chapter of my book on this subject I look at how the majoritarian system of democracy we had in this country contributed to increasing resentment by those who felt shut out of the decision making process. This played out principally with regard to racial differences, where what seemed majoritarianism on the part of successive elected governments contributed to the movement for autonomy and then for secession. But we should also remember that there were deep resentments based on class differences that led to two violent youth insurrections in the seventies and the eighties.

The Official Languages Act

In 1956 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became Prime Minister, in a coalition of nationalist forces dominated by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). He had established the party after leaving the United National party (UNP). During the election campaign he had presented himself as a champion of the common man against the elite who had dominated Sri Lankan politics. But due to the pressures of political competition his victory was seen as the triumph of Sinhala nationalism.

Read the rest of this entry »

download (6)I have a great affection for General Chandrasiri, and indeed great admiration too. This began when, in 2008, he invited me to be the Chief Guest at the Future Minds Exhibition he had organized in Jaffna. The other principal invitee was to be the Bishop of Jaffna, someone else for whom I have both affection and admiration. Though he has always stood up for the rights and dignity of the Tamil people he serves, he has also spoken out against terrorism and the LTTE.

Indeed, it is a mark of his integrity that the strongest evidence against the spurious allegations made against us with regard to the first No Fire Zone comes in the letter the Bishop wrote on the day that Zone was subject to attacks. Contrary to what the Darusman report insinuates, and what an even less scrupulous report claims was our plan to corral civilians in places where the LTTE had weaponry, the Bishop said that he would ask the LTTE to refrain from transferring weapons into the No Fire Zone. Unfortunately neither the Ministry of Defence, nor the Foreign Ministry (the latter, as Dayan Jayatilleka graphically described it, now territory occupied by the MoD), have bothered to argue against the allegations on the basis of facts and evidence from independent sources.

Unfortunately the aim of General Chandrasiri in 2008, to avoid politicians, as he put it to me when asking me for the event, was countered by Douglas Devananda doggedly turning up and taking a prominent role. I could understand then why he could not be put off, but it is sad that he did not take up the idea suggested by the General’s assertion of the need to develop human resources. Instead, even in the local authorities his party won, he allowed personal predilections to come to the fore, and did nothing for development. There was no thinking of the type of partnership that could have been set up, to train youngsters and start businesses, through a synergy of talents, with civilians being in charge but accepting advice and assistance from the military.

Read the rest of this entry »

download (4)I was privileged, a couple of weeks back, to attend the release of the Northern Education Sector Review Report at a ceremony held at Vembadi Girls School. I had last been at Vembadi in 2008, when the then Commander of the Special Forces in Jaffna, General Chandrasiri, arranged what was termed a Future Minds Exhibition. It was at the height of the war, but the General had already begun to plan for the future, and sensibly so for he stressed the need for the development of human resources.

I was struck by the irony now, with the controversy over his continuation as Governor. I will look at that issue elsewhere, but here I will dwell on the fact that the Provincial administration had invited him as Chief Guest, to be given the first copy of the report, and all the speeches made were in a spirit of cooperation. In particular the chair of the committee that had prepared the report, the distinguished athlete Nagalingam Ethirveerasingham, still described as the Olympian, emphasized that the recommendations of the Review were all within the framework of National Policy.

That having been said, the Review is masterly, in clearly identifying many of the problems we face, and suggesting simple remedies. But obvious though many of the pronouncements are, I fear that such an essentially sensible work could not have been produced in any other Province.

There are many reasons for this. I do not think there is any essential intellectual difference between those in the North and others in the country, but I do believe that the urgency of the problem with regard to education is better understood in the North. After all it was simplistic tampering with the education system that first roused deep resentments in the younger generation in the North (Prabhakaran’s batch were the first victims of standardization), and the incapacity or unwillingness of successive governments since then to provide remedies has entrenched bitterness. And whereas Chandrasiri way back in 2008 understood the importance of action in this field, and entitled his Exhibition accordingly, he has since had to serve a political dispensation that cares nothing for the mind.

Read the rest of this entry »

To return to the fears of resurgent terrorism in the North, this would seem preposterous given the patent relief of the majority of the Tamil people that the terrorism to which they were subject is over, a fact the military obviously recognizes. But at the same time it is clear that the people in the North have aspirations that are not being addressed, and this contributes to resentments that could be taken advantage of. Instead then of actions that could contribute to further resentments, the Secretary of Defence should rather work on those who have not only failed to overcome resentments, but have contributed to exacerbating them. Many of the better informed military personnel in the North understand this, and are at a loss to understand the myopia of government in this regard. But sadly, excellent politician though he is, the President will not put his mind seriously to the problem that has arisen in the last few years, and the Secretary of Defence has not produced comprehensive intelligence reports that assess the real reasons for resentment.

The resentment of the people was apparent in the massive vote against government at the recent election to the Northern Provincial Council. The President knew that he would not win the election, and I suspect this was true of everyone in government, even though the Minister of Economic Development, who had been entrusted with the government’s Northern policy, kept claiming that the government would do well. Indeed his belief seems to have been sincere, since the resentment he displayed after the results came in suggested that he was deeply upset at the total failure of his strategy. It was he, the President had told Dayan, who had insisted that the poll be postponed, on the grounds that the work he was doing would win popular favour, whereas the Secretary of Defence had been willing to have the election much earlier. It should be noted then that the Secretary’s opposition to holding the election last year was based on practicalities, the certainty of loss, rather than intrinsic opposition to a Northern Provincial Council, which he had sensibly enough thought should have been constituted earlier. But sadly his reaction to awareness of increasing unpopularity was not to ensure measures to reduce that unpopularity, but to try to sweep it under the carpet by even going to the extent of challenging the President when he made it clear that he intended to abide by his commitment to have the election.

That the Secretary was right to have wanted to have the election earlier is apparent from the results of preceding elections in the North. In the first set of local elections government actually won some local authorities. In the Wanni, government actually came close to winning in two of the three areas that polled, and in one the combined poll for government parties exceeded that of the Tamil National Alliance.

Read the rest of this entry »

At the debate on the FUTA demands arranged a couple of weeks back by Eran Wickramaratne, perhaps the most telling complaint made by the FUTA head was about children in a distant village clustering in droves before dawn to get the bus to a school far away. That anecdote seemed to have nothing to do with the FUTA strike, though it should have been if the demand for 6% of GDP being spent on education was about results, rather than simply sloganeering. The failure to respond at all coherently to Eran’s simple question, what should be done with the 6%, made it clear that policy changes which would lead to a better education system for all was not part of the agenda.

This was sad, because I am sure that some at least of those leading the strike are idealists, not concerned with the massive pay hikes that are being demanded on top of already large salaries. But the failure to analyse the root causes in the decline of our education system that they have highlighted, and to suggest radical reforms that ensure greater accountability, simply plays into the hands of those in the government sector who are satisfied with the status quo. I assume therefore that the strike will soon be settled, with yet another salary hike on top of all those the current government has granted so readily over the last few years, with no effort to deal with the problems of children forced to travel endlessly, to distant schools and to tuition classes, to make up for the failure of government to provide decent schools even in small towns, let alone in villages.

One of the reasons for this failure is the absence of coordination between the providers of the various services essential to a society committed to equal opportunities. Sadly it has not yet registered with our decision makers that good transport facilities are an essential component of a just society. It is useless providing schools and hospitals unless access to them is easy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: