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Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 14 July 2013 11:15
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Sunday Pol logo*India’s firm message shakes Rajapaksa govt
*JVP to release proposals on national issue on the 24th

Last Updated on 14 July 2013 Read more...
 
Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 07 July 2013 08:25
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Sunday Pol logo*Rajapaksa govt trying to balance India ahead of UNHRC session and CHOGM
*JHU, NFF silent after Northern PC poll proclamation

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Last Updated on 07 July 2013 Read more...
 
Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 30 June 2013 08:12
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Sunday Pol logo*Rift within govt over 13A comes out
*MR irked by “Mahinda Saranam Gatchcami”

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” - Thomas Jefferson

The 13th Amendment drama enacted by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government was in full swing last week coalition members of the governing party openly criticizing each other on their stances on the move to amend the controversial piece of legislation.
The discussion over the 13th Amendment has resulted in many other issues losing its due focus.
A key issue that missed its due focus was the sudden transfer of the Matale Magistrate who was hearing the case on the Matale mass grave that saw the exhumation of 154 skeletal remains.
Forensic inquiries found the skeletal remains to be between the period of 1986 and 1990, during the period of the JVP insurgency.
The Matale Magistrate was hailed for her swift action in issuing directives to expedite the inquiry and on two occasions even faulted the CID for its failure to comply with the necessary procedures in conducting an investigation of such a nature.
When the case was being heard, the JVP in fact pointed out that given the Matale Magistrate’s commitment to delivering justice to the dead and the families who had lost their loved ones, would eventually result in a sudden transfer due to the involvement of government members in the mass grave saga.
The Magistrate’s transfer follows the transfer of the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) of the Matale Hospital, Dr. Ajith Jayasena.
Be that as it may, in the run up to President Rajapaksa’s visit to Tanzania, which is also a country heavily dependent on Chinese aid, the 13th Amendment drama reached its peak.
Several governing party allies held media briefings through out last week making statements in support and against the proposed amendments to the 13th Amendment.
President Rajapaksa who permitted the drama a few weeks back realized last week that the situation has turned out to be a case of spitting with their heads turned.
Finally, the President had to summon a meeting of the SLFP led by him and asked them not to create any internal dissention.
Explaining the proposed amendments to the 13th Amendment, Rajapaksa took a firm stance with his party men saying they were free to leave the government if they did not agree.
He warned the SLFPers not to try to create a rebellion within the government, but to leave if they did not wish to be in it.
Many senior SLFPers were not too pleased with President Rajapaksa’s tone.
The SLFP decided to support the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with the introduction of suitable revisions to the provincial council system established under the Amendment.
SLFP Treasurer, Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said that it is the stance of the party to revise the 13th Amendment to address the irregularities in the legislature in order to further strengthen the unitary status of the country.
The party has also decided that it is necessary to hold elections for the Northern Provincial Council as scheduled.
However, Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, who has been speaking against moves to amend the 13th Amendment, has said at the meeting that he was supportive of the President and the government but felt the latest move would not be in the best interest of the country.
Senaratne during a public meeting in Kudawella recently even went to the extent of saying that there was no need of ministerial portfolios to engage in politics.
“Portfolios are a bonus. We did not enter politics to go to parliament or hold portfolios. None of these things are needed if something beneficial to the country were to happen,” he said.
Taking swipe at the extremist elements in the country, Senaratne charged that most of these groups did not practice the Buddha dhamma. “All they do is to go to the President to get a Presidential directive to get anything. They do not need to say Buddhan Saranam Gatchchami anymore, they can say Mahindan Saranam Gatchchami,” Senaratne said.
Of course President Rajapaksa was not too amused to hear Senaratne’s words, but the seasoned politician in him also realized the truth in his Minister’s words.
Senaratne together with Ministers DEW Gunasekera, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Tissa Vitharana, Reginald Cooray and Chandrasiri Gajadheera addressed a media briefing in Colombo last Tuesday. At the briefing each of them expressed views in support of the 13th Amendment.
The ministers even went to the extent of saying that they were speaking on behalf of the silent majority in the government.
On Thursday, another governing party member, MEP Leader, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also held a news conference. He spoke in favour of the government’s move to amend the 13th Amendment.
He noted that while the 13th Amendment has failed to provide the expected solution, there was also a threat to national security if the legislation was not amended.
Given the statements and counter statements of governing party members last week, it is evident that there was a clear split within the government over the 13th Amendment issue.
President Rajapaksa would now have to be wise in his approach to this entire drama given that the buck stops before him.

APRC resurfaces

However, the hard-line maintained by the left party members in the government saw the President even bringing out reports that had been discarded for nearly four years.
Rajapaksa had last week told Ministers DEW Gunasekera and Vasudeva Nanayakkara during a meeting at Temple Trees that the discussion at the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on the proposed constitutional amendments would be based on the report submitted in 2009 by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC).
Nanayakkara had confirmed to media that the President had assured to base the PSC discussion on the APRC report.Sunday Pol pix
He had said that all parties represented in parliament should participate in the PSC and that the committee should not be seen as a government body.
The APRC, headed by Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana was formed in 2006 with the participation of all 14 political parties to find a political solution to the ethnic issue. The APRC submitted its report in 2009, but its recommendations were not implemented.
In fact, the report was completely forgotten by the Rajapaksa government after 2009. Instead, President Rajapaksa appointed the Lessons learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). However, the LLRC report continues to remain in the spotlight due to the pressure by the international community to implement its recommendations.
Nevertheless, Rajapaksa who by now has mastered the art of buying time has decided to once again pull the APRC report out of a dusty corner to please the left parties.
Head of the PSC, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva meanwhile says that the Committee would commence sittings from July 9th. Sittings are expected to be concluded by September.
De Silva said the SPC would commence its sittings regardless of who participates or boycotts it.

TNA speaks out

The TNA on the other hand after returning to Sri Lanka from India is now engaged in holding discussions governing party allies who are opposed to making changes to the 13th Amendment.
The TNA is to meet leftist coalition partners of the Rajapaksa government to discuss the proposed revisions to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah has said that the leftist parties have requested a meeting with the Tamil party and the alliance is considering the request.
The party is planning to schedule a date for the meeting, he has said.
Meanwhile, the SLMC and the TNA have had talks on the 13th Amendment to the constitution.
The talks were held last week with the participation of delegations led by TNA leader R. Sampanthan and SLMC leader Minister Rauf Hakeem.
The SLMC is now disgruntled after being left out of the list of governing party members to the PSC.
Hakeem has already informed the government that the party is displeased that its representatives were not included in the list of 19 governing party members.
The TNA and UNP have so far expressed views to the effect that the parties would not appoint any representatives to the PSC.

JVP in the limelight

The JVP last week officially announced that the party would not participate in the PSC.
Party Secretary Tilvin Silva said that instead of engaging in useless discussions like the PSC, the party would present a set of proposals that would address the issues faced by the Tamil speaking people in the North.
He poignantly noted that the government even after winning the war has failed to win the hearts of the Tamil people.
“The government has only managed to win the likes of Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) and Daya Master,” Silva said.
However, the JVP is now under attack by extremist Buddhist elements claiming that the party’s non-participation in the PSC to discuss amendments to the 13th Amendment is betrayal of the comrades who sacrificed their lives during the 1988-1989 period in protest of the Indo-Lanka Accord.
The point being made is that the JVP after resorting to an armed struggle in the late 1980s demanding the abrogation of the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment was now trying to deviate from the issue without joining the anti-13A bandwagon.
The JVP nevertheless, explicitly says there is no change in the party’s stance with regard to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The party remains opposed to the current provincial council system.
“The provincial council system is not the solution, but the government cannot find excuses when the time is up to hold the Northern Provincial Council after holding provincial elections in all other areas,” a senior JVP leader said.
The JVP believes that since provincial council elections have been held in all other areas, it is only fair that it is also held in the Northern Province. As for finding a permanent solution to the national problem, the JVP maintains that it cannot be found under the current system

Countdown to September

Be that as it may, time is now running out for the Rajapaksa government. The September deadline to hold the Northern Provincial Council election is now getting closer.
President Rajapaksa and his ‘trusted’ advisors, who most often than not are in need of saner counsel, should weigh the consequences a nation would have to pay for their follies.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris last week briefed the diplomatic community in Colombo, but the diplomats were not convinced by his explanation.
The international community including Sri Lanka’s allies is holding the Rajapaksa government to its continuous post war pledge that Northern Provincial Council elections would be held in September 2013.
It would also be wise for the Rajapaksa government to be aware of the fact that the international community has lost confidence in most pledges given by it and would identify any time buying exercise to delay holding the Northern elections.
With the UN Human Rights Council sessions scheduled to be held in September and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s scheduled visit to Sri Lanka in August, the Rajapaksa government would have to now act wisely.
The government might delay the amendments to the 13th Amendment until the conclusion of the Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this November, but it cannot delay the holding of the Northern Provincial Council election.

Last Updated on 30 June 2013
 
Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 23 June 2013 20:32
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Sunday Pol logo*JVP to present alternative package to 13A soon
*Govt silent on 19A, JHU present 21A to parliament

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand.” - J Michael Straczynski


The much-anticipated 19th Amendment to the constitution that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government said would be presented to parliament as an urgent bill did not materialize last week.
The great emphasis paid to the continuing drama of the 13th Amendment is testimony to the growing communalism; both majority and minority, in the country when attention should be paid towards a steady post war reconciliation process.
The Rajapaksa government together with some of its allies, namely Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka have managed to, at least for the time being, minimize the public dissention that was growing steadily against the government following the electricity tariff hike.
After weeks of debate, the Rajapaksa government decided to present an amendment to the 13th Amendment to the constitution where the clause enabling the merger of two or more provinces under the amendment is repealed.
When parliament met last Tuesday, many parliamentarians, especially from the opposition thought the government would present the 19th Amendment and discuss the appointment of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) to further discuss constitutional amendments.
However, the Rajapaksa government neither presented the 19th Amendment nor discussed the PSC on Tuesday.
It is no secret that the Rajapaksa government is facing a problem in gathering the two thirds majority required to pass the 19th Amendment in parliament.
It is learnt that a campaign has now commenced within the government to say that the 19th Amendment would not pose any threat to the existence to the provincial council system and its powers. A senior SLFP minister said that these comments are aimed at mustering support to pass the 19th Amendment, which in turn would enable the Rajapaksa government to show the world, especially India that support is high to amend the 13th Amendment.
Interestingly, governing party ally, the JHU presented a private member’s motion in the House called the 21st Amendment to the constitution.
The presentation of the JHU’s proposed amendment resulted in a discussion as to why the amendment to abolish the provincial councils system and the 13th Amendment was tiled 21st Amendment.
According to an opposition politician, it seemed like the government was planning on introducing at least two more amendments to the constitution –the 19th and 20th Amendments.
JHU MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero submitted the 21st Amendment and the motion was seconded by UNP MP Palitha Range Bandara. Bandara was suspended from the UNP for failing to follow party directives.
While Ven. Rathana Thero’s proposal has sought the total repeal of the 13th Amendment, governing party allies like the left parties, the SLMC, the EPDP and the CWC have so far expressed sentiments against the 21st Amendment.
Also, the likes of minister Rajitha Senaratne have opposed any amendment to the 13th Amendment. In fact it is learnt that a decision making minister in the Rajapaksa government with close affiliations to India has also expressed support to the campaign currently carried out by some governing party members against amending the 13th Amendment.
However, President Rajapaksa has also remained silent on the JHU’s proposed constitutional amendment.Sunday Pol pix
In the backdrop of heavy maneuvering on the 13th Amendment, President Rajapaksa last week summoned the Chief Ministers of the Central and North Western provincial Councils to Temple Trees.
He informed them that they needed to be prepared to face provincial elections shortly.
The President told the Chief Ministers that arrangements would be made to release funds to the two provinces for development projects aimed at the elections.
A few days later, Cabinet Spokesperson, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that elections to three provincial councils including the Northern Provincial Council would be held in September under the current constitution.
He has also noted that the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment were forced on the country without the consent of the people and that a country has the right to change agreements with foreign countries in conformity with the aspirations and mandate of the people of the country as the sovereignty of the people is supreme.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa named the PSC proposed by President Rajapaksa to discuss the amendments to the 13th Amendment on Friday. He named a 19 member PSC to propose changes to the constitution.
The PSC will be led by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, and includes Ministers G.L Peiris, Maithipala Sirisena, W.D.J Seniviratne, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Douglas Devananda, Susil Premjayanth, A.L.M. Athaulla, D.E.W Gunasekera, Rishard Bathiudeen, Champika Ranawaka, Wimal Weerawanse, Basil Rajapaksa, Lakshman Seniviratne, Vasudeva Nanayakaara, Muttu Sivalingham, Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Janaka Bandara.
However, the names of opposition party members were not included in the PSC list.

Menon to arrive

Amidst the debate over the 13th Amendment in the country, the Prime Minister of neighbouring India had expressed his “dismay” over attempts by the Rajapaksa government to dilute the 13th Amendment.
Indian Premier Manmohan Singh had reportedly told a six member TNA delegation that he was “dismayed” by reports suggesting the Sri Lankan government was planning to the 13th Amendment.
The Premier has said the proposed changes were incompatible with the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Indian media reported.
“It was noted that the proposed changes raised doubts about the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government to India and the international community, including the United Nations, on a political settlement in Sri Lanka that would go beyond the 13th Amendment,” Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin has said. “The changes would also be incompatible with the recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), set up by the Government of Sri Lanka, calling for a political settlement based on the devolution of power to the provinces,” he has added.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry has reportedly said in a statement that the Indian Prime Minister had expressed deep concern about the welfare of the Tamil community living in Sri Lanka and “stressed on the expectation that the Sri Lankan Tamil community would lead a life of dignity, as equal citizens, and reiterated that India would make every effort to ensure the achievement of a future for the community marked by equality, justice and self-respect.”
The six-member delegation of the TNA is led by R. Sampanthan and includes Mavai S. Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran, P. Selvarajah, Selvam Adaikkalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran.
The TNA delegation has also met with the Indian Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor.
The TNA members continuously requested New Delhi to intervene and exert pressure on the Rajapaksa government to honor its pledge given to the world, especially India on implementing the 13th Amendment and going beyond and also hold the Northern provincial Council election on September 13th.
However, TNA’s visit to India has borne fruit and New Delhi that has maintained diplomatic silence over the past few months has decided to send an emissary to Sri Lanka to hold discussions with the Rajapaksa government/
The Uthayan newspaper reported that India is to send National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to Sri Lanka next month for talks with President Rajapaksa and other government officials.
Menon is expected to arrive in the country on July 7th to discuss bilateral and regional issues including the 13th Amendment.
President Rajapaksa however, told media heads on Friday that Menon would discuss bilateral issues and not the 13th Amendment.
Nevertheless, given the current situation with regard to the 13th Amendment and the delay in announcing the Northern Provincial Council poll would undoubtedly make the controversial piece of legislation the focal point of Menon’s discussions in Colombo.
The Rajapaksa government has taken great pains in ensuring that the country plays host to the Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo this November.
The government is now treading very dangerous ground with the key player in the region, who is also expected to participate in the CHOGM summit.
India is believed to have helped Sri Lanka secure the CHOGM venue at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting in April. If the Rajapaksa government fails to honor its end of the bargain, New Delhi is likely to make a no show at the CHOGM.
India’s absence from CHOGM would be a massive blow to the government in such a scenario.

JVP package

Be that as it may, the entire drama surrounding the 13th Amendment as usual has managed to push all other issues faced by the country into the backburner.
The JVP has constantly lamented that the Rajapaksa government uses the 13th Amendment to mislead the public from taking action against issues ranging from the high cost of living, lack of democratic rights, issues faced by the farmers and almost every sector in the country.
The party is currently in the process of preparing a set of proposals that would present an alternative to the 13th Amendment.
The JVP has since 1987 when the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed, opposed the introduction of the 13th Amendment and the provincial council system.
The party’s founding leader, the late Rohana Wijeweera said at the time that the provincial council system was not the solution to the national issue.
Wijeweera at the time pointed out the shortcomings in the provincial council system and 26 years later, the country’s governing party is resonating the late Marxist leader’s sentiments.
However, the difference is that Wijeweera pointed out the way to find a solution to the national issue while the Rajapaksa government without presenting the people with an alternative is trying to take away whatever rights that were provided to the minority communities.
JVP seniors headed by party leader Somawansa Amerasinghe is now in the process of finalizing the areas to be covered in the party’s proposed package.
The package is to be present alternatives under the current structures of provincial councils and local government bodies while also addressing the issues faced by the minority communities, especially the Tamil community.
The package is to be made public within the next few weeks.

Last Updated on 23 June 2013
 
Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 16 June 2013 07:48
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Sunday Pol logo*India angered by Rajapaksa’s moves
*Rajapksa faces stiff resistance in Cabinet

 

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.” - Victor Hugo

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government had to last week take a step back in its attempt to dilute the 13th Amendment to the Constitution due to stiff resistance within the Cabinet of Ministers against the proposed amendments.mahinda R 410px
President Rajapaksa who gave one week for the governing party allies to formulate their responses to the two amendments proposed to the 13th Amendment last week faced opposition from several allies – the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Communist Party (CP), Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), and the Democratic Left Front (DLF).
The leftist parties jointly handed a memorandum to the Cabinet on their stance. (See box)
The SLMC parliamentary group had unanimously decided to oppose the amendments.
The eight members of parliament of the SLMC met at party leader, Minister Rauf Hakeem’s residence on Monday and unanimously agreed to oppose the move to amend the 13th Amendment.
The President meanwhile met with two other governing party allies – the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
The JHU has continuously being pushing for the repeal of the 13th Amendment and during the meeting with the President proposed that broader revisions than the ones proposed by the government should be carried out.
The EPDP however held that the 13th Amendment should not be diluted and that any amendments would not be in the interest of the Tamil speaking people in the country.
The President had finally told the governing party allies that they could vote according to their conscience when the amendments are presented in parliament.
Meanwhile, a recent development that angered President Rajapaksa was the recent meeting Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) Leader, Minister Arumugam Thondaman had with India’s Congress Party Leader Sonia Gandhi.
Thondaman during his visit to India had arranged for a meeting with Sonia Gandhi through Union Minister of State to the Prime Minister’s Office, V. Narayanswamy.
During the discussion with Gandhi, Thondaman had reportedly expressed support to the 13th Amendment. Gandhi on the other hand had expressed her dissatisfaction at the attempts of the Rajapaksa government to dilute the 13th Amendment that was implemented under the Indo-Lanka Accord signed by her late husband, former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi.
Hearing this news the President has been angry to realize there were more governing party members who were swaying against the Rajapaksa tide.
Finally when the government’s proposed amendments were taken up for discussion at the Cabinet meeting, resistance from governing party allies as well as the likes of Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne who spoke against the government’s move resulted in a heated debate between the members mooting the amendments and those who opposed them.
The government proposed the repeal of two clauses in the 13th Amendment – 1. Provision for two or more provinces to merge, 2. The need for all provincial councils to approve any legislation to make constitutional changes that would affect the concurrent list.
Rajapaksa finally had to propose that the second amendment be assigned to a parliamentary select committee (PSC) for final deliberations.
Cabinet Spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the media that the PSC would be time bound and that it would discuss the proposed amendment as well as the issue over allocating land and police powers to the provinces.
The Minister also expressed confidence in the government achieving the necessary two-thirds majority in the House to pass the amendment to prevent provincial councils from merging in future.
The government is now making arrangements to present the amendment, the 19th Amendment to parliament, as an urgent bill this week.
The Rajapaksa government has 161 seats in parliament and two-thirds majority would require 150 votes to pass a constitutional amendment.
However, given the current controversy over the proposed amendments, the government does not possess the required 150 votes to pass the legislation.
It is in this backdrop that National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader, Minister Wimal Weerawansa last week made a public speech saying that the Rajapaksa government should hold a referendum if it cannot get the two thirds majority in parliament to pass the amendments to dilute the 13th Amendment.
Addressing the public at the final day of the campaign to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the 13th Amendment, Weerawansa has said that the government should make the constitutional changes by getting even a simple majority at a referendum.
Be that as it may, what Weerawansa has failed to comprehend is that the Rajapaksa government would want the amendments passed in parliament before even considering a referendum. Given the arrogance of the Rajapaksa government, it would be considered a come down for the administration that has boasted of enjoying a two-thirds majority in parliament.
However, the bottom line is that the dilly-dallying over the proposed constitutional amendments would only result in the delay in holding the Northern Provincial Council polls.
The Rajapaksa government has continuously pledged that Northern polls would be held in September and if it is to be, the elections would have to be announced by the end of this month or the beginning of next month the latest.

Ranil pushes for polls

Ranil W 410px 31-10-12Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe meanwhile sought a meeting with the President last week to discuss the Northern Provincial Council polls.
Wickremesinghe last week wrote to President Rajapaksa saying that holding the elections gives effect to the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution of 21 March 2013, which welcomed “the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in September 2013”.
However he has said the implementation of the resolution will require the election to conform to Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “the will of the people shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
He has said the UNP and other Opposition political parties have, in Parliament, consistently referred to a number of incidents in the Northern Province where the Government machinery has been utilized to intimidate members supporting Opposition political parties.
“The situation is further aggravated by the open friction between some of the military authorities in the North and Opposition politicians. This has resulted in a loss of confidence in the ability to conduct free and fair elections in the Northern Province,” he has added.
To ensure a free and fair election of the Northern Provincial Council, Wickremesinghe has said it is essential that several measures be implemented immediately by the Government, prior to announcing the Elections to the Northern Provincial Council.
Among the measures is the restoration of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution by repealing the relevant provisions of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, Amendment restoring the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, for the above purpose, to include an additional provision to strengthen the Police Commission on the lines of the LLRC recommendation that “Such a Commission should be empowered to monitor the performance of the Police Service and ensure that all police officers act independently and maintain a high degree of professional conduct” and the immediate replacement of the Governor of the Northern Province.

India angered

Following the drama taking place in Sri Lanka, the media last week reported that Indian Prime Minister Manmohanmanmohan sin 360px 23-02-13 Singh is “extremely annoyed” by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent subtle efforts to undermine the quantum of devolution provided to the Island’s nine Provinces through the thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution that was facilitated by India.
Media reports quoting informed Indian sources have stated that the usually mild –mannered Manmohan Singh known for his gentle and genteel ways had in uncharacteristic fashion “almost blown a fuse” when informed of recent efforts by President Rajapaksa to amend the Sri Lankan Constitution in a manner that would seriously undermine the devolution arrangements enabled by the 13th Constitutional Amendment.
Circles linked to the Indian external affairs establishment referred to as “South Block” speaking on condition of anonymity have revealed that the Indian government in general and the Prime Minister in particular were of the view that the Rajapaksa regime’s attempts to introduce the 19th Constitutional amendment at this juncture was an “expression of bad faith”.
According to these sources Prime Minister Singh known for his docile demeanour had reacted “rather angrily” to details of the proposed 19th amendment as it had potentially drastic implications for the future of the Provincial councils in Sri Lanka.
However, the Indian government would receive the chance of getting an insight in to the problems faced by the Tamils speaking people in the country and the attempt to dilute the 13th Amendment when a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representatives visit India within the next few week.
The TNA group is to meet Premier Singh among other government officials. The party has said it would ask the Indian government to put pressure on the Rajapaksa government to fully implement the 13th Amendment and go beyond.
The Rajapaksa government for its part should act fast in order to make arrangement to hold the Northern polls before the pending visit of UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay in August, prior to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in September.
Also, the Rajapaksa government’s actions would also determine the success of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled in Colombo in November.

US watches SL

Meanwhile, the US says it is looking for Sri Lanka to proceed with accountability and genuine reconciliation and will be watching “very carefully” to decide what steps may be necessary to be taken again at the UNHRC.
Speaking at a press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York last week US Ambassador at Large on War Crimes Issues, Stephen J. Rapp has said that the US was pleased to note that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will be visiting Sri Lanka in August.
The US had submitted two resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC over the last two years, both which were adopted by a majority.
Rapp has said that the US has spoken “loud and clear” on the Sri Lankan issue by its sponsorship of the resolutions, which he says had expressed disappointment that the provisions of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had not been implemented.
“The particular resolution at this time invites the high commissioner for human rights and her rapporteurs to work with Sri Lankan authorities to overcome these deficits,” Rapp has said.
He has recalled that through the latest resolution the US was also disappointed that the Sri Lankan authorities had not addressed accountability for the alleged grave atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka.


BOX
Following is the Joint Cabinet Memorandum of Ministers DEW Gunasekera, Tissa Vitarana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara of the Socialists’ Alliance.
We are opposed to both proposals on a matter of principle and in view of the serious adverse political consequences that will surely follow. However, we can agree to legislation to repeal section 37 of the Provincial Councils Act, No. 42 of 1987.
The reasons for our stand are outlined as follows:
1. The 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was formulated with the intension of solving the national question and bringing back the Tamil militant groups into the democratic political stream. It achieved this objective with the sole exception of the LTTE. The latter has now been militarily defeated, so that the door is open to win over the Tamil people as a whole to democratic politics within the framework of a single united country. When extra power devolution, 13 plus, has been promised, any deletions and modifications of the 13th Amendment, without due consultation, prior to holding the election to the Northern Provincial Council, will be viewed as an attempt to deprive the Tamil speaking minority (Tamils and Muslims) of a right that has hitherto been enjoyed by the Sinhala majority.
2. The fact that the proposed amendment to paragraph 3 of the existing Article 154 G has the objective of removing the safeguard which requires a 2/3 majority of the total number of members of Parliament to be obtained if one provincial council does not agree to a Bill that is being passed by Parliament, with regard to powers that have been devolved to the Provincial Councils, would further strengthen the fear of majority views being imposed on the minorities.
3. Criticisms leveled against the Government on the grounds of acting in a majoritarian anti-democratic fashion would be strengthened. It would further alienate the Tamil speaking minority and help those with a separatist agenda, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, to manipulate them once again, and also win international support, thereby increasing the danger of separatism rather than reducing it. It is our view that any changes to the 13th Amendment should only be made after due consultation, preferably at a meeting of the proposed Select Committee of Parliament, at which representatives of the Tamil and Muslim parties are able to be present.
4. We have no objection to legislation being framed to repeal section 37 of the Provincial Councils Act No. 42 of 1987, as this was a transitional arrangement and there is a Supreme Court ruling against the purported merger by the former President J.R. Jayawardene. The best course would be to retain Article 154 A (3), and include provision for a mandatory poll of all the electors in each of the adjoining provinces that desire to be merged. This would ensure that the decision of Parliament is approved by the voters of the concerned provinces.
(Colombotelegraph)

Last Updated on 16 June 2013
 
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Published on Sunday, 09 June 2013 10:42
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Written by Amali Dissanayaka
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Written by Editor
Published on Sunday, 26 May 2013 08:48
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Sunday Pol logo*Ranil to approach disgruntled senior SLFPers
*Anti-govt agitations to intensify

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government is now riding from crisis to crisis - the issue of facing intensifying anti-government protests by the opposition political parties and the people has now been further compounded with cracks appearing within the government over the much talked of 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
The campaigns launched by the trade unions and opposition political parties have now become an irritant to the Rajapaksa government. Intelligence reports received by the Rajapaksa government indicate a steady growth in the anti-government sentiments among the people, especially following the increase of electricity tariffs.
The public is now further angered after receiving their first electricity bill following the electricity tariff hike. The May 1st declaration by the President of providing relief to electricity consumers, especially the low end consumers have now been rubbished in the electricity bills.
The promised concessions have not been included in the bills received by many consumers. Some consumers have already complained and gone public with their electricity bills.
The Rajapaksa government is none too pleased with the opposition political parties who have now come out with vigour that was not anticipated by the governing party.
The move by the trade unions strengthened by a joint alliance of hundreds of unions including the JVP’s National Trade Union Center (NTUC) and the UNP’s Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS) has irked the Rajapaksa government immensely.
In usual fashion, the Rajapaksa government has now engaged its mudslinging mechanism in the form of the state media and opposition members who have defected to the government for perks and privileges against several identified opposition members.
A key target of the state media is firebrand JVPer and the man behind the JVP’s trade union movement, K.D. Lalkantha. It is learnt that the state media has been assigned the task of carrying out a personal mudslinging campaign against Lalkantha to discourage him from pursuing any more agitation campaigns against the government.
On the other hand, the Rajapaksa government has also got its lackeys to keep a close watch on Lalkantha to find a way to checkmate him and possibly get him to the government fold using threats.
However, the JVPer has responded by saying that regardless of any personal attack, the people in the country have now had enough and the trade union movement would continue in its path undeterred.
Another figure that was subjected to much attack last week was Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s wife, Maithree Wickremesinghe.
Maithree was accused of conducting lectures at the Kelaniya University on the 21st when the Federation f University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) had called for a boycott of lectures in support of the token strike called by the Coordinating Committee for a Joint Trade Union Alliance. The issue was even raised in parliament.
The allegations leveled against her finally resulted in Maithree releasing a statement denying the accusation. She wrote to the FUTA saying that she had not conducted any lectures on the 21st.
Ministers of the Rajapaksa government continue to insult members of the opposition even by summoning press conferences – a clear indication of the level of agitation among the Rajapaksa government.
Labour Minister Gamini Lokuge, who had six press conferences calling on people not to participate in the token strike on the 21st, was surprised that seven private industries around his residence in Piliyandala was shut that in support of the strike.
The Rajapaksa government’s sentiments also displayed at the President’s Victory Day speech. One of the main themes of the speech was to attack the UNP and its past actions. The President who spoke of moving forward refrained from making any clear statements on the future path of the government or even the Northern Provincial Council election expected to be held in September.
The President has now summoned his ‘trusted’ members in the government to deal with the opposition campaigns against the government since he had bigger issues (i.e.: the 19th Amendment and keeping a government without falling).
It was UNP parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera who in his speech in parliament last week hit the nail on the head when he said, “However, the Sri Lankan public who were walking around in a somnambulist stupor for while after the defeat of the tigers four years ago are now waking up rapidly to the reality of this evil regime. Like a delinquent child put on probation to gauge whether he deserves a gift for Christmas, the Rajapaksa regime is also now under probation…”

Internal rifts

The Rajapaksa government is also being monitored on the progress made on the second US backed resolution that was passed at the UN Human rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva this March.
The US is currently engaged in following up on the Rajapaksa’s government’s progress on the resolution, and so far the facts that have unfolded before the diplomatic community does not paint a positive picture for Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions in September.
However, the Rajapaksa government is now focused on one thing – to keep the coalition government together without falling apart while the opposition is galvanizing its strength to take over the reins of the country.
The move by certain decision making members of the Rajapaksa government to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution through a 19th Amendment where land and police powers are removed from the provincial councils has been checkmated by a group of governing party parliamentarians.
The Rajapaksa government that is usually used to bulldozing its way through when introducing legislation or amending the Constitution is now frustrated due to the lack of a two thirds majority in parliament to pass the 19th Amendment.
Apart from repealing and police powers from the provincial councils, the 19th Amendment was expected to reduce the term of presidency from five to four years and to limit the term of the Chief Justice to five years.
The reduction of the term of presidency to four years would enable the President to call for a presidential election at the completion of three years in office. The President was hopeful of calling a Presidential election in 2014 after pushing the 19th Amendment through parliament.
However, the current situation has also resulted in the President having to delay his plans on holding a Presidential election next year.
UNP Leader Wickremesinghe meanwhile is focused on contesting the next Presidential election.
Wickremesinghe is now sending clear signals discarding speculation that former President Chandrika Kumaratunge or any other candidate would be the common candidate at the next Presidential election.
It is nothing new that Wickremesinghe when required manages to apply the strategist in him. He did so in 2010 when he agreed to support the common presidential candidature of Sarath Fonseka.
Following the end of the war in 2009, Wickremesinghe knew very well that there was no chance of winning against President Rajapaksa. He also knew that Fonseka would not be able to break any UPFA votes although many UNPers and JVPers though he could.
The mature politician in Wickremesinghe decided to back Fonseka and mark his time until the people themselves started to reject the Rajapaksa government.
Knowing that the time is now ripe, Wickremesinghe is now gathering momentum in his political maneuvering.
Although speculated that Wickremesinghe would align with Kumaratunge following several discussions he had had with her, the UNP Leader has responded with a smile saying that anyone could speak to him and he too would speak to anyone, but that does not change his stances.
Wickremesinghe is now moving towards building a rapport with the disgruntled SLFP seniors in the government.
The SLFPers have also expressed the need for reforms since the party seems to have lost its identity.
It was General Secretary of the SLFP, Minister Maithripala Sirisena who was reported in the local media saying that a ‘sangayana’ should be held to cleanse the SLFP.
He has suggested that the party which was founded in 1956 has now been infiltrated by various nefarious elements.
He has reportedly said the SLFP which was founded by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and D.A. Rajapaksa has veered away from its original mandate.
“It is important that the SLFP deliberates to evaluate the past, present and future,” he has said, adding the SLFP was meant to be the party of the masses but acknowledged that questions have been raised as to whether it had diverted from its mandate.
That the Rajapaksa government is in disarray could be an understatement when considering these comments made by the secretary of the key collation party of the government.

Focus on 13A

Be that as it may, the main discussion in the Rajapaksa government these days is to get the required support in parliament to abolish the land and police powers from the provincial council system.
A group has been formed among governing party members to ensure that the 13th Amendment is implemented and land and police powers are vested with the provincial councils.
According to calculations, the Rajapaksa government that has 161 seats in parliament is short of eight parliamentary seats to get a two thirds majority of 150 members of parliament.
The members of left parties in the government, the SLMC members in the government and ministers like Douglas Devananda and Rajitha Senaratne among several other senior SLFPers are to oppose a move to remove land and police powers from the provincial councils.
The group is of the view that if any attempt is made to remove land and police powers to the provinces ahead of the Northern Provincial Council elections the government would have to find the two thirds majority to get the legislation passed.
The Sunday Leader learns that a decision making minister of the Rajapaksa government has initiated discussions with members from the UNP and JVP to get their support to amend the 13th Amendment.
It is in this backdrop that governing party ally, the JHU has said it would move a motion in parliament to amendment the constitution to abolish the provincial council system.
The JHU last week made public the motion to be presented in parliament this week saying the provincial council system is illegal and should be done away with.
Interestingly, the JHU has up to now contested in the provincial council elections, with one of its senior members, Udaya Gammanpila, holding a ministerial portfolio in the Western Provincial Council.
Another critique of the 13th Amendment, NFF Leader, Minister Wimal Weerawansa has however been silent on the JHU’s move.
In fact a news website affiliated Weerawansa reported that he was admitted to the Nawaloka Hospital and that the doctors have found him to be suffering from flu and a bad case of phlegm. It was also reported that doctors have requested Weerawansa to rest until fully recovered. In other words, Weerawansa would be silent on the 13th Amendment issue for a while.
The Rajapaksa government has on the other hand expressed sentiments to the effect that it did not support any constitutional amendment.
The Cabinet Spokesperson last week said that any constitutional amendment would have to be approved through a parliamentary select committee (PSC).
The TNA meanwhile is skeptical of the entire 13th Amendment issue and maintains that it is a manipulation by the government, which is getting its coalition partners to carry out work it does not have the strength to carry out.

India’s plight

The current drama surrounding the 13th Amendment has once again placed the holding of elections to the Northern Provincial Council at an uncertain state.
The Rajapaksa government has made assurances at the UNHRC in Geneva and even to neighboring India that the Northern Provincial Council election would be held in September 2013.
This assurance however, has not yet reached the Elections Commissioner, who claims that he is not aware of elections to be held to the Northern Provincial Council.
The international community, especially India, is not new to the Rajapaksa government’s forked tongue diplomacy.
As for India, which is the architect of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the provincial council system in the country, the moves in Colombo to abolish the provincial council system would be a difficult subject to deal with. The biggest difficulty being explaining its situation with Sri Lanka to the South Indian political leadership in Tamil Nadu, who have been pushing for serious Indian intervention in Sri Lanka to bring about a political settlement to the ethnic issue.
India is now is a difficult spot once again with Sri Lanka with moves from within the Rajapaksa government to do away with the provincial council system.
It was recently speculated that New Delhi had used its good offices to help Sri Lanka secure the position of hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this year.
Therefore, the latest goings on in relation to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would be more of an egg on the face scenario for India.
All these issues prompted Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to telephone his Sri Lankan counterpart Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently to express India’s concerns over the implementation of the 13th Amendment and the delay in holding the Northern Provincial Council elections.
Be that as it may, the Rajapaksa government has once again opted to ignore concerns of its neighbor and the international community on the whole. The repercussions of such arrogance however would have to be eventually paid by the entire nation.
A comment made by Samaraweera in parliament last week where he said could sum up the  current plight of the nation - “The Rajapaksa regime, even at this late stage, must be made to put the interests of the country first over and above its own narrow and selfish agenda.”

Last Updated on 26 May 2013
 
Written by Sunday Politics With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Published on Sunday, 19 May 2013 08:05
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Khurshid calls GL to discuss 13th Amendment

Joint opposition protests intensify against govt

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is now facing continuous nightmares in the forms of the possible re-entry to politics by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge and a joint opposition struggle against the government.

All these nightmares haunted Rajapaksa last week with indications of them continuing in the coming months.

With the Rajapaksa government’s greatest fears showing signs of becoming reality, the decision making members in the government are now engaged in disaster mitigation work.

Speculation was rife last week of Kumaratunga re-entering local politics through abroad alliance.

The news that did the rounds was that UNP parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera and Kumaratunga were engaged in a discussion overseas on the formation of a new political party.

Kumaratunga has been briefed on the current political situation in the country and the issues faced within the governing party by SLFP seniors. Despite frequent claims of Kumaratunga’s second coming into politics, talk of her re-entry now sounds real given the growing dissention among the people against the Rajapaksa government.

Rajapaksa knows very well that Kumaratunga still enjoys a comfortable support base within the SLFP, which is cause for much discomfort for him.

A political party registered by Samaraweera several years back is to be used as platform for Kumaratunga’s re-entry.

The news of the formation of a new political party headed by Kumaratunga and the likelihood of her becoming the next common candidate at the President election has caused much joy among senior SLFP ranks.

Amidst the continuous agitation campaigns against the government, the opposition political parties, especially the UNP is mindful of the possibility of facing a Presidential election in 2014.

However, talk of Kumaratunga’s re-entry to politics does not ring well Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been continuously predicting that the UNP could return to office in 2014.

Wickremesinghe’s prediction was that the war victory enjoyed by the Rajapaksa government would wear of after a few years when people are confronted with the real problems ailing the country’s economy.

True to his words, the country and people are now feeling the real pinch of the economic crisis and are disillusioned by the path taken by the Rajapaksa administration.

Therefore, Wickremesinghe’s chances of contesting at the next Presidential election could take a beating if Kumaratunga considers re-entering politics.

Some opposition opticians have opted to consider Kumaratunga as an option for the next Presidential election since she could muster the support of senior SLFPers and the majority of the SLFPers who are disgruntled with the Rajapaksa way of governance.

However, another aspect that needs to be considered is whether Kumaratunga could enjoy mass support of the UNP and JVP as well.

Wickremesinghe being the shrewd strategist is undoubtedly looking at the best option to secure power for the UNP. He could opt to ask for Kumaratunga’s support to get the backing of the SLFP and together with the UNP vote base work towards an electoral victory.

While the opposition is engaged in strategizing the best option to gain power by defeating Rajapaksa at the next Presidential election, the President is trying hard to keep track of Kumaratunga’s actions and ensuring control over his party men.

However, it is evident that any Presidential candidate who would contest against Rajapaksa must have the support of all opposition forces in order to emerge victorious at the next Presidential election.

Opposition alliance

Be that as it may, the Rajapaksa government through its actions has unwittingly brought together all opposition forces to fight against the government.

As stated by a UNP parliamentarian, the government created an excellent opportunity through the increase in electricity tariffs for political parties that they felt could never work together to fight for a common cause.

The opposition alliance has now come about through the trade union sector. The UNP’s Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS) and the JVP’s National Trade Union Center (NTUC) are participating in a joint trade union alliance to fight for common causes that affect the country’s working masses.

The Rajapaksa government has always been deterred by any joint struggle and the massive protest march staged in Colombo on the 15th by trade unions, opposition political parties and the civil society was a wake up call.

The increase in the electricity tariffs has been deemed unfair due to the burdening of the people for the wrong policy decisions of the administration and the public that has been patient during the war and four years after have now had enough.

The expressions of the people who participated in the march on the 15th was an indication that their patience was running out.

The Rajapaksa government did not anticipate such a show of strength from the trade unions and the opposition political parties that were made weak by the Rajapaksas after assuming office in 2005.

Adopting a policy of divide and rule, the first move of the Rajapaksa government was to destabilize the UNP and even the UPFA’s one time ally, the JVP by creating defections from the parties.

However, after years of internal battles and hard work, the UNP and JVP have once again got their ‘mojo’ back and are back with vigor.

It is learnt that a senior member of the country’s defence establishment angered at the large crowd that participated in the protest march on the 15th had questioned intelligence officials as to why how a massive protest was organized without any disruptions.

The stark reality is that even the police and security forces personnel who are deployed to act against protests in this instance are also faced with the daunting task of facing high electricity tariffs.

A police constable at the protest march said that they too are baldy affected by the electricity tariff hike.

The trade unions are to now hold a nation wide strike action on the 21st and the Rajapaksa government in usual fashion has stepped in to prevent people from participating in it.

Orders have been issued to cancel leave of public servants and various religious observances have been directed to be held on the 21st.

Nevertheless, the trade unions with the backing of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) have said the government cannot take away the fundamental and human rights of the people by trying to suppress them.

Both the JSS and the NTUC have said that the ongoing struggle should not be shaded with political colors and should be considered a struggle of the working people.

The Coordinating Committee for a Joint Trade Union Alliance has warned the Rajapaksa government that the strike action on the 21st is only the first in a series of joint action to be carried out in future.

The state media as usual is now carrying out massive campaigns targeting trade unions leaders like the JVP’s Wasantha Samarasinghe and K.D. Lalkantha of a conspiracy against the government and creating a UNP-JVP alliance.

“All these are responses of a government that has nowhere to run,” Lalkantha said, adding that it doesn’t hold well for the Rajapaksa government to behave in such a manner since it gives out the impression that it could be toppled by a token strike by the trade unions.

The Rajapaksa government undoubtedly will have its cup brimming in the next few months with continuous agitations by joint alliances that show promise of expanding even further.

Northern polls

The Northern Provincial Council election meanwhile continues to be a topic of discussion among the local Tamil politicians as well as the Indians and the US.

The Northern election has become a sour point for the government with governing party ally, the JHU threatening to defect from the government if the election is held under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The JHU is planning legislative action seeking the abolition of the 13th Amendment and the provincial councils

Deputy Secretary of the JHU, Provincial Minister Udaya Gammanpila has been quoted in the media saying that the party’s central committee had decided to move parliament within the next two weeks to abolish the 13th Amendment.

“We shall move parliament within the next two weeks to abolish the thirteenth amendment,” Gammanpila has said.

The Rajapaksa government has for some time being using the 13th Amendment as the carrot dangled before neighboring India to silence it whenever concerns were raised about the delay in finding a lasting political solution to the ethnic issue.

Senior members of the Rajapaksa government have continuously pledged to the Indian government that solution would be based on the 13th Amendment and that it was willing to even go beyond the 13th Amendment.

However, New Delhi after its dealings with the Rajapaksa government though the years is now wiser than before and are aware of the bald faced lies uttered by the government to them.

Despite the undertaking by the Rajapaksa government at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva in March that the Northern Provincial Council election would be held in September this year, Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has said that he has not been informed of any plan to hold elections in the North.

He has further stated that elections in the North could not be held as he pleased and there needs to be constitutional provision or an executive or judicial order to make arrangements for such an election.

The key Tamil coalition party in the country, the TNA has been pushing for the Northern Provincial Council elections along with many other and is continuing to lobby for the election.

The TNA recently met US Ambassador to Colombo Michele J. Sison for a discussion on the elections in the north.

According to the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper, the Ambassador had also discussed the land acquisition issue in Jaffna and the current political situation in Sri Lanka.

TNA leader R. Sampanthan and parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran had attended the discussion with the US envoy held in Colombo, the newspaper said.

The TNA delegation had informed the US envoy that the elections for the northern provincial council should be held with the presence of international monitors.

Meanwhile, the Indian media reported that concerned over reports of Sri Lankan government considering removal of land and police powers from the provinces prior to the elections in the Northern Province, India has asked it not to take any step against their own commitments relating to the 13th Amendment.

The Press Trust of India has reported that Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had telephoned his Sri Lankan counterpart Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and also raised the issue of 26 Indian fishermen who are in detention in his country while seeking their early release.

According to official sources, the conversation had also focused on the elections that are to be held in the Northern Province with Khurshid expressing his concerns regarding media reports referring to some consideration being given to removal of land and police powers from the provinces prior to the polls.

“In this context, he urged the Sri Lankan Government not to take any step in the light of its own commitments relating to the 13th Amendment and their expressed intention to build upon it,” the sources said.

The 13th Amendment is a creation of the Indian government and any move by the Rajapaksa government therefore to abolish or repeal certain sections under the 13th Amendment would have to be with New Delhi’s consent.

Commonwealth concerns

The Rajapaksa government’s relations with the international community have been under test since the end of the war in 2009.

However, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo this November would be another trying test for the Rajapaksa government’s foreign policy.

Members of the diplomatic corp in the country say that the Rajapaksa government needs to be cautious during the session since the international community could use the meeting as a platform to raise concerns over the Rajapaksa government’s failures in addressing human rights issues.

It is in this backdrop that Britain issued a warned that there would be consequences if the Sri Lankan government continues to ignore their international commitments in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the British parliament the Britain condemns alleged human rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka.

He has said it in response to a question raised by British MP Simon Hughes as to why the British Prime Minister is attending the summit in Sri Lanka despite concerns raised over human rights abuses.

“We are all aware that the decision that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will attend the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka is controversial, especially in the light of the despicable human rights violations during the recent civil war. But I assure my right hon. Friend that the Government condemn those violations, the way in which political trials, regular assaults on legal professionals and suppression of press freedom continue, and the fact that too many recommendations of the lessons learnt and reconciliation commission have not been implemented. If such violations continue, and if the Sri Lankan Government continue to ignore their international commitments in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, of course there will be consequences,” the Deputy Prime Minister has said.

He has said that while all understand the controversy and unease about the matter, by attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka Britain will be using the opportunity to cast a spotlight on the unacceptable abuses in Sri Lanka.

“Of course there will be consequences if the conduct of the Sri Lankan authorities does not change. The Commonwealth matters to us all, and it is based on a number of values. Where I accept the hon. Lady’s implicit criticism is in relation to this point: all Commonwealth Governments should do more to not only talk about those values, but ensure that they are properly monitored and enforced,” he has added.

Therefore, it would be wise for the Rajapaksa government to remind itself that dealing with the international community takes more than providing Rolls Royce and BMWs for the Commonwealth heads of state to travel about in Colombo.

Last Updated on 19 May 2013
 

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