Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Monday, January 16, 2017


Untitled-3

logoTuesday, 17 January 2017

Untitled-2The Report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms was handed over to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga by Task Force Chairperson Manouri Muttetuwegama on 3 January.

The Consultation Task Force (CTF) had Zonal Task Forces operating in all the districts, gathered views from the people and prepared a detailed report elaborating on the Office of Reparations; Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission; Office of Missing Persons; Judicial Mechanism; Transitional Justice beyond the four Mechanisms; and Support for affected individuals and communities-Physiological considerations and security.

It was an elaboration of suffering of the victims in all communities, Sinhala Tamil and Muslim. Not only that, it elaborated the suffering of the soldiers and the ex-militants of the LTTE as well. We need to consider the psychological support needed by all, victims, ex-militants and the soldiers. The previous Government discontinued the psychological support given to the soldiers who were involved in the operations.

In the report it was stated that the security forces and police warned that this process of reconciliation would be counterproductive, compromise national security, deepen wounds and open new ones as well as exacerbate inter-ethnic and religious division. All security forces personnel categorically rejected international involvement in the accountability mechanism in particular. (Executive Summary B3)

The CTF also received submissions, largely from the Sinhala community, rejecting any international involvement in what they viewed as a purely domestic process. (Executive summary C23)

Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan addressing the gathering on 3 January said that there was no possibility of levelling charges against the forces who fought the war against the LTTE on the orders of the democratically-elected Government of Sri Lanka. However, if any officer or soldier has killed those who were arrested or raped women, then it was a war crime. The law should be implemented against such persons and it is not going against the forces who fought the war. (Samabima Supplement, Ravaya 8 January)

This is the truth and we should appreciate that it comes from the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance. This statement should be given wide publicity but the Government failed to do so.

According to the report, the Army representatives stated their support for a truth-seeking process and if there is any evidence of criminal activity, for the prosecution of the guilty. Given that as far as they were concerned no criminal activity had been undertaken, they saw no need for amnesty either. (Executive Summary B4)

Therefore the thinking of the Opposition Leader and the Army seems to be somewhat in line. This examination is needed because there were wild accusations levelled against the Government forces. Due credit was not given to the forces internationally for defeating the LTTE which was considered undefeatable.  

CTF recommends a hybrid court with a majority of national judges as well as a sufficient number of international judges. (Executive Summary C24)

The Daily Mirror reported on 6 January as follows:


Quote

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe today said he had no confidence in the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) appointed by the Prime Minister. He said the CTF, which recommended the inclusion of at least one international judge on every bench set up to hear allegations of war crimes and the violation of human rights that had taken place during the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The Minister said some of the members of the CTF Committee were representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO). “No one is complaining about the independence of the Judiciary anymore. We have reconciliation and peace processes in place. This report, at this juncture, is totally unwarranted. Therefore, we don’t have to follow these recommendations by the CTF,” he told the Daily Mirror. 


Unquote

As former President Kumaratunga stated, he was there at the Cabinet meeting where the forming of CTF was discussed. He also tried to bring down the NGO phobia of the Rajapaksa regime. He has thrown away the entire report just because of the recommendation of the international judges. Independence of the Judiciary can be restored by refraining from giving calls to the Judiciary from President’s House or from Temple Trees but the restoration of the impartiality of the Judiciary is not that easy. No one complains about the independence of the Judiciary but there are questions of impartiality of the same.

On 25 December 2016 the Daily Mirror reported as follows:


Quote

Jaffna District TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumathiran said yesterday that his political party was not satisfied with the verdict in the former Parliamentarian Nadaraja Raviraj’s assassination case and would file an appeal against the verdict.

“The judgment is indicative of the people’s distrust in the country’s Judiciary. It is in this scenario that we demand an international panel of judges to probe the alleged war crimes. As the lawyer who watched the interests of the aggrieved party, I will file an appeal,” he said.


Unquote

On 26 December 2016, The Hindu reported as follows:


Quote

“So it was obvious that a few junior-level naval officers had not done this on their own. They are as responsible for carrying out someone’s orders, but it is only one small part of the puzzle. This happened 10 years ago and we are still waiting to find out who gave the orders,” Sumanthiran told The Hindu on Sunday.


Unquote

On 12 January the Daily Mirror reported:


Quote

The Attorney General has appealed to the Colombo High Court against its judgement in the former TNA Jaffna District Parliamentarian Raviraj murder case and for a re-opening of the case for a retrial. The AG by the revision application filed in High Court had stated that on the day the decision of the Judge was pronounced in the case, the court has functioned further than the usual functioning time till midnight. The AG also had stated in the revision application that the presiding judge had not made any explanations on certain vital issues revealed in the trial. 


Unquote

The jury comprised all Sinhalese people. Here the three Navy Intelligence officers also were accused.  Not only in this case but also the cases of Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge where intelligence officers were accused, there were long delays of the judicial process. Once the President has openly accused the prosecution officers.

Therefore we do not have any moral ground to defend the position that there should not be any foreign judges in the investigation of so-called war crimes. Justice should not only to be done but also be seen to be done.
Proposed Constitution somewhat Similar to APRC Proposals - Says Sumanthiran

logoTamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for the Jaffna District M.A. Sumanthiran, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, shares his views on the Constitution making and the way forward. He says his party remains optimistic about a positive outcome. 
Excerpts:  


Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Q  How optimistic are you of the Constitution making process?

Well, this is a one’s in life opportunity. It is, in fact, once in the life of a country opportunity. This problem has been with us ever since Independence. Every time, when the party in office makes any effort to resolve it, the party in the Opposition opposed. It happened in 1957, 1965 and went on like that. After many consequences, particularly large scale violence, there was a process from 1994 to 2000 to build a Constitution. But, in August 2000, when a bill was brought to Parliament, the main Opposition opposed. The party came to power within two years of that and took some efforts by signing a Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). Then again, it was moved out of power by the other party.

The Constitutional Process Gives Sri Lanka A Real Chance


Colombo Telegraph
By Veluppillai Thangavelu –January 16, 2017
Veluppillai Thangavelu
Veluppillai Thangavelu
The Constitutional Process Gives Sri Lanka a Real Chance to Move Forward or Get Stuck in the Troubled Past
The year 2017 is a make or break year for the National Unity government and the Tamil people. In the history of Sri Lanka, an attempt is made for the third time after independence to enact a new constitution to resolve three major protracted issues facing the country. They are (1) devolution of power, (2) electoral reform, and (3) restructuring the executive presidential system.
Undoubtedly, devolution of power is the critical and the fundamental element of the constitution making process.  It directly affects the future political and economic well being of not only the
Tamil people, but the entire people of Sri Lanka.   Power sharing has become a contentious issue right after independence and continues to pose a challenge to ethnic reconciliation.
The major difference between the 1972 and 1978 constitution is the participation of elected representatives of the Tamil people in the constitutional process. The previous constitutions completely ignored demands by the Tamil people for power sharing.  Maximum autonomy for the Tamil people in their traditional habitat to manage their own affairs under a federal structure.
Anton Balasingham proposed to G.L. Peiris the chief negotiator for government of Srilanka “To explore a possible solution based on internal self determination of Tamils on a federal basis to lands of historic habitation of Tamil speaking people”. An agreement was reached between the LTTE and the UNP-led United National Front (UNF) government in December, 2002 at the third round of talks at Oslo. It was popularly called the Oslo Declaration and the Minister of Constitutional Affairs Prof. Peiris hailed the agreement as a ‘paradigm shift’ on Sri Lanka’s vexed ethnic question.
The agreement stated “Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties have agreed to explore a political solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a FEDERAL structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution has to be acceptable to all communities.” Federalism became entrenched in the political discourse in Sri Lanka’s political circles when it was endorsed at the Tokyo donor conference in 2003. The Tokyo Declaration, signed by 70 state and multilateral donors, commended the LTTE and the Colombo government “for their commitment to a lasting and negotiated peace based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka.
However, G.L.  Peiris has since made a U turn distancing himself from   the terms of the Oslo Agreement, saying words like federalism and unitary were “meaningless.”  Likewise, the United National Party led by Ranil Wickremesinghe also ditched the federal constitutional model as a solution in 2007 due to repeated defeats at the polls. However, Ravi Karunanayake, UNP  MP   claimed “Our party stands for maximum devolution of power and when the Ceasefire Agreement was signed by the UNP government of 2001 we did not have a Federal solution in mind, but only a mode of maximum devolution of power to solve the problem.” The UNP came under mounting pressure from its rank and file to reclaim the Sinhala nationalist vote by swinging to the right.
The first attempt at decentralising powers within the framework of a unitary constitution was through 13A in 1987. Though inadequate, the provincial councils were considered as autonomous bodies and are not under any Ministry. It derives its authority and power from the Constitution and Acts of Parliament. Undertakes activities which had earlier been undertaken by the Central Government Ministries, Departments, Corporations and Statutory Authorities. But, provincial council’s powers were restricted or diluted because of (1) the inclusion of the concurrence list, and (2) the vesting of executive powers on the Governor and (3) failure on the part of the government to implement the appointment of Land and Police Commissions.  Though, ex president Mahinda Rajapaksa made a commitment to UN Secretary Ban-Ki-moon in May, 2009 that he will introduce amendment to the 13A + he never kept his word.
The administration of the provincial councils depends extensively on the goodwill of the central government.  Powers devolved under the 13th Amendment were insufficient as the central government maintains a strict control over important subjects of power sharing through the Concurrent List.
The current attempt at drawing a new constitution has been made possible because of the election of Maithripala Sirisena as president in January, 2015 and the change of regime in August of the same year.  It was exactly a year ago on January 20; a Resolution on the making of a Constitution was moved in Parliament by the Prime Minister in the parliament. The Resolution converted the parliament into a Constitutional Assembly (CA) comprising all the members of the parliament but sits as a separate body. It is tasked with enacting a new constitution.

SRI LANKA: TNA THREATENS TO QUIT CONSTITUTION PROCESS IF TERMS NOT MET



Sri Lanka BriefBy: PTI-16/01/2017

sri lanka, sri lanka constitution, sri lanka TNA, sri lanka news, world news The protest in Sri Lanka were led by Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran.

Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party TNA will not be a part of the ongoing constitution-making process and will quit if the government abandons the idea of finding a political solution to the Tamil issue and more devolution is not considered, a senior party leader has said. “We have a mandate from the people for a federal constitution with the merger of North and East to resolve the National question. Discussions are underway with the government on how best to come to an agreement. We cannot accept the 13th Amendment as a comprehensive power sharing mechanism,” said senior Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member Dharmalingam Siddharthan.

“If the Government abandoned the idea of finding a solution for the National question, we won’t be part of the Constitution making process and we would be compelled to leave it,” Siddharthan was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times.

The report said the TNA had been pressing for a power sharing arrangements in the new constitution. It wants a system in a merged north and east provinces based on a federal structure.

However, the south-based Sinhala majority parties are averse to even discussing a federal solution to the Tamil minority issue.

President Maithripala Sirisena addressing a political gathering in the southern district of Galle Saturday ruled out a federal solution.

Referring to what he termed “misinformation” carried out in the media by political opponents, Sirisena said “my government will never agree to grant federalism in this country”.

Six sub-committees which sought public opinion on different areas of the proposed constitution have reported their findings to the main steering committee. Parliament is to be reconvened as a constitutional assembly to discuss the proposals.

The meeting which should have happened last week did not take place due to a reported disagreement between the two main partners in the ruling coalition, President Sirisena’s Freedom Party and the premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party.

Sirisena’s SLFP is of the view that the existing 1978 constitution could be amended without going for changes which require a national referendum. The new Constitution will replace the current executive president headed constitution adopted in 1978.

The government expects the new Constitution to address the demand of Tamil minorities for political recognition. With the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009 the Tamil groups have opted for maximum devolution as opposed to LTTE’s goal of a separate Tamil homeland.

NIE

Government needs to take on the challenge of the consultation task force report 


article_image
By Jehan Perera-

The disquiet about the government’s commitment to deliver on its promises is now extending itself to those sections of the international community that gave their support to the government on the basis of its commitment to human rights and reconciliation. The sense of disenchantment amongst the general population is also getting more pronounced. The common factor is the failure of the government to deliver on its promises. With regard to the general population it is the continuing failure to deliver economic development that directly benefits those who depend on governmental largesse to get them out of poverty. It is also the ineffectiveness of the government’s anti-corruption programme that is reflected in the failure to take cases through to their conclusion.

However, with regard to the international human rights community, and Western governments, the focus is more on the slow pace of reconciliation initiatives that have an impact on those who have long been victims of the conflict. This sentiment is not confined to the international community but also includes the ethnic minorities who are beginning to feel more convinced that their interests are being neglected by the government in order to cater to ethnic majority sentiment. They are even beginning to see overtly hostile intent in actions such as the presidential declaration that extends forest cover (Wilpattu) to areas in the North that have been sites of traditional settlement by the ethnic minorities, in this case primarily the Muslims, prior to their displacement by the war.

The negative reception extended by members of the government to the report of the Consultation Task Force on reconciliation mechanisms has added to the sense of disquiet within the international community and ethnic minorities. The government-appointed Task Force obtained submissions from the general public, many of whom were directly affected by the three decades of war. The Task Force focused its findings on the commitments made by the government to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in October 2015. The government’s commitments included setting up four new reconciliation mechanisms, namely a truth commission, an office of missing persons, an office of reparations and a special court to try war crimes. The government also pledged to make the laws more human rights-friendly and to demilitarize the former war zones of the North and East.

POLITICALLY CONTROVERSIAL

The Task Force recommendations have met with the support and appreciation of the international human rights community and the ethnic minorities. The recommendations seek to meet international standards. The report itself provides material that is invaluable in terms of concepts and cases that could be used for a public education campaign. However, the lukewarm if not negative response from those in the government is clearly visible. The problem that the government seems to be having is that the Task Force recommendations do not correspond to the general sentiment in the ethnic majority Sinhalese population. This is especially true of the recommendation that there should be international participation in the proposed special courts, with its provision for foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. The adverse media focus on the hybrid court structure recommended by the Task Force has deflected public attention away from all other recommendations.

The Task Force recommendation of hybrid courts follows its observation that there is a near total lack of confidence in the Tamil polity and in victims of human rights violations in the impartiality of the Sri Lankan judicial system where it concerns the security forces. There are several cases where the defendants who were members of the security forces have been acquitted by the courts. The most recent example is the case of assassinated Jaffna parliamentarian Raviraj. The security forces are today routinely described as war heroes by government and opposition leaders for having won the war. The issue is whether the judicial system can ignore the factor of ethnicity unless state institutions, including the judicial system, are reformed to ensure justice in the context of a multi ethnic and multi religious society.

The challenge for the government will be to take the recommendations of the Task Force and implement them in a manner that is politically viable. The government’s hold on power is stable so long as the two main coalition partners, the UNP and SLFP, are in agreement. The difficulty that the government seems to be having is that it needs to persuade the SLFP component of the government, which is now headed by President Sirisena, to go along with politically controversial decisions that are taken in regard to inter-ethnic relations. Where constitutional reform is concerned, the SLFP has already stated its position in a conservative manner. They have said that they will not go beyond the unitary state and are not in favour of ratifying constitutional change through a referendum which reduces the scope for reform. The government’s continual postponement of local government elections over the past two years is an indication of its reluctance to face the electorate at this time.

COSTLY FAILURE

On the other hand, any failure on the part of the government to deliver on its promises can also be politically costly to it in the longer term. The government has to be cognizant that its candidate won the presidential election in January 2015 due to the wholehearted support given to it by the ethnic minority political parties and voters. The support of the ethnic minority parties can also be important in those instances where the two major political parties are in opposition to one another. At the present time, these two parties, the UNP and SLFP, are in coalition so the importance of the ethnic minority parties in order to secure a majority in parliament is not there. However, this situation could change in the future. The ethnic minority vote also becomes very important during a presidential election, when the entire country votes as a single electorate, and every vote counts as witnessed at the presidential election of 2015.

The failure of the government to deliver on its promises can also be costly in terms of international support. The government is on the verge of obtaining the GSP Plus tariff concessions from the EU which it lost six years ago. It is reported that 50,000 jobs in the apparel industry alone were lost as a result. The finance minister has said that regaining the tariff concession will mean an additional income of Rs 2 billion to the country. While the European Commission, which is the administrative arm of the EU, has recommended the restoration of the GSP privilege, this has to be ratified by the EU parliament, which is a political body. If the EU finds that the government view on the implementation of the Task Force report corresponds to the critical views that have emerged from within the government so far, it can lead to a political decision being made in Brussels that will be adverse to the grant of the tariff concession.

In this context there are two campaigns that the government has to speedily embark upon. The first is to persuade the international community that the government’s dominance over the polity is by no means an assured fact. The government needs to constantly take the majority of people with it, especially with regard to measures that are controversial and arouse deep seated emotions. This is no easy task when nationalist forces are waiting in the wings for a takeover. The second campaign for the government to undertake would be with the general population, to persuade them that the recommendations of the Consultation Task Force on reconciliation mechanisms are in accordance with the government’s commitments to the international community. The government needs to convince the people that these commitments are in the best interests of the country. This may not be as difficult as it seems, because most people do want justice and reconciliation to be the heritage of all.

No mandate to continue Rajapakse policy – Academics and Citizens’ Organization

No mandate to continue Rajapakse policy – Academics and Citizens’ Organization
LEN logoJan 16, 2017
Academics and Leaders of Citizens; Organizations jointly called for a press conference and expressed their opposed against government’s policy on Hambantota land deal with China.
“Before the government made a policy they should make a dialogue with people,” said Dr. Nirmal Ranjith  , Senior Lecturer at University of Colombo at the press conference held at CSR in Colombo on Jan. 13, 2017.
“People have been given the power to government for five years and urged them to govern the country according to good governance policies. Who gave the power to the government to give 15,000 acres of lands in Hambantota to China for 99 years on lease?”
He added, “People have a right to know about the land deal with China. Government should respect to the peoples’ opinion,”
“Prime Minister told that they will inform to the people after they taken a decision. Before they make a decision government should aware the people and discuss with them. Do they ready to change their decisions if the people say that they are not agreeing with land deal?” Ranjith said at the event.
Addressing the media Keerthi Tennakoone, executive director of CaFFE said that government did not call for the tender and it is a violation of good governance policies.
“The government maintains an office called Southern Development Agency for develop south in Sri Lanka and it is not a registered institute.”
Chameera Perera, Co-convener of Left Centre, Dr. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, Lecturer at University of Colombo and Akalanka Hettiarachchi, convener of Aluth Parapura also spoke out at the event.
Talking to Lanka News Web Chameera Perera, Co-convener of Left Centre said that prior to go for agreement with China or any other country government has to expose the agreement and discuss with the people.
He added, “That is the mandate. The mandate is not to continue their own agenda with their military or political powers. So, it is kind of a consultation democracy means that government has to discuss with the people.
- Lawrence Ferdinando - Colombo.

Sri Lanka: Dilemmas of “Good Governance”, two years later



Democratic reform has three elements — reduce presidential powers, strengthen parliament and fortify independent institutions.

by Dr. Ram Manikkalingam-

( January 16, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The National Unity Government with Maithripala Sirisena as President and Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister has lasted for two years. How much longer will it last, given the policy, political and personal dilemmas that bedevil it?

The coalition that governs Sri Lanka came together to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. And it has stayed together because Mahinda Rajapaksa is down, but not out. He is still the glue that holds the coalition together. Political differences between the UNP and the SLFP are sometimes papered over, and at other times exaggerated with the objective of keeping Mahinda Rajapaksa out.

While sufficient to win elections, and survive two years of muddling through in office, this anti-Rajapaksa glue is insufficient to see the coalition through what is likely to be its most critical third year of 2017. Now the honeymoon is over, an overarching strategy is required to address three critical areas – democratic reform, national reconciliation and economic transformation.

While each of these areas is hard enough on its own, addressing all three simultaneously is particularly challenging. Meanwhile Rajapaksa and his followers are waiting in the wings for this coalition to fail.

Democratic reform

Democratic reform is high on both the political and popular agenda. Mahinda Rajakaksa was voted out despite having more political, economic and military power than any other previous leader in Sri Lanka.
Indeed, it is this very context that brought the coalition together to make the case against Rajapaksa – centralising political, economic and coercive power in the first family.The case was easy to make, because Rajapaksa made it himself, believing that it helped him accrue and secure power. He did not shy away from using blandishments, threats and sometimes outright coercion to get his way. If you cooperated you became rich and powerful, if you did not you became poor or worse. The people came together to elect Sirisena. He was the anti-charisma candidate — self-effacing, quiet and consensual.

Democratic reform has three elements — reduce presidential powers, strengthen parliament and fortify independent institutions.

While the presidency under Rajapaksa was associated with autocracy, the presidency under Sirisena is associated with maintaining a political balance between factions and opening up space for different voices. And from a political point of view, it is precisely Sirisena’s perch on the presidency that enables him to control the levers of the SLFP relegating Rajapaksa to a secondary role. If the presidency is to be done away with, there is a risk that a party with a political majority in Parliament could ride roughshod over other views whether political, ethnic or economic. At the same time the presence of the presidency presents the possibility of a single individual like Rajapkasa using it to thwart democracy. We need Sirisena at the helm of the Presidency to keep Rajapaksa at bay in the short term, but we also need to do away with the Presidency to keep the likes of Rajapaksa away, in the long-term. This is the first dilemma faced by the coalition.

National reconciliation

A second key platform of the national unity government is national reconciliation.
To address this, the government has set up an Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, released land, engaged the Tamil community and initiated a process of autonomy and accountability.

In addition, the government has taken critical symbolic steps, such as the singing of the national anthem in Tamil.

While many areas of national reconciliation have been welcomed by a wide range of Sri Lankans, some areas are politically controversial. These include accountability for war crimes and greater autonomy for the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Accountability for past crimes is important to many Sri Lankans, particularly victims of the war. A decent political dispensation with the political power to manage provincial affairs is important for the future of many Sri Lankans, including Tamils and Muslims. Raking up the past may aggravate polarisation and political conflict, delaying rather than accelerating reconciliation.

Pursuing both accountability and devolution runs the risk that neither will be implemented, as the political controversy over war crimes overwhelms the political effort to get autonomy. Similarly, pursuing autonomy for the Northern and Eastern provinces first, runs the risk that the delay would make it harder to get accountability for war crimes.

Here the government, war affected communities and Sri Lankans, as a whole, will have to choose between pursuing accountability or autonomy. Doing both may not be feasible in a tricky political climate. The second dilemma the national unity government faces is should it pursue accountability, at the risk that this might delay, if not, defeat autonomy. Or should it pursue autonomy, which risks delaying and even denying accountability.

Economic transformation

The third dilemma the government faces this year is how to combine growth and equity.
The national unity government inherited a “bubble economy”. The Rajapaksa administration had a simple strategy to deal with the economy. Borrow to create jobs for the lower and middle classes by growing the public sector and create wealth for the rich by giving them contracts to invest in infrastructure.

The international and domestic private sector paid off the former political leadership for business contracts and investment deals. While the deals were flawed and the investments were risky (for Sri Lanka) money flowed. And those who played the game with the former first family got richer. There was growth. But the poor and middle classes benefited as well. This was a short-term strategy and it worked for as long as it lasted, i.e., until the bill was due. And the bill has come due just as the national unity government is entering its third year.

The government is faced with a difficult policy dilemma. Cut spending and balance the budget to satisfy international lenders and investors, or increase spending and invest in infrastructure to address poverty and stimulate the economy. The former will make the government unpopular during a year when it is aiming to make radical reforms that require the support of the people. And the latter is unsustainable in the context of debts coming due and fewer lenders willing to lend.

Balancing between factions, parties and policies

These three policy dilemmas will invariably play out in the political tensions of a coalition government in its third year in office.

In Sri Lanka, overall authority lies in the hands of the President, who is both the Head of State and Head of Government. At the same time, the machinery of the state — the running of the ministries and the bureaucracy — is the job of the Prime Minister, who is first among equals in the Cabinet. When the President and the Prime Minister are from the same political party with a majority in parliament, political power in the party and in parliament closely maps the hierarchy in the state structures, i.e., the Prime Minister will also be reporting to his or her party leader.

But when the President and the Prime Minister are from different parties, this is not the case, as in Sri Lanka. Here Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is a party leader in his own right and has to deal with the pressures from his own party and constituency, even as he has to report to President Sirisena, in his capacity as Head of Government and Head of State.

Similarly, President Sirisena has to deal with the pressures of his own party and constituency even as he has to work with and consult the Prime Minister under whose leadership his own party is subordinate in parliament. This creates a complex political dynamic where the President and the Prime Minister have to work together to address the concerns of the country, and sometimes work at cross purposes to pander to their political parties. They have managed with the Prime Minister dealing with the nitty gritty of governance and the President rising above the political fray, but entering it when an issue of good governance is at stake.

It would of course be naïve to ignore the political reality that even as they work together, they represent and fight for different political parties and constituencies. And even as we expect them to co-govern as national leaders in a national unity government, we must also expect them to compete as rival leaders of two of the largest political parties in the land vying to govern.

Despite political differences, dilemmas and distractions the coalition continues to rely on President Sirisena as “balancer in chief”.

Just as he won the elections by balancing diverse forces, from the SLFP and the JHU, to the UNP, the TNA and the SLMC. President Sirisena will have to balance between the SLFP and the UNP on democratic reform, national reconciliation and economic transformation.
In each of these areas the President will have to balance the individual-oriented capitalism of the UNP with the state-oriented socialism of the SLFP.

The coalition will have to steer a course between Wickremesinghe’s liberal individualism and Sirisena’s social democracy. Much of the policy and political controversies we have witnessed, from the clash over the VAT, the leasing of public facilities to private companies, even the governorship of the Central Bank and economic policies, more generally, reflect these differences.

So far the personal, political and policy partnership between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has held despite the vicissitudes of coalition politics. Can this partnership stand the test of the third year of yahapalanaya, helping the national unity government reach its third anniversary in January 2018?

If it does, irrespective of whether we have succeeded in achieving all the desired reform, Sri Lanka would have become a country with a different style of politics — more democratic, more flexibe and more effective — demonstrating that simultaneously collaborating and competing with each other is possible in a way that benefits the whole country. We would have changed our political culture.

(The writer is Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam & Member of the Board of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, Sri Lanka.)
That perennial debate on the executive presidency!


 2017-01-17
Few institutions in this country are as vilified as the executive presidency. The SLFP has been campaigning to abolish it since the very first day it was introduced under the 1978 Constitution. However, after they were elected to power, SLFP leaders did anything but abolishing the executive presidency. Chandrika Kumaratunga won a landmark election victory in 1994, promising to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days and she completed her two lukewarm terms and retired in 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa promised the same. At least he ended the war (making use of the extensive powers accorded to him by virtue of the office), but could not satiate himself with two terms. He changed the Constitution to serve himself with a presidency for life. Save J.R. Jayawardene who drafted the 1978 Constitution to be in line with his personal and political ambitions (and later tampered with it habitually). Mahinda Rajapaksa was the only politician who changed the country’s Constitution to fit into his whims and fancies. Even R. Premadasa who was demeaned during his time being a ‘one man show’ never stooped that low.
The only executive president in this country who voluntarily gave up a portion of powers in his office was Maithripala Sirisena. During his administration, the Constitutional Council was reactivated under the 19th Amendment and the power of the president to dissolve Parliament after one year was removed. President Kumaratunga conceded to set up the Constitutional Council under the 17th Amendment, but was forced to do so by the JVP as a precondition for her probationary government with the JVP. Hers does not count as an act of altruism. 

Now the SLFP itself seems to be plotting to go back on its word. SLFP ministers at a party meeting have passed a resolution calling for the continuance of the office of the executive presidency and nominating President Maithripala Sirisena as the presidential candidate for the election in 2020. The president’s stoic silence at the meeting was more evocative than words, a political columnist observed. So we are back to the same old hide and seek game. First cronies test the waters, while the president tactfully keeping away, then at the opportune time and numbers are ready, the president springs up his own surprise. That was how Mr. Rajapaksa got his infamous 18th Amendment passed.
For the SLFP, the real problem is internal. The President’s loyalists fear a takeover of the party by the Rajapaksa faction. Sirisena’s executive presidency is the fortress that keeps away the Rajapaksa cohort from launching a concerted attack. If that is brought down, the Sirisena loyalists could well end up being sitting ducks. 

Leaders cannot appear to be weak. If they do so, their followers will desert them. The prospect of President Sirisena running for a second term may appeal to his immediate supporters. But there is a flaw in their logic. Mr. Rajapaksa is disqualified from running for another term. His cronies would find he is of no use. Yet, there is no suitable alternative. Perhaps, Gota may give it a shot, but he has skeletons in his closet and may not survive a rigorous political scrutiny. In the absence of a suitable contender, the 50- odd Rajapaksa associated MPs would either have to live in the political wilderness with Mr. Rajapaksa, or jump the ship. Many will choose the latter.
All that sounds like a perfect winning formula for the Sirisena faction. But there is a glitch. What if Gota or someone else chooses to run, not to win, but to deny Sirisena the victory? In a three-man race, provided that the UNP chooses to run, President Sirisena’s chances of winning is limited. Why Mr. Wickremesinghe did not contest in the previous two elections was not because he did not like to be the president, but he knew he could not win. This time, he could foresee a good chance of winning. Mr. Sirisena would be vying for a second term with a blotch on his integrity due to not abolishing the executive presidency, though part of that promise was fulfilled by the 19th Amendment. On the other hand, if President Sirisena can run as the joint candidate of a combined UNP and SLFP, he could sweep the board. But then, what about that promise to abolish the executive presidency? 

"The only executive president in this country who voluntarily gave up a portion of powers in his office was Maithripala Sirisena. During his administration, the Constitutional Council was reactivated under the 19th Amendment and the power of the president to dissolve Parliament after one year was removed."


The executive presidency itself has a very persuasive logic. It gives ethnic minorities a greater ownership in the political process. Though that influence was eroded during the war, mainly due to ethnic polarization, at peace time it would reinforce itself. Mr. Rajapaksa lost because he alienated both the Tamils and Muslims. A Westminster system would not grant an equal leverage to ethnic minorities and especially, given the historical disinterest of the Northern Tamil Parties to be part of the centre, a Westminster system could potentially have the opposite effect.
Second, given the political fragmentation in the South where the electorate is divided almost equally between the two main parties, a Westminster system could well be a recipe for political instability. It is open to question whether the proposed Mixed PR and first past the post voting system would alleviate the level of potential political instability.  Sri Lankans like most South Asian tend to view politics and elections as an end by itself. But, they are actually means to an end. No one can be blamed when the people’s will is reflected in a hung parliament, but, political instability would kill economic potentials, drive away investors and reign over poverty. 

Countries at our social economic level have immediate priorities, above all, to fast-track economic development, more so since we have under-performed in that area since independence. The executive presidency was meant to address those urgent special needs. However, what J.R. Jayawardene created was an abomination, which had no precedent in anywhere in the world. His arrogance of power made things worse, and by the time he left the office, the country was on fire, both in the North and South. He failed to materialise his only positive policy, economic liberalization, though he might have left an economic opening for his successors.
However, the executive presidency that J.R created and M.R fostered was tamed under the 19th Amendment. Whether a reformed executive presidency is better than an executive prime minister is open to debate. Reaching a conclusion on that debate would not be easy: Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s reign (1970-77) was no better than J.R.’s two term presidency. 


Follow Ranga Jayasuriya @RangaJayasuriya on Twitter  


Where is the presidential elections in 2020 and where is the candidature? -Rajitha’s billion dollar worth question

LEN logo(Lanka-e-News -16.Jan.2017, 6.05AM) It is a well and widely known fact that  51.28 % of the people (majority) of the 81.52 % voted on 2015-01-08 in favor of a new constitution after abolishing the executive presidency to elect  president Maithripala Sirisena as the president , and the latter  himself gave  that solemn promise umpteen times to the masses confirming that. Yet  some political opportunists  and  bankrupt politicos  of the SLFP are these days circulating a bogus  story that because a referendum has not been held to abolish the executive presidency , Maithripala Sirisena will be the presidential candidate at the next presidential elections 2020. 
In response to these wild and vacuous statements , Minister Rajitha Senaratne the frank , forthright and fearless speaker gave an answer yesterday (11) which  silenced these rascals and scoundrels on a scale even the Hiroshima bomb , perhaps couldn’t have. He explained most clearly  thus ….
''Where is the presidential elections in 2020 and where is the candidature?  It is to abolish the executive presidency this new constitution is being brought.  The executive presidency shall be abolished through that. It should be mandatorily be abolished. That was the clear unambiguous undertaking given on 8 th January 2015.
President gave that solemn assurance before the remains of Late Ven. Sobitha Thera too , and that it is his unwavering stance all along. I know the stance of the president very well. The group which is saying there is no referendum were nowhere there when we received the people’s mandate .''

Rajitha’s multi million dollar worth answer to bankrupt political villains..

It was in a political column of the Sunday Times newspaper , there was a small  comment a day before the second anniversary celebration of the president’s investiture  that a group of SLFP ministers took a decision that the executive presidency shall be continued , and SLFP’s  presidential candidate at 2020 elections shall be  Maithripala Sirisena. The following day – that is  on the second anniversary celebration day  , the Sinhala counterpart –the daily Lankadeepa gave wide publicity to it as headline news. However this news was not written by any specific reporter.

After  Lanka e news inquired about this from an SLFP and UNP front line minister , on the same day we published a report under the caption , ‘the headline news of Lankadeepa is an absolute lie. The SLFP ministers have not decided to continue with the executive presidency. An SLFP –UNP minister and a frontline   leader reveals the true story’ .

This  frontline minister  speaking to us further disclosed ,  one minor topic was of course discussed  that is to halt the claims   ‘I  am the future  leader ‘  and creating groups. However  one minister had said , it is alright if the  publicity campaign carried out is that  the president  will be contesting again in case there is going to be  a presidential election. Thereafter , minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama and SLFP secretary Duminda Disanayake confirmed the story hereinbefore mentioned . Dr. Amunugama told  , this is a decision that was  taken by the SLFP Central working committee . But that is a lie because the SLFP working committee had not met during that period. 
Rajitha on the other hand , while confirming this announcement  yesterday , said , he is not aware that the central executive committee of the SLFP has taken such a decision.

SB who is not fit even to tread on  parliament soil blabbers regarding people’s referendum…..

Meanwhile on the 10th , S.B . Dissanayake a sidekick of Maithripala Sirisena  convening a media briefing, went on to comment further. S.B. who was thrown  into jail once because of his spittoon of a   mouth , in characteristic style blabbered there has been no people’s referendum to abolish the executive presidency ,and the SLFP did not seek elections by giving  such an assurance . Hence , without abolishing the executive presidency and just by curtailing the existing powers ,instead of going for a referendum , by a constitutional amendment alone , the presidential elections shall be held in 2020 , when Maithripala himself will  field again  as the presidential candidate . This is the decision taken by the SLFP , and Maithripala Sirisena as the party leader  cannot act contrary to that decision, S.B.   pointed out .
S.B . ‘s verbiage usually smells worse than garbage ,but in this instance it  merits serious attention … 
S.B.’s contention is something even a grade two  child would not advance. He argued ,because SLFP did not go for elections saying the executive presidency will be abolished,  there isn’t a  people’s  referendum . This view is untenable, for the simple reason the people’s referendum he is talking about was defeated on the 8 th of January 2015 by a 51.28% majority of the people voting in favor of abolition of executive presidency.  Besides , S.B.’s stupid utterance  that in view of the SLFP decision Maithripala cannot contravene  it ,  is also invalid since Maithripala Sirisena was not in the SLFP at that time when the people voted for the abolition of the executive presidency. SLFP had expelled him at that time. In the circumstances , Maithripala is not bound by   the SLFP view , but rather by  the views of the section he represented then  , and their mandate.  Even today  he is seated in the presidential chair because of that mandate . Therefore if he has  to fall in line with the SLFP view , what he  must do first is move out from the presidential  seat  , since that was the clear mandate the SLFP received at that time.
It is high time , these political opportunists and villains who are propagating bogus and malicious tales  try  to understand the primary and main stance of the consensual government , and extend support to it . In fact that is their primary and paramount duty if they are honorable politicians instead of seeking to selfishly serve their personal agendas , because the people clearly threw them out lock , stock and barrel at the August 17 th elections thereby proving  beyond doubt they are a vanquished group. Therefore after   having crept into to become a part of the  consensual government , they should without seeking  backdoor treacheries  to revive the  mandate of theirs that was defeated ,  on the contrary  must express solidarity with the victorious people’ s mandate received by the consensual government on 2015-01-08 and  2016-08-17 , and rectify their past  mistakes .

Mad monkeys clustered around the ‘King’

If there is a dispute within the party what ought to be done is not blabber and bluff that ‘Maithri will be contesting the next presidential election’ and kick away  the sacred people’s mandate  irreverently. Instead , reveal the truth  ,because the executive presidency is to be abolished by the new constitution , there cannot  be a presidential election , and  ‘in 2020, Maithripala Sirisena shall be contesting the post of prime minister as the leader of the party’. Those  who are fond of blabbering will not in that event drive Sirisena into a muddle and uncalled for issues , which will also help  resolve the leadership controversy within the SLFP . 

But now , by the stupid announcements and senseless vacuous speeches , these opportunists  and morons are trying to make their own leader  whom the people elected to power , a villain and hypocrite  among the very people wittingly or unwittingly. In that event  these political opportunists who are trying to pose as heroes by conspiracies and treacheries at the expense of the president  will be making Maithripala Sirisena a clown , villain  and enemy  among the people who installed him in power, vis a vis  Maithripala’s  solemn promises he made  before being elected as president that the executive presidency will be abolished within 100 days of his becoming president . 
It is therefore for  Maithripala Sirisena to realize, when mad monkeys are clustered around him , the  attack of the sword wielding monkeys will not kill the fly on his body , but  him. 

Diplomatic circles too in doubt…. 

It is well  to recall at this juncture what took place at the residence of a former president Chandrika Bandaranaike prior to the January 8 th people’s victory . Discussions were held with the participation of Maithripala Sirisena and party leaders who were in the frontline . Among them was also TNA leader  R. Sambandan.
The final discussion to enlist the assistance of the Tamil people was held on that day . It was inquired from Sambandan whether a written agreement is required in regard to the abolition of executive presidency and devolution of power . Sambandan gave a startling   answer to that question : Even when there is or not such an agreement , the Rajapkses are provoking and inciting the Sinhalese people . ‘Therefore the verbal promise given by all of you that the executive presidency shall be abolished , and justice will be done to the Tamil people will suffice ,’ Sambandan asserted. It will be best if everyone recalls at this moment   , who was the politician who gleefully said  at that moment, ‘  I felt like kissing that aging Tamil politician’ . 
We are reminding those incidents so that the president will come to his right senses and  take guard ahead against the sword attack of the  foolish monkeys now clustered around him. 
Indeed the serious attention of  foreign diplomatic mission offices in Colombo has by now  been drawn to the announcements made on the second anniversary celebration of the president regarding non abolition of the executive presidency , and that  Maithripala will be  contesting presidential elections in 2020 .
With a media personnel close to the president publishing these villainous statements as    headline news , and the president who emerged victorious  after making a solemn assurance that the odious executive presidency will be abolished within 100 days of his coming to power , saying  nothing at all  about it on his second anniversary  celebrations speech  as president ,at the BMICH had unfortunately triggered grave doubts and misgivings  among the foreign diplomatic circles . 
The  president is behind those aforementioned announcements  ?  If that is truly  so, it is the view of the foreign diplomatic circles that it would be impossible to progress on the reconciliation as there could be sabotage , the consensual government cannot go ahead any more, and the development programs will also be a mere dream . The responsibility is on  president’s shoulder  to clear the cloud of doubts hovering about the foreign Diplomatic circles.  
On the other hand  if anybody  is having any idea of giving a sly  ‘hopper clout’ , it is better they take heed of the warning : though  the masses who rallied to elect the government of good governance may eat  ‘ araliya rice’ (hal kanawa) they are certainly not halparuwas ( worthless incapable beings  )  .  They have already proved clearly and demonstrably what they are capable of at the last two elections.

By Wimal Dheerasekera 

Translated by Jeff 
---------------------------
by     (2017-01-16 00:43:54)

Maithri vetoes Ranil – billions in losses in projects!

Maithri vetoes Ranil – billions in losses in projects!

Jan 16, 2017

The president has instructed the prime minister that it should only be the subject ministers who would be submitting papers to the cabinet on matters of development. Government sources say the president has given the instruction after considering the difficulties the government has faced due to the submission of cabinet papers not by the subject ministers, but by the PM or the economic affairs subcommittee on his instructions, as well as the complaints he has received personally from ministers.

Relaying his decision, the president also said collective responsibility of the cabinet has been affected by the practice of outsiders’ submitting papers, and that the government was subjected to ridicule due to contradictory statements being made by the subject ministers and the ministers who submitted the papers. Also, many issues have arisen due to the subject ministers’ being overlooked and only officials being involved. Furthermore, the subject ministers will be held responsible if the policy decisions taken by the government on matters of development are not properly implemented or the projects make losses.
Government sources also say this decision follows inquiries being made by the president into the Hambantota port issue, SriLankan Airlines’ lease agreement for three A-330 aircraft with Pakistan Airlines, corruption allegations over the coal tender, the draft bill on creating a super minister position and several other matters. The president has stressed that the decision should be strictly enforced. The president has further told the PM that a decision should be taken with regard to the ministers of the ‘Yahapaalana’ government who face various corruption accusations, adding that it was bad for the political future of the two key parties in the government that there are accusations of financial frauds amounting to around Rs. 50 billion, the sources add.

The 58 preconditions to obtain GSP+


article_image
By C. A. Chandraprema- 

The government has been ecstatic at being granted GSP+ again by the European Commission. It hasn’t however revealed the conditions it has agreed to in order to get this trade concession. In this context, two documents are of interest to us. The first of these is the ‘Report on assessment of the application for GSP+ by Sri Lanka’ by the European Commission dated 11 January 2016 (Staff Working Document 474) which is available in the public domain and another document which was obviously a part of the application made by Sri Lanka to the European Commission to obtain GSP+, which is not available in the public domain. The two documents complement and authenticate one another.