Last Friday (13) an uninvited guest appeared at the Presidential Secretariat in Fort demanding an audience with the Head of State, President Maithripala Sirisena. Though not prepared to receive this guest, the staff, at the Secretariat, was too reluctant to let the guest leave empty handed. So, they sought President Sirisena’s permission to send the guest in and the latter responded in the affirmative.
Soon after exchanging courtesies, to everyone’s surprise the guest declared “They don’t believe you!” Startled and puzzled, the President looked quizzically at the guest in front of him.
“I didn’t mean anything else, they (pointing at the two who she came with) or none where I live, believed that you will meet me. In fact, I was little surprised too that you were willing to see me,” the jubilant guest added.
The special guest was not a VIP or a foreign diplomat but a 7-year-old girl from Badulla who came with her parents with the hope of meeting the President.
M.N. Amani Raidha came all the way from Badulla to meet President Sirisena and was waiting at the entrance of the Presidential Secretariat until the President was informed that a little girl was waiting at the entrance with the expectation of meeting him.
The President was too reluctant to let her go without spending at least a minute. Thus, he sent officials to call the little girl andhad a cordial discussion with her.
Officials found the girl was extremely at ease and rather talkative.
“So will you hang that on your wall?” she asked the President after gifting him a portrait done by her. President not only promised to fulfil her wish, but also promised to meet her when he visits Badulla again.
“Just like you came to see me, I will come to see you when I visit Badulla next time.”
Enthralled, the girl responded “But make sure to give me a call before you arrive” making everyone around to giggle.
This little guest must have taken away the pressure from President Sirisena’s mind. It was not at all an easy week for him with politicians in South making various demands on the proposed constitutional reforms, while those in the North were threatening to set President’s Palace and several other premises ablaze if government failed to release those imprisoned under the Prevetion of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Jaffna came to a standstill on Friday, a day before President Sirisena’s scheduled visit, as a group of Tamil politicians and civil society groups engaged in a hartal. Due to security concerns, a cadre of over 100 security personnel were deployed in the Jaffna Peninsula in a bid to maintain law and order.
President was on his way to attend Tamil Language Day at Jaffna Hindu College when a group of about 75 persons, led by Tamil politicians, Suresh Premachandran, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and M.K. Sivajilingam protested his visit holding black flags and wearing black bands. When his official vehicle reached the protestors, President ordered it to be stopped andgot down from his vehicle to approach the angry protestors against security concerns.
“Tamils voted for me and I hope you have not forgotten it. Let us discuss and see how the matter can be solved,” President told the protestors but to no avail
“So how do you pay back your gratitude to the people who supported you?” was what he got in response from the Tamil politicians, who were leading the protest.
While reminding President of constantly uttered words of being committed to national reconciliation, they demanded as to why he can’t solve this ‘simple matter’ of the three prisoners who are on a hunger strike for 19 days
“If you can’t solve this simple problem, how can you solve bigger problems you have,” Sivajilingam had confronted the President.
The protesters have turned down his offer to have discussions on the matter saying it is action that is needed now and not discussions.
President seemed to have reached tiresome level on the matter when he finally put his trump-card by saying if they tried to weaken him, it will only make the devil powerful.
He invited all the protestors to hoist flags of peace instead of the black flags, to provide their support to the journey which aims to fulfil the aspirations of the future generation.
President insisted that the language should be used as a bridge which links the people, but not as a tool to divide the people.
Even though some people are of the view that language should be used to make division among the people, true human beings who value humanity, must respect all the languages of a country and must learn all those languages.
The President recalled the close relationship among different communities, who speak different languages and believe different faiths, of our country since ancient time and stated that today, the people who do not value humanity obstruct the journey which aims to build national reconciliation accepted by all the communities.
Playing with devil
Though it was not clear as to who he referred to as the ‘devil’ he took several measures to cut the wings of this ‘devil’ by replacing almost all SLFP/ UPFA organizers who are either supporting the joint opposition or former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Basil Rajapaksa.
President Sirisena, on Thursday, called on his new electoral organizers to reorganize and prepare the party for the next election.
The President, handing over letters of appointment to the new electoral organizers, at the President’s House, said the upcoming elections would be held under a new electoral system and the party had rid itself of its weak elements.
He also made it compulsory for all electoral organizers, who are not in Parliament to contest the upcoming Local Government and Provincial Council Elections.
Among the new electoral organizers appointed were former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who vouched she will not return to active politics as she is not power hungry as the Rajapaksas. However, if one is to take President Sirisena’s orders seriously, former President Kumaratunga will be compelled to contest in the local government elections or the Provincial Council Elections.
Another controversy is replacing former State Minister Priyankara Jayaratna with Wayamba Provincial Councillor Ananda Sarath Kumara who was infamous for making a teacher kneel down for trying to discipline his daughter. This errant politician has been appointed as the Anamaduwa electoral organizer.
SLFP stalwarts and UPFA MPs Kumara Welgama and Mahindanada Aluthgamage have been removed from the posts of electoral organizers of Matugama and Nawalapitiya respectively. He has appointed 50 new electoral organizers including former Deputy Minister of Trade Sumitha Priyangani Abeyweera for the Matugama electorate and Provincial Councillor H. A. Ranasinghe as the organizer for Nawalapitiya.
An SLFP minister said four other party seniors would be removed from their electoral organizer posts in the coming days. Accordingly, Chamal Rajapaksa, Vidura Wickramanayake, Ranjith de Zoysa and Arundika Fernando would face the axe. They had been accused of non-cooperation in the SLFP’s reorganizing programme and supporting the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna.
He said Vidura Wickremanayake was not well and Chamal Rajapaksa had informed President that he would never leave the SLFP, so their removal had got delayed.
War crime charges to
Michael Morris, Baron Naseby PC, who started the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka in 1975, told the British Parliament that the West, particularly the US and the UK, must remove the threat of war crimes and foreign judges that overhangs and overshadows all Sri Lankans.
During a debate on Sri Lanka, which focused on what assessment the UK Government has made of the progress made by Sri Lanka in meeting the requirements on reconciliation established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Lord Naseby said he hope that, as a result of the debate, the UK will recognise the truth that no one in the Sri Lankan Government ever wanted to kill Tamil civilians.
“Furthermore, the UK must now get the UN and the UNHCR in Geneva to accept a civilian casualty level of 7,000 to 8,000, not 40,000. On top of that, the UK must recognise that this was a war against terrorism, so the rules of engagement are based on international humanitarian law, not the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said.
Baron of Naseby has known Sri Lanka for over 50 years.
“I believe the UK has a unique role to play in the future of Sri Lanka, but we need to understand the history behind the current situation. In the 11th century AD Tamil Cholas invaded Sri Lanka and took over the north and north-east. Understandably, the Sinhalese were left with the remainder. Then there was colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and then of course the UK. The British left behind a very good civil service; unfortunately, it was not spread across the two main denominations. It was dominated by the Tamils, who looked after the civil service and indeed the professions. On independence, sadly, this position was somewhat resented by the Sinhalese, and they passed the Sinhalese official language Act.
There remained some smouldering resentment from 1948 right through to around 1973. The Tamil youth have been activated by two people in particular. One is Balasingham, a British citizen after Blair’s Government gave him that, and the other is a man called Prabhakaran, a single-minded ruthless activist. In 1973 Prabhakaran killed the Mayor of Jaffna, along with six soldiers whose bodies were brought to Colombo. There was a resentful response from the Sinhalese youth; very sadly it was three days before a curfew was brought in, and well over 1,000 Tamils were killed. From then on it has been a situation of Eelam, the independent state, on one side versus the unitary state of Sri Lanka on the other.
I visited Sri Lanka last February. Eight months on it is quite clear to me, from the context that I have, that the Government is addressing all the issues raised in the UN resolution. It may be taking longer than some would wish but that is life, I think. I shall highlight three; The first is missing persons. A massive amount of time and effort was put into the Paranagama commission, set up by the previous Rajapaksa Government, identifying some 20,000 missing persons and actually following up 10,000 of them. To this can be added the superb work done by the ICRC.The good news is that a commissioner and a department are now set up, and in passing I pay tribute to the enormous hard work putting by Sir Desmond de Silva and his two colleagues. Sri Lanka must be eternally grateful that men of their wisdom and experience have got this task moving in the first place,” he noted.
Responding to Lord Naseby, State Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said the UK recognized that reconciliation is vital for Sri Lanka’s future success.
“However, it is important to address all the commitments together, because they are closely linked. Without truth, justice, respect for human rights and a commitment to long-term peace, there can be no lasting reconciliation,” he said.